Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Christmas Miracle

It's been a while since I've written. I guess I haven't felt very inspired, so instead of sitting at my computer plucking out a jumbled mess of words in an effort to express my thoughts and feelings, I've avoided it instead. But sometimes, life drives me here, and I can't resist the urge to write. Maybe because it's good therapy, or maybe because it helps me realize how blessed I am; I think the main reason, though, is that I fear life will keep forging ahead, refusing to break at significant moments, and I will forget all the experiences--small and great--that make up my life and insist I look outside of myself to see the miracles happening all around me. I think that's what drives me here today.

It seems that every year at Christmas time, I feel deeply sober as I examine my life and the passing year and wonder if I've become any closer to the woman I hope to one day become. Always, I am drawn to my knees, pleading both for forgiveness for the many ways I still fall short, and also for a nearness to the only One who can help me in my plight. This year was no different. Except that my heart has refused to remain comfortless and hopeless. The year was difficult in many ways--unrealized desires, discouragements and even the death of a loved one plagued me and those I love and forced deep introspection and mourning. But, amidst it all, I am closing 2010 with tears of deep gratitude for all I do have and a desire to have more faith in the miracles that are possible in every life and every situation.

My family did something a bit uncharacteristic of us this Christmas season--we got together for a few days and followed a scheduled itinerary of events to celebrate the holiday season. It's not that we don't usually try to get together, but we're never very organized, nor are we ever usually able to all be together at once due to crazy work schedules. This year, however, my sister Traci planned, invited and carried out a well-executed family event that lasted a couple of days and proved to be an absolutely wonderful experience. We decorated sugar cookies (the kids in newly made aprons, each personally embroidered with their names), went sledding, enjoyed a wonderful feast, visited, laughed, shared favorite memories and experiences, and even went caroling together on a horse-drawn sleigh.

It was while we were bundled together, nestled on bales of hay situated on the wooden sleigh, listening to the jingling of the bells as the team of horses trotted over the snow-covered ground, the sweet scent of sweat lifting off the team and drifting into the air like steam, that I took a moment to realize I was experiencing something most people probably only dream about. It was a picture you read about in story books--a large family snuggled together on the back of a horse-drawn sleigh, singing, laughing together, enjoying the moment in a way most of us never do any more these days. And I was determined to soak up every part of it--the feeling, the smells, the sight, the sounds--all of it. And just at the moment I thought I couldn't be happier, I looked around at every family member, and the closeness we shared--the pure joy and contentment of the moment--overwhelmed me and I thought of how lucky I am to be a simple ranch girl from Wyoming who grew up in a family that's certainly had its share of problems over the years but who loves each other so deeply it hurts sometimes.

Only two days later, on Christmas day, did it come full circle once again. After enjoying a joyous Christmas morning with my husband and children, grandparents visiting to join in the excitement of new toys and games, the doorbell rang. We opened the door and were surprised to find an older couple from our neighborhood, he in a Santa hat, both holding gifts. It was then that the gentleman leaned down and offered my five-year-old a small wrapped package, explaining that he had made the gift himself just for her and wanted to present it to her as a way of thanking her for her prayers on his behalf over the past few years.

I was deeply touched as my little girl opened the package and found a gold chain ornamenting a glass heart pendant hand-carved with a pink rose inside. It was beautiful and meaningful beyond words. He told my sweet little girl how thankful he personally was for her unending faith in his behalf as he had been told she prayed for him every day. His wife expressed her appreciation as well and expressed her belief in the answered prayers of little children.

I asked them how long it had now been since her husband had been diagnosed with cancer, and when they told me three years, I could hardly believe it. Had it really been three full years that my child had faithfully offered prayers in his behalf each time she prayed? That would mean she was only nearly three years old when she began to supplicate the Lord on behalf of this man she hardly knew. I had simply mentioned one evening that he was having health problems and we should remember him in our prayers, but she had done much more than that. I was humbled as I knelt beside her and looked in her eyes in an effort to help her somehow understand what a wonderful thing she had done and what a meaningful gift he had given her.

It was then that I realized I was preaching to the choir. I was hoping to teach her a lesson she had already taught me. My own prayers for this gentleman had ceased after only a few months, while my little girl had steadfastly continued to ask the Lord to bless him, even amidst disgusted remarks from her siblings that she could probably stop praying for him now.

