Monday, December 28, 2009

Princesses, Tutu's, and Pink Nail Polish--How Far Do We Let This Go?

My three-year-old aspires to be a princess some day. This same child begs me to wear a skirt or princess dress every day, no matter what we are doing or where we are going. This child wants only one thing for Christmas--a microphone--to be able to sing with Hannah Montana and Taylor Swift, and when asked to cut out some pictures for preschool of appreciated items, this child chose bubble gum and pink, fluffy tutu's. When I pull out fingernail polish or make-up, especially lip stick, this child begs me for it incessantly.

I'm sure this all sounds perfectly normal for those of you who have raised little girls who are enamored with "girl stuff" and princesses, but to be perfectly honest, I'm starting to get a little concerned. I mean, it's not that I have anything against being a little fanatical about princesses; it's just that my three-year-old is . . .

. . . a boy!

It all seemed kinda cute at first. Whenever we would ask him his favorite color, he'd say "pink." Whenever his older sister played dress-up, he would participate. Whenever we'd paint our toenails, his would appear, and we figured since no one really saw them, what's the big deal? When he became addicted to watching Hannah Montana, I thought it was an interesting movie choice for a little boy, but hey, boys are rock stars, too, right? But now that he insists on wearing a fluffy skirt every day and gets upset when I tell him boys aren't princesses, it's starting to concern me just a little. I mean, how far should we let this go?

Finally, the other day when he was talking about his new wardrobe, I felt a need to intervene. "Son," I started.

"My name isn't 'Son,'" he corrected me with a little giggle.

Oh boy, we weren't off to a great start. I persisted anyway. "Boys grow up to be princes, not princesses."

His eyebrows puckered as he looked up at me as if to say, "What's a prince anyway?".

Not wanting to crush his wonderfully innocent idea of the world in one fatal blow, I proceeded carefully. "Only girls grow up to be princesses. You're a boy. In fact, you're a strong, handsome little boy."

My husband, eaves dropping on our little conversation, intervened at this point. "Oh forget it, Lori."

I looked back at him with wide eyes, as if to encourage support. I noticed an awful, dreadful fear in my heart at this point, and I began to wonder at what point we should stop this nonsense and put away anything to do with princesses.

Our little guy, who was still thinking over my comment about princes, now asked, "Only Cinderella is a princess?"

"Exactly!" I said.

"And Snow White?"

"Yes, yes, and Snow White."

At this, he thought about it all for a moment, and just when I was getting my hopes up that he was actually beginning to understand the concept, he said, "Well, when I get bigger and turn into a princess, then can I wear a dress?"

Okay, so he wasn't catching on.

What to do now. It's obvious a frank discussion is not the answer. So, at this point, i'm reverting to "Plan B." We've "lost" Hannah Montana, and the dress-up clothes have somehow disappeared as well. I told my older son to please start spending more time with this little guy, and I encouraged our four-year-old daughter to please spend less time with him. I can't say I think it will solve our little issue in a hurry, but a mom has to start somewhere!

Wish me luck!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our Testimony of Christ

Family Home Evening the other night found us without our two littlest family members; hence, we were actually able to have a somewhat focused discussion with out two older children. In an effort to reinforce the true meaning of Christmas and share our own testimonies of Christ, my husband and I began a discussion on this important topic. We asked our children to tell us what they knew about Jesus Christ--it could be anything about Him, His life, His mission--anything. Taking turns, we went around the room, each of us saying something about Christ. Our discussion started off a little slow, but before long, I found I couldn't write fast enough. In a few short minutes, we came up with this list.

He died for us.

He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.

He was resurrected and He lives.

He suffered for all our sins.

He loved little children.

He created the world.

He was a peacemaker.

He performed miracles.

He healed the sick.

He instituted the sacrament.

He walked away from none.

He was happy.

He forgave, even those who hurt him.

He visited Joseph Smith.

He is kind.

He can help you when you need help--no matter what.

He organized His church.

He answers our prayers.

He was baptized.

He was born in Bethlehem.

He takes away our sin.

He is the Son of God.

He was born in a manger.

He is our brother.

He is the only way back to Heavenly Father.

He visited people in America.

He knows us.

He will come again.

He can make our weaknesses become strengths.

He changed our lives.

He showed us the way.

He was willing to be our Savior and fulfill Heavenly Father's plan.

He is perfect.

He was obedient.

He blesses us.

He is our Savior and Redeemer.

He is the Light of the World.

He is the Lamb of God.

This simple list, identified by a 10-year-old, a 7-year-old, and my husband and I, only touches the surface of who Jesus Christ is and what He did for mankind. But at this special time of year, we add our testimony that He truly is the reason for this wonderful season. As we sat quietly in our living room and talked of Christ, the spirit filled our home and hearts, reminding us of the immense love created by a newborn babe in a manger years ago. And as a mother, I am eternally grateful for His life, His example, and His sacrifice--not only for me and my mistakes, but especially for my children's.

So, at this special time of year, we add our testimony of the Savior of the world and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Night Away From the Kids

Having four children, it's not often I get a night away with only my husband, but two nights ago we were presented with the perfect opportunity. It might not be what most people would consider ideal, but hey, you take what you can get. I was in the new IHC hospital in Salt Lake, awaiting a procedure on my heart to repair an ASD (or hole in my heart). Dan's parents were home with our children, and so we found ourselves completely alone (not counting medical personnel, of course) for 27 hours.

I have found these rare "alone times" to often be quite entertaining as we get reacquainted and discuss matters we don't often get to in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I am often reminded of just how funny, cute and wonderful my husband is, and I usually end the experience thinking I sure married well and promising myself I won't allow my role as mother to get in the way of my role as wife, which can often be the case. This time away was no exception. I found myself laughing out loud many times as my husband and I anxiously (nervous anxious, not excited anxious) waited for me to be wheeled into surgery. The hospital had asked me to arrive at 9:00 a.m., explaining the surgery would probably take place around 10:00 a.m. They were a little off in their calculations, and it was nearly 1:00 p.m. before I got wheeled away, leaving three hours to basically kill time and try not to think about the impending procedure.

It all started perfectly normal, but after a while, I think we were both a little bored and anxious, so the silliness began. In the corner of my room was an apparatus that looked an awful lot like a toilet, with a flusher handle and everything. Above it hung a sign that said, "This is NOT a toilet. It is equipment to flush medical waste (or something like that) only. Restrooms are in the hallway if you need one." Upon noticing the sign, we both kinda laughed. Then my husband came up with a funny idea.

"Should I stand here in front of this thing so it looks like I'm using it the next time the nurse walks in?"

He stood in front of it, and I had to laugh. Due to a short wall right next to the thing, it looked like he was really using it. I agreed it would be a funny trick.

Then the idea grew. "I think I'll take this sign down first and hide it. Then I'll act like I've just finished going, and when they ask me if I saw the sign, I'll pretend like I have no idea what they're talking about. They'll point to it and notice it's gone, and I'll just look at them like what I did was perfectly normal." My husband's eyes were twinkling with delight.

I was chuckling harder than I had in a while at this point, imagining the look on the nurse's face. "We can tell them they've been punked," I said.

Just then a nurse came in and handed me one of those dreaded cups. I regrettably told him I had just used the bathroom, so he set it down and told me to get a urine sample whenever I could. After another hour of waiting for surgery, I began to wonder if the hold up was the fact that I hadn't provided the urine sample yet.

"I wish they had told me they would need a urine sample before I used the bathroom," I said. "I wonder if this is the hold-up, and I just don't need to go yet."

"I know," my husband said with the same mischievous grin, "Why don't I go for you? Then I'll hand the nurse the cup and say, 'I wanted to do something to help, so I just peed in this cup for Lori. I hope that's okay.'"

At this idea, I was laughing hysterically, thinking we sure could shake things up a bit around here with our brilliant ideas. Man, my husband is a funny guy, I found myself realizing again. I had kind of forgotten what a great sense of humor he had. Some nurses finally arrived to wheel me away for my procedure (which was amazing, by the way--I was totally awake while doctors went up through a vein in my leg to patch a hole in my heart--I saw the whole thing on the screen, the part I dared open my eyes for anyway), and I found myself being grateful for the one-0n-one time with my husband. He certainly made the experience less scary and more fun, especially since he stayed the night with me and everything.

So, the moral of this story is, if you need some time away, schedule a surgery that requires an overnight stay in the hospital. JK! Actually, the real moral is to take advantage of any situation you find yourself in, even if it's not an ideal stay at a fancy hotel, to get a break from your job as mother and just enjoy your spouse for a while. It could be the most fun you've had in a long time!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Lie, A Cuss Word, and A Prayer

Have you ever looked at your preschooler and wondered where you went wrong? I mean, it seems pretty hard to mess up a child in only four short years, right? I've always hoped to at least wait until my children hit adolescence before feeling like I've blown it, but apparently I'm not going to make it that long.

A couple weeks ago my sweet little four-year-old bounded into the van after an afternoon of preschool, oogling over her treat from the "prize box." I glanced at the gift in her possession and had to admit it was a lot more spectacular than her usual small prizes, and I questioned her about it.

