Thursday, August 18, 2011

Righteous Parenting

Peter and I spoke about Righteous Parenting last week in church and were asked for copies of our talks, so I thought I would post mine here. Peter spoke from notes, so you'll have to ask him to give it again-- I'm sure he'd love you for that :)

When the bishop asked us to speak, I was hoping for some topic like, “faith” or “fasting.” They always say you learn more about your subject than you impart to your audience and those are the things I figured I’d like to learn about. So when he said, “We’d like you to speak on righteous parenting,” I felt nauseated. Righteous parenting? Please. I can barely spell that phrase, let alone speak on it.

Our foray into parenting has not been an easy one. Our oldest, Caleb, suffered from recurrent intusseceptions from 13 months to 20 months. It’s a condition where the bowel would fold over on itself, causing internal bleeding and necrosis of the bowel. It’s as painful as it sounds. He would vomit blood routinely, and the doctors were at a loss. In August of 2009, he had surgery, which miraculously, fixed his problems, even though the surgeons couldn’t pinpoint the exact cause. In October 2009, we found out were were pregnant again and by December, I had lost a significant amount of weight-- so much so that my body was in organ failure. “morning sickness” didn’t even begin to cover it. I had a PICC line placed, which allowed me to inject a miracle drug directly into my blood stream. Unfortunately, it was not a big enough miracle. In February of 2010, our daughter Charlotte was born 16 weeks early, weighing 1.2 pounds and measuring 11 inches. She spent 208 days in the NICU, and has had 7 readmissions since coming home. She’s gone through five surgeries, is fed through a tube, and sleeps with a BiPAP machine. At 17 months old, she just learned to crawl, roll over, and clap.

At one point in her hospital stay, Charlotte had a test done to check how quickly her stomach empties. For this test, infants have to be perfectly still, so they tape the children down to the table. I had a flash back. Caleb had this test as well, while the doctors were trying to solve his medical mystery. I laughed and called Peter. “There comes a point, when both of your children have been taped to a table at the Children’s Hospital, that you have to ask, where did we go wrong?”

So yeah, righteous parenting. Where did we go wrong?

The first week, I avoided thinking about this topic at all costs. Righteous parenting. Good one. I’m certain there are those “goodly parents” out there, but I’m just not one of them. Caleb, our three year old, has been going through the world’s longest hissy fit-- we’re talking about 7 weeks now-- and let me tell you, there has been very little righteous parenting in response to it. I’ve tried bribery, yelling, ignoring him, taking things away, putting myself in time out.... and that was just this morning.

The second week rolled around and I knew I would have to put something together. I listened to the talks from last general conference, I read about parents in the scriptures, but it still felt a bit hollow to me. Sure, it’s easy to talk about parenting 505 when you are sitting in the Conference Center and someone else has your children. It’s much harder to discuss it when you are telling your three year old to “please stop dumping dirt on your immunocompromised little sister” for the ninth time in four minutes, and for heaven’s sake, please put on some underwear. Plus the timer on the stove is going off, and the laundry needs to be switched and oh my goodness, did you just dump the entire bag of flour on your train table? No no no. That is not how it snows on the island of Sodor. When is your father coming home?

Until finally, one night this week, probably around midnight, I had a realization. Righteous parenting is not the same thing as perfect parenting.

When written in a conference talk, righteous parenting can sound a lot like perfect parenting. And that’s OK, because that’s what conference talks are for-- to help us strive for perfection.

But then there’s reality, where righteous parenting isn’t so much about discussing scripture study around the dining table and praising a child for working diligently. For me, righteous parenting is more about having the faith that I will be able to accept the purpose my children have in life. Righteous parenting comes into play when I say, “Heavenly Father, I desperately want my little girl to live. But I understand if she has another calling.” Righteous parenting is holding my son up to an isolette, and saying, “Caleb, this is your little sister Charlotte. She can’t come home for awhile, but she loves you,” and then holding him as he cries, knowing he’s scared, and admitting that you are scared as well. Righteous parenting is the ability to watch a disabled child and honestly say, “She’s doing exactly what she needs to be doing right now.” Righteous parenting is playing in five pounds of flour that your son thinks is snow on his train table. Who needs to make bread anyway? Righteous parenting comes when I can say, “Caleb, I didn’t do the best job today being a mom, but I promise I’ll try better tomorrow,” and he responds, “But I need you to be the best mommy ever. You’re the only one I have! And, uh, can I have a cookie?”

