Preventing and Treating Shin Splints

Pain management...because THIS is how wild and crazy I am.
Shin splints...they are nasty and miserable. Thankfully, they are simple to avoid.

1. Always wear good shoes. Keep in mind, expensive doesn't always mean better! Do your research. And avoid shoes marketed as running shoes. Running shoes are meant to be super light for speed and disposable after only a few runs. They offer little to no support. Look instead for a trail shoe. My shoe of choice is anything from the Asics gel series (currently wearing Asics Gel Preleus). They are a little pricey but not ghastly so and a solid pair of running shoes will always cost less than orthopedic bills.

2. Replace your shoes every 200-300 miles. We put our running shoes through a lot and they wear out fast. The Nike+ running app has an option to track the mileages on your shoes which is so helpful.

3. Always s t r e t c h after a run. This is something I'm horrible at because I feel running is an intrusion into my day and I want to get it over with as quickly as possible. One day I was in a rush for an appointment, skipped stretching and paid the price with so much pain all day. That night I finally stretched and it was sweet relief.

Sometimes shin splints happen despite our best efforts. Yes, it hurts but you've gotta work through it. Don't stop running! Apply heat, take ibuprofen around the clock and s t r e t c h your shins like nobody's business.

How do you prevent and treat shin splints? Any shin splint stories you would like to share?


How To Increase Your Running Speed and Endurance

First a bit of a confession: Back in March I started training for this running season. At first I was doing fine. It was March...perfect weather...at the beach...perfect location. And than I got a nasty cold and instead taking time off to rest I ran through it. But because of my low energy I had to stop frequently and it was a mess that got me started in stopping during my runs. Death to my endurance.

To complicate matters, when I was eleven I had reconstructive surgery on my knee. It works great now but in the past year I've developed pain in my knee and hip that only gets worse with running (yes, I'm an old lady). So running will never be pain free.

Long story short, all this lead to my breaking down after a run sometime in May and telling my mom it would never get easier. In all her loving, unfiltered wisdom she said I could either choose to succeed or quit but stop whining and making excuses. It really did seem a shame to quit after so much work and quitting really isn't in my nature AT ALL. So I had an attitude check, decided I could and I would and reached my non-stop 3.5 miles which is my typical run and really the perfect workout for me. I feel like I've worked hard but I'm not dead.

The best way to build your running endurance is simply to decided you will and do not allow yourself to stop. Run as slow as molasses if you must but DON'T STOP RUNNING. Once you stop running your muscles begin to tense, your heart rate slows, you loose your pace and getting going again is so. much. harder.

When you feel like you can't go any further and HAVE to stop, BEFORE you stop I recommend first simply slowing down. Run a 12, 13 or even 14 min/mile. There is no shame in taking your time and you will feel so proud of yourself for not stopping.

Some days I keep going only by thinking how much I want to be finished running and how stopping will just make the misery last longer. Hey, whatever works!

Breathing is huge for endurance. Steady breaths in and out the nose are best. And don't wait until you are winded to focus on breathing. Breath intentionally from the start to avoid cramps and breathlessness. If you have hills in your area (we have nothing but hills) use the downhill stretches to slow down, breath intentionally and prepare for the next hill.

As far as increasing speed, this is one I'm still trying to figure out myself. Remember the second rule for beginning runners? Don't increase your speed until you have reached your distance goal. Once you can run your target distance nonstop you will be surprised how your speed will improve without much effort.

Figure out your average run length and try to do just a little better the next time. For example, once I reached my 3.5 miles nonstop I was doing 42 minute runs pretty consistently without giving speed any thought. A 3.5 miles run in 40 minutes seemed like a pretty simple goal and it was.

Similarly, determine your average no-thought-to-speed pace. I started out doing an average 11:50min/mi. My goal is to run a less than 10:00min/mi. Your pace will fluctuate throughout the run, especially if you run on hills. For now, I try to keep my normal run pace to somewhere between 11:00min/mi and 10:20min/mi. When I need to slow down I try to go no slower than a 12:00min/mi and I throw in as many sub 10:00min/mi sprints (usually 9:30min/mi) as I can to make up for the slower bits.

Be sure you are properly nourished before you run! Last month I did a morning run on an empty stomach less than 24hrs after donating blood. It was a mess. I ran 13:00-14:00min/mi and felt like I was dying. You need those carbs for energy. I am not a breakfast person and don't like eating before 10AM. But on running morning I try to eat 60g carbs, 15-45 minutes before running. It makes such a difference in my speed and endurance! Your body needs something to burn or it will burn muscle and that's just counterproductive.

