Monday, December 15, 2008

Forgive Me, Forgive Me Not

Okay, so a few weeks ago, in the midst of stress and frustration, I sat down and had a good cry. Then, I got a hold of myself, wiped my eyes, and thought long and hard about what I was doing wrong as a mother. My children seemed to be out of control, whining at nearly everything, disregarding what they didn't whine about, showing little to no respect toward me or each other. I was emotionally, mentally and physically worn out, and regardless of how hard I tried not to, I was also feeling a bit discouraged.

As I tried to to wrap my head around the root of our problems, I couldn't help but think of each of my dear children, and as always, a smile began to spread across my disheartened face. Regardless of their misbehavior, I realized once again how fiercely I loved them and how much they were teaching me. I shook my head as I came to the conclusion--as I have many times--that they were teaching me far more than I've ever taught them. I recalled different experiences throughout the years and even grabbed a pen and began making a short list of the most important things four little children have taught me. Feeling meek, I began with humility. Five attributes later, I now end with forgiveness.

In the scriptures we are counseled to be as little children, and I am certain one of the main reasons is because there are no people as forgiving as children. It doesn't matter how many times I lose my temper in a day, how many times I forget to put a lunch in my school children's bag, how many times I just plain blow it as a mother, when I tuck my little ones in to bed at night, they wrap their arms around me and tell me how much they love me. It never ceases to amaze me.

And then there's the number of times in a day when I am forced to forgive them--or be miserable. I usually choose the first, but I reserve the second as a backup option :). It's just that motherhood demands forgiveness because, just like adults, children tend to make a lot of mistakes in a day, and they have a nack for being just plain naughty at times. I have had days when I was sure they were ganging up against me, that they had secretly plotted to make me miserable, days when I thought I would lose my mind, days when bedtime seemed it would not come soon enough. Then a wide-eyed child would peek his/her head around the corner of my room and say, "Sorry, Mom." What else could I do but forgive and move on?

How grateful I am my childen are teaching me the principle of forgiveness. If ever I become the woman I hope to be, I will owe a great deal to four blue-eyed Conger kids!

Monday, December 8, 2008

What Could Be Greater Than Love?

"Mom, do you love me? Do you love this little girl standing right here?" Such was the question I received from my three-year-old as I was brushing my teeth the other morning.

A chuckle in my throat, I responded by leaning down and wrapping her in my arms. "I sure do. I sure do love this little girl standing right here." And I meant it. I held her in my arms a moment, relishing in the joy of little arms around my neck, thinking she could never possibly know how deeply I meant that simple phrase. She released me from her grasp and ran off happy, leaving me to wonder what had prompted such a question and how I could ever adequately show my children how much I love them.

Love. I thought I knew what that meant as a child who was lucky enough to grow up in a family with parents who told me they loved me daily and who made huge sacrifices on my behalf. Then I became a missionary and found new meaning in the word, developing love for people I barely knew and yet felt touched by. Soon after my mission I married an incredible man and love took on a whole new meaning. But not until I had children of my own did I really begin to comprehend the immensity of what love really is. Now I know that motherhood is all about love. I have never loved more or been loved more.

There are many times in the midst of unpleasant situations with my kids, times when I am full of frustration and seeking for answers, that I am reminded simply to love them. And there have also been numerous times when I have been discouraged and irritated, enjoying a good pout, determined to stay mad, when one of my children has offered their love to me, and it has changed everything. Children are full of many things--mischief, humor, cleverness, unlimited energy--but mostly, they are full of love. I never cease to be amazed that my children, who know my many weaknesses, who often see me at my worst, love me anyway. I think that's really what life is all about--loving people anyway.

So, I've decided this week to concentrate every day on letting my kids know how much I love them--no matter how naughty they are--and hopefully, they'll do the same for me!:)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Empathetic Heart

Have you ever had someone criticize your parenting or your children’s behavior? Has it ever been you who was critical? I know that, before I had children, it was easy to look at other mothers and feel certain I could do a better job. I mean, how hard could it possibly be to comb a toddler’s hair or dress her nicely before showing up to church or the grocery store? What’s so difficult about teaching children manners and obedience? Now, four children later, I can only laugh at my naiveté. I had no idea!

I truly believe that unless you’ve been a full-time mother, it’s just not possible to really know how physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting and difficult the job can be. I can only say, motherhood teaches empathy. I used to feel disdain for a mother whose two-year-old was screaming down the isles of Wal-Mart; now I am simply grateful that toddler isn’t mine! I flash an understanding smile as I recall our last grocery store visit with two children whining by my side and a baby screaming in the cart.