"Wow, that's quite the prize. Why haven't you chosen a big prize like that before?"

"Well, today I got my kindergarten shots at preschool, so I got to choose out of a different prize box."

"What? What do you mean you got your shots at preschool? Who gave them to you?" She had my full attention now. I was pretty sure I didn't remember getting any paper asking my permission to administer shots at preschool.

"Miss Ashley gave them to me," she said matter-of-factly.

"Did the whole class get a shot?" I was starting to panic just a little.

"No. Just me. I was the only one brave enough," she answered as she tore into her prize.

"Well, where did you get a shot?" I tested her.

"Right here in my leg," she said, pointing to her thigh.

"Pull down your pants and let me see," I insisted as I pulled into the garage. This story was sounding more believable all the time.

"No," she giggled, but I insisted and wriggled her pants down around her ankles. Sure enough, there was a little red spot on her thigh, right where she had pointed. Unsure if the spot was really from a needle, I probed further.

"Why don't you have a band aid?"

"Oh, well, it wasn't bleeding very badly, so they just wiped it off with a tissue and told me I'd be fine." And with that, she pulled up her pants and hopped out of the van, leaving me to wonder how I missed the note home about kindergarten shots.

That night as I rehearsed the story to my husband, he instructed me to call the preschool teacher and find out exactly what happened. A bit sheepishly, I made the call. I couldn't imagine the story was true, but then again, my child hadn't skipped a beat in answering all my questions with very believable answers.

I felt even more sheepish a few minutes later when I hung up the phone. Apparently, my daughter had fed the preschool teacher just as big a lie earlier that day so she could choose a big prize from the prize box. She had told her teacher that I had taken her in for shots earlier that day, that her little brother had cried, but she didn't because she was so brave. A series of believable answers to her teacher's questions and a sweet little smile, and she went away with her longed-for prize.

Ugh! I couldn't believe it! I mean, it takes talent to lie that well. She fooled two intelligent adults, answering our interrogations with the ease and confidence of a skilled professional. Great, I thought, I'm raising a pathological liar.

Not two weeks went by and I was called downstairs by my husband, who proceeded to tell me that this same dear child had just said a swear word. Apparently my husband had questioned her over and over about whether she had made a mess at the neighbor's house. She kept telling him "no," but as is his nature, he kept teasing her about it. Finally, to make her point, she said, "He_ _, no!"

Now, I realize in the realm of inappropriate words a child could say, that one may not rank as one of the worst, but this child is only four, and add this little act to her previous offense, and I realized in a hurry I was on the road to raising a juvenile delinquent.

"I just can't trust her anymore," my ten-year-old said in exasperation, throwing her arms in the air. I had to admit, I was feeling the same way. Where had my sweet little angel disappeared to?

Then today, only a few days later, this same child was called on to say family prayer. She offered the familiar thanks for our blessings, asked the Lord to bless a man in our neighborhood who has been sick for a long time, and then in her sweetest voice, she said, "And please bless Mommy that she won't have to have any more surgeries." (I just had my third surgery of the year--this time on my sinuses--and I think my kids are ready for their mom to be back in full swing).

I looked up from bowing my head just in time to catch her sparkling blue eyes look into mine in a knowing way as a humble, sweet grin spread across her little preschool face, and I realized that, juvenile delinquent or not, I love that child more than anything! It wasn't that I had forgotten her past grievances, just that, in the big scheme of things, she was still mine, still wonderful, and I still couldn't imagine life without her.

I think that's the miracle of a family's love for each other. No one knows our weakness better than each other, but at the end of the day, we're still all on the same team and we'd do anything for each other.

So, although I still have nightmares about my four-year-old and what she'll be like as a teenager, I guess for now I'll just be glad her offenses weren't anything too serious. I'm sure in only a few short years, when she's lying about things like boys and curfew, when her knowledge of cuss words extends far past the one she knows right now, and when she's praying her mother will have another surgery so she'll leave her alone for a while, I'll look back on these days and simply smile.

At least for now, I can still take her in my arms, kiss her until she laughs, and give her a lecture she might actually listen to!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Healthy, Happy Holiday

While sitting in the waiting room of the doctor's office this morning waiting to get a CT scan of my sinuses (which, by the way, is no fun--they tell you to lie on your stomach, prop your head up so all your weight is on your chin, and then DON'T swallow, which of course is all your throat wants to do when it's concentrating so hard on not doing it), I randomly picked up a magazine, flipped it open and started reading. Although I don't usually find much helpful information in magazine articles in waiting rooms (two weeks ago I was reading all about the latest gossip in Hollywood when I suddenly realized the magazine was over a year old. Great, I thought. Now I'm not only uninformed but the information that is floating in my head is outdated), this article caught my attention.

"Want to stay healthy and happy this holiday season?" it prompted.

Healthy? Yes! Happy? Even better. I read on.

The article began with mentioning how important it is to get plenty of rest. "Don't feel guilty about wanting and needing rest," it said. "Good rest is vital for a person's immune system to be strong and for a person to maintain overall good mental, physical and emotional health."

I agree, I thought wholeheartedly. I am going to bed earlier, and I'm not going to feel bad about it; in fact, I think I'm going to start scheduling a personal afternoon nap, just to be sure I'm in the clear. Yesiree, the experts say rest is vital, and I'm not about to dismiss this important piece of advice.

I couldn't wait to read on. I was sure the next pointer would mention chocolate on some level; maybe it would even suggest it would be a good idea to eat at least one cordial cherry chocolate after each meal throughout the holiday season (okay, so that's not the healthiest habit, but it sure makes me happy). There was no discussion on chocolate, but I loved what they did say. It was surprising and simple.


The article said adults need to play more and mentioned three different types of play. I can't remember the exact terminology, but we need active play (like playing on the floor with our toddlers or going outside with our kids), creative play (like scrap booking), and play that involves our brains (like board games and such). That's right. To be perfectly happy we need to schedule time to play. I love it!

In this competitive, busy world, I have been feeling the need lately to push real life aside more often and simply spend time with my kids--reading, snuggling, watching movies, listening, doing art projects and more. I had no idea I was actually following advice from experts on how to be healthier and happier. But I will say I have been happier. Life demands so much of our time, resources and energies, and too much of it is non important clutter, yet I find myself getting caught up in it anyway. Well, not anymore. My kids are really what matter, and they are growing up all too fast. So, I've decided this holiday season, I'm going to follow the advice of the experts and simply . . .


I've been almost giddy as I've made my mental list of stuff to do with my husband and kids: sledding, building snowmen, playing board games, reading Christmas books, listening to music, dancing and singing, making treats . . .

I feel healthier already!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Questions, Questions . . . and More Questions

My ears are tired.

I have had a persistent ear ache the past few days, and it didn't dawn on me until this morning why that might be. I think my four-year-old and now three-year-old made a secret pact to see who could say the word "Mom" the most times in a day and who could ask mom the most questions in a 24 hour period.

Let me explain. Yesterday was my youngest's three-year-old birthday. Here's how the day went, from the moment he woke up until I tucked him in at 9:00 last night.

"Can I have some birthday cake?"
"Not right now."
"Because we have to wait until after dinner when everyone is here."
"When Grandma and Grandpa come?"
"Are they coming for my birthday?"
"Are they coming to our house?"
"To see me for my birthday?"
"That's right."
"And eat some cake?"
"Yes, to eat pizza and birthday cake."
"And go swimming with us?"
"But not at the deep end, huh? I'm too little for the deep end."
"Are you too little for the deep end?"
"You're big?"
"Because you're old?"
"Kind of."
"And when you were little, you didn't swim at the deep end?"
"Cause you didn't want to drown?"
"That's right."
"Cause drowning is scary?"

And so on, and so on--the same conversation repeated numerous times throughout the day. By the time the grandparents actually arrived and it was time to eat the cake, I felt like I'd already had it. My four-year-old asked me at the beginning of the day yesterday if it was going to be a long day or a short day (I have no idea what she was referring to). I quickly summarized my day's agenda in my head and answered . . . "Long." I didn't realize how prophetic my answer would be.

Driving home from the swimming last night my children started peppering me with questions about unimportant stuff I was sure they already knew the answers to. Finally, I said with as much kindness and patience as I had left, "The next person who says, "Mom," or asks me a question is going to get their lips ripped off." (Okay, I realize that's not a real kind, patient, or appropriate threat to make, but it was how I felt. And besides, my children thankfully know me well enough to understand I wasn't completely serious. They simply giggled and reminded me there was probably a nicer way of asking for a peaceful ride home.)

When all my children were finally sound asleep last night I heaved a huge sigh of relief and took a moment to soak up the peace and quiet, sure I had survived the worst of it since the birthday was over.

Then I woke up this morning.