Righteous parenting is not an act, it is a continuum. Somedays we are much closer to the “goodly parents” end of the continuum. Other days, we fall short. But it is not our actions, or our tempers, that make us righteous parents. It’s our desire to remain on that continuum. Our daily struggle to maintain a balance between our current abilities and our hope for the future. Our focus on remaining righteous, instead of our failure to be perfect. Those things, that’s what makes a righteous parent.

My own experience in parenting has not been the one I imagined as a child. Despite our circumstances, or maybe because of them, I’ve come to believe that few experiences with parenting are as we imagined. Few are the mothers who fit the idolized fantasy: marry the prince, have a baby (or four), enjoy the task of raising the perfect children, and step back to watch them continue the cycle.

For so many of us, true righteous parenting occurs when that fantasy is shattered. We don’t get married, or we can’t bear children, or our children are sick, or die, or grow up only to go astray. Maybe we find ourselves divorced or widowed, with children still to raise. Maybe we find ourselves grandparents, raising another generation long after we though we would be done. Maybe our husbands lose their job, or we have chosen to be the breadwinner. Maybe in the quiet moments of honesty we admit that we’re exhausted, overlooked and worn out.
And yet, in those moments, when our lives are nowhere near the picture painted in Sunday School lessons or Family blogs, we turn to the Lord and we find our way through the mist.

If we turn to Alma 7:11, we read:

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and aafflictions and btemptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will ctake upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

Notice Alma doesn’t say, “except in the case of parents,” or “but only if you make handmade crafts for every child in your son’s class for the Columbus Day party.” Like anything else in our lives, righteous parents can gain strength through the atonement.

Not only can we hug our children and say, “I’m so sorry, Mommy should never yell like that, can you forgive me?” but we can also turn to our Brother, our Savior who has born our pains, our frustrations, and our fears, and say, “I need help through this difficult day. I feel like I cannot take another moment of parenting.” And our Father in Heaven, the only perfect parent, through grace, and by our faith, can, as Alma says in verse 12: succor his people according to their infirmities.

That word. Succor. It means, “to give assistance or aid to.” If we read it again, we read that the Savior went through the entire atonement, again, in verse 12, that he may know according to the flesh, how to succor, or “give assistance or aid to” his people according to their infirmities.

The entire purpose of the atonement was so that the Savior might know how to assist us. Brothers and sisters, if we do not ask for that assistance, if we brush it aside, saying, “Ehh, parenting is not a big enough deal for the atonement, surely He meant for us to use it on something larger, or more important,” we are determining the purpose of the atonement; we are declaring the scope of the atonement, the single most grand act in all of the eternities.
Righteous parenting is indeed a continuum. One that we constantly move along. Sometimes in the forward direction, sometimes not. It is when we place our faith in the Savior and his everlasting atonement, that we can find real progress in the realm of righteous parenting.

In Joshua, Chapter 1, the Lord speaks to Joshua and prepares Israel to enter Canaan. I cannot help but think of the parents who wandered in the wilderness. Entire generations were raised out there, void of the luxuries their parents were so accustomed to.  How difficult was it, how stressful, to raise a child without any of the conveniences with which you were accustomed? I image many of them were torn from friends and family, raising their children not only without physical items, but also without emotional support. Imagine the wear and tear that must have occurred, the constant yearning to have a home. Imagine the frustration and irritation that must have risen inside, each time a child’s pain could have been avoided, had they had a home. Imagine knowing that your child may never have a home. In verse nine, we read:

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the aLord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

The same is true for us. We are invited to turn to the Lord and be strong and of a good courage, for the Lord is with us. Often we may feel as though we are experiencing our own 40 year journey through the wilderness. Or maybe we watch our children, terrified as they face their own battles, like those stripling warriors of the Book of Mormon. We watch, as our children, much too young, go out to battle the world around them. I think the poignant part of the story of the stripling warrior is not that none of them perished, but as read in Alma 57: 25

And it came to pass that there were two hundred, out of my two thousand and sixty, who had fainted because of the loss of blood; nevertheless, according to the goodness of God, and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was anot one soul of them who did perish; yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds.

The stripling warriors did not avoid pain in their battle. They did not escape wounds. They were injured and beaten, but not fatally. They “received many wounds.” Too often we feel as though if we are righteous parents, we and our children will be spared many wounds. In our minds, we are entitled to avoid pain and affliction and temptation if we are righteous. Unfortunately, as Alma the elder, and Alma the younger can testify, as Lehi can portray, righteous parenting does not mean our children will be perfect, nor will they be free from injury. Righteous parenting does not mean we ourselves will be spared from pain. Even our Father in Heaven has experienced the pain of parenting, and does so on a daily basis.

