Monday, April 27, 2009

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

I don't have a ton of vivid memories of my childhood, but I do remember fighting with my siblings a lot. I was the third of five children, and the first three of us were each only eighteen months apart, so we were close enough in age to find plenty of things to argue about. If we weren't being dishonest, lying to try to cover up some naughty scheme we'd dreamed up, we were pestering each other. We were expert tattle-tales (especially me), making a living of driving my mother absolutely insane.
As I think about it, I deserve every bit of the unhappy banter and incessant arguing and fault-finding that often occurs in my home now. They say, "what goes around comes around," and after the hour-long nit picking and arguing session we had during dinner tonight, it's obvious it's "coming around" to me.

It's not like my children don't fight about extremely important topics. I mean, the color of plate you get for dinner, or the size of spoon you're handed, or whether or not your glass and your bowl match is vitally important stuff. After all, who can be expected to eat dinner without solving these life-altering problems first?

And then there's the argument about who gets to say the blessing before we eat our meals. I'm sure we eat the most holy food of any family on earth some days, as each of our meals gets blessed two or three times just to appease every child who swears it's their turn.

And let's not forget the all-out war over who gets to answer the telephone or the door when the doorbell rings. I'm sure I'm raising at least three track stars. The only problem is they're all going to be recovering from serious injuries they incurred while racing each other to the telephone and front door. Today we had to rudely shut the door in a boy's face because my four-year-old got to the door first and my two-year-old couldn't handle it. He slammed the door shut, then opened it again to prove his point. Dan was left to apologize to the poor soul on the other side of the door who was wondering what in the world was going on. He obviously was unaware of the prime importance placed on opening the door first.

If we aren't racing to the telephone or front door, pushing aside everything and everyone in our way, we are fighting about who got more milk in his/her glass, who sits where at dinner, who hugged Mom first when they got out of bed in the morning, who gets to choose what to watch on TV later that night, who didn't do his/her chores, who showers the fastest, who loves Dad the most, and on and on.

If I don't have a house full of track stars, then surely I have a home full of debaters, because I'm telling you, my children can find a way to argue about anything, always trying to be one-up on each other.

"Mom said I could have ice cream after school."

"Oh yea, well she said I could have ice cream with chocolate syrup."

"Well, I get to have a milkshake. Milkshakes have a lot more ice cream in them than ice cream in a bowl does."

"Mom said I could have two milkshakes, one after school and one after dinner."

"Did not. Mom, did you say he could have two milkshakes?"

And on an on it goes. One argument after another. Until I feel like starting an argument of my own; in fact, maybe that will be my next strategic move.

"Dad said I could eat the whole half gallon of ice cream--with chocolate syrup, caramel, and whipped cream on top. He said I didn't have to share any of it, and he said I could eat it after breakfast, lunch and dinner."

Yes, that's it. I can't wait to see my children's eyes pop and jaws drop when I out-best them at their own game.

It is said, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Since I'm obviously not beating them, I might as well join them.

In fact, I'm signing off now--I've got to go pick up some ice cream!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


As often as I pondered what motherhood would be like as I was growing up, I never saw myself needing to discuss sensitive topics to my children so directly at such young ages. However, due to an increasingly crazy and confused world, my husband and I have found ourselves praying for divine help and inspiration as we've had candid, sacred teaching moments with our children, hoping to convey vital truths in an appropriate way before the voices of the world have a chance to interfere first. Although our children are still young, ranging in ages from 2-9, we have already discussed topics such as procreation, pornography, and the sacred nature of our bodies with our oldest children in an effort to open lines of communication early and avoid confusion about what is true and right.

Traveling home from a short vacation together this past weekend, our thoughts turned to our children (as always), and we began discussing what the topic of our Family Home Evening should be. We decided to use "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" as our main source of study. Although the text is quite mature and difficult for young children to read and understand, we did not want to take from the power of the words exactly as they are written. We decided to take it one paragraph at a time, discussing each point as we went along. I was amazed as I was reminded this amazing proclamation was written over 13 years ago--boy, has the family been attacked in full force since that time!