"Can I watch a movie?"
"Not right now."
"Because it's almost time for preschool. Maybe you can watch a movie later."
"After preschool?"
"Hannah Montana?"
"You getting tired of Hanna Montana?"
"You want to watch a different movie?"
"I don't care. I probably won't watch a movie, so it's not a big deal."
"You want to find the princess movie?" (I had been looking for Princess Diaries all morning, hoping to take it back to the library. My nine-year-old finally found it--in the VCR. Why didn't I think of that?)
"You don't know where it is?"
"You've looked everywhere?" (Must have heard that from my conversation with Dad)
"You even looked under the couch?"
"You have to take it back to the library?"
"Yes. I hope I can find it soon."
"The princess movie isn't ours?"
"It's the library's?"

And so on, until not only does my ear hurt, my whole head is pounding, wishing this persistent little voice that will not stop asking me questions will just take a little nap or something.

But then I have this sudden moment of realization that this little voice will grow up to be a big voice all too soon, and that I might even wake up one morning wishing a little voice would ask me non-stop questions all day to break the terrible silence of an empty home.

So, although my ears are tired and aching, I can't help but keep listening and answering, grateful for the little voices that fill my home. . .

But I have to admit one thing: bedtime is happening a lot earlier at my house for a while!

Monday, November 9, 2009

You Know You're A Mother If . . .

I've started paying closer attention to mothers lately. Maybe it's because there have been 6 babies born in the past couple of months in my husband's and my families, so I've had lots of opportunities to see mothers starting over again with new babies. In a conversation with one of my sisters-in-law yesterday, she made the comment, "Everything about motherhood is just plain hard!"

I had to laugh inside. I've had that same thought on many occasions; in fact, just today I had one of those moments when my two grade-schoolers arrived home early from school (it's early-out all week due to SEP conferences--a minor fact I had completely forgotten) and began fighting non-stop. In the midst of trying to referee the arguing, I accidentally poured milk on my two-year-old's bowl of popcorn, rather than his bowl of cereal. I would probably never have known except that he looked at me with an extremely quizzical look, which forced me to look down at his two bowls in order to see what his problem was. My four-year-old was nearly gagging by this point, but I simply shrugged, poured milk in his cereal bowl and told him he might as well try the soggy popcorn. "Maybe it's delicious--who knows?" Another suspicious look from my little guy (you know, the kind that says, "I'm pretty sure my mom is crazy" )and I couldn't help but think, "You know you're a mother if life is so chaotic you accidentally pour milk on the wrong bowl of snacks, and it doesn't even phase you." Hence started this list:

You know you're a mother if . . .
1- Your vertical leap increases by six inches when your toddler poops in the potty.
2- A productive day means you showered before noon and made your bed.
3- A date with your husband means he tags along with you at the grocery store.
4-A clean house consists of a cleared path from the front door to the bathroom.
5- All you want for your birthday is two hours ALONE, without interruption.
6- Cooking mac and cheese counts as making dinner.
7-You cry with joy when your baby sleeps through the night for the first time.
8- You cry even harder when your child actually gives his/her part at the Primary Program.
9- You wear your clothes eight times before putting them in the wash to conserve on laundry.
10-You wake up relieved you still only have six children, after dreaming you were pregnant with twins.
11-Ice cream and chocolate make everything feel better.
12-You hide in your closet with your bedroom door locked to talk on the phone so you can actually hear your conversation.
13- You fall asleep saying your prayers at night because you are so exhausted.
14- Exercise consists of walking (jogging on a good day) to the mailbox and back.

And lastly, you know you're a mother if . . .

15- No matter how bad the day before was, you wake up every morning thinking you're sure glad to be a mother!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

I was just thinking recently how adorable my little two-year-old is. Famous last words. I've learned as a mother that as soon as I think a child is wonderful, he or she turns into Mr. Hyde and I end up eating my thoughts or words. As ridiculous as it sounds, it's a natural phenomenon that seems to occur every time. This was no exception. One day I was laughing at my sweet little guy, thinking of how quickly he's growing up; the next, I was ready to accidentally leave him at Grandma's for a few extra days so I could get a small reprieve from his whining, screaming, hitting and fits.

Here's my sweet, funny little guy:

1- I have made it a habit to grab his hand when we get out of the car to go into a building or anywhere in hopes of avoiding an accident. Not feeling particularly fond of this routine, he would always resist and I repeatedly explained I grabbed his hand so he wouldn't get hit by a car. Recently, we were walking down the hallway at church, and I reached down to grab his hand as a gesture of love. He looked around in confusion as he withdrew his hand. "There are no cars." His simple statement made me giggle.

2- My older children are fond of eating chocolate pancakes for breakfast (healthy, I know), aka "brown pancakes." My little guy is not so fond of them. He came in the other day begging me for "blond pancakes" instead. Clever!

3- I snuck in his room to give one final goodnight kiss the other night. He asked me to turn the ceiling fan on, to which I explained that it was now cold enough outside that we didn't need to turn the ceiling fan on anymore. "I said to turn it on in my bedroom, not outside!" he replied, as if to say, "duh!" I just get a kick out of the way he thinks.

4- We stopped by my husband's work the other day to say hello. Of course my two young children begin running the halls, speaking in "kid tones" (the opposite of "church mouse tones"). My husband and I both told them to speak quietly. "Why?" my two-year-old asked as he looked around? "Nobody's sleeping." We both got a laugh out of that one.

See, a funny, adorable little guy, right? Absolutely! Except for the times he isn't.

Like today, for instance . . .

I was teaching preschool, an activity he usually joins in, but with both him and his sister being under the weather, I instructed them to stay downstairs and watch a movie instead. With 20 minutes left of school, he suddenly appears. He's butt naked except for his shirt, which is now soaked at the sleeves and saturated with poop as well. In his hands he was holding a wet wipe covered in poop. Upon further discovery I notice the smelly stuff all down his legs and, of course, all over his hands and under his fingernails. Apparently he had missed the toilet and had tried to take care of the mess himself--Ugh!

At this moment I realize I'm in a bit of a predicament, as six other children are in my care, but as I quickly weigh my options I realize I can't let this child stand there covered in poop for 20 more minutes! For one thing, he stunk! For another, he was a huge distraction. Yes, it was obvious I had no choice but to take care of the problem. I left my diligent preschoolers working on their coloring project and darted down the stairs and into the bathroom where I found a poop-smeared mirror, rugs and toilet. This was really not a 30-second clean-up I was facing. But since 30 seconds is all I dared leave my students, I threw my son into the shower, furiously scrubbed him, Clorox cleanup-ed my mirror, toilet and floor--all in a record one minute and twenty seconds!! The part that frustrated me the most is that he was screaming bloody murder the whole time, being very uncooperative, as if he was the victim in the whole scenario, which I have to say, I strongly disagreed with.

Needless to say, I didn't have my happiest mom face on when the ordeal was over, and my thoughts of my son had quickly turned from the good, wonderful Dr. Jekyll to the infamous, naughty Mr. Hyde.

I need a serious break from this child, I thought to myself. But then, less than two hours later, I found my arms wrapped around him in a giant bear hug and kiss, whispering my undying love in his ear after he handed me a picture he drew just for me and flashed me his winning little smile. And I couldn't help but wonder as I smiled and cooed at him if my little boy asks himself the same question about me--Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

Monday, October 19, 2009

What a Dilemma!

A couple mornings ago, my seven-year-old greeted me in the kitchen with an exasperated declaration. "Guess what, Mom? I can't play football at recess anymore!"

This sounded serious. "Why?" I asked with concern.

"Because. Everyone wants me on their team!" It wasn't exactly the problem I was expecting.

"And that's a problem?" I asked, a little perplexed.

"Yes. All my friends fight over who gets to have me on their team. I'm always chosen first, and I never even get to be on my best friend's team."

Trying to approach his problem with the seriousness he was expecting, I said, "Wow, most children complain when they are always chosen last for teams. I never realized what a problem it is to always be chosen first." Okay, so I was being a little facetious, but he didn't seem to catch on. He was dead serious about his dilemma.

Being the problem-solver he is, he quickly came up with a solution. "I need a paper and scissors," he announced. I couldn't imagine how paper and scissors would help him with his recess problem, but I found him the needed items anyway. With breakfast to finish preparing and kids to push out the door, I forgot about our conversation until a couple hours later when I found the project he had been working on. One side of a paper had a schedule of teams for the week, from Monday to Friday (see below--note the spelling--I love it! I especially love how he spelled Austin--Oston); the other side of the paper held a serious threat (I think he meant to say "strict" instead of "striked").

I couldn't help but giggle, but my humor soon turned to concern over the obvious fact that he had left the paper at home. I was sure he would be upset when he realized he had gone to school without it, and as crazy as it sounds, I even considered running to the school to give it to him before first recess (I've noticed motherhood often produces temporary insanity). I decided that idea was ridiculous, but as the day wore on I couldn't help but think about my son and his predicament. I kept picturing in my mind the scenario when he announced his plan to his friends, and I wondered if they would be as sure about it as he was. I anxiously awaited his arrival home, nervous about how the day had gone.Finally, he stepped in the door.

"How did it go at recess today, son?" I asked immediately.

"Fine." I hate that reply. It basically means I don't have the energy to tell you any details.

I told him I had worried all day because he had forgotten his schedule. "Oh, that's okay. I had Friday memorized," he assured me. I should have known an assertive child such as he would have it all under control.

