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.