I recently had the luxury of visiting Wal-Mart without any children--an amazing experience! I felt as free as a bird. Gliding through the front doors I ran into my son’s former soccer coach trying to push a loaded cart out to her van while balancing a small child on top, holding an extra gallon of milk with her “free” hand, and keeping an eye on the two older children by her side. It was wonderful to be able to help. I moved the milk jug to the bottom shelf of the cart and pushed the entire load across the parking lot, explaining the whole way there that I totally understood how she felt. (The milk still wobbled off when I hit a bump, but at least I was there to retrieve it). My friend seemed very grateful, explaining that she was watching extra children that day and trying to get ready for a party as well as do the regular grocery shopping. As I hurried after the runaway gallon I realized that if I hadn't had children, I probably wouldn't have been so eager to jump in and help someone I didn't know well, but since I had been in a similar situation multiple times before, I immediately knew her needs and was able to help without reservation.

I'm so thankful for the empathy I am developing from finding myself all too often in less-than-desirable situations with my children. I have often had the thought run through my mind, "I hope those people know I usually look better than this, or my children usually look better than this, or we usually have things together better than this," but motherhood is forcing me to realize that 1) it doesn't matter what others think; 2) no one has it all together all the time, leastwise mothers; and 3) gaining an empathetic heart is a wonderful blessing because I can see other women struggle at times with all they are managing, and I can feel love and understanding for them--something I may not have done before.

I guess that's just one more thing to thank my children for.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Laughter--the Best Medicine

This may sound ridiculous, but I don't think I really knew what laughter was until I got married and became a mother. As I look back now on my teenage years I fear I was far too serious (it was the perfectionist in me, I suppose) and took few opportunities to simply find the humor in a situation and laugh, especially at myself. Well, motherhood has taught me that laughter is not only therapeutic; it's also mandatory. I have never laughed so much (or cried, for that matter, but that's a topic for a different day) as I have since becoming a mother, and I have my children to thank for that.

For instance, last night we were trying to gather the children for Family Home Evening. It was the end of a long, exhausting Sunday, and my husband and I were feeling anxious to get our dear children down for the night. I was trying to call everyone to attention but was having very little success. I glanced at my husband in desperation, hoping he would help when I noticed he was focused on our little two-year-old, smiling. I turned to see what he found so amusing and found Boston trying to figure out how a stuffed Santa could talk. He would push the hand that made the Santa speak and then bend down, examining the beard, trying to find the mouth in the middle of all the fur. It was hilarious.

Our other son often surprises me with funny little remarks. A couple of months ago, he came into the bathroom while I was getting ready for church and announced he was going to fast (it was fast Sunday). I asked him if he even knew what that meant, to which he replied, "yea, it's when you don't eat and you get gum." I chuckled and said, "So, how can you fast when you've already eaten?" "I'm starting now," he said. "Where's the gum?"

Our oldest child (who will be nine this week--I can hardly believe it) is beginning to care more about clothes and styles. It seems like we went from me fixing her hair (with a fight, of course), to neither of us fixing her hair (hoping to avoid any contention), to her fixing her own hair. Of course, I have had to learn to simply smile when she emerges from the bathroom with a less-than-well-manicured hairdo. I tell myself over and over it doesn't really matter, pat her on the back, and send her out the door to school. But the other day she came into the kitchen after fixing her hair, and I just couldn't help but say something (the perfectionist in me popping up again). I offered to help with her hair, but she (of course) refused. I waited a minute and mentioned again that I had some good ideas of how to fix her hair. Finally, she stormed out, but not before turning to me and yelling, "Mom, leave me alone about my hair. I do not want someone who fixes their hair like YOU touching my hair!" I couldn't believe it. "What's wrong with the way I fix my hair?" I asked incredulously, faking hurt feelings. "Have you looked in the mirror?" she answered. I hadn't. So I did. I went straight to the bathroom and planted myself in front of the mirror. I burst into giggles. She was absolutely right! My hair looked atrocious. I'm so glad my children have taught me to laugh at myself.

Then there's my three-year-old. She's more than hilarious. I have found with her I have two choices, either laugh or cry. I've tried to adopt the first. She changes her clothes on an average of eight times a day, concocting all sorts of unbelievable fashion combinations. It drives me crazy, but I've tried to just let it go, hoping she'll eventually grow out of this stage. Well, the other day she came waltzing in, wearing one of her craziest choices yet. At first glance, I thought she had on a familiar type of undergarment and thought she must have raided my drawers, but I wondered why they fit so snugly on her. Upon further examination, I found her to be wearing white baby doll pants! She looked hilarious. They were so tight on her bottom and legs. When I finally got her to take them off two days later (that's right--she slept in them and put clothes over the top of them when I demanded she wear something sensible to go places), I noticed the tight little shorts were actually 0-3 month baby pants! I can't imagine whatever possessed her to try them on in the first place (talk about "squishy pants"), but I laugh every time I think of her in those tight little pants. Except now I might cry because she just came in wearing them again--apparently she found where I hid them after I washed them. Oh well--I tried! Take a look at the pictures below to see the "squishy pants" yourself. :)
Am I raising a fashion diva or what?