Next, I asked him if he thought the schedule really helped.

With frustration and complete earnestness, he replied, "No, not really, because my friends still whined and complained. I tried to explain to them that they all had to take turns having me on their team and that next week I would be on their team for a whole day of recesses if they would just be patient, but no, they complained." (I'm sure it sounds like my son is a bragger, but the funniest part of this whole scenario is that he didn't even realize how crazy his dilemma sounded. He was not boasting, just simply expressing frustration at a problem that was very real and very serious to him.) The whole thing tickled me to no end.

"Wow, this really seems to be a problem," I said, hoping to prolong the conversation.

"Yea, it is. My one friend kept saying, 'it's not fair.' I should have told him, 'fair is where the pigs go.'"

Okay, I admit a giggle slipped out at this comment. I don't know where he got that from.

"I guess I'm just gonna have to quit playing football at recess. I already quit playing soccer earlier in the year because I was having the same problem. Now I'm going to have to quit playing football, too." His disgust hung heavily in the air.

I couldn't help but tease just a little. "Maybe you'll have to start cheer leading at recess instead since other sports just aren't working out for you."

Nate caught right on, and without missing a beat explained, "No, Mom, that won't work either. Then my friends would come up with the idea of having a cheer leading competition and they'd all want me on their team again. Plus," he added, "then I'd have to take pom poms to school."

At this, I laughed out loud. This kid was even more clever than I thought. We never officially solved his recess problem, but I sure enjoyed trying.

And for those of you who think it's horrible to always be chosen last, keep in mind it could be worse--apparently, being chosen first all the time is an even bigger problem!

Monday, October 12, 2009

An Educational Experience

I've spent quite a bit of time lately flat on my back staring at the three inches of dust on my ceiling fan, the piles of clutter on the dressers and night stand, and the unevenly hung window treatments in my bedroom. I've even noticed the builders used two different types of trim around the door leading to my bathroom, leaving an unmatched corner. Yes, since last Friday when I endured a spinal tap, leaving me plagued with spinal headaches, I've had the opportunity of lying in my bed, listening to life happening all around me, and it's been a very interesting experience.

Not only am I now acutely aware of how filthy my master bedroom has become, but I've also had the opportunity to be a bystander, or outside listener, to what Conger family life really sounds like--a scary experience, let me just say. But I have to admit, it's been quite enjoyable at the same time, as I've listened to my children try to solve their own problems, fix their own meals, get their own snacks, and help each other do the stuff I usually do. Add a husband to that mix and it's been downright entertaining at times. All I can say is I do a lot more around here than I even realized, and if you don't believe me, just ask my poor kids. They've had to do everything from laundry to brushing teeth and putting the younger kids to bed. My seven-year-old was in charge of breakfast this morning (my husband had to leave at 5:30 a.m. for a business trip today--what timing) and I had to chuckle at how seriously he took his job. He swept the floor, wiped down all the counters and lined all eight opened cereal boxes on the snack bar with bowls, spoons and milk. He even put the dirty dishes in the sink, and miracle of miracles, remembered to put the milk away before he left for school.

My nine-year-old was in charge of showering the two younger children, and I've learned if you ever want to know if you really have an influence on your children, simply give them a task you normally do regarding other children, then listen to how they handle it. It was like I was listening to a recording of myself as Hallee worked with Regyn and Boston to get them to cooperate and get washed and out of the shower. Wow, I thought. I really am constantly influencing my children, even when I'm simply doing the same old mundane tasks. Although that realization always scares me a little bit since I'm far from the perfect example, deep inside, I am so grateful. Who better than a mother to leave lasting impressions and teach valuable skills?

So, although I hope to be back up and at it soon, in the mean time I think I'll take copious notes on the things I need to improve on as I listen to my children take on my role. And for those of you who wonder if your children ever listen to you, trust me, they watch and listen more closely than you could imagine. If you don't believe me, just take a few days off, lie flat on your back in bed (hopefully you won't have dust and clutter to stare at like I do), and listen. It's sure to be an educational experience!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Weekend Away

Seeing how our anniversary a few weeks ago was a huge bust (I had a major migraine and the doctor gave me a shot that put me completely out--went to bed at 2:30 the afternoon of our anniversary and didn't wake up until 7:00 the next morning--"Happy Anniversary, honey, but I've got a headache!"), my sweet, patient husband and I decided to spend some time away alone together this past weekend. I looked forward to the vacation with eager anticipation. As I loaded our bags in the van I felt literally giddy at the thoughts of experiencing uninterrupted conversation.

As usual, due to my husband trying to squeeze something in, we left about two hours later than we had planned, cutting in to our time together before we even left town. When we were finally on the interstate heading away from home, I took a deep breath and began to soak up the peaceful lull of traffic when my husband sheepishly admitted he hoped to stop "quickly" by a fireplace store on our way. Making every effort not to roll my eyes, I agreed and we exited. An hour later, we opened the van to load our purchase and found our son's football gear he needed for practice in two hours. My patience was wearing thin, but nonetheless we had no choice but turn around and head back home. So, nearly five hours later than we originally hoped to take off, we were finally on our way.

Paradise, here we come! . . . Or a stop for my husband to run another "quick" errand. We managed to eat and make it to our destination by bedtime.

The good news is, I was determined to remain cool, calm and collected the entire trip; in fact, I informed my husband that since he was such a good sport about our anniversary, this trip was going to be all about him. Yes, my demands were going to take a back seat to his every wish and desire. He was to choose where we ate, what we did, what movie we attended, and so on. Who could ask for more?

The only problem was, old habits are hard to break. Not only could I not stop being a bossy, demanding backseat driver who manipulated my husband into choosing everything I wanted, but he couldn't make a decision for himself even when I did bite my tongue long enough to hear his opinion. We shared the milkshake of my choice, saw a chick flick, and even ate at two different eating establishments one night because he knew I didn't care for Domino's pizza and he was dying to have one since they advertized a $6 large pizza. I assured him over and over that I was happy to eat the pizza, but I guess after 11 years of marriage, he knows me better than that, so I ended up getting take-out Chinese while he enjoyed his pepperoni pizza, and we were both happy.

Driving home we reviewed our time away and couldn't help but chuckle. We had both thoroughly enjoyed our little get-away, but it had become obvious some things will never change. I'll never stop getting my way, and he'll never stop giving it to me.

Oh well, I'm thinking life could be a lot worse than that!

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Wheelbarrow, Some Sand, and a Load of Balls

I should know better by now, but this morning I found myself thinking it had been a while since I had caught my children in some sort of disastrous mishap. Subconsciously patting myself on the back, I grinned at the idea that maybe my children are no longer at a stage where they secretly do naughty things or make insurmountable messes.


I took the rare opportunity to visit with my next door neighbor out by the mailbox in front of my home this afternoon, and all the while I was chatting away, my two littlest lovebugs and a neighbor boy made small work of project that took us much longer to clean up than it did for them to accomplish (I've noticed that's how mischevious messes usually turn out). The ironic part is that, although a little voice kept telling me I should probably check on the kids, I could hear them playing cooperatively around the corner of the house, so I dismissed the voice I know better than to ignore, telling myself how lucky I was today that the kids were playing so nicely. Am I naieve or what?

Finally, my older kids came around the corner from school, and sure enough, the first words out of their mouths were, "Have you seen what Regyn and Boston have done?"

A pit immediately formed in my stomach as I said goodbye to my neighbor, and bracing myself for what I might find, cautiously proceeded around the side of the house. The little neighbor boy must have heard my kids tattle because he ran up to me, spouting off excuses as fast as he could, telling me it was all Regyn's idea. Although I was nervous at just exactly what I was going to find, I couldn't help but chuckle to myself. Kids sure learn at an early age to pass the buck, I thought. But then again, knowing my four-year-old, I was also sure he was right--it probably was her idea.

I finally turned the corner and found out what the crime was: a wheelbarrow full of sand now also held 50 dozen golf balls (yes, 50 dozen), a dozen or more baseballs, and even a couple of basketballs. Dispersed alongside the wheelbarrow was a mound of empty egg cartons the golf balls used to call home, crushed into the pavement. Feeling somewhat responsible for the mishap, which probably would not have occurred if I had not been so neglectful--or at least not to such a great degree (I mean, perhaps if I had been more attentive, not EVERY carton of golf balls we owned would have been emptied), I decided to spare my kids my usual lecture and dig into help clean up the mess instead.

The worst part is that the balls were not only emptied into the wheelbarrow but also deeply buried in the sand, and seeing how the reason we have the entrage of golf balls in the first place is for my son's golf ball business, we not only had to dig out each ball to place it in the now-crushed egg cartons, but we had to sort each one by brand: Titleist, Calloway, Nike, etc. Since Regyn was the instigator of the crime, I was determined she would help--the only problem is she can't yet read, so we ended up resorting most of her cartons, only adding to our tedious task. Finally, near the end of our clean-up, that smart little cracker finally figured out that if she saw a "C" on the ball, it was a Calloway, a "T" it was a Titleist, and so forth. Too bad I didn't give her more credit sooner--we could have finished in half the time.