For me, it was a Christmas miracle. Another example of what my children are teaching me and why I am so grateful to be a mother. From seeing my own mother rejoice at the sight of her children fully enjoying time spent together, to feeling deep appreciation and gratitude at the faith and love of my own child, I realized once again what a miracle motherhood is, and that it is truly meant to bring the greatest joy and satisfaction possible.

And so, as another year draws to a close, although I still feel inadequate and dissatisfied at my performance as wife and mother, I realize that my children are filled to the top with goodness, and I believe it will show itself at the times it is most needed. I read a Chinese fortune at the beginning of 2010 that read, "This year, your highest priority will be your family." It was a profound reminder to me of how to spend my time and energy. And as I've simplified life and worked to truly live that proverb, my life has been so blessed and I have found once again that my greatest joy comes from my family. Motherhood truly is memorable and I am so grateful for that.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Unlucky? Maybe. Maybe not.

I recently read a story about a wise man who had a series of fortunate and unfortunate events happen in his life. When good things happened, his neighbors would tell him what a lucky man he was. When bad things happened, they would tell him how unlucky he was. With each comment from his neighbors, he would only reply, "Maybe. Maybe not." The man seemed to understand that good fortune would not last forever, and that challenges often brought blessings. Oh, to be so wise.

Over the past six weeks our family has experienced what many would call a series of unfortunate events. It all began with my sister-in-law's unexpected passing. Definitely an unlucky, difficult experience, one I would never wish on anyone, one I would never choose. Yet, with her passing has come a lesson on empathy, a strengthened testimony in the Plan of Salvation--including the resurrection, a renewed reliance and trust on the Lord, more fervent prayers, more love for my family. I could go on and on. Truly, I have learned lessons I could have learned in no other way. So unlucky? Maybe. Maybe not.

Last week we called an ambulance once again. This time it was for my three-year-old son, Boston. I was visiting my family in Wyoming when he started having signs of croup. He seemed fine one minute, not fine the next. My sister and I gave him a breathing treatment, put a humidifier in his bedroom, and put him to bed. My brothers arrived to give him a priesthood blessing. His breathing was labored and I felt certain it would be a long night. I had no idea. Thirty minutes later I was holding my little son on the front porch in a frantic effort to get him to breathe. He was severely retracting, working tirelessly to get air into his lungs. We got in the car to take him 30 miles away to the closest medical care when it became obvious he needed medical attention immediately. My sister called 911 while I prayed silently for help. The same ambulance crew (except one person) that carried my sister-in-law away only five weeks earlier arrived and off we went to the hospital.

It was a long night of breathing treatments, steroid shots and no sleep as my little son struggled to recover in the same emergency room my brother had just lost his wife in. The reality of it all was overwhelming. Thankfully, this time the outcome would be much better. We made it through the night and Boston has recovered. Of course now we are faced with medical bills we hoped to never have. Unlucky? Maybe. Maybe not.

As I held my little boy that night, I realized once again how grateful I was to be his mother. I wrapped my arms around his small frame and thanked God over and over for this miracle in my life. I knew he would be okay, and my heart was so grateful. Another precious reminder of the value of life itself and of family.

Today, another unfortunate event. My dad rolled a 4-wheeler down a mountain and sustained numerous cuts, scrapes and bruises. Truthfully, he looks like a train wreck. And the 4-wheeler doesn't look much better. He was alone, rounding up some cows. No one knew where he was. Unlucky? Maybe. Maybe not.

My dad has multiple sclerosis. One side of his body doesn't work all that well, and he has to literally drag his left leg around. Ranch work doesn't really suit someone in the kind of shape my dad is in. But ranching is what he's always done. There have been so many close calls. Ones like today, when he so easily could have been killed, or at least broken a limb and sustained more serious injuries. But somehow he keeps coming out of things in tact.

So, tonight, even though I am tired and a little beaten up inside from the battle scars we've received recently, I feel so lucky. Actually, it isn't luck at all. I feel so blessed. Through every challenge, every heartache, every scare, every bad day, there are blessings to be found and reasons to be grateful. And so, even though I miss my sister-in-law terribly and the reality of life for my brother and his children is difficult to bear, my heart is full of gratitude for so many blessings that have come these past couple of months. And even though our medical bills are depressing to say the least, I am so grateful for my sweet little boy who is worth far more than the bills require. And even though my dad is a little beaten up, he's still here, and he's going to be okay.

