Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Magic Bullet

Even as I write this, feelings of anxiety are crawling up my throat. I hesitate to actually say the phrase, "Boston is one hundred percent, true-blue, completely potty trained," for experience has taught me that every time I think we've "arrived," it's like he has read my mind and responds with one accident after another, as if to say, "Not so fast, Mom."

It may be because it's taken six months--literally--to arrive at this point that I am a little gun-shy to bring this topic up again, but just in case there is anyone out there who is going through what I like to call the "Potty Training Nightmare," I want you to know there is a magic bullet, a fabulous, one-of-a-kind solution to your potty training woes, a never-fail trick that will lead your child to want to poop and pee in the potty EVERY TIME!

You just have to figure out what that never-fail trick is for your child.

Sound easy? Believe me, it's not. But if by chance, you happen to be lucky enough to jump through all the right hoops your first try, let me be the first to congratulate you. As for me, I tried about eight hoops before I accidentally stumbled into the answer. I tried treats after going potty; I tried gum (oh, how my two-year-old loves gum--I was sure it would be the answer--it wasn't the answer); I tried books and songs; I tried Mommy time; I tried outside time; I tried . . . nearly everything!

Or so I thought.

Then, one day, out of the blue, Boston pooped in the potty, looked into my exhausted eyes, and flat out told me what I had been failing to do. It wasn't what I expected. He simply said, "Say 'Yea!'"

I looked him square in the eyes. "Yea!" I said with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.

"Say 'Yea for Boston!'" he prompted.

"Yea for Boston!" I yelled and threw my hands in the air with full vigor.

Satisfied, he flashed a brilliant smile and ran off to play.

I stood there in the bathroom, feeling once again like he had gotten the best of me. After everything I had done, all the begging and pleading and crying and encouraging--six months of begging, pleading, crying and encouraging--and all he wanted was a simple "Yea"? I couldn't believe it!

Oh well. After nine years as a mother, I've learned to simply swallow my pride and go with it. So, this has been our routine ever since. He goes potty, reminds me to cheer for him, then runs off happy.

The magic bullet.

I just can't help but wonder, if it was so magic, why in the world did it take me six months to figure out?

Hope you catch on a little quicker than I did--good luck!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Live Like You Were Dyin

I recently had a conversation with a dear friend who, at just the right moment, reminded me of what really matters. I was explaining to this amazing woman that I was feeling a bit stressed, trying (as always) to balance all the good things in my life. As I have reached the stage in my life where I am no longer either pregnant or nursing a baby, I have had the opportunity to begin work on achieving some of my other aspirations a little at a time, as motherhood allows. Although it has been fulfilling, I have also noticed an added measure of stress as I have worked hard to use my time wisely and balance my responsibilities in such a way as to achieve peace and joy (Lofty goal, I know).

As I rehearsed my list of recent responsibilities to a woman who is extremely busy, I felt a bit small. Here I was, going on and on about feeling overwhelmed to a lady I love and admire, a lady who, from the first moment I talked with her, had won my friendship and trust with her positive energy and sweetness, a lady who is extremely valuable to many people (me included), a lady who recently lost her husband in a sudden, tragic accident--and I knew as the words spilled from my mouth, I was off-base.

She listened carefully, and then with the love and sweetness that so characterizes Karen, she said something like, "Just remember to give your best to your little ones. You're a mother first, and your children are relying on you, so don't let the other stuff take over." A twinge of regret pained my heart at having acted as if my role as mother wasn't my most important job as she told me how hard she had worked the eighteen months before her husband died. She was working 70-80 hour weeks in an effort to pay off bills and save money for them to go on a mission together--a wonderful aspiration--but, in the end, her sweetheart was taken unexpectedly and prematurely, and she wished for those hours back.

A lump in my throat, I thanked her for the poignant reminder, grateful for her words of wisdom and her example. What I wanted to say, but didn't, is that it's a lesson I've already learned, a lesson I've promised myself over and over to never forget, but somehow, in the midst of every day life, with many things clamoring for my time and attention, it's very easy to find myself getting caught up in the thick of thin things.

But I know better.

When I was only eleven, our elementary school was held hostage, and my mother faced the possibility of losing three of her five children in one fail swoop. I can only imagine what thoughts raced through her mind for those three hours when it looked like her family might be drastically reduced; I am sure she spent time thinking back on the past few days and weeks leading up to that moment, wondering if she had used her time wisely where we were concerned. I learned that day that life is a gift; I also learned it is more fragile than any of us realize, and if we don't take advantage of our time TODAY, it might not be ours for the taking tomorrow.

One thing my mother did that day was read the scriptures with us, pray with us and hug us goodbye, telling us she loved us as we left for school. And as I sat in that classroom that afternoon, I was so thankful for that. I am certain it helped me have more faith and peace as I faced a terrifying, uncontrollable situation. And so, I do the same each day as my children leave for school. I have learned that you just never know what the day will bring--what joy and growth, or what tragedy and sorrow--so you have to make the most of each moment, and cherish each opportunity. You have to live like you were dyin.

Now, in saying that, I certainly don't believe in living in fear, waiting for a natural disaster or tragedy to strike. I'm only saying I believe in putting first things first, in making each moment count, in making time each day to take a step back and realize how great you've got it, soaking up each stage of your life and your kids' lives, so that, heaven forbid, if something were to ever happen to any of you, there would be peace.

It's something I'm not perfect at living, but I think about it every day and hope I never forget. Life is a gift. My life. My husband's life. My children's lives. And we're simply not in charge of when it's gone. But we are in charge of how we live it each day--of how we spend our time, how we treat people, and how we show our love. So, I hope that I never have to be reminded again to put first things first--to be, above all else, a mother and wife--because I truly believe nothing else is more important.

