Monday, March 30, 2009

I Wonder . . .

I'll be the first to admit I'm far from the perfect wife, but a couple days ago I put my poor husband in a position he didn't appreciate, and it reminded me of a few scenarios we'd recently had that left him shaking his head in wonder--not the good kind of wonder that means you are fascinated and mesmerized by something awesome--I'm talking about the "I wonder how I ever got myself into this mess" kind of wonder.

It all started a few months ago when I realized we had gained a few extra boarders in our home. Since we moved here a year and a half ago we've had squirrels and birds make their homes temporarily in our garage, and we even found a frog in our basement, but my worst nightmare was finding little gray rodents scurrying about. There' just something about mice I cannot handle. Opening the door into the garage one day, I saw a flash of gray scurry to safety behind our neatly aligned rows of boots (the boots are the only thing about our garage that's neat). My stomach hit my toes as I hoped I was just having an illusion. No such luck. The next couple of days my husband pointed obvious signs of the little creatures in our unfinished basement. Ugh! I was immediately scared to go downstairs or into the garage. I demanded he get rid of them asap and we called a neighbor to borrow some mouse traps. My fear turned into the dread of finding a dead mouse, or even worse, hearing one get snapped in a trap.

One night while lying in bed, I was awakened by a little scratching noise I heard in the corner of the bedroom. Oh great! There's a mouse in my bedroom. You have got to be kidding me, I screamed inside my head. Just go back to sleep. Don't think. Don't move. Just pretend there's not a mouse nibbling on your slippers. Go to sleep. The mouse won't hurt you. I rolled over and put a pillow over my head. That 's when I realized I needed to go to the bathroom. Great! What was I going to do now? I tried my best to ignore the urge, but to no avail. After tossing and turning again and again, it became obvious I was not going to get any more sleep until I made a trip to the bathroom. But I could still hear the mouse.

What to do. What to do.

I looked over at Dan, sleeping peacefully. I hated to wake him, but . . . the scratching noise continued. This was a matter of life and death. I weighed my options and realized I had no choice.

"Dan," I hissed. No response. "Dan, wake up. I need you to go to the bathroom with me."

Finally a response. "You're kidding, right?"

I wasn't kidding. "Please, honey. I have to go really bad, but there's a mouse in here, and I'm too scared to go by myself."

"You're a lot bigger than the mouse, ya know. What are you afraid of?"

It was a fair question, so I gave it an equally fair answer. "I don't know."

How could I tell him I was worried one was going to run over my foot or nibble my toes or something? It sounded utterly ridiculous. My obedient husband stumbled out of bed and kept watch at the bathroom door. I heard the scratching noise again as we snuggled back in and couldn't help but be pleased with myself, knowing I had out-smarted the little creature. I listened for a while and thought how funny it was that the mouse only made noise when the heat came on. That is one tricky mouse, I thought. It was then I noticed a balloon floating near the ceiling. As I watched the balloon it became obvious that it was the reason for the scratching noise. I glanced over to see if Dan had noticed it, too, but thankfully he was already sawing logs again. I rolled over and sheepishly fell back to sleep, grateful to know there was no mouse in my bedroom after all, only a balloon that scratched against the ceiling every time the heat came on and blew it upwards. I decided to wait until morning to spill the news to my husband--no sense waking him twice for no reason.

Then, there was a night recently when I talked him into pulling into the McDonald's drive-thru so I could spoil myself with a hot fudge sundae. Doing his best to please me, he pulled right in and ordered. As we discussed how it was possible for the tax on a $.99 sundae to be a whopping nine cents, the man working at the window handed us our ice cream. I couldn't help but immediately notice a lot of white in my sundae cup, which meant a lot of vanilla ice cream--something I detested. I turned the cup around in my hands and shook my head in disgust as Dan started pulling away from the window.

Then I began complaining.

Dan listened as long as he could stand, then stopped the van and asked, "What do you want me to do, back up and ask for more hot fudge?" I'm sure he thought I would answer to the contrary, but I eyed my vanilla sundae once again and found myself saying, "Yes."

Realizing he had made a grave mistake, he followed with, "You're serious?" He hoped I would change my mind, but there was no turning back now. I was not one to take my food back; in fact, I normally would have thrown it away before going back, but I had my heart set on that hot fudge, and since he seemed willing, I decided to get my full $1.08 worth out of my sundae.