How can I be so lucky?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Nine Minutes

Another rough day. It seems like I've had quite a few lately. Days when I'm constantly running and yet never accomplishing anything. Days when my children seem especially needy. Days when the reality of certain circumstances in life is all too vivid and painful. Days when all I really want to do is close the curtains, lock the door and sob--without interruption--for as long as needed.

Since my sister-in-law's passing (see former blog post), I've experienced quite a few days like this. It's not that I don't feel peace about it, and it's not that I haven't accepted the fact that she's gone. I guess it's just that I miss her so much, and the pain of it all just blindsides me constantly. Life is good. It's really, really good, and I have so much to be grateful for. But there is still heartache and pain, and somewhere inside of me, I am deeply mourning. And so, if I have any quiet, still moments at all, I find myself in tears--tears of sorrow, tears of gratitude, tears of a thousand different emotions all at once.

Such has been today. A hectic morning, running a little behind schedule, exhausted. Wanting and hoping to be the woman I need to be, all the while trying to hold it together when I know at a moment's notice I may break into uncontrollable sobs.

My five-year-old throws her usual tantrum about having to ride the bus to school. She's begging me to give her a ride instead. I'm holding her hand, walking her to the bus stop, thinking I have allowed her enough time to get over this whole bus problem she's developed and that surely it's time to encourage her to do something she doesn't want to do. But inside, I wonder if I'm being a good mother. I'm thinking to myself, Just drive her to school. She can ride the bus tomorrow. But then comes the opposing voice, But if you drive her today, she'll want you to drive her tomorrow, and this has got to stop sometime. I look into her beautiful blue eyes and I want to tell her just how much I understand how hard it is to keep putting one foot in front of the other when you don't feel like it. I hug her goodbye, blow her a kiss and help her get on the bus. Thankfully, she's smiling as she waves goodbye through the small windows.

Then my three-year-old doesn't want to eat his lunch. He just wants snacks instead. I don't blame him. I don't feel like making lunch, and I could really care less about nutrition right now. But then I realize this has been my attitude for the past month, and it's probably time I become a more responsible parent and be sure my little one is eating something with nutritional value every day. I decide to ignore his crying. I clean up the kitchen while he sits on a stool and sobs as if his heart is broken. Finally, I put my rag down, wrap my arms around him, snuggle him in his favorite blanket and plop down on the couch, holding him as closely as I can without impairing his breathing.

Neither of us say a word. It's like we both know all the other person needs is a little breather, a moment to sit and be held. Finally, I ask him if he would like to watch a movie or read books. He shakes his head no. "Well, what would you like to do then?" I ask.

"Just sit on the couch."

Me, too. I just want to sit on the couch and hold my precious child and cry about everything in life right now that hurts. I allow myself nine minutes to do so. Then, I gingerly prop my now-sleeping son up on the couch and get back to work.

That's all life allows sometimes--nine minutes. And then we as moms have to get off the couch and get back to work. I have to admit there are days when I just don't want to. But truthfully, I'm grateful that motherhood demands more of me because I am becoming someone far better than the person I would be otherwise. And I'm finding that it's often the hard days I end up appreciating the most because they force me to turn to God for help and to take a deep breath and exhibit patience (with myself and my children--and sometimes even my husband) and to simply show love. And through this sanctifying process, I am becoming more like the woman, the mother, the wife I really want to be.

I guess it's just one more reason to appreciate motherhood.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How Do You Replace a Mother?

When I signed off from blogging a few months ago, I never expected my next entry would be about something so tragic and so personal. But, as I'm sure most everyone knows, life happens, trials come, tragedies occur, and we are left to pick up the pieces, to try to keep breathing in and out--even when it takes a conscious effort to do so, to try to find understanding in whatever event that occurred that rocked our very world.

Three weeks ago my brother lost his wife. She was 31. She was perfect. She was beautiful and healthy and full of life. She was the mother of two children.

In the days following her death we tried so hard to make sense of it all. She was not feeling well, had gotten up in the night and thrown up, thought she had a little flu bug that was going around. The next day she felt better. She was tired and lay down to take a nap. She never woke up.

I have thought of this dear sister of mine continuously over the past few weeks. And I've thought of my brother, only 31 himself and now a widower. And I've thought of their children. Michael is only five, just beginning his first year of kindergarten. Olivia celebrated her first birthday (without her mother) yesterday. And I've wept for these dear children. Not because they will not know love now; not because they are alone; not because their futures are not bright. But, how do you replace a mother?