The good news is that Regyn was more than happy to help undo her actions; in fact, she even "pinky promised" she would not be repeating her efforts. "Doesn't that make you happy, Mom?" she asked cheerfully. It was hard to feel happy at the moment, covered in dirt, my nails burrowed with sand, and hundreds of golf balls still to dig out and sort, but I forced a smile anyway.

We finally finished the task, stacked the smashed cartons back onto the shelf, brushed off our clothes and washed our hands. All in a day's work, I thought. But next time I feel the urge to pat myself on the back, I hope to at least take note of the nagging voice inside my head that warns me I should probably check on my "well-behaved children playing so cooperatively" around the corner.

And for those of you who need used golf balls, I happen to know where 50 dozen of them are stored, meticulously sorted by whatever brand you desire--you just may need to brush off a little sand!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fruit Takes Time to Ripen

Have you ever thought maybe you needed a time out? Just a little break from the routine--a reprieve from the mundane, thankless, draining tasks you do every day? I've often had the feeling that if I could just come up for air, drink in a little sunshine and fresh oxygen, I could dive back into the pool of motherhood I feel I'm drowning in and actually swim on top for a while. Thus, this past weekend, I took a time out. Literally.

I drove to Logan, and with a dear friend and former mission companion, I went to an event called "Time Out for Women," sponsored by Deseret Book. These events have been held all over the country throughout the year for many years, but this was my first experience going. I now hope to make it an annual vacation, as the break was great and the experience wonderful!

"I'll come home a better wife and mother," I promised as I waved goodbye to my husband and children and escaped to my waiting car, leaving them to wonder what to have for dinner . . . and breakfast the next morning. . . and lunch after that. I really didn't know for sure what to expect, but I had a feeling it would be worthwhile. And it was. Although I wish I could share the whole meaningful experience, I've decided to just share one thought I came away with. Emily Watts, a noted speaker and author of many successful, humorous books on motherhood shared this thought:

Fruit takes time to ripen.

Okay, so what does that have to do with motherhood? Well, let me tell you. Let's say our children are the fruit. It takes time for them to learn who they really are and become who they can really become. Some fruit takes longer to ripen than others, and that's okay; either way, every child requires a lot of nurturing, care, and love to become who they were really meant to be (so, if your child seems to be the slow-to-ripen type, don't fret; he/she just may not have hit the ripening season yet--there's still hope).

Isn't that a wonderful idea? I thought so, too. But then, as I kept pondering this metaphor, something else came to mind. Thinking of each of my own four children and wondering about which "ripening" stage each one is in, I couldn't help but picture innumerable experiences we've had together as I worked to nurture and care for each one in helping them to reach their potentials as children of God. And with each experience came the realization of what I learned in the process. I've always hoped to be a light to my children, to lead them down the path of goodness and happiness, but what I never could have imagined when I began this journey, is what they would teach me in the process. Through my experiences as a mother, I have learned more about love, patience, endurance, organization, service, humility, and so on, than I ever thought possible.

So, I'm beginning to realize maybe I'm the fruit. And my children are really the caretakers, nurturing me and helping me become the woman I hope to truly become. And sometimes that ripening process is quite painful--for all involved. Emily Watts noted that during her hardest times with her children, she looked back and found that is when they were ripening the most. That's the beauty of God's plan for families. The harder we work together, the greater the harvest, and during times of deep struggle (weeding), if we keep focused on what matters most and help each other, we will find we have ripened significantly. And one day, I believe, we will become a delicious fruit, and it will all be worthwhile.

Until then, I am grateful to four children who are patiently (and not-so-patiently at times) grooming me and tutoring me, teaching me valuable lessons that I need to learn to one day be fully ripened.

And as far as my kids go, on those days when I wonder if they're simply a "bad apple," I now know I only have to be patient and with the proper care, even naughty fruit can ripen and become irresistible!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life's A Climb

If I told you my two-year-old is absolutely addicted to the Hannah Montana movie, would you think that's a little crazy? What if my two-year-old is a boy? That's right! My little man watches Hannah Montana a couple times a day, and he knows quite a bit of the dialogue and most of the songs. Although I find myself shaking my head in disbelief that a little boy would like a movie like that so much, I have to admit I quite like the flick myself. Of course it's a little cheesy in parts, but I do think Miley Cyrus is pretty adorable in the movie, and I love the music.

My favorite part, though, is the end. I won't ruin it for those of you who haven't seen it yet, but let me just say, no matter what I'm doing or what kind of mood I'm in, I bawl my eyes out every time I hear her sing, "It's The Climb." The other morning I found tears dripping into my dishwater as the song blared from my television in the next room, and I had to wonder what was wrong with me. Then today, after plopping down on the couch to snuggle with my little one for a moment (watch him jump from my coffee table to my couch and back again is more like what actually happened--the snuggling ended up being merely a dream), I watched Hannah Montana sing that song, and as the tears threatened once again, I realized the reason that song gets to me so much.

It's because it's totally about me.

And, today it dawned on me that it's about motherhood, too. Just read these lyrics: "There's always gonna be another mountain. I'm always gonna wanna make it move. Always gonna be an uphill battle. Some days I'm gonna have to lose (these last two lines are the ones that remind me of motherhood the most:). Ain't about how fast I get there. Ain't about what's waitin on the other side. It's the climb."

Pretty darn profound. I can't even mention the number of times I've had great intentions as a mother, only to fail. Most days are an uphill battle, and there are definitely times when I lose, BUT it's okay. What really matters is that I'm enjoying the climb. And if I ever get so caught up in how fast I'm "getting there" or about what's in it for me in the end, well, I will have missed the satisfaction, view and joy of the journey--the climb.

In the movie, Hannah's boyfriend says, "Life's a climb . . . but the view's great." That's how I feel about motherhood. Most days it takes the best that's in me; some days, I have to simply be content to not lose ground, hoping tomorrow will be better. It doesn't matter who's mastered motherhood better than I have; it doesn't even matter that some days I slip up and fall down the mountain a little way. What it all boils down to is accepting that it's a tough road and enjoying the view anyway.

And the view is definitely great! On those (sometimes rare) moments when we are all in sync and there is peace and harmony in our home, when we are laughing, learning and sharing together, when I hear, "I love you, Mom," then I feel deep gratitude to be on this journey, however difficult it is. When I take a step back and see how much I've been blessed, I realize I wouldn't have it any other way. It's then that I discover once again that no matter how steep or daunting this journey of motherhood may be, the view is truly magnificent, and I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Yes, Hannah Montana has it right--"It's all about the climb."

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Child's Prayer

I have always thought it a good thing that God has a sense of humor, especially since my children at times have offered prayers that have been more comical than humble. And although I would still term their prayers "innocent," I wonder if they have figured they might as well try to manipulate their Heavenly Father, too, as it works so well on their earthly parents! Yes, at times I have found myself chuckling as we've said "amen," wondering exactly what God thought of their petitions. Here are a few examples.

" . . . and please bless that we won't have to eat snakes and frogs when we grow up and go on a mission." (snakes and frogs--where did that come from?)

Nate--7 years old

". . . and please bless that Regyn won't get into my stuff while I'm gone to school today and ruin everything I own." (I love it--Mom's not doing a good job of guarding my possessions, so I'm taking it to a Higher Source!)

Halleee--9 years old

". . . and please bless that we can listen to our moms and dads and that we won't fight anymore."
(Moms and Dads--what, are there more than one of us? And it never fails, this prayer is said either right before or right after a huge fight)

Nate--7 years old

" . . . and please bless we can go to Grandpa and Grandma's today."
(pulling the Grandma and Grandpa card--that's one prayer that probably won't be answered seeing how we have to stay home and go to school).

Nate--7 years old.

" . . .and please bless mom to not scream at us today."
(Oh, the faith of little children. I hope I don't slip up and yell today.)

Regyn--4 years old

And my all-time favorite:

" . . . and please help us to have a great day tomorrow."
(Tomorrow? What about today? Her answer: "I prayed for that yesterday!")

Hallee--9 years old

As much as I enjoy some of the humorous prayers offered in my home, I just have to say how much I love hearing one of my children offer a sincere prayer in someone's behalf. Whether praying for me, or a grandparent, or a person who is sick in our neighborhood, I can't help but think that God puts special emphasis on the prayers of little children, answering them with more urgency than others. I truly believe in the simple, perfect faith of children, and so when my children pray, "please bless Mom to not have a headache today," after seven days of a crushing migraine, I smile with the assurance that maybe today I will be able to function without a throbbing pain in my head.

Yes, I am sure God hears every child's prayer and answers in turn, and I have a feeling He laughs at the funny ones, too!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Early Morning Snuggles

Rousing from a peaceful night's sleep the other morning, I awoke to find my four-year-old standing next to my bed staring at me. A quick glance at the clock told me my other children were probably still sleeping and that I needn't get up for a few more minutes.

"What do you need?" I yawned.

"Can I get in with you for a few minutes?"