Do these look comfortable?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Patience is a Virtue

How many of you ever thought you were a patient person--until you became a mother? I could never honestly claim I possessed this virtue in abundance before I had four children, but I never realized until these little sweethearts came along just how taxing an attempt at patience can be. I've almost felt I would burst at every seam in frustration at repeated inappropriate behavior as I've tried to handle stressful situations with love and, of course, patience. There have been times I've had to take a breath, speak far more kindly than I feel inside, and hurry into my closet to stomp my foot and let out an irrepressible scream (oh yes, I've learned two-year-old tantrums never really leave our systems--we just get better at masking them).

The past couple weeks at my house have been more difficult than usual. It seems my children have ganged up against my husband and me and have decided to test our resiliency and, yes, patience. Children, I've learned, are very good at this--especially three-year-olds. I've always heard reports about the dreaded "terrible two's," but my experience has been the "three's" are far worse. It's not fair to place blame entirely on one person, so I've used the term "children," but in all honesty, it's my three-year-old (almost four, thank heavens) who seems to be at the root of most of our problems lately. How can one little child consistently make such humongous messes? How can one sweet little girl be so defiant and naughty? How can one tiny human change her clothes so many times in a day, leaving whatever she discards all over the house? It's really quite amazing what one small child can accomplish in the course of one day and how many times she can try a mother's patience. Yes, I definitely think patience is one of the five virtues motherhood is teaching me, and I have to admit at this point, I'm not sure it's one I'll ever master. Maybe if I did, I wouldn't need so many lessons on it.

Now, in all fairness, this unforgettable child isn't all bad, even if she is a chronic liar, a sneak, and a pest. She's also wonderful in many more ways. In fact, just last night (at the end of another brutal Sunday--this one much better than the last, thankfully), when I was cleaning an incredibly filthy kitchen, my little trouble-maker looked at me, and out of the blue, said, "You're such a good Mommy." I nearly dropped the dishes I was rinsing. I ran right over to her, threw my arms around her and thanked her, covering her in hugs and kisses. She must have liked this response because after a minute of thinking, she followed up with another amazing declaration. "You're wonderful, Mommy." Again I ran over to her and smothered her with love and thanks. A third time she reached deep to find something great to say about me. I couldn't wait to hear what she came up with. Finally, she said, with a huge, proud grin, "You're very not stupid, Mommy." It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I loved her for it anyway. A few minutes later, when she was throwing a fit about going to bed, I tried to remember her sweet comments, then I tucked her in--very patiently--and sighed in relief that I had made it through another day.

I've always heard "Patience is a virtue," whatever that means. All I know is it's definitely something my children test and try on a daily basis. But then again, I guess it's only fair; after all, I was a child once, too, and I can still remember pushing my mother to her limit, and then some. Yesterday an older man in our ward was over talking with my husband and he made the comment, "People think parents raise kids; it's really the other way around--kids raise parents, and then the kids grow up and realize their kids are raising them." I couldn't agree more!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lessons From Motherhood

Sunday was a rough day. That's not unusual for our house, but it was especially bad this week. I woke up with my usual chipper smile, singing "Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day." And it was. Dan had left early for a meeting, but I was feeling resilient enough to handle a Sunday morning solo and planned to have everything under control and every heart happy when he returned.

It all started off so well, the children playing together quietly, with no fighting (it was amazing) and I basked in the peace of a family day at home. It didn't last. Before I knew it, one child, and then another and another became uncooperative, belligerent, and just plain naughty. By the time we loaded them up to drive 20 minutes for Stake Conference, we were a little unnerved. That's when Regyn decided she wasn't going to wear her seat belt. Our incessant pleading and urging only made her whiny obstinance turn into an all-out fit. We were five minutes from home and she was screaming that she wanted to go back to get her blankie. Ten minutes of this, and we were all losing our patience. I had determined I was going to keep my cool and remain patient the entire day (lofty goal, I know), so I kept calmly explaining we wouldn't be going back for the blanket; then I climbed in the back seat to help her with her seat belt, which only made her tantrum escalate to the point I made a quick decision to try for my goal again tomorrow, and before I knew it, I told (no--demanded is more accurate) my husband to pull over and I had my hand raised to spank this naughty child. Thankfully, I came quickly to my senses when the picture of all my ward members driving my on the Interstate watching me spank my child raced through my mind. I took yet another deep breath and somehow resolved the issue.

Stake Conference was wonderful (or so I heard). I was too busy chasing runaway crayons as they rolled down the slanted aisles, reading storybooks, lifting children on and off my lap while trying to keep my skirt from sliding up, explaining why we don't bring snacks to Stake Conference even though many of the people around us do, and more, trying to make it possible for the people sitting near us to have a chance to enjoy the meeting. Then we were on our way home again, exhausted and a bit ruffled.