It's not that I mean to diminish in any way a father's role in the lives of his children. His influence is so important, his role in a home so vital. But, he's not a mother. He may be able to cook, to clean, to taxi, to teach, to guide. But he's not a mother. He may be a great multi-tasker, a patient listener, a careful organizer. But he's not a mother. How do you replace a mother?

When little Michael can't find his backpack, it's Mom who always can. When he asks for a particular shirt to wear, it's Mom who knows just which one he's talking about. When he sits down for breakfast before school, it's Mom who knows what his favorite thing to eat is--oatmeal--and she makes it just the way he likes it. When Olivia is crying inconsolably, it's Mom who can soothe her. When she smiles that beautiful smile, it's Mom who lights up right along with her. When she's taking a bath, it's Mom who knows she doesn't like to lean back, but would rather have water poured on her head. You see, Moms just know stuff no one else does. So, how do you replace a mother?

Grandmas step in and offer love and stability. Aunts and uncles wrap loving arms around as often as they can and whisper love. Grandpas show more patience and listen more attentively to stories about school and friends and ideas. Cousins are especially kind and spend more time playing. Friends are understanding, offering sympathy and concern. Teachers take special note to attend to tender feelings. Dad does all he can to mend the hurt and fill the void. But, regardless of everyone's selfless efforts, how do you replace a mother?

Leaders of nations are replaced by their successors. Soldiers that fall in battle are replaced with new recruits. Retirees are replaced by fresh graduates. Sports heroes are replaced by younger replicas. But, how do you replace a mother?

The answer is straightforward. You don't because you can't. You see, a mother is the one person in all the world who simply cannot be replaced. No matter how many people love Michael and Olivia, no matter how hard everyone tries to make up for their loss, the truth is, it can't be done. No one is Zoe. No one is their mother.

And so, I just want to say to every mother out there: Remember--you are not replaceable. No one can step in and do your job in just the way you do it. No one can love, nurture, guide and bless her children like you can. No one. And for all of you who have lost your mothers, my heart goes out to you, for you have lost a precious jewel.

When I think of my dear sister-in-law, I think of a woman who gave everything to being a mother. She only had a few short years with her children, and she soaked them all up. She was bright, she was funny, she was dedicated, she was irreplaceable.

And so are you.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Final Thoughts

I have been pondering this decision for a few months now, struggling with the idea of letting go of something that has become such a part of me and my life, but today is my last blog post--at least for a time.

I began writing this blog a couple of years ago. At first I struggled to think of what to write on a monthly basis, but before long, I committed to writing a weekly post, and it quickly became a commitment I looked forward to. One of my major motivations for beginning the blog in the first place was to improve my writing skills, to write on a regular basis, thus becoming a more experienced, improved writer. What I received in the process, was a love and passion for sharing something much greater--my thoughts, feelings, and personal experiences as a mother.

I knew from the start I wanted to write about motherhood; after all, it's the thing I'm most passionate about, the role I reverence and appreciate more than any other, the responsibility I want to succeed at more than anything else in life. Writing about it came easily. There were weeks I could have written a post nearly every day, but in an effort to not become consumed by blogging, I refrained. I loved writing about my children, about what they are teaching me, about what motherhood means to me, about the difficulties, the frustrations, the trials and especially about the joys, the victories, the growth.

To all who have read my blog over the past few years, and especially to those who have commented, I thank you. I have appreciated the connection we have built though enjoying each other's words and gleaning from the glimpses into your minds, hearts, and lives. I think that's one of the surprising enjoyments of blogging--the thoughts and inspirations gained from the associations built through connecting in this way. Nevertheless, after much deliberation, I am saying goodbye for a season.

The thing is, I've spent two years writing about my family being my priority, writing about my desire to make my children and husband the focus of my life because I know one day--all too soon--my children will be grown, my husband and I will older, and I will be left with lots of time to ponder how I spent my time. I don't want to live with regrets, to wish I had not busied myself with things of lesser importance to the point I didn't make the necessary time for what matters most.

My life has become increasingly busier. Out of necessity I have taken on greater responsibility, and because my children are getting older, their commitments are increasing as well. As a result, I often have a large number of obligations demanding my time and attention. I have found myself sitting at my computer to write, only to finish hours later, due to constant interruptions. I have also found myself sending my children away so I could type out all the reasons I love them and want to be a good mother to them. Somehow, that seems a bit hypocritical.