How could I resist? Much to my husband's chagrin I love snuggling in bed with my children every now and again, and this seemed like the perfect time. I opened the sheets and she climbed over me, settling in right beside me. We lay there for a few moments, and then I reached over and pulled her close to me, soaking up the smile that spread across her sweet little face.

"Can we play our game, Mommy?" she asked.

Although she didn't specify, I knew exactly what she was referring to. I didn't much feel like playing a game, hoping to simply lie in bed and rest for my remaining few minutes of peace, knowing that soon three more kids would appear and "life" would begin in one hectic swoop, but it seems that whenever I am faced with a decision to make time for one of my children or selfishly follow my own agenda I suddenly glimpse them growing up and not wanting to spend time with me, and I immediately agree to take advantage of the time I still have with them. I agreed to play the game, and she began.

"I love someone in this room who . . .has brown hair." I rolled over to play along and say my part, which is, "Me?" and then I tickle her and kiss her cheek before taking a turn. But she stopped me before I could continue, saying, "Wasn't your hair red the last time we played this game?" I giggled inside. I had recently colored my hair and it was darker than last time. Four-year-olds are so perceptive, I thought.

Then it was my turn. "I love someone in this room who . . .loves to ride her purple bike."

"Mom, Nate gave me his bike and now I ride it. It's blue and yellow."

"Oh, well, I like the purple one better. Just say your part." This game wasn't going as well as it normally did. She said her part and started a new series.

"I love someone in this room who . . .hmm . . . has a nose," she finally managed.

"Honey, everyone has a nose," I said. "Can't you think of something else?" So much for her sharp perception.

"Oh yea. I love someone in this room who . . . has blue eyes."

My eyes aren't blue, I thought. Should I say something? Probably not, but I couldn't resist. "Regyn, my eyes are green."

"Oh. Okay, I love someone in this room who has green eyes."

"Me?" I asked as incredulously as ever before tickling her and planting a kiss on her cheek?

"Yes!" she said with as much enthusiasm.

And so the game went along for a few more minutes until, just as predicted, three more faces showed up telling me they were hungry. I squeezed Regyn one more time before rolling out of bed to start breakfast, still chuckling inside at how our little game had gone. I couldn't help but think as I plugged in the frying pan that it was the perfect start to my day, and I wondered to myself, Will Regyn remember these moments when she gets older? Will the memories of snuggles and tickles and giggles and love remain stronger than the memories of cross words and harsh discipline?

I certainly hope so, but to improve the chances, I hope to hope to store up a lot more memories of early morning snuggle games, taking turns professing our love to each other, rather than memories of nagging and yelling and being frustrated with each other. I sometimes fast forward in my mind to an interview someone has with my children when they are grown where the interviewer asks about their mother, and I fear their answer will be something like, "My mother loved to nag. I can still hear her nagging voice today." AAHH!! Oh, how I hope their answer will be something more like, "My mother loved us. She always told us she loved us."

I guess that means lots more early morning snuggle games. I can't wait!

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

My friend was telling me the other day about a commercial she saw that made her chuckle so hard she nearly fell off her treadmill. The familiar Christmas tune, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" was playing while a mother danced through a store, throwing school supplies in a cart.

How telling!

I have to admit the commencement of school this year snuck right up on me. In fact, last night I drew in a quick breath and panicked just a bit, quickly gathering my children to begin the bedtime process as I said, "You've got to get to bed early tonight. You've got school in the morning."

"I do?" came the reply. So much for preparing my children for the abrupt change in schedules.

And although we had a wonderful summer together, I must admit I was giggling with glee inside this morning when I awoke, looking forward to the first day in three months when my children won't ask me what they can do because they are bored. They are anxiously engaged in a good cause, and I don't have to do anything, I thought to myself. Oh, how I love school!

The truth is, the years of sending all four of my children out the door to catch the bus are approaching faster than I'd really like them to. I know there will come a day when I'll look back on these days and realize they were some of the best days of my life.

BUT until then . . .

I can't seem to get that Christmas song out of my head. "It's the most wonderful time of the year!"

Monday, August 10, 2009


My maternal grandmother is dying. Even as I write that, I can hardly believe it's true. I have been blessed in my life to have known and associated closely with all of my grandparents. Both of my dad's parents, as well as my mom's, are still alive, so this will be the first grandparent I lose. Although I know she is old (84) and she's been in a nursing home for the past six months or so, and she hasn't really been herself in years (she's suffered from dimentia), it is difficult to think of losing her.

She's a remarkable little woman (only 4' 10" tall) who played an important role in my life as I was growing up. Living right across the field from her, I would visit every day. I will never forget the puffy purple coat she wore while she drove through town in her little white truck, straining to see over the steering wheel, or seeing her her in her recliner, focused on a crossword puzzle. I'd ask her what she was doing, and she'd always say, "Not much of anything. How 'bout you?" Or I'd ask her how she was doing, and she'd always say, "Gettin a long just fine." I will sure miss hearing her say those familiar words.

Since she's been on my mind so much, I decided to write a few thoughts about grandmothers.

Grandmothers are . . .

Cookies when mom says "no,"
Surprise appearances at baseball games,
A break from chores, and
Someone to spoil you when no one else will.

Grandmothers are . . .
Warm, delicious meals,
A drive home at midnight when you decide you don't really want to spend the night,
A soft hug, and
Homemade doilies.

Grandmothers are . . .
Picnics at the park,
An unlimited supply of sweets,
A real education about life, and
Chocolate milk.

Grandmothers are . . .
Mothers made nicer,
A time-out from rules and consequences,
A breath of fresh air, and
God's way of making life a whole lot sweeter.

Whatever life holds for me, I sure hope I get to live long enough to be a grandmother!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ways to Keep Your Cool:1-3

I'm not sure if it was what you might term "fate" that I happened to find a long lost parenting article I printed out a year and a half ago and then forgot about, but the other day, right out of the blue, I found an article entitled "Seven Ways to Keep Your Cool." Sounds a little fishy, doesn't it? Especially considering the fact that lately, as soon as my husband walks through the threshold from work, I've riddled him with how trying one of my children has been and how difficult it has been to remain the calm, loving parent I'm working to become. So, either my husband is trying to offer helpful hints, or God is answering my prayers with less subtle messages in hopes I'll finally catch on. Either way, I thought I'd share a couple of these ideas that I think are from the Good Housekeeping magazine last year.

1- Know When You're Being Baited

We all have triggers--certain words that set us off or shut us down--and no one knows that better than our kids. So seal your lips whenever you hear these classic calls to arms: "I hate you!" "You're stupid!" And the real killer, "I wish I had a different mother."

Okay, seriously, the more I think about it, this paper must have fallen from heaven because I hear each of these phrases numerous times nearly every day, and as hard as I try to ignore them, thinking "this is simply kid-typical behavior," I struggle. What I really want to do is run into my bedroom crying. I know they're just kids and they don't mean it, but that information does not seem to make their words any less painful. Am I alone here? Oh well, I guess I'm going to have to start repeating in my mind the words, "you're just being baited, you're just being baited." Maybe that will work.

2-Don't Mess With Messy Bedrooms

Having their own space is essential to kids becoming separate individuals--and if it's "their" room, they can keep it the way they want (except maybe a twice-yearly cleansing for hygiene's sake). Whenever you look at their lair and feel a hissy fit coming on, go clean your own room instead.

A hissy fit? Have these guys been peeking in my windows? I understand the concept of children having their own space--I really do--but when a room becomes so messy it's dangerous, should we not intervene? Or when we can't find anything anymore due to the piles of clothes and toys and objects shoved under the beds? I can't help but think there's a certain limit to this advice, but then again, maybe that's why I needed to read it.

3-Give Up Your Need to Know How They Feel

You can ask, but they usually won't tell--and then you get mad and risk a blowup. Yelling is particularly pointless in this situation, since most of the time kids simply don't how how they feel (neither do most adults). So inquire about their feelings, help them learn to express themselves. But let go of your need to make sure they feel the "right" way, which is usually nothing more than the way you think they should.

Who writes this stuff? (jk) Honestly, lately I haven't wanted to know how my kids really feel. Their actions have said enough. What I struggle with is wanting them to know how I feel, and I'm pretty sure they're getting tired of that.

If you're dying to know what 4-7 are on the list, just tune in next week. For now, I'm just trying to work on 1-3. I have a feeling one of these days I'm going to give up on trying to keep my cool, and enjoy a good, long fit. I figure as long as the kids are gone to school while it happens, I'm not in the red. Only 22 more days!

Monday, July 27, 2009

What I'll Miss

In an effort to really "soak up" every moment with my children this summer, I have made a specific effort to mentally take in every situation--good and bad--hoping I won't look back one day and wish I had lived in the moment more. Without realizing it, I found myself mentally categorizing every scenario, task, and experience into two different groups: "What I'll Miss," and "What I Won't Miss" about mothering young children. Here are a few things I came up with.