Also, drink lots of water! Just not too near running or...ya know...

Make use of your full stride. I'm 5'6" so pretty average height. Regardless of height (but helpful if you're tall!) just increasing the distance of your stride will make you faster and your runs easier. This is tricky to practice and something I have to be very conscience of.

Livin' On A Pray by Bon Jovi is my power song. I always listen to it at the half way mark and keep my pace under 10:00min/mi for the duration. It improves time and is just fun.

Always on the look out for ideas...how do you increase your speed and endurance?


Three Rules For Beginning Runners

We've all done it at some point. You tie on your running shoes for the first time of the season or maybe the first time ever.  You have carefully researched and selected the perfect training plan. You hit the road and you feel invincible. Bye, bye training plan. Who needs a training plan?

You do.

You are new to this runner racket. So is your body. It is not used to the intensity of a long distance run. Bad things happy when we thrown the training plan out the window. Injury. Shin splints. Nastiness. It may feel like a set back to stick to a steady increase plan when it feels like you could do so. much. more. but trust me on this one...injury will be a much greater setback and may keep you from ever getting back on the road.

Rule No. 1 For Beginning Runners- Select a training plan and stick to it! Be kind to your body and give it the time it needs to adjust. I know many runners like run/walk plans but it has been my experience that once you start taking walking breaks it is very challenging to stop. I find it much more effective to steadily increase distance. Below is the training plan I used this spring and found very helpful.

Rule No. 2 For Beginning Runners - Build your distance goal before even THINKING about speed. I strongly recommend setting a distance goal (5k/3.1 miles is really the ideal distance for health benefits without putting too much wear and tear on your body. More on goals later.)  Once you have the endurance to run 3 miles (or whatever your distance goal) and KNOW you CAN you will be surprised at how fast the speed comes. (No pun intended!) I love sprinting and it's very tempting to just run as fast as feels good. But I know that if I expend my energy on the sprint I will never make it to the end. It is much wiser to keep it slow and steady until you have the endurance.

Rule No. 3 For Beginning Runners - Never compare yourself to other runners. I cannot think of anything more fatal to that running spirit than comparison. I read this running magazine where the featured runners do 50-60 miles A WEEK. My brothers come back from a 5k complaining because they were so slow (26 MINUTES!). Don't allow the success of others to steal your thunder. Think of what you can do, reflect on how far you've come and be proud of yourself for getting out there and doing it!

What training plan works best for you? Any rules you would add?


A Month of Running

When you read this I will be somewhere along 95 heading south for a really fantastic family vacation. Two weeks in Disney world and two weeks on the shore. Yes. Awesome. I can't wait to tell you all about it when I return in October and send you into photograph overload. But never fear! You will not be completely deprived of my presence...

A few weeks ago a dear friend and new runner emailed asking for running advice. If you know me and my running habits you may understand why I am the last person anyone should be asking for running advice. My farthest run ever was six miles. And I have no intention of ever running further. I run 3.5 miles, three times a week. I run somewhere between slow and slower. (10'40"  and 11'40") This is my third running season  (I usually chicken out over winter). And as a general rule I hate running. 

But! Having run three seasons and being part of a family of serious runners (they scare me!) I have picked up a few tips and tricks. And I am always more than happy to give advice, especially when it's about something I know nothing about. 

While away I will be training to get my 5k under 30 minutes for the 5k by Change Inc. on October 17th. So I have decided to name September the month of running. We will be touching on several running topics inspired by my friend's questions...how to build endurance, how to increase speed, the best running gear and some pitfalls to avoid. 

Let's dispense with all the disclaimers from the get go... 

I am not a personal trainer and have no professional experience or medical training. I am merely an amateur who puts one foot in front of the other and gets excited when it adds up to a significant distance I can call a run, sharing what works for me. Listen to my advice at your own risk. 

As always, I value your input! If you have any experience running you probably have more than I so please share your tips as I share mine and maybe we can learn together. What advise would you give a new runner?

Grab your running shoes and let's get going!