And so, in a process to weed out what is unnecessary in my life so I can devote plenty of my time, energies, and attention on what I value most, I am writing my final blog entry for a while. Even as I write this, tears fill my eyes, because through the process of sharing my life with you--my thoughts, my goals, my frustrations and discouragements, my humorous moments and my joys in motherhood--I have grown. I have come to see just how much this sacred role means to me, and how vital I feel about succeeding at it. I have come to see myself as so much more than just a mother, but a nurturer, a cheerleader, a trusted friend, a leader, a provider of truth, unconditional love and patience. I have been blessed with four incredible little people who look to me to help them become the best that's in themselves, to lead them to truth and true happiness, despite living in a world where counterfeit ideas of happy living are all around us. To succeed, I must devote the best of myself to them. I must be willing to give up some things--even good things--that distract me from this sacred, daunting responsibility.

And so, I say goodbye. And I leave with a hope that my readers, however few or often you read, gleaned something from my ideas about motherhood. If nothing else, I hope you laughed or cried at some point along this journey.

I know I have.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Motherhood and the Energizer Bunny

I've been on vacation. Actually, can you call it a vacation if you take three of your four children with you? Either way, it being summer and all, we're trying to take advantage of fewer commitments so we can travel a little bit. My husband took my oldest son to Canada fishing for nine days, and I took the rest of the troops to Wyoming for a week to visit my family--a much anticipated trip.

Everything started out great. The kids played nonstop with their cousins while I rested, visited, snacked and enjoyed the beautiful fresh Wyoming air (all except the drones of mosquitoes, that is). It was exactly what I needed.

Unfortunately, the best things always come to an end.

Halfway through the week I felt my patience starting to thin. Between the tattling, the whining, the begging for snacks, and so forth, I realized that location means very little when it comes to children. They can drain my reservoirs just as easily at Grandma's house as they do in our own home. When day four came and my three-year-old hit me for the upteenth time, I found myself on the other side of a bedroom door, wiping my brow in exasperation as my little guy threw a fit on the other side--a scenario I've participated in all too many times lately.

My 85-year-old grandfather came out of the next bedroom and must have noticed my reserves waning. I let out a sigh of frustration, to which he responded, "The trick is to outlast them. Then they learn to respond better to you." I laughed at his comment as a picture of the Energizer Bunny immediately appeared in my frazzled head. No one outlasts the Energizer. The familiar commercial jingle repeated itself in my mind as I nodded in agreement.

As the day wore on, and my stamina wore thinner and thinner, I decided my grandfather was exactly right. Motherhood is all about "outlasting"--outlasting fits, poor behavior, groundings, potty training accidents, poor attitudes, and so on. Our goal is to become Energizer Bunnies, so we can outlast all the problems that arise in a day and thus produce happy, wonderful children.

So, on days when my endurance is low, I'm just going to remember that little Energizer Bunny beating his drum as he rolls along outlasting everybody. And maybe then I will be able to outlast my children's determination to be naughty. If only I had batteries to help me!

Monday, June 14, 2010


One last backpack full of papers/books made it home to my kitchen table a week ago, signalling the final days of school. I had already chucked a large amount of collectible items, so I tried to put a little effort into sorting and saving a few remaining mementos. Eager to read my eight-year-old son's writing, I began by picking up a story he wrote entitled "Fortunately." Just as I was hoping, it tickled me clear to my toes and made me chuckle the entire day. Here's how it went (with corrected spelling so you could actually understand it).

Fortunately, my friend invited me to his birthday party.
Unfortunately, they were riding bulls.
Fortunately, I was sick that day.
Unfortunately, my friend decided to wait until I got better.
Fortunately, I got to ride a little bull.
Unfortunately, I figured out the little ones are the wild ones.
Fortunately, I only rode for one second.
Unfortunately, another friend invited me to his birthday party.
Fortunately, we went swimming.

I just love catching a glimpse into the heads of my children sometimes. I never cease to be amazed at how clever and funny they are. They definitely keep me smiling. So, as a tribute to my son, I decided to dedicate this post to him and write my own story entitled "Fortunately." Here goes.