Indeed, I hope to appreciate each day, to take advantage of each teaching, loving moment, to laugh more and frown less--to live like I was dyin.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hip Hip Hooray for Mother's Day!

I've never liked Mother's Day.

When I was little, I thought it was a day to make children feel guilty for not treating their mothers better; and when I became a mother, I was certain the day came around every year simply to make me feel guilty for not treating my children better. I've often sat in church with a pit in my stomach as I've listened to speakers go on and on about their faithful, patient, loving mothers. Meanwhile, pictures of me yelling at my kids or telling them "just a minute," and then never finding the "minute" were reeling through my head, making me want to climb under the benches.
This year, I decided to completely change my outlook. I decided to celebrate Mother's Day! After all, I do love being a mother, and since I've reached the maturity to realize that motherhood is about a lot of things--perfection not being one of them--I made a conscious choice to soak up the day.

And it was well worth it.
Not only did I enjoy thinking of the women who have greatly influenced my life for good, like my own dear mother and mother-in-law, but I was the receiver of wonderfully sweet notes and goodies all week from my own children--and even my husband. I loved it! Instead of feeling guilty for all I do wrong, I basked in the sweetness of the reminders from those I love of a few things I may actually be doing right. I went to bed last night exhausted, but happy.
I've decided to share a few of my favorite notes from the week, and even a picture of my children and me on this blessed day (note how we're all smiling:)

I especially love the portrait of me--if it was in color you would notice my hair is purple. I've never had purple hair, but who knows? Maybe it's a look I should try.
I hope your Mother's Day was just as fabulous as mine was! In the least, I hope you got a lot of wonderful pictures and love notes, because somehow they make it all worth while!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Twenty Minutes of Torture

I'm a mean mom.

Of course I've been told that numerous times over the past nine and half years of my mothering career, but the other day I did something that proved the point even further.

I locked my kids out of the house.

Just for 20 minutes.

It was a beautiful day! Birds were singing, the sun was shining, the bikes were calling, and I needed some space. After spending a half hour trying to teach my four-year-old how to ride her bike without training wheels, my back was aching, I was sweating, and my kids were all whining they had "no one to play with and nothing to do."

I looked from one kid to another, decided they each had at least three other children to play with, and marched inside, explaining I would open the doors in 20 minutes. Summer is right around the corner, I reasoned, and I am not spending every waking minute listening to healthy, able-bodied children whine and complain that they are bored when there are plenty of wonderful kid-things to do, if only they would use their imaginations a little.

So I decided to set the standard.

One minute went by. Then two. I was smiling from ear to ear from the bliss of starting dinner with complete peace and quiet.

This is fantastic, I thought. Why didn't I think of it sooner?

Three minutes.

My bliss ended. One child was ringing the doorbell; another was pounding on the door that leads to the garage; yet another was knocking on the back door, insisting she needed to go to the bathroom.

"Sorry," I said unsympathetically. "You'll have to wait for 17 more minutes--or, if you get really desperate, you could go behind that bush over there."

I thought I was pretty funny. She didn't.

Another two minutes went by.

"Mom, it's been 20 minutes, hasn't it?" I heard a voice from inside the garage ask.

"Not quite," I mused. "Just a little longer."

Four more minutes. I heard footsteps in the basement and realized these clever little children were not going to go down without a fight. Someone had snuck through the basement door and climbed over all the building debris just to get into the house.

"Back outside," I demanded. I must have sounded like I meant business because my four-year-old disappeared as quickly as she had appeared.

Another three minutes went by. By then, all four kids were on the back porch, pressing their little noses up to the window pane like sad little puppies. My nine-year-old was bawling, sitting on the steps with her legs crossed in an effort to not pee her pants. I doubted very seriously that she even needed to go to the bathroom. It was obvious my children saw right through my tactics to force them to play together and were determined to make me pay for my abuse.

Three more minutes. "Mama!" my two-year-old yelled through the door. I was beginning to feel sick inside, realizing I wasn't only mean, but terribly selfish as well. Still, I was close to the finish line, so I ignored him.

Finally, four-thirty came, and I unlocked the doors.

"You did it!" I shouted with enthusiasm. "You stayed outside for twenty minutes, and some of you even came back in with a smile."

Unamused, they all looked at me as if I had a screw loose. I wasn't sure I didn't.

Still sobbing, my nine-year-old glared knowingly at me. Feeling certain I knew where she got her drama from, I ignored her by saying, "I thought you had to go to the bathroom." I couldn't help but gloat, wanting to show her I was smarter than she thought.

"I do," she mumbled as she trudged down the hallway.

She reappeared only moments later. I could feel the daggers in my back as she was determined to make me feel guilty for what I'd done.

Thankfully, about the time I thought I would crumble beneath her vicious stare, I was saved by a tomato sauce can. Cranking it open with a jerk, the red sauce splattered from the can and squirted all over the stove and counters, plastering everything within a few feet. A quick moment of silence followed . . .

. . .then we both burst into giggles. Even Hallee couldn't resist. It was all we needed to relieve the tension, and I knew we were okay again.

I don't know what I'll try next week when my children are complaining about the woes of childhood, but I'm pretty sure that, regardless of what I scheme up, I'll at least have them all use the bathroom first.

Maybe then I will only feel selfish, rather than guilty and selfish. Or who knows? Perhaps these four dear children of mine will decide for themselves they have better things to do than whine to their mother about being bored.

Probably not, but it makes me smile imagining it anyway.