What to Pack for Disney World

Walt Disney World: the happiest place on Earth. It's also my happy place. It has been three years since my last trip and I'm so exciting to be going again in just a few short days. But Disney is not for the faint and heart and to enjoy your time proper planning is absolutely vital. This will be my sixth trip to Disney World and I have learned a few tips and tricks in my Disney years, one being there are a few things you absolutely must bring to the parks. Nothing is more frustrating than hiking from your lodgings to the Disney parking lot, onto the tram/boat/monorails, into the park and then realizing you forgot an important piece of Disney survival equipment. Here are a few items I have found most helpful for park days (with the exception of the assumed essentials...money, cell phone, etc.):

I've tried purses, totes, messenger bags... A backpack is the way to go. Way less cumbersome and way easier to manage. Just don't make the same unfortunate mistake as I and bring a large backpack. Not only will you end up packing too much, everyone in your group who doesn't want to carry their own bag will ask you to haul around their stuff which very quickly multiplies the weight of your bag. So go small. My mom gave me a Coach backpack almost identical to this one I will be using but I think something like this or this would work as well.

Foot care kit
It has been estimated that the average Disney guest walks roughly twelve miles a day. Even for those of us who exercise regularly, that's a lot of walking. One day in the World Showcase I made the mistake of wearing a new pair of shoes and after just one hour I had the worst blisters on my heels. No foot care kit in sight, I just dealt with it and still have the scars on my heels. Keep these items handy for happy feet: Gauze, betadine, Moleskin or Johnson & Johnson blister bandages, small scissors, sewing needle, extra socks and talcum powder.

Feminine supplies emergency kit
If you haven't picked up on my obsession with kits/pouches/anything organized and in it's place...you will soon. Ladies, it always comes when least convenient. And smack in the middle of The Magic Kingdom is as about as inconvenient as it gets. My mom came up with this idea and it's one of her best yet. I keep a little zip lock bag with a change of panties, pads, tampons, baby wipes and ibuprofen and it has been a lifesaver. I like to keep various sizes of tampons and pads...even if I don't use them there's always a chance someone in my party (or the next stall) will need an assist. It will still suck to have your period in Disney World but it will help it suck a little (LITTLE) less. I like to assemble my own so it's completely customized but Pinch Provisions has a super cute mini emergency kit.

First aid kit
Disney has first aid supplies available pretty much everywhere but I like to keep a few band aids, ibuprofen, Excedrin, sudafed and benadryl in my bag just in case.

Food in Disney is ridiculously expensive. Bringing your own snacks is a convenient alternative to tasteless, overpriced food. Plus a granola bar can be very helpful for bribing young children to behave while waiting 70+ minutes for Peter Pan's Flight.

Powder foundation
Florida heat will melt even the best of us. A good powder foundation helps keep you feeling fresh and a little less...wilty. Physician's Formula has a nice powder that doesn't irritate my acne.

Water bottle
Gotta stay hydrated in the heat and bottled water in the parks is crazy. But! You can have your water bottled filled at pretty much any concession stand or counter service restaurant for no charge. Score! I use my Addison bottle by Contigo all day everyday. (The name makes it awesome, of course.)

Travel toothbrush
Seriously the best thing since sliced bread. (Although, sliced bread is enormously overrated.) Tooth brushing (teeth brushing? brushing teeth?) is a bit of an obsessions with me, I find few things as refreshing as a freshly brushed mouth. Travel toothbrushes are sold at pretty much any Target, Wal-Mart or CVS and are so nice for on-the-go.

Cool and comfortable clothing
Did I mention it's really, really, really hot in Florida? Go cool and comfortable. I will be wearing primarily leggings and long tops and, of course, my pineapple pants (they may not be the most figure flattering but they ace the cool and comfortable test).

Light sweater/jacket
So maybe it's an odd item to suggest after the many Florida heat complaints above but sometimes it does get chilly during late night shows and fireworks and in air conditioned theaters. My motto: better safe than sorry.

Comfortable shoes
Cannot emphasize enough the importance of comfortable shoes. Athletic shoes would be ideal but I just can't bring myself to wear sneakers when not exercising. Toms are a wonderful alternative. It's almost like being barefoot they are so comfortable but still cute and fashionable. And Toms One for One pledge is the best.

And there you have it! What would you pack for a day in Disney or any amusement park?


Currently Reading | September

I will be out of town for the month of September so rather than skip a month we're doing something a little different. Instead of talking about the books I have read I'm going to share my September to-read list. Yes, it's considerably longer than most of my monthly reading lists but, did I mention I will be on vacation? And we all know reading time is one of the very best parts of vacation. Undoubtedly, I will add to this list as the month progresses...any additions will be shared in October!