Fortunately, I am a mother.
Unfortunately, sometimes I'm not a very good one.
Fortunately, my kids love me anyway.
Unfortunately, I still want to throttle them at times (not literally).
Fortunately, I'm learning there are better ways to handle frustrating situations.
Unfortunately, I still blow it all too often.
Fortunately, my kids are very forgiving.
Unfortunately, they want to throttle me at times (not literally).
Fortunately, at the end of the day, they're still glad to be my kids, and I'm still glad to be their mom.
Unfortunately, they'll never be perfect kids, and I'll never be a perfect mother.
Fortunately, they'll always be the perfect kids for me, and hopefully I'm the perfect mother for them because I love them more than they could ever know!
Unfortunately . . . I have no more unfortunatelies.

Life is good, and I'm so thankful it's full of fortunatelies.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Last week being the end of the school year, my children trudged home every day and emptied their backpacks full of papers, books, art projects, etc. they had collected over the past nine months. Needless to say, the thought of going through all of it and choosing a couple of things to save was a little daunting. One day, however, I grabbed a pile of my eight-year-old son's papers and books and started sorting. In the process, I came upon his school journal. I didn't have time to read every page, so I simply flipped it open to see if there was anything interesting. This is what I read first.

"I like to . . .
play soccer out at reses with my friends
eat helthy stufe like brokly and stroberrys
play football and stare worse on the wii
swim and get wet
do my beste in school"

Obviously, spelling isn't one of the things he likes to do, and I am a little surprised by his desire to eat healthy food like broccoli. But, the thing that caught my eye was the last thing he wrote. He drew a picture of our family and wrote, "I like to be with my family a lot."

I immediately choked up when I read those words. Not that I thought he hated being with his family, but the fact that he wrote it in his school journal touched me deeply. So, I read on.

"My family . . .

We like to go to Lagoon;" (can you believe he put a semicolon here? The kid's grammar is atrocious, but then he throws in a semicolon--I love it!) "and my favorite thing to do is play sports like football, soccer, tennis, golf, baseball, basketball and racing; "(another semicolon--they must have had a lesson on these or something. And I love that the kid can hardly spell his name, but he spells every sport correctly) "My mom dose wired (I think he means weird) stuff I would not do like doing like landry every day of her life; (yet another semicolon--and glad he's noticed I do laundry every day) and going on baby rides with my brother; but I still love her very much;" (tears are dripping off my nose at this point, but the next one is the kicker) "My family is the best family there is on the planet."

Needless to say, I couldn't read more for a few minutes because my eyes were full of tears and I couldn't see the words anymore. Sounds a bit ridiculous, I know, but there's just something about your son admitting his love for his family in his school journal that gets to you. When I finally got a hold of myself to sift through a few more pages, I was again touched by what he wrote.

"My Favorites:"
Things to do: sports like football, basketball, soccer, etc.
Things to eat: sweets like candy and ice cream
Places to be: home"

I was expecting his favorite place to be to be Disneyland or the gym or his friend's house. I never thought he would say his favorite place to be is simply our home. But it meant more to me than he could know. And as I reached for yet another Kleenex, my heart was full of gratitude. I wondered to myself if I would list home as my favorite place to be and decided I would. Despite the constant chaos, the never ending list of responsibilities, the continual refereeing, and more, still home is where I choose to be. It's where I get to be. It's where I love to be.

I never did make it through all of the paperwork; in fact, just today I decided to ditch the project altogether and I threw everything else in the trash. But I kept the journal, just in case I need to pull it out one day and remind my son how he once felt about his home and family. Or in case I need to pull it out to remind myself how he once felt about his home and family. Either way, all I can say is that I hope that one day, when it's all said and done, all of us can say that we like to be with our family a lot, that we have the best family on the planet, and that our favorite place to be is home!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Four Kids--Four Personalities

It never ceases to amaze me how different the children in one family can be. Not only do siblings often vary in appearance, but I've noticed an even larger discrepancy in personality. Take, for instance, my kids.

My ten-year-old is responsible, sweet and sensible. She looks and acts more like a 13-year-old, but in a good way (meaning, she's not into boys or popularity and such yet). She's a bit dramatic and can lose her temper, but she immediately gets a hold of herself and apologizes. She is seldom in any real trouble, although her mother does wish she would show more respect and love to her younger brother. She doesn't care a lot about personal appearance, and in fact, could probably up her performance in hygiene a little.

For example, just last week she was invited to a party with some girls she plays soccer with. Since she's not asked to such events often, I thought it might be a good idea to take her hair of her daily pony tail and maybe spend a few minutes brushing it out and making it look a little more presentable. Also, I suggested a change of clothes--nothing fancy--just clean and unholy. She didn't agree. "It's not a beauty pageant, mother. It's just a little pizza party." Agreed, but a little more effort couldn't hurt, could it?