I won't go into great detail about the next few hours of the day, but suffice it to say by the time 7:00 came and my two littlest were in bed and my two oldest received a reprimand for the upteenth time, I was at the kitchen table with my head in my hands, sobbing, wondering what I was doing wrong as a mother to have such inappropriate behavior in my home. That's when it hit me. I wanted to sit and feel sorry for myself for a while, but instead I remembered once again that this is what motherhood is about--to teach me. Of all the experiences in my life, none has tutored me so harshly, so thoroughly, so consistently as motherhood. And thank heaven for that, because through my experiences as a mother, good and bad, I am developing attributes I must have to reach my eternal goals.

As I pondered this principal I came up with six attributes I think the role of mother surely teaches. This week I am writing about humility because by the end of Sunday I was feeling most humble. I realized once again that I cannot do this job alone, and every time I try, I fail. I went to the Lord and asked for His help, and as I have tried to listen for answers, they have come and things are already improving. Yes, motherhood definitely teaches humility.

What are you learning through your mothering experiences? I would love to know. I think we as mothers find comfort in knowing we all have days when we want to throw our hands in the air and quit, so feel free to share your thoughts. And if you have any great advice about how to make Sunday a wonderful day, I'm all ears.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Grinch of Halloween

I don't know where it came from
Or how it got its start,
But sometime after childhood
I had a change of heart.

My eyebrows started furrowing;
My stomach formed a knot,
And before I even knew it
My attitude went to pot.

I tried and tried to fix it;
I thought it'd be a cinch,
But every year at Halloween
I turn into a Grinch!

It's not that I hate candy
(Quite the opposite is true);
But when my children beg for it
I don't know what to do!

And then there's dressing up,
Finding costumes that are great.
I really shouldn't say this, but
It's the main thing that I hate!

I know my kids aren't lucky;
They'd trade me in a pinch.
It can't be easy when your mom
Becomes a Halloween Grinch!

I'm ashamed to admit this little poem is about me, but it's true. I sat down to write about Halloween, and this poem is what spilled out. I was determined to have the best attitude about this spooky holiday this year, mostly because we decided to go to my in-laws and celebrate with them, and they have a way of making everything fun (FUN--that was my main goes this year--to have fun, and I did), BUT I also found myself stumbling through the crowd at the mall, trying to push my three-year-old (she had conveniently forgotten her shoes) through the commotion while keeping track of my wandering two-year-old that I wondered where the joy in this little endeavor was. Of course it's always an experience to see what other creative people come up with for costumes, but even that has lost a bit of its thrill for me. Am I just a total Grinch or does anyone else feel my pain?

I told my husband I had a wonderful idea for following years. Then I delved into a simple plan that did not include trick-or-treating or dressing up in costumes; instead, we would get a hotel room, go swimming, catch a movie, play games, and eat our own kind of special treat (sounds enticing, doesn't it?). He just chuckled and shook his head, so I asked my oldest daughter what she thought of my brilliant plan, and just as I hoped, she said, "Oh, I would totally want to get a hotel and do all that instead." I was beaming. Then she added, "But can we still keep our candy from this year?" My heart sank a little as I wondered if my children would really be as willing as I am to give up on a traditional Halloween. I guess we'll see what next year brings.

In the meantime, I tried a new approach to the Halloween candy. Instead of trying to ration it every day, I sat my kids down, told them they were in charge of their own baskets; they could eat as little or as much as they wanted every day; they could make themselves sick if they wished, but when it was gone, it was gone. I'm just now waiting for Regyn to throw up as she took my speech to heart and has eaten more candy today then I used to eat in a year! I've decided to look at the bright side--at least there hasn't been any begging.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Journal Entry

I have always been taught the importance of keeping a journal, and as I was growing up I tried hard to follow this counsel, writing in my journal weekly. Now that I am a mother, I feel lucky to jot down a page or two every six months! I have, however, tried very hard to keep a journal for my small children who are too young to write themselves. The other day I pulled out my almost nine-year-old's journal and flipped to a page I had written when she was only 3 1/2--the same age my other daughter is now. I couldn't help but smile as I read about this precocious little girl. Let me share the entry:

Hallee, you have been hilarious (you love to say that word) lately. You told me the other day, "Hurry, Mom. There's no time to waste!" Then at dinner you said, "I can't even stand it, this is so yummy."

Yesterday you were hiding behind the couch so Dad couldn't brush your teeth. After a few minutes you said you were hungry. I told you if you would be good about getting your teeth brushed, I would let you have something to eat first. You hopped right up and said, " Oh, I will, Mom. I wasn't hiding from Dad. I just went behind the couch to think about a few things--that's all." I just shook my head.

For some reason you have in in your head that I am going to have a baby girl soon, and you ask me about it all the time. Finally, I said, "Hallee, when we do have another baby it might not be a girl." You responded with a twinkle in your eyes, "Maybe it will be two girls!"

One more story: you were supposed to go to check out a pre-school last week for two days. The second day we were rushing out the door and you couldn't find your other flip-flop. You refused to wear any other shoes and chose to stay home instead. Later that day we went out to the van, and there was your missing flip-flop. You had dropped it getting out of the van the day before. You said, "Look, Mom. There's my other flip-flop. The van watched it for me so no one would take it." You were delighted. I just had to smile.