Things I Will Miss:

Holding a sleeping child
Watching a sleeping child (they are so innocent and sweet when they're asleep)
That a trip to the park makes their whole day
That I can tickle a smile out of a grumpy child
That a kiss makes everything better
Speaking of kisses--an endless supply of hugs and kisses available at any time (only works with little kids)
Tiny arms wrapped tightly around my neck
Kids on my lap, snuggling and reading a story together
Uninhibited singing by my little ones
Everyone waking up with a smile
Small expectations (pb&j for lunch every day, mac & cheese if we really splurge)

Things I Won't Miss:

Fruit snack wrappers
Car seats
Sippy Cups
Potty Training
6:00 a.m. wake up calls (which consist of my two-year-old asking for a movie and chocolate milk)
Screaming fits
Shutting the front door at least 15 times a day because a child has gone in or out and left it open

I sat in my kitchen the other night chuckling under my breath. My husband and I were working together to get dinner ready, trying to have a conversation, while the rest of the house held total chaos. Kids were screaming, crying, whining, pounding on doors, and more. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought I had more than four kids! As I strained again to hear what my husband was saying, a picture passed through my mind of what our home must look like to an outsider, and I couldn't suppress a small giggle (I've come a long way--it's usually tears I can't suppress). Just then, a thought ran through my mind, adding another bullet to my "won't miss" list.

I'm sure not going to miss this when the kids are grown and gone.

But as soon as I thought it, I immediately regretted it, because the truth is, I think I'll miss pretty much everything about my children being home--even the chaos. I can totally picture in my mind the day I get up to a quiet home, do my daily routine without interruption or noise, and go to bed with the same deafening silence (excepting small talk with my sweetheart, of course). And I'm willing to bet there will be days when I wish I could go back to a simpler, louder, crazier time, because something tells me that even though there are many days I want to run away and hide, the truth is, when it's all said and done, I have a feeling I'll look back on these days and think they were the best days of my life.

So, for now, I think I'll condense my lists into one big one: "What I'll Miss." That way, if I do ever find myself missing this stage of life, I can read my list and find comfort in the fact that at least I didn't take it for granted.

Well, better go--the front door is open again!:)

Monday, July 20, 2009

To My Mother

Forgive me for being so personal, but I've decided to dedicate this week's post to my mother.

Most of my earliest memories revolve around the woman I call mom. From sneaking chocolate chips with my older sister in our farm house in Raymond, ID and getting caught, to riding my bike up to the corner service station in Cokeville to chat with my mom while she helped my Grandpa with his books, sharing a snickers bar and soda pop, to learning how to sew in our basement, carefully unpicking imperfect seams, my mother was at the center of my life.

Despite lots of moaning and groaning, my mother was determined in our family scripture study each morning, gathering us in the living room to take turns reading from the Book of Mormon before she sent us on our way to school. She always hugged and kissed us and professed her love to us before we left, and I remember being grateful I knew my mom loved me.

When I entered jr. high, I was privileged to play volleyball with my mother as the coach. She was spirited, dedicated, and highly successful. Everyone loved her signature cheer leading jump after great plays, and it never got past me that she rooted for every underdog and made each one feel valuable. We were undefeated my whole jr. high career, but even better than that was playing for the best jr. high coach around and my biggest fan, too--my mother.

High school and college came and went, my parents supporting every athletic event and extra-curricular activity possible, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to be there. They supported me through a mission and the transition that came afterwards. And when I became a mother myself, my mother was right outside the curtain, waiting to help me begin this incredible, daunting journey.

When life has been hard and I've needed careful advice or sometimes even just a slight change in perspective, my mother has said just the right thing to help me get back on my feet again. She taught me how to work, to read, to pray, to love--the most important things I do each day as a mother to my own four children.

As I have grown older, I have learned an important truth--that you never outgrow your need for a mother. A mother's work is never done, even when her children are grown and gone, and she is never tossed aside like clothes and shoes that we've outgrown or that have gone out of style. Moms never go out of style.

I've also noticed mothers never outgrow challenges either. My mom still has her share of hurdles to cross, one being the challenge of hearing loss, but still she manages to be a mother, a grandmother, a fantastic children's librarian, a wife and a friend. She's overworked and under appreciated, as most mothers are, but she still keeps plugging along because, well, that's what mothers do.

So today I just want to say "thanks" to a remarkably talented woman who has influenced my life in more ways than she could know. And I hope that somehow she knows how much I love and appreciate her, but chances are, she'll go to bed tonight like she does most nights, wondering if she's making a difference at all, thinking back to all the ways she wants to be better, rather than all the ways she's already great, because mothers have a tendency to do that.

So, just for today, I want her to know she's fabulous and I'm so glad she's my mother.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Talk about Multi-Tasking!

Have you ever wondered if you were taking the multi-tasking idea a little too far? I mean, it's pretty much a mandatory trait these days as a mom to be able to talk on the phone, pay the bills, and tie a shoelace all at the same time, right? In this fast-paced world, if we don't become adept at doing at least two things at a time, we will simply find ourselves further and further behind.

So, where do you draw the line?

I've decided the car is one place. I no longer try to have a phone conversation, change the radio station, and keep the car between the white and yellow lines, all while trying to resolve some conflict in the back seat, as the issue of safety comes into play.

I've also tried to limit my multi-tasking while at church. It just didn't seem appropriate to be planning my week's menus, coloring a hand-out for my primary class, and painting my fingernails (j.k. I've never actually done all of this while at church, but I have thought about what I could be doing while I'm just sitting there--I'm telling you, multi-tasking can be addicting to the point you don't know how to relax and enjoy the moment), while I listened less-than-attentively to the speakers. Yes, church is definitely one place I allow myself to let all my other responsibilities go and just take in the real purpose of being there.

The place I continue to struggle is in my home. I almost feel lazy if I'm not trying to complete a number of tasks all at once. If I'm sitting down to enjoy a good book, I have to get up every so often to change laundry or clean a bathroom or something so I don't feel like I am wasting time. Even when I watch television (which is rarely), I have a book to read or some little project to do at commercials. Otherwise, I would feel like I was using my time poorly. I put an earpiece in while I talk to my sisters in the mornings so my hands can be free to get work done, and I find myself responding to e-mails and writing blogs while juggling dinner. I have to wonder if the pioneers had the same phobia. Somehow, I doubt it. I have a feeling they were content enough with completing one chore at a time, putting one foot in front of the other, not feeling a need to do everything all at once.

Yes, I'm pretty sure I have become addicted to multi-tasking to the point of insanity. How can I be so sure? Well, let me just say that my husband walked in to the bathroom the other night and caught me brushing two of my children's teeth at the same time--one with one hand, the other with the other hand (I must say the child's teeth I was brushing with my right hand ended up with cleaner teeth than the one's with my left; however, I am sure that with more practice, I can build up the coordination in my left hand and be brushing teeth in record time!). This is quite impressive as it is, BUT the part that takes it to the next level of multi-tasking insanity is that I was accomplishing this task while going to the bathroom!!

Talk about multi-tasking! At least I spared you the pictures!

Monday, June 29, 2009

The 90/10 Rule

Have you ever found yourself exhibiting high quantities of patience throughout the day, only to finally lose it before bedtime, destroying any harmony you worked so hard to maintain throughout the long, arduous day?

This phenomenon is what I call the 90/10 Rule, and it's literally the story of my life. Let me explain further.
I wake up in the morning, happy to experience life and be a mother. I am optimistic, singing and whistling and speaking to my children in happy, light-hearted tones. Then the whining begins. Followed by the fits. Followed closely behind by the fighting, which is followed by the begging for snacks and friends. My nerves a bit frazzled, I float through the house, solving every problem and softly but firmly redirecting all negative behaviors. I am like a goddess, fluidly working around each obstacle with ease and finesse, and above all, patience.

By noon, I am a bit tired. It's time for lunch and I barely got breakfst cleaned up. The whining has increased, as has the incessant complaints that "there's nothing to do." I fix a lunch nobody likes (including myself), all the while giving myself pep talks inside my head in hopes I can keep my cool and ramain a calm, well-collected mother.

The afternoon passes slowly, a combination of kids running in and out, leaving doors open, making messes we just spent the morning cleaning up, grabbing snacks they weren't authorized to grab, passing them out to the neighborhood, fighting about who got the most or the biggest snack, and on and on. My reserves are beginning to wear down a bit, but still I manage to take deep breaths and remind myself this is what having children entails; and besides, it's summer, so I should relax a bit and let my kids be kids.
It's now time to make dinner. I haven't thought about it all day and have no idea what to make. My husband will be home soon, hoping for something satisfying to eat and for a peaceful, enjoyable evening with his family. I feel the pressure. By now, the kids are pulling at my pant legs, whining more than ever, and I'm feeling just as tired as they are. I juggle putting together a make-shift dinner with refereeing fights between siblings and meeting the demanding needs of my toddler, all while trying to keep my wits about me. I'm counting the minutes until a reinforcement (my husband) arrives.
My husband walks in (late, of course). It's complete chaos. The house is diseheveled, the kids are fighting, dinner isn't ready, I'm holding on by a thread. I still manage to pull it together somehow.
Then bedtime rolls around. My nerves are raw. I'm tired, and so are the children. They begin to resist the bedtime routine, and . . .
I lose it!
I raise my voice, threaten, and stomp through the house on a small rampage. It's over in a matter of minutes, but still, the damage is done. All the patience I exhibited throughout the day disappears as though it never happened, and I am left feeling disappointed in myself as a mother.
It's then my husband looks at me in either of two ways: 1-like he' as scared of me as the children are, or 2-like he wishes I would handle things better.
I send myself to my bedroom, shut the door, and promise myself tomorrow I will make it through 100% of the day with my sanity in tact.