White Coat, Black Hat by Carl Elliott
An account of the business side of medicine...I get the idea this book also delves into medical ethics.

Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gawande
I have read every book by Atul Gawande and they are all amazing (although Better is the...umm...best.) I ordered a copy of this book from the library back in March but the wait list was so long it just came in...perfect timing for vacation and perfect timing considering we've been discussing end of life ethics.

To Err is Human
Not so much a book as a report from the Institute of Medicine on building a safer health system. I've been wanting to get my hands on a copy for awhile and am super excited to have found a free pdf copy for my kindle.

What Doctors Feel Danielle Ofri
"A look at the emotional side of medicine." Not really sure what that means but should be interesting!

Between Expectations by Meghan Weir
Dr. Weir shares the lessons she learned during her pediatric residency at Boston Children's Hospital. Peds! BCH! It's gonna be good.

Learning to Play God by Robert Marion
"Dr. Marion reveals the dehumanizing, slightly insane, and often brutal process of medical training." Intense...

Miracles and Mayhem in the ER by Dr. Brent Russell
My father gave me a kindle copy of this book. He has a bit of an obsession with downloading kindle books but, yes, it was very sweet of him to know my genre.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
This is the story of a young man who at the age of fourteen built a windmill from junk. Okay, so maybe that's a bit oversimplified. Through his creativity and resourcefulness this young man helped his rural African village and brought hope to many. Always excited to see young people doing amazing things.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Like everyone else in the world, I have mixed feelings about this book. Is it wrong to publish a sequel after so many years? Is it possible to equal the brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird? We shall see. If you have read Go Set a Watchman I'd love your thoughts!

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
I have yet to meet a Fitzgerald I didn't love. Little bit of trivia...did you know F. Scott is from Maryland and named after my state's favorite local hero, Francis Scott Key? (We're pretty batty about Key here in the hometown...when you're short on local heroes you take what you can get!)

What's on your September reading list?


Currently Reading | August

100,000 Hearts by Denton Cooley
Memoir of Denton Cooley, pioneer in cardiovascular surgery. This guy. Wow. He invented one of the first heart lung machines, designed a heart valve better than any available at the time, performed the first heart transplant in the U.S., developed improved aneurysm repair techniques and performed the first artificial heart transplant. So yeah. Pretty knock-your-socks-off awesome. Great science but easy to read for us novices. I am very grateful, unlike some memoirs (I'm looking at you, Mr. Clinton), Dr. Colley's background and childhood are briefly covered but the primary focus is on his accomplishments. Let's be honest: when you read a book by a brilliant heart surgeon you want to hear about heart surgery, not fifty chapters of childhood memories. Well done, Dr. Cooley. You can cut and write.

The Soul of a Doctor by Susan Pories
This book is a collection of essays written by Harvard medical students. Focusing on the experiences that influences them the most on their journeys to becoming doctors it definitely offers some unique insight into the emotional changes medical students experiences. In the afterword there is a brief synopsis of each author...so neat to see what kind of doctors they became after getting a peek into their minds.

In Stitches by Anthony Youn 
Okay, so maybe I profiled a little when I found out Dr. Youn is plastic surgeon and TV doc. I expected shallow, false...I was wrong. As he chronicles his journey through medical school Dr. Youn is very honest and real about just how human he is. Refreshing. I loved reading about his family dynamics and how his father, who some might consider stern to a fault, was one of his greatest influences.

The Devil's Cave, The Resistance Man and The Children Return by Martin Walker
The last three books in the Bruno, Chief of Police series and YES I do feel proud of myself for finishing AN ENTIRE SERIES in one summer. The Devil's Cave lacked the charm of the other books...sexual crimes and the occult...not the light, French countryside I love about this series. The Resistance Man was just okay and The Children Return, again, not the quaint stories I've come to expect. Disappointing but I'm not going to let that rain on my series finishing parade.

In ten days I leave town for four weeks so I would love some suggestions for beach reading! What books would you pack for vacation?


The Sanctity of Death

I have never cried at a funeral. I used to think this was because I had never experienced the death of someone close enough to feel the loss that deeply. Last summer my dear friend and adopted grandmother passed away. None of my biological grandmothers are involved in my life so I thought the pain would be acute. But three times she had battled breast cancer and three times she had survived and thrived. Her body was weak. Her mind was failing. She had lived a full and influential life. I miss having her in my life. But her death -the end of suffering- was a relief.