I nodded and he backed up, all the while shaking his head, saying, "This is not going to become a habit. I will not do this again." I assured him it wouldn't happen again, then ducked my head as he asked for more fudge.

We couldn't help but giggle as we drove away. Dan was laughing because he couldn't believe I'd actually talked him into doing that, and I was chuckling because the hot fudge was dripping down my chin, tasting just as good as I had imagined, and I hadn't even had to embarrass myself to get it!

Finally, a couple of nights ago, I went to see a movie with some friends--Marley and Me. Much to my dismay I cried like a baby at the end. Actually, sob would be a more accurate word. As I wiped the tears dripping from my chin, I found myself being thankful the lights were off. The ironic part was that I was sobbing over a dog dying when I am far from a pet lover. In fact, I won't even consider a dog in our home, or any other pet for that matter--not even a goldfish. But that movie got to me, and as I watched those little children bury that dog, I was touched to the core.

Still feeling the effects of the movie, I came home and climbed into bed beside my sleeping husband. I must have felt the need to talk about my feelings because I roused him and started rehearsing details about the movie. Before I knew it, I was bawling again. I was sure Dan was asleep but I couldn't stop rambling about how much I love our kids and how fast they are growing. "I can't even remember when Hallee was little," I sniffled. "I mean, she's only nine and I can't remember her being three. Before we know it she'll be in college and getting married." I was pretty sure Dan wasn't listening any more, but I couldn't stop. On and on I went about each child and what I loved about them and how grateful I was to be home with them every day.

Finally, just when I was winding down, Dan sat up in bed and said, "My forehead is wet. Why is my forehead wet?" Apparently my tears had been falling on his head.

"Oops," I said as I blew my nose one last time and settled in under the covers. I decided to skip chastising him for not listening to my blubbering for the past half hour.

As he rolled over to go back to sleep, it was my turn to wonder. I wonder how he ever learned to be so patient. I wonder if he'll still be glad he married me in ten more years. I wonder . . .

Monday, March 23, 2009

Let's Go, Maggie!!

It's March Madness time, and I can't resist getting caught up in it a little, especially when three Utah teams are involved. Before leaving for work Friday, my husband reminded me that Utah State would be playing at 10:30 a.m. I scoffed as I kissed him goodbye. That time of day was not good for me. I mean, what did he think I did, sat around and watched TV all morning? I was still trying to get breakfast dishes done and get dressed for the day at 10:30. As much as I wanted to cheer for the Aggies, I was sure it would not be a reality.

I got busy with my morning routine but couldn't help keeping my eye on the clock. At 10:30 sharp, I found myself turning on the TV, hoping to catch some of the game. Before long, I was sucked in. I looked around my house at everything I still needed to do. I told myself any responsible mother would turn the tube off and get to work. Then, deciding not to be a responsible mother for the day, I shrugged off my chores, grabbed my two little kids, and we hopped in my still unmade bed and started cheering.

"Rebound!" I called and heard a little echo. "Get it! Go!"

Again a little voice beside me mimmicked my plea. "Det it! Do!"

"Yes!!" I cheered when the Aggies scored and held up my hand for a high five. My two little ones didn't let me down. They slapped my hand with excitement, and before long, we were all getting caught up in the moment.

"I know, let's start a cheer," I suggested. "You say 'Let's,' I'll say, 'go,' and you scream, 'Aggies!'" I instructed, giving each child an assignment. They nodded in agreement, and we began shouting at the television.

"Let's . . . go . . .Maggie!"

"What?" I said, looking at my four-year-old. I chuckled as I explained the word was Aggies, not Maggie. I was sure she had no clue as to what an aggie was, and since I didn't know myself until I was a college student, attending Utah State, I decided it was probably pointless to try to explain it to her. I guess Maggie just made more sense to her, because no matter how many times we repeated our cheer, she would say "Maggie," instead of "Aggies." She was definitley an amateur sports fan.

We took a short break at half-time, but resumed our cheering in the third quarter, sitting on the edge of the bed, acting as if this ball game meant everything. No matter what I said, my kids repeated it with fervor. Regyn was especially excited about the cheering (I'm afraid cheerleading might be in her future, which would be a whole new experience for a mother who prefers playing the game, rather than cheering others on). "Yes!" she shouted.