Praying silently that our children would somehow understand the importance of the message, written by the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles, and be able to grasp what these inspired men were teaching, we sat down together and began taking turns reading each paragraph.

As is always the case when I approach a sensitive topic with my kids, I inwardly wondered how much they already knew about certain issues, such as same sex marriage. We read about gender being an "essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." Then we read about the powers of procreation being employed "only between man and a woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife." We paused to talk about what this meant, explaining that many in the world believe it is right for two women to marry or two men. We mentioned the word "gay" and asked if they knew what it meant.

I was on pins and needles as we brought all of this information up. I wanted to be discussing topics such as family service projects, plans for summer, or even manners; I did not want to be introducing such heavy topics to our young children. But I knew it was important. I knew I wanted to be the one to inform my children, rather than friends or textbooks, so here I was.

"Why do you think God would want marriage to only be between a man and a woman, rather than two men?" I asked, in an effort to test their understanding. I was amazed when my seven-year-old son piped up with a very good answer.

"Because two men can't have a baby, and God said we should have a family."

"That's right, son," I said, impressed and a bit shocked. Does he understand more about the birds and bees than I thought? It wasn't a topic we had discussed with him yet, and I was getting nervous.

We continued on, but were quickly interrupted when this same child said, "Oh yea, and two women can't get married because then they would have two babies at the same time!"

At that moment, a smile couldn't help but spread across my face as I realized this child was just as naive and innocent as I thought. It all made perfect sense to him: Dad's don't have babies, so two men obviously couldn't produce a child; moms do have babies, so two moms would produce two babies!

We carefully corrected his misunderstanding, wrapped up our discussion and prepared for bed, but as we tucked our children in for the night, I couldn't help but think what a wonderful thing innocence is. And at that moment, I wanted to freeze time. I don't know exactly what our children will face as they continue to grow into adolescence and adulthood, but I am certain they will see and hear and experience many things that will taint them and deprive them of their innocence in one way or another. And that saddens me deeply. When I see or hear on TV or otherwise stories that depict the craziness of the world we live in, I am grateful to be able to shut it out, look at my children and feel peace in their innocence. Oh, that it would never change!

How I would love to be a child again and see the world through innocent eyes once more. Maybe then I would be more compassionate, more loving, and more pure. As for now, I am grateful to live with four sweet spirits who remind me often that the world is still a great place to live, even if it isn't innocent.

Friday, April 3, 2009

You're Gonna Miss This

I'm done praying for things to write about. It seems like every time I think I have writer's cramp and don't have anything to say, disaster strikes in some way or another. Sometimes it's in the form of fighting children; sometimes it involves some type of clothing catastrophe; and often times it includes some form of embarrassment or frustration. This time, once again, it has to do with poop.

My two-year-old was doing so well--finally. The road to potty training had been long and rough, but we had cleared the mountain and were coasting down the other side. NOT! That darn kid seems to know every time I start to relax and think the task is behind me, and then he slaps me with a 2x4 upside the head, just to remind me who's really in control. It's like he has an internal monitor that forces a message into his head to revert to pooping in his pants if I ever get past the point of frustration and dismay. I mean, does he like to see my teeth grind, my shoulders sag, and my body temperature rise 10 degrees in a matter of seconds?

Apparently, he does. Either that or he just really still prefers pooping in his pants. And it's not just the pooping. He was staying dry most nights, too--until he wasn't. After six days in a row of washing wet bedding, I finally went against my firmest code of ethics and put a diaper back on him to go to bed at night. I had been monitoring his drinking habits, squelching the poor boy to death by not allowing hardly anything to drink after 2:00 p.m. Then, I shove a diaper on him and throw all caution to the wind with regards to how much he drinks in a day, and he stays dry every night! Explain this to me.

I'm telling you, there is some evil alliance in the Universe somewhere that is out to get mothers! Every time we think we are doing something right and making great progress with a child, BAM! It all goes to pot. I have no other explanation. It's either that, or I just need to be humbled on a more-than-regular basis. I prefer the former explanation.