There's nothing like children to add spice to life! What kind of spice have they added to yours? Be sure to share--we all need more reasons to smile.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Breakin the Rules

Have you ever felt as a mother you sure have a lot of rules? Some days I feel like I am constantly reminding my children of our household rules: clear your dish when you're finished eating, take care of your clothes after you shower, hang up your backpacks when you come home from school, no fighting, no rough-housing, no playing ball in the house; the list goes on and on. I remember growing up with similar rules and I couldn't help but think my mom needed to chill out a little.

Well, the other day I decided I needed to chill a little myself. I had had an especially rough week and was feeling quite unsuccessful as a mother, wife, author, neighbor, etc. My two older children had been given the ultimate punishment of having to spend the afternoon with each other, rather than their friends, because they had been quarreling a lot. I was in the kitchen trying to prepare dinner and listening to the two of them argue over how long they were going to spend on each activity, and I found myself cringing over a few of their ideas, namely, playing crab soccer in the living room and then tackle football. Pondering about how to change their minds without sounding like a nagging mother, a wonderful idea occurred to me, and all of a sudden I found myself leaving kitchen duty to play football with my kids--right in my living room. Then we lined up against the fireplace and played "Run, fishy, run" and worked up a sweat chasing each other across the room. My children were in shock (as was my husband), but it felt so good to just let go and be a kid again.

In short, we broke most of my "no rough housing" rules, but we had the best time ever! And I decided that sometimes, rules are made to be broken. It was the highlight of my kids' day--and mine. So, the next time you're having a less-than-perfect day, may I suggest throwing aside a few of your rules, letting go a little, and showing your kids you're not too old to have a little fun!

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Goes Up Must Come Down!

We've all had those moments when we've looked at one of our children and thought, "What were you possibly thinking?" I had one such moment last week when my three-year-old, Regyn, came home from a friend's house crying and pointing to her nose.

"What's the problem?" I asked, and then I got my answer when she threw her head back and I noticed a lime green bead halfway up her nasal passage. Of course I did what any sensible mother would do--I looked at her father and said, "Great. What are we going to do?" He had all the answers (as fathers usually do).

First, we tried plugging the other nostril and telling her to blow hard. She wasn't super cooperative and I could see this was getting us nowhere, so I decided to offer some assistance. The next time she blew I applied a thrust of pressure on the outside of her nose where I thought the bead was. Unfortunately, right after she blew her nose, she automatically sniffed everything right back up, and as you might have guessed, the sniff--along with the sudden pressure I applied--only served to lodge the bead further up her nasal passage. Now we needed a flashlight to see it at all.

Determined not to panic, we took a deep breath and tried a new approach. We got out a can of pepper, poured some in Regyn's hand and told her to sniff it very closely so she could see how good it smelled. She sniffed and sniffed and sniffed--nothing. So we took her down into our unfinished basement and began sweeping up a storm. Her eyes began burning from all of the dust, Dan and I were sneezing like crazy, but Regyn's nose must have been too plugged from the bead to be affected at all.

We were running out of options. We had tried all logical solutions; now it was time to try some irrational ones. Out came the vaccuum cleaner. By this time, Regyn's level of cooperation was registering in the negative. She just wanted to be left alone, but each new attempt at dislodging that stubborn bead only made Dan and I more determined we were going to win this battle. I gratefully left to play volleyball and when I came back over an hour later, Dan looked dejected adn Regyn was snoring on the couch. I was determined to not let her go to sleep with that bead up her nose. Visions of it making its way down her throat and into her lungs kept creeping into my head, so although two different doctors we called said it was not an emergency and to let her sleep, I had a hard time letting it go.

Dan had researched more options on the Internet while I was gone playing volleyball and said he had one more trick to try--the "kissing method." I was obviously desperate because I laid my sleeping child on my lap, plugged one side of her nose, and blew as hard as I could into her mouth, hoping to blow the obnoxious bead out. Much to my dismay, what came out was not the bead, but a whole lot of snot. I found my entire cheek plastered with the green, gooey stuff. Dan and I both tried this method a few more times, before I gave up, put my poor child to bed, and jumped in the shower to scrub my face.

There is a happy ending to this story--the bead did come out--but it took a doctor's office visit, three catheters, Dan and I holding our sweet child to the table while she screamed bloody murder, and many attempts by the doctor before it finally dislodged and plopped right in her open mouth, nearly choking her. The doctor had to run a catheter up through her nasal passage, blow a balloon up behind the bead, and then try to maneuver it back through, pulling the bead with it. It was traumatic, to say the least, but I can say that we all learned a very important lesson on what not to put where.