We will not be perfect parents. We can, however, be righteous parents. Our reliance on the atonement only brings us closer to the Savior, and to our children-- our Father’s children, with whom we have been entrusted. I testify that there is indeed, no better use of the atonement, than to guide His children back to Him.

The atonement is there for us to use, through trials and triumphs, through joy and pain. The Lord has not placed a limit on the atonement. Nor shall we.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians chapter 4:

 8 We are atroubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in bdespair;
 9 aPersecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not bdestroyed;

We have the atonement of the Savior Jesus the Christ. Through it He can assist and give aid to us in our darkest moments, and our most wonderful achievements. Through the atonement, we all walk along the continuum of righteous parenting.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tender Mercies

Since we've moved here to California, Caleb has really had a rough time (well, a rough time for Caleb). He's still the lovable, crazy kid we all know, but he's very easily frustrated these days. It's especially difficult to watch, since he's been such a rock through everything with Charlotte. My heart breaks for this poor kid and all he's had to endure.

So I get it. I get why he's angry and frustrated and prone to tantrums.

I understand why he gets so upset when its not his turn, because it hasn't been his turn for practically half his life. I can comprehend his fear of everyone leaving him, because Peter left for several weeks, then I left for two weeks, then Grandma and Grandpa suddenly disappear and now Grandpere is gone... the poor kid. Not to mention we spent nearly three weeks in the PICU, expecting him to smile and behave when he really just wanted to go to the beach. (OK, maybe it was me that just wanted to go to the beach, but I'm certain he wanted out of that hospital room too).

But just because I understand it, doesn't mean its OK, right? I mean, he can't yell at the kids in his sports class because they stepped off their circles. He can't try to hit me because we're not going to the pool right.this.second. He can't spend three hours eating dinner because he doesn't like it, especially when he hasn't even taken a bite to try it yet. He can't cry hysterically every time I have him lay down to go to sleep, in fear that I am leaving him.

We've been looking around at preschools, trying to find something that would work for him for this fall. He thrives in classroom settings and loves, loves, loves playing with other kids. He misses his friends and often asks me where they all went. So you can imagine our despair when most preschools were looking at about $1,200 a month. Yeah. Ouch.

Today, however, we got a call from the Naval Medical Center (where Peter works) saying Caleb just got off the wait list for the pre school on base. We've been on this wait list for months now, and had been told to expect at least a year long wait. This preschool is heavily discounted, and highly rated. We're thrilled that he'll be able to start there in a few weeks. I'm grateful that our financial needs were met. But I'm even more grateful that Caleb's needs were understood.

When I told him today that he was going to be able to start school in a few weeks, he literally started jumping up and down and clapping his hands. He shouted, "Momma, I'll have friends there! They will like me!"

Sometimes we all need a few people around us that like us. Even when you're three.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

He Did It!

Nick (brother), Peter, Patti (mom), Grandma Ford, Auntie Linda, and oh yeah, Caleb

My son needs a haircut, but his daddy is a DOCTOR!

Peter and his Mom. Congrats Patti! He would NOT be here without you!

Bruce, the PCOM photographer. No one takes pictures of the photographer. This man kicked Peter's and his friends' trash in racquetball

Moments after receiving his diploma. He's not excited or anything, right?

Pinning Ceremony for the Navy.

Lieutenant Knickerbocker

Making it official

We're so proud of him!

My grandparents, Bala and Papa came out for the festivities. We love you guys!

My sister "hooded" Peter. She is finishing her ER residency and come July 1, she's a REAL doctor :)

Her son, Dean, rockin' the boots and hat

Peter's grandmother drove all the way from Ontario to be here for this!

On Sunday, Peter officially finished his medical school education. He has many more years before his "education" is over, but this part has drawn to a close. He graduated as the 120st class of PCOM. We're so, so, so proud of him.

On Saturday, we had a little party at our place and Peter's fifth grade teacher came. She said that way back when she was writing "Knickerbocker Questions" (he used to ask questions no one could answer, so she'd write them down and come back the next day with an answer) on the board, she knew that he'd accomplish anything he wanted. It was so neat to see this teacher, who taught him 17 years ago, be there to celebrate his achievement.

Thanks to all of you, who supported us through this time. We couldn't have done it without you.

Here's to residency!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Look, I'm Still Blogging!

Caleb practiced his hiding skills

Found you!

This may be my new favorite picture. Ever.

Caleb is clearly impressed by his parents.

You know, those parents who let their kids get stuck in trees.

And let their kids play on historically important weaponry.
On Memorial Day Peter, Caleb and I headed down to Valley Forge to check out where the first American soldiers fought. Or camped.