I haphazardly draped a repeatedly-used diaper on Boston the other night and tucked him into bed with a sly smile. This diaper idea was working like a charm. Every night as I kissed him goodnight, Boston would repeat, "Don't pee in my diaper, huh, Mom?"

"That's right, son. Don't pee in your diaper. You're a big boy and you only pee in the potty."

"Yea," he would say, feeling proud of himself.

I couldn't help feeling proud of myself, too. I was conquering the giant; I had outsmarted my two-year-old and was teaching him to stay dry at night when he didn't even know it. I was one sly mother.

Famous last thoughts.

I went upstairs to watch a show with my husband, and as I shut Boston's door, the thought occurred to me that I would probably not be able to hear him from clear upstairs if he needed anything. As quickly as the thought entered my mind, I immediately pushed it aside, sure he would be fine. I was eager to have him down for the night and enjoy some relaxation.

You know that little mommy voice that rings in your head sometimes and tells you to act? Like when your toddler has been a little too quiet for a little too long, and this internal voice tells you to check on him, but you ignore it, deciding you're just paranoid? Then, by the time you actually listen to the internal nagging, you find he has found the aphgan you've been furiously crocheting for the past month to give as a gift at a baby shower the nex day, and he's unraveled it down to your first row. When you're potty training, it's the voice that tells you to check on your trainee because you have the distinct feeling he is hiding in a closet somewhere peeing in his pants. I can't number the amount of times I've heard that little voice in the past four months.

The great thing about the little voice is that sometimes, if you listen and act immediately, you save yourself and your child from disaster. You may arrive just in time to save a favorite vase from falling, or you may check on your kids outside at just the moment they were lighting a match to see how quickly your leaf pile can burn (kids come up with some good ones), or if you are potty training and you heed the voice without delay, you may even save an accident. Those are the moments of pure joy and satisfaction as a mother--when that wonderful intuition has kicked in just in time to save the day (or at least a mess).

The downside to the little voice is that if you don't listen, you may find yourself wishing you had. Such was my case the other night when I ignored the voice, sure Boston would fall right to sleep as usual, and I hurried upstairs and away from my mothering responsibilities for a while. It was three hours later that I opened the door to his bedroom and knew right away that I should have listened to the voice. I'm sure you can guess what the acrid smell was that greeted me as I pushed my way inside. It was obvious the diaper had lost its magic, and Boston had not only peed in his diaper, but pooped as well.

Berating myself for not checking on him sooner, or at least leaving his bedroom door open so I could have heard him tell me he needed to go potty, I took a deep breath, found the wet wipes and began cleaning up the sleeping child. I just kept wiping and wiping away the poop, which was up his back and down his legs. It seemed all too familiar as I examined his fingernails and found them filled with poop. I was not happy (Am I the only one with a child who likes to touch his poop?) But being the patient, take-everything-in-stride kind of mother I am (LOL), I cleaned him up without so much as a grumble, kissed him soundly, sprayed some air freshener and shut the door, wondering if this saga would really ever end.

It was then I remembered a phone call I had had with my younger brother on one of those days when the potty training hadn't been going real well. I had found Boston had pooped his pants again and had groaned in anguish and frustration. All of a sudden, I heard from the other end of the line a familiar song,

"You're gonna miss this. You're gonna want this back. You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast. These are some good times, so take a good look around. You may not know it now, but you're gonna miss this."

Smart alec. I wanted to reach through the phone and slap him, but I couldn't help nodding in agreement instead. Although his singing was meant to be sarcastic, I knew he was right. I was going to miss this, even these long, hard, unsuccessful potty training days.

I allowed myself one more sigh. Then I took a good look around, smiled with contentment, and cleaned up the poop.

No Regrets

I'm sure this sounds ridiculous to anyone who read my last post, but I couldn't help renting the movie Marley and Me and bringing it home to watch with my husband and two older children. Yes, I worried about the pieces of adult content (the movie is rated PG, but I would probably choose to rate it PG13 myself--I really hate it when they do that--add just enough adult content to ruin it for kids. Dan and I had to distract Hallee and Nate at certain moments, not something you should have to do during a PG movie); and yes, I knew what was coming at the end; and yes, I even knew how I would react, but there are parts of that show that are so touching and so real that I couldn't help sharing it with a few of the people I love the most. (Now I must warn you, I share a bit of this movie in this post, so if you haven't seen it and don't want me to ruin it for you, you may want to stop and read no further).