"No!" I said back. "The yellow team just scored. We're rooting for the blue team."

"But the ball went in the basket. Didn't you see that?" she asked, as if I was stupid. It was obvious this girl hadn't watched enough basketball (or any other sport, for that matter) since she didn't seem to understand the concept of only cheering for one team. I didn't care. I was in my zone, sitting between two of my favorite little people in the whole world, watching a fantastic basketball game.

There are times as a mother when you stop and realize life couldn't get any better than this, when you are able to block out everything else and just be in the moment with your children, soaking up every bit of their goodness and optimism and love. Snuggling between my two youngest children, I realized this was one of those moments, and I never wanted it to end. I know my days of plastering them with undetested hugs and kisses are numbered, that my opportunities to hold them and snuggle with them and teach them are passing quickly, and I just wanted to stop the clock and take it all in.

But all too soon, the doorbell rang and Regyn ran off to play with her friend.

I was left with only Boston to help me try to get the Aggies through to the next round. As I sat on the edge of the bed and moaned when the buzzer sounded and the Aggies were one point short of a victory, I felt some pudgy arms around my neck. "I'm sorry, Mom," my little cheering partner murmured in my ear. I took him in my arms and held him close for as long as he would let me.

That night when I put Boston to bed, I couldn't help but cheer one more time. "Let's go . . . "

He didn't let me down. "Aggies!" he said with a grin. Apparently he had caught on better than Regyn had. I pulled the covers up to his chin, gave hime one last goodnight kiss and went to bed happy to be a mother. I couldn't help but wonder as I walked away, if I would ever be able to cheer for Utah State again without remembering the sweet moments I had shared that day with my kids.

I sure hope not.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Groundhog Day

Have you ever felt like you were trapped inside a “Groundhog Day”? You wake up each morning, follow the same routine, listen to the same arguments and whining, wash the same dishes, clean the same house, put your children to bed, brush your teeth, and prepare to start over again the very next day. For us stay-at-home moms, the routine can seem especially dull, lonely, and unrewarding. There certainly doesn’t seem to be much to encourage us or help us feel important and valued; in fact, if we analyze our situation, we might easily feel that we aren’t doing a very great job, even though we are probably doing the most important things very well. In other words, it’s easy for the little triumphs of each day to be forgotten amid the deluge of routine chores and momentary challenges.

Unfortunately, many times it is the people closest to us who are our biggest nemeses, namely our children. I don’t know your children, but mine seem to have a knack for making me feel like I am failing miserably. They remind me on a regular basis that I am not fair, I’m not a good listener, I’m mean and annoying, and “doing it all wrong.” And I must confess that “I hate you, Mom!” is not the kind of remark that leaves me feeling good inside. I remember how relieved I was when I first read Glenn Latham’s book on positive parenting and found out that all of these comments are simply age-typical behavior that should simply be ignored (The Power of Positive Parenting, 51). Some days these words are more difficult to ignore than others, but I’m grateful to know that nearly every mother experiences the same name-calling and that I may not be the meanest mother after all!

Not only do my children express their chagrin at me verbally, there are many days when their disobedience and simple disregard for anything I say provides ample evidence they do not care much for my rules, suggestions, or feelings. "Time to eat," I cheerfully call. No one comes. "The pantry is closed--no snacking," I warn and then find wrappers all over the house. "Bed time!" I announce. No one moves. Once I literally took my five-year-old to the ear, nose and throat doctor, certain he had a hearing disorder, only to find he had developed selective hearing, the same as my other children. It's easy to develop an invisibility complex when you are so blatantly ignored.

Then there’s dinner time. You’ve been working hard day, when you suddenly realize it’s nearly dinner time. Truth be told, you don’t want to take time to make dinner, but you know your husband will come home hungry and you want to take good care of your family, so you trudge to the kitchen to assess the options. Dad comes home, and you sit down to a warm, nutritious meal, only to find that your children won’t eat it. Instead, they plug their nose and spout off something like, “I don’t eat chicken enchiladas!” You stare in unbelief, recalling a night not too long ago when they snarffed down two enchiladas apiece, all the while gushing over how much they loved them. It seems some days you just can't win.

Although there are days I feel invisible and underappreciated, I know my children hear me and even love me, and I pray that when I say the really important stuff--like “I love you,” “you did well,” and “I’m proud of you,” and when I share my testimony--then they listen from deep within their hearts, and they remember.