{That sounds really good, but really, we were like, "Oh hey! A day off! Awesome! Let's have a picnic!"}

It was so hot, but we had a fabulous time anyway. Caleb was very disappointed that there were not more gun shots. Next time, kid, next time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This Guy

This guy is pretty awesome. I mean, he puts up with me, so it's pretty much a given. Right?
I love this man oh so much. He loves that he only has three days of medical school left oh so much. He probably loves me oh so much as well, but really? The medical school ending thing is probably winning right now. He's been in San Diego for three weeks, getting our apartment ready for the chaos that will surely ensue as soon as I arrive with two children. Just in time for him to start residency.

Conrgats, Peter Ford. We're so proud of you. More than words can say.

Come home soon Mr. Knickerbocker, we's gots some partying to do!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Clara is Here!

Clara Louise Farr was born this evening at 5:58 pm. She weighs 8 pound 6 ounces and measures 20.5 inches. We are so grateful for the miracle of a healthy baby. Congrats!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 20, 2011


What? We're not dead? I know, crazy.


An essay of pictures:

In March, we celebrated Sophie's third birthday. These two are so cute together!

OK, so maybe they don't know how to take pictures. But they are great cousins!

In April, I had the brilliant idea of driving across the country with a three year old. From PA to CA. Luckily, my mother came along and kept us sane. This is how Caleb entertained himself in the car.

This is how he was entertained in CA.

Just like Lightening McQueen. Route 66.

At the end of April, I went to NYC to attend a taping of the Nate Berkus Show, where my friend Anne (Third from Left) had a make-over! It was awesome, and like all good things, is because Kay made it happen :)

The very next day (great timing, ehh?) a moving van came to our house. Some nice people put all of our belongings in boxes, placed the boxes in the van and drove it across the country. Caleb was disappointed this was not going to be his method of transportation. Maybe next time.

My sister, Shayla, and her son Dean (age 3). The next week, we headed down to the Outer Banks to have a good ol family vacation with my siblings.

Dean and Caleb (both 3). The cousins had a great time!

We didn't leave him there for long...

Charlotte remained unimpressed, as she does with most things we try to introduce her to.

The siblings. From left to right: Katie (21), Amanda (25), Tracy (28), Shayla (30), Aaron (32) Aren't we cute?

We celebrated my birthday while we were there.

My grandparents were able to come as well. Papa and I share a birthday, and he is enjoying his new iPad2. Seriously. What's better than an Apple product and a nap?

Caleb learned to swim with swimmies.

Caleb has asked to see Bala and Papa since we've been home. We sure love these people! Bala will kill me once she knows I put up a picture of her, so it's been nice knowing all of you.

ahhh... relaxation
Phew. Caught up. Yes.

Peter is in California moving us all into our new place and doing his last rotation of medical school!! He flies home Sunday, May 29 and is here until June 5.

Of course, the best part is June 5th is his GRADUATION!

Charlotte and I fly out via medivac sometime later that week (we don't have anything definite yet, and won't until after June 6th). Caleb and my father will fly out together around June 10.

And that's how the Knickerbocker's move to California. As difficult and disjointed as possible :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

She Says It All

I have a friend from Pittsburgh who is in law school in Utah. She blogged about how hard it is to justify being a sports fan while still holding to feminist ideals. I think she sums it up pretty well.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


In December, Peter matched in San Diego for his residency in pediatrics. For the 9 months between February 2010 and October 2010, Peter was gone for 4 of them. He was in Norfolk {twice}, Bethesda, and San Diego doing "audition rotations" at the Naval hospitals. Despite the chaos in our personal lives, Peter did such a great job at these rotations.

In fact, he's going to hate me for posting this, but I have to, he just got an email from his residency mentor, a third year resident. She said, "I just wanted to let you know that you were very well liked when you rotated through here.  I got ready to put my bid in for you and give this long spill on why I thought you should come here and as soon as your name was said everyone had glowing praise for you." For a bit of context of what this month was like, Charlotte came home from the NICU and five days later, Peter left for San Diego. The same day Peter left, Charlotte was re-admitted to CHOP for the entire month. She was incredibly sick, and Peter was two thousand miles away. Not only was he on an intense rotation away from home, his own child was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with aspiration pneumonia and sepsis, went back on the vent, and had g-tube surgery. Not to mention how crazy I was during all of this. So for him to make such a great impression during such a hectic time, is just, wow. I'm just in awe of him.

Phew. Glad that's over.

Now we just have to figure out how to move our family 2800 miles, which would be awesome in a 'normal' family of four, but is just phenomenal when you add in a special needs child.