Then there's my eight-year-old son. He's athletic and fun and soaks up the most he can out of life. He is always busy, and in fact, cannot even sit on a couch without tossing a ball up and catching it. He has a lot of friends and needs them. He does not like playing solo. He has a great sense of humor and a wonderful heart. He gets into trouble on a more regular basis and has a horrible temper, but he's learning to go to his room, get a grip, then come apologize. He absolutely does not like it when someone raises his/her voice at him, so I have to be so careful in how I speak to him when I am frustrated, and in fact, I have to discipline him completely different from my ten-year-old. He makes me smile every day with his quick wit.

The other day I was telling him about a neighbor girl who had run into another child on the playground and had ended up cracking her skull in two places. My other children were riddling me with questions about the accident when Nate looked at me and said, "So you're telling me she ran into someone and broke the school in two different places? Where did the school get broken?" It took me a moment to realize he was thinking of the building he attends every day to learn, rather than the girl's head. We all laughed as I explained that when I said the word, "skull," I meant the bones that surround the brain in our heads. What I loved most is that, rather than be offended that we laughed at him (like my 10-year-old may have done), he joined in and laughed right along with us.

My five-year-old is a diva in training. She cares a lot about how she looks and changes her clothes many times a day. She is particular about how I fix her hair and loves nothing more than for someone to tell her she looks cute. I picked her up from preschool recently and asked how it went. Her response was, "Nobody said I looked cute today. Dari's hair was cuter than mine." I didn't even know how to respond. Just the next day, she came into the bathroom while I was getting ready and said with exasperation, "Oh great, you look cuter than I do today!" She's a smart as a whip and helpful and sweet, but when she decides to throw a fit--watch out! She plays with a swarm of little boys in the neighborhood and when I asked her why she liked playing with boys so much, she said it was so she could boss them around. I have no doubt that's true. She's also a bit of a pathological liar (she recently told her preschool teacher I was expecting twins--not true), but we're working on embracing honesty.

While exercising at my friend's house the other day, she asked me if she could go upstairs. I told her she needed to stay downstairs where I could monitor her. She was not pleased with that answer, and a minute later, I heard her tell her little brother, "Mom won't let us go upstairs because she's a (pause) mom--a word I can't say because it's a potty word and I don't want to have to do a chore." That's Regyn (or should I say Savannah since she also told me she hates her name and wants to officially change it) to a tee.

Lastly, there's my three-year-old. He's usually happy and content and loving. He follows Regyn around like a little puppy and apparently doesn't mind being told what to do all day. He loves to read stories and do puzzles and most of all, ask questions. I've never known a child who can ask so many questions. "Are we going swimming now? At the pool? Where there's deep water? Where I have to be careful so I don't drown? Because drowning means I die? And you don't want me to die? Because then you'll be sad?" And on and on and on. I try responding to each question but it gets tiring fast.

Last week I was rushing to get ready to go to the school for an event for one of my older children. Running a bit behind schedule, I was trying to come up with a fast hairdo. Without realizing it, I said out loud to myself, "I can't do that to my hair. I look like an idiot." The next thing I knew, Boston was at my side. "Mom, what does an idiot look like?" Needless to say, I had no answer for that question.

Four kids--four unique personalities. What can I say? At least, it keeps life interesting.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Best Therapy

Last week I did something absolutely amazing! After I finished, I felt like a whole new woman--more free, more in control, more fabulous. And I thought to myself: Why in the world did I wait so long to do this? It changed my whole perspective on life. I mean, it was literally life-changing!

I cleaned out my closet.

Okay, so you were probably expecting something more dramatic but I'm serious when I say it made a significant difference in my life. I immediately felt like I had lost 10 pounds (the feeling every woman wants, right?), and I could not stop wondering why and how I had let things get so out of control. I also could not stop finding myself in my closet throughout the next few days, just staring at the organized shoes and clothes, simply breathing in the feeling of neatness and order.

I guess you would have had to have seen just how bad it looked before you could really appreciate what I'm talking about. I even took "before" and "after" pictures so I could remind myself of what I never want my closet to look like again. That may sound a little over-the-top, but I'm telling you, it was worth it.



(Honestly, you can't possibly tell from the pictures just how dramatic the change really was).