With all of the whining and fighting I listen to in a day I have often wondered if I am an effective parent at all. Then my nine-year-old will say, “Thanks, Mom,” for making her favorite breakfast, or my six-year-old will flash me a “You’re OK, Mom” smile. Maybe my four-year-old wraps her little arms around my neck and tells me she “loves me the most,” or my toddler plasters a big, wet, open-mouthed kiss on my cheek. Those precious moments occur far less than the chaos and contention, but they remind me that things aren’t so bad after all.

At the end of the day, what matters is that I have loved my children and have done the best I could under the circumstances of that day. So, although it may be true that my situation is far from perfect, I can still find plenty to be satisfied with. And besides, motherhood is not about having it all together all of the time (thank heavens!)—it’s about keeping it together when everything seems to be falling apart--and I'm getting plenty of practice!

So, the next time the alarm clock goes off (which in my case is my children getting out of bed), remember that, although you may have the same old routine to look forward to, and you may hear a lot of the same quarrels and spouts, you're still accomplishing something remarkable. I mean, after all, you're a mother!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cash Only, Please!

Standing in line at the concession stand at a state basketball tournament in Wyoming this past weekend, I found myself in a bit of a bind. My children, of course, were "starving," after a day at the gym, and when I realized it might be quite a while until we could pick up some real food, I relented to their begging and decided dinner would have to come from concessions. We stood impatiently in a very long line, while I wondered to myself why we didn't think of this idea before the half-time rush.

I perused the menu and decided I wasn't hungry. Nachos and hot dogs just didn't sound like they'd hit the spot. Then Hallee ordered a cinnamon pretzel, and as I watched the butter drip off the warm bread, drizzling with the cinnamon/sugar mixture, I found myself saying, "Two, please." We finished our order and stood in front of the cash register to await our fate.

That's when I noticed the sign. Cash Only, Please. Uh-oh. I panicked. I had no cash. Actually, as I found out a few minutes later, I had 35 cents to my name--not even close to enough to pay for our snacks. "Does that mean no checks, either?" I asked, feeling stupid before even hearing the response. Cash only means cash only. I could feel dozens of eyes on me from the customers waiting in line, and I was starting to sweat.

"No problem," I said casually. "I have family here. I'll just go borrow money from them and be right back." I felt like a complete idiot. I knew better than to go anywhere in Wyoming without cold, hard cash. Although I loved my alma mater state, I had to admit it had some major weaknesses, one being it didn't seem to be up to speed on the latest technology--credit cards!! I mean, this is the 21st century, isn't it? What place in all the world doesn't take credit cards? Wyoming!

I left my children at the check-out and hustled back toward the gym. Thankfully, I didn't have to go far. My sister, Katie, was at the end of the concession line. I borrowed $10 and ran back to pay, hoping my misery was over. "That will be $11.50, please," the lady said. You've got to be kidding me! I glanced at our measly dinner and determined this was not the way to get the most bang for your buck. How could this small cluster of snacks add up to $11.50?

I ran back to the end of the line, begging Katie for more money, like a child begging their mother for more candy. She laughed and handed me her last dollar, which meant I was still 50 cents short. I heard a lady in the line ask Katie if I needed some money. This cannot be happening! I dug through my empty wallet to come up with 35 cents before promising I would be right back with the additional 15 cents. They were tired of me by now. "Just go. It's okay. Just take your food and go."

My face crimson red, I gathered up our pretzels and hurried away, promising I would be back with the 15 cents later. Not daring to look around in case I saw someone I recognized, I wiped the sweat from my forehead and looked at Hallee, breathing a sigh of relief.

That's when I first noticed it. Hanging from her shoulder, as if mocking me, was her purse. "Hallee, have you had that purse with you the whole time?" I asked incredulously.

"Yea, why?" She didn't seem to see the irony.

"Why? Because you have money in that purse, and I needed money to buy your dinner just now. Let me see your wallet."

She handed over the wallet, which I found contained $45. "Hallee!! Why didn't you tell me you had all this money when I was up there making a fool of myself?"

"I didn't want to break my twenties," she said, as if to say, "duh!"