So, if you ever have a child decide to see if something will fit somewhere it doesn't belong, call me. I now know what works; more importantly, I know what doesn't. In fact, don't waste a call on me--call your doctor. It will save you hours of worry and stress trying your own techniques. And as for the bead, we kept it. Dan wants to make a necklace out of it as a reminder. I told him I never want to see anything green come out of a nose again, and that includes snot!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Confessions of a Slacker Mom

Okay, so after I read a few blogs about slacker moms, I couldn't help but think of all the ways I could be considered a slacker--it was unbelievable! My mind kept reeling as different scenarious pushed their way forward, begging for attention. So, here they are--a few of my own slacker confessions.

1-Since it is fast approaching, I can't help but say, I love daylight savings! By the time October comes, I anxiously anticipate the clock falling back so it is darker earlier. Why? So I can put my kids to bed earlier! I know that probably sounds a bit ludicrous, but little ones still tend to believe bedtime has arrived when they look outside and see darkness, and with the start of school and soccer and homework, I'm exhausted earlier, too. I need a bigger break so I am fresh and ready to start early the next day, so I gather my children, show them how dark it is outside, snuggle them in bed, and enjoy some extra time before life starts over again the next day.

2-We get treats every time we go to the grocery store, and although I say this practice is because my children beg for them, that's not entirely true. If I'm being perfectly honest, I have to admit that by the time I'm finished shopping and have made it to the check-out, I need/want a treat! Aferall, visiting Wal-Mart with two toddlers, two grade schoolers, and a long list of needed items is no easy chore. I figure if I've made it to the check-out with no major episodes, I deserve a treat!

3-Naptime is my favorite time of the day. Lunchtime is my least favorite time of the day (not knowing what to fix, messing up the kitchen I barely got cleaned up from breakfast, whiny children, etc), so I am very thankful that naps follow lunch. By this time of the day, I need a little breather (and some time to write, of course!).

4-I'm sure it's probably starting to sound like I don't like my children around, but that really isn't true; it's just that, as you all know, motherhood demands the best that's in us, and I can't be at my best 24/7. Hence, I also rejoice when my children make it to first grade! I am not the mother sobbing outside of the school because my child will be gone all day; instead, I'm doing cartwheels in my living room as soon as I kiss them goodbye. It's just that I'm totally thrilled at the experiences that await them in first grade. I know they will love it, they will learn to read (yea!!!), and they will be anxiously engaged in a good cause that I don't have to be in charge of. What's to be sad about? I do have to admit, however, that I may not feel the same when my youngest heads out the door, knowing that I will be alone and I've hit a new phase in life. I guess we'll just have to see; for now, I truly love first grade!

5-I plan dates with my kids because I love them (the dates, that is--and the kids). I absolutely treasure one-on-one time with each of my children, and as I know they will always ask to go out for ice cream, so it's a win-win situation. I love my kids and I love ice cream. We agreed to start personal dates with our children for their sakes, but I go more for my own sake.

6-This confession has more to do with being a homemaker than a mother, but it's all part of a stay-at-home mother's life, so I figure it counts. I only scrub the kitchen floor if I know someone is coming. I used to scrub it nearly every day ( back in my perfectionist days); now, the kitchen floor is the least of my worries. My father-in-law recently visited and I caught him cleaning the crevices of our kitchen chairs with a q-tip, amazed at how dirty the q-tip came out. I had to chuckle to myself as my husband explained, "Dad, we just have more important things to worry about than cleaning the chairs with a q-tip." I figure the floor is the same.

7-I sometimes run out of groceries on purpose so we have to eat out, sparing me a night of cooking. I have realized after 10 years of married life that I still--and probably always will--hate to cook. I'd rather clean any day than plan, shop for, and prepare meals. It's just not my thing. So, when the fridge and pantry are empty and we make a decision to get pizza or something, I secretly cheer inside--not because I like pizza--but because I get a night off from cooking.

I think I had better stop there. I've revealed too much already about my slacker tendencies, but I just have to end by saying that, despite all my weaknesses, I'm still the best mom for my kids because no one could love them more than I do! And, I've come to realize that some of the biggest slacker moms are raising the best kids, so maybe there's something to be said about allowing ourselves to be less than perfect. After all, motherhood involves making lots of mistakes. Maybe that's why I love it so much!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

From the Mouth of Babes

If there is one thing that never ceases to amaze me since I have become a mother it's how often my children teach me something. I think some of the most important lessons I've learned in life have come from my children, and when I take time to humble myself and see the world through their eyes, I find out something new and profound. It's one of the things I love most about motherhood.

The other day I was on my way to drop my son off for soccer practice (yep, I'm a true, blue soccer mom) when my eight-year-old, Hallee, asked me a deep doctrinal question right out of the blue. She looked at me and casually asked, "Mom, if Adam was the only man on earth, how did he get baptized?"

I hate to admit that I was unprepared for such a question and fumbled around trying to come up with the correct answer. I began by stallling, "Well . . . that's a good question, Hallee. What do you think?" We both came up with some ideas until she seemed to find an answer that made sense to her (which was that Christ must have come down and baptized him). We continued to the soccer field in silence, but I was feeling a little uneasy about not knowing if I had given my sweet daughter a doctrinally correct answer. Thankfully, when I told my little brother about the conversation the next day, he reminded me that the answer is in the scriptures (of course!). He found the verses in Moses, chapter 6. I was amazed that I had not remembered reading about it before, but I was also relieved to know the right answer.