Sound the least bit familiar? It's the 90/10 rule, and it's amazing how consistently it appears in my life. I can't number the times I've told my husband that if he could only have seen what a wonderful mother I was while he was gone all day, he'd be thrilled and amazed. It's completely unfortunate that he happens to be home when the ten percent makes its appearance. The only glitch with that explanation is when the weekend arrives and life begins looking more like 60/40 than 90/10, and my husband is home all day to witness it.
Oh well, all I can say is that I was patient for close to 90% of the week!
Below are pictures of my two-year-old when he had his tonsils out this past week--when my 90/10 may have been more like 80/20. The surgery went well, and he's done great, except for the agitation and fits. I'm afraid my nerves have been raw all too often lately.

Boston--before surgery, listening to his heart--my sweet little boy

Boston--right before they wheeled him away--that adorable little smile has not come back since!

After surgery--sleeping with Daddy (before the fits started).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trouble--Times Two!

I found out this week why I don't have twins.

Actually, there are lots of reasons, the summation being I can hardly handle ONE child at a time, let alone two, but this week reinforced in my mind the exact reason why giving birth to twins has never been one of my life's aspirations--they turn into two-year-olds!

Not that I don't love two-year-olds. The truth is it's one of my favorite ages, and I think of all the stages I'll miss as my children grow older, it's this one I'll miss most. The pudgy hands, the loves and kisses, the curiosity, the developing speech (especially if he has a lisp, like my two-year-old does), the energy--I love all of these wonderful traits--just not times two!

Let me explain.

My sister came for a visit this past week, bringing her three little girls and newborn baby boy. I truly love their visits and couldn't wait to get my hands and lips on that sweet little boy. However, there were a few mishaps while she was here, and I don't want to sound like a tattle-tale, but at the bottom of each disaster there were two little innocent faces and hands: my two-year-old and her two-year-old.

We finally (I know what you're thinking--we should have caught onto this idea a little sooner) decided we needed to watch them like hawks, never letting them out of our sights. Still they managed to find trouble. Two-year-olds have an uncanny nack for that. Needless to say, by the end of the week we were both exhausted. The only thought that consoled us was that she only had to go home with one of them, and I only had to keep one of them.Yes, as darling as they are, one at a time is more than enough for me! Here's a short recap of our week:

Day One: my master bathroom was "wall papered" with a whole role of Charmin toilet paper and a bowl of toilet water. There was 1/2 inch of toilet water all over my bathroom floor and small shreds of toilet paper all over the walls and their clothes. It looked like paper mache--sort of. I only wish my husband would have taken pictures before he cleaned up. I took a quick shot of Boston's clothes (after they had been washed out) before I threw them in the washer. On top of that, Boston pooped his pants. A trip to the tub.
Day Two: My master bedroom was repainted using twelve different colors of craft paint I had stowed away in one of my dresser drawers. We scrubbed paint out of my bedspread, the carpet and my dresser. The drawer had to be removed and ran under tap water to get the paint out of it, there was so much. My best towel was covered with paint, as was their clothing, which had to be thrown away. A trip to the tub. Oh yes, and this was the day it took my sister nearly two hours to get her darling little lovebug to go to bed for the night. That was a LONG day!

Day Three (the day we decided to keep a more careful eye on them): My Demdaco figurine was broken (I'm so thankful for super glue--most everything in my home has been superglued back together at least twice). Mireya (the other infamous two-year-old) pooped while swimming in our kiddie pool. Not wanting to pull herself away from the fun, instead of informing us of her accident, she kept swimming for who knows how long. We're just waiting to see who gets ecoli first. A trip to the tub.
Day Four (still keeping a watchful eye): They started digging the sand out of my flagstone and getting into the mulch in my flower beds. Thankfully, they were caught before a major felony occurred.

It was then my sister went home.

I think by the end of those four days, we averaged giving baths two times a day, taking deep breaths to control our frustration four times a day, and shaking our heads in disbelief six times a day.

So, for those of you out there raising twins or triplets or so on, you have my deepest respect. And if those children happen to be two years old right now . . .

You're in my prayers!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Truths From Little Children and Worn-out Mothers

I'm not sure where I got this, but I found it recently and chuckled as I read it. If you're in the mood for a laugh, read on; OR if you're searching for some comfort in knowing you're not experiencing the mayhem of motherhood alone, keep reading. I think we can all relate to a few of these "simple truths from little children."

1-No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize cats.

2-When your mom is mad at your dad, don't let her brush your hair.

3-When your sister hits you, don't hit her back. They always catch the second person.

4-Never ask your three-year-old brother to hold a tomato.

5-You can't trust dogs to watch your food.

6-Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.

7-Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time.

8-You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.

9-The inhabitants of Moscow are called Mosquitoes.

10-The parts of speech are lungs and air.

Now, just for fun, I'm adding my own simple truths. I think I'll call them "Truths From Worn-out Mothers." Feel free to add a few of your own.

1-Never cuss the neighbors when your children are in ear-shot.

2-Be sure to explain the difference between alligators and elevators before the need arises to take your toddler to the doctor on the fourth floor.

3-Explain that the "F" on your perfectionist child's tithing slip stand for "female," not flunking, before you attend tithing settlement.

4-If you are in desperate need of some rest and relaxation, asking your children to leave you alone for a few minutes will only ensure they will stick to you like glue.

5-If you are on an important phone call, it only makes things worse to ask your children to please be quiet.

6-No matter what they tell you, double chocolate ice cream does not come out of white sweater vests that have been left for days by your "helpful" husband, regardless of how much bleach and stain spray you use, or how many times you wash it.

7-"I made a mistake, and I'm sorry" are the seven most important words you can teach your children.

8-It is important to be sure your potty trainee's underpants are poop-free BEFORE you wash them with all of your white clothing--twice.

9-There are worse things than finding your children jumping from your couch to your coffee table to your love seat--like finding your children jumping from your couch to your coffee table to your loveseat with full cups of ruby red kool-aid in their hands.

10-When your children stand before you, holding out freshly picked flowers (the ones you splurged for because they were perfect for your flower beds), grins spread across their innocent little faces, it's best to simply swallow hard, smile, and say, "thank you for your thoughtfulness."

Monday, June 1, 2009

What Life is Truly About

I just returned from the hospital where my sister Katie gave birth to a beautiful, eight pound baby boy.

And I can't stop tearing up.

My mom and brother and six little kids and I arrived just in time to hear the nurse announce his weight and height. Standing on the other side of the curtain, I immediately felt the familiar sting of grateful tears and the throbbing of a humbled heart when I heard that sweet little newborn cry. I've often wondered how unbelievers could ever hear the first sounds of precious life and not be awed at the miracle of birth and life, realizing it's got to be of eternal consequence.

As I watched my sister and her husband and three little girls all huddle close to the hospital bed for a picture, I could see clearly in my mind four times before when I was the one lying in a hospital bed, having just given birth to one of the four greatest things that have ever happened to me, reveling in the amazement of it all, my heart offering constant prayers of gratitude to God for blessing me so much. And just like today, when I heard the first cry of each new baby of mine, my tired body became wracked with joyful, thankful, humble tears. And each time, the doctor and nurses came to my side to see if I was okay. What they didn't seem to understand is that I was more than okay; I was absolutely perfect. I was holding in my arms a miracle--a special part of both my husband and me--a little person who would unequivocally change our lives forever.

I always love the first couple of days after my babies are born--not only because I can finally bend without losing my breath, sleep on my stomach, and sleep at night--but because I get the chance to remember what life is really about, and I am reminded of how grateful I am for the opportunity of being a mother.

Then, we go home from the hospital and real life settles in, making me wonder what I've gotten myself into! About one year later, I finally wake up feeling like life is nearly normal again--and about two months after that, we start talking about having another baby! What a life!

I traveled to my home town this past week to hear my dad speak at the high school graduation there, and I was so impressed with his very last remarks to the graduates. He left them with three pieces of advice, all of which were good, but the last one struck a chord. "No matter what you aspire to in your lives, no matter what degree you choose to pursue or what job you decide to take, remember that the most important thing you will ever become is a father or a mother," he said. Then he continued with, "No words mean more to me in my life than the words 'dad' and 'grandpa.' So make sure you become the best mothers and fathers you can be, because no other title matters more."

I couldn't agree with him more. New little babies, excited older brothers and sisters, that look between a husband and wife when they've just witnessed the miracle of bringing another baby into the world--what could be better? Nothing else compares. What happens on Wall Street is not more important than what happens at home, and it never will be.

What I witnessed today, in a hospital in Layton, UT--that's what life is truly about!