I couldn't believe it! Here I was, looking and feeling like a complete idiot, all the while my daughter was standing right next to me, watching me sweat and panic, when she could have easily solved my problem. I wanted to shake her, to square her shoulders and look her in the eye and tell her how much embarrassment she could have saved me, but . . . I found myself laughing instead.

"Well, the next time we find ourselves in a similar situation, and you have a wallet full of money with you, will you please bail me out?" I asked. I shouldn't have been surprised at her answer.

"Yes--unless it means breaking my twenty!"

I had obviously not gotten through to her, so I gave up. I borrowed money from Hallee's purse to pay Katie back and asked her to please pay 15 extra cents since I was definitely not going through the line again. Then I went back into the gym and forced down a now-cold pretzel. I couldn't help but think as I chewed through the dry bread that it had definitely not been worth it.

So, the next time I plan a trip to Wyoming, I am determined to remember three things: first, eating no dinner at all is better than forcing down a cold pretzel at a ball game; second, don't count on my children to bail me out of a sticky situation; and lastly, but most importantly, fill my wallet with cash!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Love Notes

I remember as a child leaving love notes on my parents' pillows after doing some special for them. I loved to surprise them with a little message of love, and I couldn't wait to become a mother some day and leave love notes on my children's pillows or in their lunch boxes. There's just nothing like finding a little, unexpected note that says someone is thinking of you.

Unfortunately, time marches on without interruption, and I often find it's been a while since I have left any sort of written encouragement for my children. I recently went out of town for the weekend with my children, and as I was rushing out the door I was reminded that I wanted to leave a little note on my husband's pillow to let him know I would miss him while I was gone. I set down my pile of coats and pulled out a pencil and note book, placing it strategically on the bed before rushing out the door. I couldn't help but smile as I thought of him finding the note. I decided I needed to write one to each of my children more often. There's something about the written word that touches hearts, sometimes even more deeply than words themselves. Plus, I love to rediscover little notes my children have written me that I've stowed away. They always bring a smile to my face and touch my soul.

A couple of days ago my nine-year-old, in frustration, said, "Tell me what I'm doing right, Mom. Don't tell me what I'm doing wrong."

She's right, I thought. I need to focus more on what she's doing right. It was only a short time later I found this little note I had written her a few months earlier, at a time I felt she was struggling a little bit. It read:

My Dear, Sweet Hallee, ("dear" and "sweet" are adjectives) --Note: We had been working on adjectives in her homework.

I just wanted you to know, in case you may have forgotten, how very much I love you and what an incredible girl you are! You have always been a sweetheart, someone I could rely on, capable of many things beyond your age, and I have loved you with all of my heart from the moment I knew I would be your mother. That will never change.

Let me tell you a few of the reasons why I think you are terrific:
1- you are wonderful with your little brother, and he loves you so much
2- you can be a very good worker, always doing a good job
3- you are a good student, one of the best, and I never have to worry about your behavior at school or church or anywhere else
4- you are teachable and have gained a lot of gospel knowledge and a testimony—that is so important
5- you are kind to others
6- you try to do what’s right
7- you are sorry when you make bad choices
8- you are smart and beautiful and funny
9- you have amazing potential
10-you are you!

I become so sad inside when I see you make choices that do not lead to happiness because I want you to be full of joy and peace. Remember that we are on the same team; in fact, your dad and I are your biggest cheerleaders, and we will always be here for you, even when you make mistakes. We make lots of mistakes, too. What’s important is that we are always striving to be just a little bit better. I know growing up isn’t easy, so please keep in mind that you can always talk to me about your ups and downs, and everything in between.

I love you so very, very much. You are so important to me. Never forget that.

With Love,

I remember her wrapping her arms around my neck after finding this love note, and I felt such a strong connection with her at that moment. She opened up to me and told me she wanted to do better, and I told her I knew she could.

I think motherhood is full of so many great moments like that--it has more perks than any other job I know. I only wonder why I don't take more advantage of the opportunity to write a few words of encouragement to these amazing children who go out and face the world each day with optimism and courage. If I can just remember, especially at times when my children seem to be least deserving of it, to write to them of my love and remind them sincerely of their goodness, I think I can make a difference in how they view themselves and in how they view our relationship as well. It's definitely worth a try.

So, if it's been a while since you've written a love note and left it on someone's pillow, stop reading and pull out a pencil and notepad. You might just make someone's day!