Caleb is pretty convinced that Grandma and Grandpa (Knickerbocker) are coming with us and I'm certain that this boy will be devastated when he realizes that both sets of grandparents won't be just a car ride away. I'm hoping that the calming ocean breeze will distract him, and that grandparents come visit often. Very often.

That goes for all of you as well. We move out June 2011. I expect y'all to make plans to visit asap.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mars Needs Moms

My father (Grandpere) got this book for Caleb about a year ago. We read it all the time, and I'm hoping that the movie will be OK for Caleb to go see. It would be Caleb's first theater experience, minus the times I took him as a baby. I'm crossing my fingers that Disney didn't ruin the book!

What Number Am I?

Caleb asks us all the time what number he is. We'll say, "Umm, I think you are ten," and he'll crack up and say, "Nooo, I'm number three!"

With his birthday (yeah. back in December), came a visit to the pediatrician. We see her a lot, but not usually for Caleb. I promised him that he wouldn't need to have any shots at this appointment, which, of course, turned out to be a lie. He weighed 30 pounds (32nd percentile) and measured 36 inches tall (10th percentile).

He complained about the medicine in his arm (the vaccine for pneumonia which we needed him to have for Charlotte's sake, poor kid) for a few days, but shortly there after our entire family (minus Charlotte, thank goodness) came down with the stomach bug, so we all forgot about the pain inflicted by the vaccine.

At the appointment his pediatrician gave us the green light to start him in a preschool program, despite our concerns about the germs that it would expose Charlotte to. His cognitive scores were much higher than a typical three year old (that sounds like bragging, but believe you me, we have nothing to do with it) and she was concerned that if he wasn't being challenged in different situations, ie socially, academically, etc that he might end up getting bored and/or have attention issues. He has been attending a preschool two days a week now for a week or two and loves it. We've been really blessed to have a situation come up that allowed him to attend.

If you ask him to spell his name, he says "C-L-B" which confirms that he is indeed part of the texting generation. He lives off of peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and if Mommy isn't looking, cookies (like he's eating right this moment). He also loves green beans, corn, and peas. He asks for ham by name, which kinda makes me sick, but oh well. He does not like turkey, but will down a hot dog in 10 seconds flat.

He loves Thomas the Tank Engine and the movie Cars. He also likes the shows Backyardigans, Dora, and Go! Diego! Go! (the punctuation in that title should have warned me against it, but alas, now we are stuck watching it). He is beginning to learn about dinosaurs and loves naming them and telling you if they were plant eaters or not.

He is in Sunbeams now at church and loves his teacher. We're so grateful that he enjoys his class on Sunday. It's pretty funny talking to him on the way home from church, as his explanations about what happened in class are hysterical. One Sunday he told me that they learned about the Holy Ghost and his was in his belly. Awesome.

All in all this kid is a joy. He has his days, believe you me, but mostly he's a great kid who's just trying to figure out where he fits in and how this crazy world works.

We love him so much.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

NYE 2010/2011

My brother and his wife, Hanna were able to come down and celebrate New Year's Eve with Peter and I this year. Tracy and Hanna just moved to Connecticut this summer and it's been great having them close by. My parents graciously watched Caleb and Tracy and Hanna's daughter Sophie (Charlotte had a nurse) so that we could go out like real adults. We're pretty crazy, huh?

We went to Morimotos for dinner, a really fun restaurant in downtown Philly. They handed out party hats and offered us some champagne for a midnight toast. The champagne we declined but we partied hard with those hats!

We were only a few blocks away from the fireworks, so at midnight we stepped out to watch them over the river. They weren't very long (darn city budget cut backs) but we had a fun evening and really enjoyed being able to go "out on the town."

Monday, January 3, 2011


Fingers in the mouth must be genetic.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Snow Tubing 12/30/2010

Last Wednesday, Peter and I both saw a commercial for snow tubing and being the easily influenced people that we are, we decided to go for it. So Thursday we woke up, spent a ton of money getting passports (Peter's mother is Canadian and Caleb and I both needed passports), and headed to Blue Mountain for the day.

By the end of the day, Caleb's little legs were tired of taking three times as many steps.

New goal: Take a picture of the two of us each place we go.
So far: 1 for 1

It was really, really, really crowed so Caleb was an absolute champ for waiting in line as much as he did.

I'm a crazy mom and I made Caleb wear a helmet. He called it his "pirate hat."

It was really crowded, but we had a blast! We'd like to go back again sometime this season when it's not a holiday, to give us a little more time snow tubing and a little less time waiting in line. Definitely a fun day. We missed Charlotte, but we're hoping that by Christmas of 2013, she'll be able to join the crazy crowds (she has to stay away from germs for another winter, and then we're hoping she'll be able to have a grand entrance into society!)