Now another friend is facing terminal cancer. He has had many wonderful months since his diagnosis but in the past few weeks his body is giving up more and more. We have said goodbye and are waiting for the news of his death. When the news arrives, once again, it will be a relief. He will again be lucid and pain free.

My adopted grandmother died surrounded by her family. Her children had respected her throughout her life and as she aged and they took charge of her care they always honored her wished above all. Even when they disagreed on what was best for her they recognized it was her decision to make.

On his deathbed this friend of my family is being cared for by the children who for many years were estranged. From the beginning of his treatment he has been very adamant about wanting to be medicated as little as possible. He does not like the way the drugs make him feel and wants to be fully present for his final days. He is dying. The drugs are not healing him, they simply mask his pain. He would rather feel the pain than feel the emptiness. But he values peace with his children above his preference and has deferred to them. His children no doubt love him and want the best for him but they have not respected his decision.

Do we take away the sanctity of death -of life itself- when without cause for hope of improvement we interfere with the course of nature? The family has an opinion. The health care providers have opinions. We as a society have an opinion about the right and wrong way to die. But do we have the right to have an opinion? In India the greatest blessing a person can receive is the blessing of an elder. Does our disrespect for the decisions of our passing elders take from us that blessing?

Is it right to, against their will, rob the lucidity of a person's final moments in the name of comfort? To what point should we help the inevitable come quickly and comfortably? Is dignity in death even possible?

As a daughter who one day will make decisions for my parents...as an individual aspiring to a profession that gives care in the final moments...I ponder these questions. I suspect I will never know the answers. Perhaps it isn't for me to know but just trust that what will be will be and when the time come God will give the wisdom and grace to do what is right.

I don't know. I wish death was black and white. I wish there was a clear right and wrong. But there isn't. So we ponder. We accept. We give dignity. We comfort. We respect.


Top Three | Summer Style Helps

I am not, nor will I ever be, a fashion blogger. Partially because I just don't have what it takes but mostly because fashion is not my main style priority. I'm concerned with looking neat and put together while staying comfortable and quite often that overlaps with the world of fashion. Elegance, Class and The Pursuit of Comfort. Pretty much sums up my style mantra.

Is there a greater challenge to staying stylish than the heat and humidity? I know it's late to be posting about summer but I've had this post on the back burner since May and here in Maryland we have another month of heat and humidity. So bear with me as I share my top three hot weather helpers.

AG Re: Coil
If you are a fellow curly head you know the love/hate relationship that is having curly hair. During the summer it's all hate. At just the slightest mention of humidity you can forget the curls...all you have is frizz. And heat=sweat=daily hair washing and we all know how much curls love that. (Read the sarcasm.) Thankfully we need not despair. There is Re: Coil by AG. I have used so many curl creams over the years and none have ever come close to this level of amazing. It keeps my curls light and lovely even in the heat. After showering I just scrunch a dollop in my hair, blow dry my bangs (if I'm not feeling too lazy) and I'm good to go. Five minutes to awesome. It doesn't get any better.

Linen Pants
I don't have good sundress or shorts legs and I don't like jeans in the summer. Linen pants have been a lifesaver. Yes, they are pretty much glorified yoga pants. But guys, they are so. comfortable. And with well selected shoes and accessories you can channel Palm Beach instead of pajama party. My very favorite pair are from Forever21 but, sadly, they are no longer available. Old Navy's linen pants are a close second. While not linen, they are loose and comfortable so I think these awesome Old Navy pineapple pants deserve a mention as well. Pair with a cami or two and cute sandals. Summer comfort perfection.

Powder Foundation
Powder foundation is awesome for touching up melting makeup and quickly covering blemishes when you don't feel like doing a complete makeup job. I went through several brands before finding one that doesn't irritate my acne. Physicians formula powder foundation has been wonderful and I love that it is SPF50.

and as a bonus...

Because I'm kinda obsessed about sunscreen (I blame the scary skin cancer posters in my dermatologist's office) I can't recommend enough Hawaiian Tropics sunscreen. It smells amazing. I mean how many sunscreens can you love for the smell? Plus it always leaves my skin feeling moisturized instead of greasy and heavy.

What are your summer style tricks?