When Hallee got home from school that day I took her aside, excitedly explaining that I had found the answer to her important question from the day before. We got out the scriptures and she read the verses aloud, then we discussed them. I truly saw her face light up as she read the answer, and I was reminded of how thankful I am that the Lord did not send us here alone to try to figure everything out by ourselves, that there really are answers, and most of them are found in the scriptures. We talked about Hallee's own baptism and how the proper Priesthood authority was handed down right from John the Baptist to Joseph Smith, and so on down to her. It was a sweet experience to share those few moments with her, and of course I left learning the most of all.

This was not the first time Hallee had suprised me with this type of question. I can't help but think of how these dear children we have truly have more knowledge and understanding about spiritual matters and eternal truths than we could ever guess. I've always heard the phrase, "out of the mouths of babes" we will be taught. It's true.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Welcome Home!

Have you ever come home from vacation with a pit in your stomach because you knew that reality was waiting right inside your front doors? That's exactly what happened to me early this morning (12:15 a.m., to be exact)!

We have had one of the busiest summers ever, vacationing, visiting family, going to family reunions, traveling for business, etc., and as much as I've enjoyed all of the wonderful time we've spent together as a family, I was thankful school started today so that we could start a routine again. This past week Dan and I traveled to New York City for a little get-away to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We had a wonderful time together--sightseeing, riding the subway, shopping, seeing Broadway shows, and talking about the kids, of course. Then we came home.

Our plane was delayed for over an hour so we walked through our doors after midnight. I had given myself plenty of pep talks to prepare for the chaos and reality of real life again, but I've learned that no preparation is ever really adequate. I went in to steal a kiss from my boys and knew as soon as I opened the door to their bedroom that something was not right. It smelled horrible! I turned on the hall light to get a closer look and found my sweet little baby sound asleep in a puddle of throw-up. He was matted with it and so was his bedding. We had no choice but to wake him up and bath him. Dan plopped him in the tub while I stripped his bedding and threw it in the washer. The poor child didn't know what to think, especially when we looked at him in the light and noticed that one of his eyes was glued shut, thus requiring eye drops (I certainly would not respond well to this kind of treatment suddenly in the middle of the night).

I was pretty good-natured about it all, laughing to myself about the welcome we'd received. Then we went to the grocery store today and my laughter nearly turned into tears. It wasn't when my little guy screamed for the first ten minutes of our trip because he wanted to drive his own little shopping cart around like his older sister; it wasn't even when his shopping cart tipped over and the long metal pole announcing that he was a "shopper in training" happened to slice into a display of 12-pack cans of coke, splattering coke all over me, my groceries, and the grocery store (no, the coke didn't splatter--it gushed out like a geyser and started pooling on the grocery store floor. I was so covered in it that my flip-flops no longer flipped and flopped--they were literally stuck to my feet from the sticky coke syrup); I think it was when Boston tipped his cart over and dumped the contents out FIVE times after the coke episdode that I began to lose my grip a little bit.

The phrase, "Welcome home" just kept repeating in my head. Our vacation had definitely come to a complete and abrupt end. Oh well, that's motherhood, and I still wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Like Father, Like Son

I know this blog is primarily about motherhood, but I can't help but write a small posting about dads, as well. After all, they are pretty important in this job called parenting, too. I have often marveled at single mothers who are somehow making it on their own, being a full-time parent as well as the bread winner. I could not manage without the help of my husband, so my hat goes off to anyone who is doing this demanding, difficult, but delightful job of parenting alone. And here's to you dads!

My six year old is starting to really care about what he wears every day (I'm learning that happens to most kids at some point, girls even sooner--Hence, the book My Squishy Pants). I was trying to help Nate get dressed for church Sunday, but every time I suggested something he just shook his head no. He finally pulled out a long-sleeved white dress shirt and some navy blue slacks and told me he wanted to dress just like his dad. I tried to discourage him, telling him how hot he was going to be, but he was insistent, so I shrugged my shoulders and proceeded to help him pick out a sweater vest (yes, sweater), a belt and church shoes and socks. When he was dressed he marched into the bathroom and informed his dad that he expected him to wear the same thing.

My husband looked at me with big eyes and whispered that he'd rather not wear a sweater to church. I told him to go with it, and because he's a wonderful dad, he did. He called Nate into his closet and together they picked out each item he would wear that day, from the navy blue slacks and white, long-sleeved shirt, to the sweater vest, tie, brown belt, shoes and socks. I couldn't help but smile as I heard them conversing and watched them walk out of the closet together, a near perfect match (one sweater was grey, the other navy blue).