For starters, John and Jen Grogan have an absolutely adorable relationship. It's hard not to get caught up in their fun-loving, supportive marriage and want them to succeed. But, like in all marriages, life isn't complete bliss, especially once they decide to take on a disobedient, massive dog!

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is called "No Regrets," and it begins by Jen apologizing about freaking out and screaming at John to get rid of the dog (Marley) because "he ruins everything." John suggests she might have post pardum depression, and she assures him she is not depressed--she's just exhausted. I can't help but feel empathy for John. It just seems that no matter how hard he tries, he just can't get it right. No matter what he says, Jen refutes it. And no matter what he does, Jen tells him he's doing it wrong. Yet he keeps on trying to please her and keep the peace, day after day. When he seeks counsel from co-workers on how to handle the situation, I found myself wondering if my poor husband has done the same thing from time to time, trying to come up with any logical explanation as to why his once-sane wife has gone off the deep end (I know what you're thinking: I guarantee Dan has done that from time to time--I had the same thought). What John probably doesn't know is that Jen knows she's being irrational and taking her frustrations out on an undeserving husband, and she knows it's unfair, but she just can't help herself (chronic fatigue does that to a woman).

Apologizing, Jen tells John she just got overwhelmed. "No one tells you how hard this is going to be," she says.

"Which part?" John answers facetiously.

"All of it." (Hello!! Has any of it looked easy? What an obvious answer!)"Jen goes on, "Marriage, being a parent. It's the hardest job in the world, and nobody prepares you for that. Nobody tells you how much you have to give up."

I like John's reply. "Sometimes I think they do tell you, but you don't listen or you think, ah, they're just miserable." Isn't that so true? I knew motherhood would be the most difficult thing I'd ever do, but I was sure I was prepared and could handle it. So naieve.

"I've given up so much of what made me who I am," Jen continues. "But I can't say that because I'm a very bad person if I say that, but I feel it. I really do--I feel it sometimes. I just want you to know that." Ever felt that way? I thought so.

"I do know that," John empathizes (of course--men always seem to think they know). "And you can say it. I say it."

Then comes my favorite part. Jen looks John in the eyes and says with conviction, "But I made a choice. I made a choice, and even if it's harder than I thought, I don't regret it."

"Are you sure?" John asks skeptically, "because it kind of has a 'there's no place like home' ring to it."

"I am very sure," Jen explains. "I just think these things are gonna happen, and we're gonna get through them, and we'll just do it together."

"Together," John repeats.

"Getting rid of Marley is not gonna fix anything . . .and getting rid of you isn't gonna fix anything, either." She smiles at this afterthought.

It's a touching moment. Then John has one request. "Can I ask you a favor?"

"Yes," Jen says with confidence.

"No more kids for a while."


And the next scene begins with Jen being wheeled out of the hospital with a new little baby in her arms.

I love it! That scene is so telling. It shows the reality of life as parents. It portrays the reality of life as a mom, especially a stay-at-home mom. We do give things up. We do lose ourselves from time to time in the midst of the daily grind of motherhood, and we do become overwhelmed and exhausted. BUT, at the end of the day, we have no regrets, and somewhere beneath the lack of makeup and the abundance of stretch marks, we feel at peace.

It's kind of a miraculous phenomenon, but it's true. Somehow God fills mothers with contentment and joy, despite babies with collic, potty training disasters, endless homework, interrupted phone calls, toddlers pulling on your leg all day, endless whining, endless fighting, endless, begging--still, we wouldn't trade it for the world.

No easy path, no promotions, no sleep or sanity, but no regrets, either.

It's a pretty great way to live!

(And by the way, yes, I did bawl my eyes out again. Only this time my husband was awake and prepared).