The Big Family Post

Anyone else get soap opera cast from this picture or is it just me? Photo credit to the oh so talented Susan Schmidt.
Frequently I receive big family related questions. "Did you like growing up in a big family?" "Have you ever wished you were an only child?" "Do you want a big family of your own someday?" It's never really been a topic here on the blog for no reason except it never seemed relevant. But today I'm here with all the answers to your big family questions, to satisfy your curiosity and hopefully dispel some myths along the way.

A few things I would like to clarify before we delve in...

-I believe growing up in a larger-than-typical family is a great experience and really one of the best things my parents have done for me. I love my siblings and wouldn't want to live my life without any one of them. So of course I like being a part of a big family because there isn't a sibling I would want to wish out of existence. 

-In this post a large family will be any family of five or more children from a traditional (two parents, biological children) or non-traditional (multiple marriages, adoption, etc.) family. There is no rhyme or reason behind the number five except five seems big.

-When big family parenting is done right it can be one of the best things to happen to a kid. But not all parents do it right and I acknowledge it is not the best option for every family. There are children who have been hurt because their parents had a poor approach...although parents who are going to screw up their kids would probably screw up their kids regardless of the number of kids.

That being said...

There are unique challenges that come along with the benefits of big family life and I want to be honest and realistic. 

My mother makes a habit of occasionally asking my siblings and I what we like/dislike about our family and what we would change if we could. FYI: this is a great parenting practice. We are not a perfect family but we're pretty close. (JK...sorta.) We have our issues but the only thing I dislike about the number of people in my family is the lack of storage (but really closet space) and constant need to rearrange and organize. But that really has nothing to do with a big family and everything to do with our small house. (Which we love and are sad to be adding onto soon because, while there will be more closet space, we love our little house just as it is and closet space isn't everything.) And while constantly re-organizing is a pain it encourages me to get rid of the excess so it's not all bad.

In all seriousness, the one aspect of being a big family I could really live without is the age gaps between my siblings and I. My older sister is 23 and my baby brother is 2. That's a pretty big gap. It makes me sad that we didn't all do childhood together and it makes me sad that as I move on with my life I will miss out on parts of the little ones childhood. With my littlest siblings more often than not I feel more like an aunt than sister. But the age gap is not all bad! I love observing my little siblings and being able to enjoy their newborn and toddler stages and help with their upbringing. It truly is a unique experience and I have learned so much about children and human nature in general from watching them grow.

The most frustrating challenge comes not from my family itself but from people's perception of big families. There is a common idea among the world in general that kids of big families are screwed up by virtue of the fact that they are from a big family. Intending to be kind, a friend once said how surprised they were after getting to know us just how normal we were. That stung just a tad. At one point they thought we somehow damaged merely because the size of our family. Whenever we as a family go somewhere together people will point, stare, count kids and ask rude questions. Often in a restaurant people will interrupt their meal and move to a table farther from the big family. Few friends are brave enough to invite my entire family to their house. And for some reason people feel the need to bring the Duggars into every. single. conversation. For the love of all things sacred, stop comparing us to the Duggars. We do not know the Duggars, we do not watch their show, and we strongly disagree with many of their family's choices.

But then again...when has it ever mattered what people think?

Children (usually teens) have confided how much they wish they were an only child. I think they expect sympathy. My advice: suck it up and deal with it. It's not your decision how many siblings you have. As the procreators and bread winners it's your parents call to make. You can't control your situation but you can control your attitude and it's attitude, not situation, that determines your happiness. You can embrace the family you've been give or be miserable. It's your choice.

Do I want a big family of my own? Honestly, I haven't given it enough thought to know yet. Not being in a position to be a parent right now it's not a decision I should be making. I will say, if I ever sided against having a larger-than-typical family it would not be because I have been burned by my experience but because I realize the really amazing sort of parent it takes to raise a large family well. And I strongly disapprove of parents who have a large number of children out of a sense of religious or social obligation and spend their parenting years in bitterness and resentment, failing to properly treasure their children.  

I hope this has helped demystify big families for you! Most importantly, I hope you will realize that the size of a family is a small fraction of the many factors that make a family. My family is unique and wonderful and I am grateful to be a part. I love our many inside jokes, how we always manage to find our own happiness wherever we land, how we understand each other like no one not-a-Wachter could ever understand, how we will give or do anything for each other, how we stick up for each other even when someone is being a jerk and, yes, I love that there are eight people in the world who share my life and DNA.

If you grew up in a big family I would love to hear your take on it! As always I welcome your questions and comments and encourage you to speak openly. I don't offend easily and appreciate frankness.