I thought of how wonderful it was that my son was trying to look and act like his dad--if only it could last until he's a teenager. I couldn't pick a better role model for him and was touched that, even though he's only six, he thinks his dad is a pretty cool guy and he wants to be like him. I was also filled with gratitude that my husband is the kind of guy I want my son to emulate. It made me realize that I want to be someone my girls would want to be like as well. You never know when these dear children are watching or what habits they are picking up on. My husband had no idea that Nate would notice how sharp he looked for church each week in his white shirt and tie , but Nate did notice and it affected him enough to want to copy it.

They say that the most powerful way to influence others is through example. As scary as that is for an imperfect mother, I know it's true, and I'm actually extremely grateful that I have the opportunity of influencing my children for good each day. After all, although I make tons of mistakes, no one loves them like their dad and I do. One day (probably all too soon) their friends will have a stronger influence, so I'd better soak it up while I can!

The funny part of this story is that we hadn't been to church for even five minutes when Nate looked over at me, and in misery said, "I'm sweating." He wanted to take his sweater off. I couldn't help but chuckle. I wonder what next week will bring.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Kids Say the Darndest Things

"Mom, Hallee gave me something and now she wants it back, and I told her 'no' because that's alien stealing, right Mom?"
"It's what?" I asked thinking I must have misheard him.
"Alien stealing--ya know, when someone gives you something and then wants it back."
"I think you mean 'Indian giving,'" I corrected him with a chuckle. We now remind the children regularly that "alien stealing" isn't nice!

I have to say that I get a kick out of my children's vocabulary on a regular basis. They have such an innocent, personal view of the world, one that hasn't been tainted quite yet, and I find they are truly a hoot! Here are a few more examples:

I was reading a church magazine with my three-year-old next to me. I was reading about Elder Uchtdorf's life and there were pictures of him on the page. She pointed to one of the pictures and said, "Who is that? John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt?" She was very serious. I couldn't help but giggle.

This same three-year-old (who happens to be the life of the party at our house because she thinks she's so grown up and she's very dramatic and hilarious) said to me recently as I prepared her for her first swim lesson. "I don't really need swim lessons, Mom. I already know how to drown. Do you want me to show you? I can teach Boston (our 19-month-old) how to drown, too, if you want, Mom. Do you want me to show Boston how to drown?" I politely declined, chuckling to myself the whole way to swim lessons!

My six-year-old son came home one day from playing at a friend's house. He was telling me about a movie he had watched there. I asked him if the movie was rated PG13, reminding him that he wasn't allowed to watch PG13 movies. He thought for a minute, then answered, "Don't worry, Mom. It wasn't PG13--it was only PGthir." How can a mom hold a straight face at that ingenious answer?

On another occasion, this same child was ranching with Grandpa and his little sister all day. They each had a donut (a ranching tradition), and as Grandpa turned the corner, he said, "Hold on, Regyn" to the little three-year-old. Nate replied, "She is holding on, Grandpa. She's holding on to her donut!"

One of my favorites is something my oldest child, Hallee, said once. I told her how much I loved her. She said the same thing back, so I tried to outdo her, and this little game went back and forth. Finally I said, "I love you to the moon and back," thinking surely I had her this time. Her response caught me off guard when she replied, "I love you to Heavenly Father and back."

I sometimes wish I could look at the world again through a child's eyes. Then maybe all of the stresses that I allow to clutter my life wouldn't seem so big after all. Life would be simple and sweet. At this point, I guess I'll just have to enjoy all of the innocent, funny remarks my children come up with because one thing's for sure--kids say the darndest things!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Life in Song

Have you ever heard a song on the radio and thought, "Now, that describes my life perfectly"?

The other day I was exercising at the local elementary school playground with a bunch of other moms. We were running around the track, and every time we would run by, my little three-year-old would yell, "Hi, Mom! Hi!" and flail her arms at me. I couldn't help but think as I ran by that it was nice to be so loved and popular, even if it was by a litle blonde child. The lady running next to me kind of laughed and said, "do you know what that reminds me of? That song called 'You're Gonna Miss This'? I can't help but think of my life in terms of songs."

I thought about that and remembered the many times I have heard a song and thought, "That's my song--that song must have been written about me because that's just how I feel." Can you relate?

Here are a few examples of a couple of songs over the years that have touched me deeply because, well, they are a summary of my life at that time. Now, of course, being a mother of four children ranging in age from 18 months to eight, my songs seem to all relate to motherhood in some way--from the touching to the hilarious!
* "I Have Been Blessed" by Martina McBride (love this song--I have truly been so blessed)
* "Don't Blink" by Kenney Chesney (kids grow so darn fast, don't they?)
* "Just Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Vasser (my husband and my theme song!!)
* "You're Gonna Miss This" by Trace Atkins (I remind myself of this every day)
* "Let Them Be Little" by Billy Dean (they're only that way for a while)
* and more. . .

So, what are yours? Do you have any "theme songs"? There's nothing like putting your life to music! Here's to your songs and your life!