Life the past nine months consistently spiraled into craziness. Between teaching preschool, supporting my children's athletic and school events, dealing with health issues, coaching a club volleyball team, church assignments and a gazillion other life responsibilities, my role as homemaker took a back seat--like way back, like the caboose back. In other words, the bare minimum was getting done, and little by little, my house became a hazardous zone. I kept telling myself I would get to it, that when the basement was finally done (we've been working on it for a good year), I would find a place for everything and get officially organized.

Well, the other day, I hit a wall. I walked into my closet (actually, it was nearly impossible to walk into it because of everything piled all over, so carefully attempted to make my way without tripping would be a more accurate description) and decided enough was enough. I was not going to live another day with such a disastrous room. And I got to work. Two hours later I emerged. I felt as if I had conquered Goliath. The rest of the day, I kept returning to stand in the middle of it and just stare. I realized I could even lie on the floor and make a snow angel in the carpet if I wanted to since the floor was free of debris. It was the most wonderful feeling!

But then I walked out of my closet and felt . . . like crying. The whole house seemed to need a major overhaul. I decided to take on one project a day until the entire house was as fresh and clean as my closet. I didn't care what other responsibilities had to be put on hold--I was on a mission to find my house again one room at a time, and no one was going to stop me!

Except my children and their obligations.

A few days went by without progress. That's when I had a rough day of motherhood (my three-year-old is teaching me patience--need I say more?), and before I knew it, I had thrown open the hall closet and started tossing everything over my shoulder. It was as if I had discovered a new form of therapy--decluttering--and it was working like a charm. Ducking as they passed by, my children wondered what was going on with Mom and why I was furiously organizing the closet. "I'm taking control of my life again," I said. And that's exactly how it felt.

Over the course of a few days I cleaned my pantry (too bad I didn't take "before" and "after" pictures--it was unbelievable) and numerous drawers and cupboards in my kitchen. And with each tidied space I felt a little more free and in control. It was amazing!

One day my son became sick and felt like he had a fever. I rushed to the newly organized closet and grabbed for a thermometer (I found out I own four--before the feverish cleaning expedition I wasn't sure I even owned one), plopping it under his tongue with a smile of satisfaction that I knew exactly where to find one. I felt empowered. I decided right then that regardless of how crazy life gets, my role as homemaker will never get pushed so far to the back again.

A few years ago I watched an Oprah that talked about your home being a reflection of you. They said if your home is cluttered, your life is cluttered. I thought it was interesting, that some valid points were made. But I had never fully experienced it until this past week when I decided my life was full of way too much clutter, and I got to work. If only I had known I could feel so much better just by making a space for things and then making sure things got put away in that space. So simple, yet so hard .

Now, reality tells me it won't stay wonderfully tidy forever, at least not without consistent effort. But I just have to say, if you want to do something amazing for yourself--something that doesn't cost a thing, something that will change your life--simply pick a closet. It truly is the best therapy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Seemingly Small Acts

Sludging through the daily grind of life--school schedules, sports schedules, lessons, church responsibilities, and more--we often seem so busy I wonder if my children are soaking up the things that matter most each day. Important habits, such as scripture reading, praying, fulfilling family responsibilities, serving and helping each other, often get rushed through or even pushed aside as we run to keep up with everything else. Yet these are the activities I want my children to pay the most attention to, because in the end, they are the only things that really matter.

In an effort to drive this point home, I find myself constantly working to make these seemingly small acts each day become the heartbeat of our very lives. Still, I often wonder if I'm succeeding at all. Most days it seems I'm not, but if there's one thing motherhood is teaching me, it's that our children are watching and learning from EVERYTHING we do, even--and maybe especially--when our influence on them may be nearly imperceptible. I sometimes feel exhausted from that pressure because I certainly can't and don't set a perfect example at all times. But the good news is my children are soaking up more of the good than I ever suspect, and to me, that's one of the miracles of motherhood. It's one of the ways God makes up the difference. Since we can't be perfect moms and get it right all the time, He enhances the effect of our positive influences on our children when we are trying hard to do the right things. And I have to believe these are the experiences that will shape my children and make up for the many times I blow it.

This past week we experienced a morning that proved this point to me. I had been working hard all week on carrying out a few large responsibilities. By the end of Wednesday evening, I found myself with a migraine headache, so sick I could barely get myself to bed. Every thought I had or move I made shot sharp pain through me head and left me feeling sure I was going to throw up. I took some medicine and crawled into bed, praying for a miracle since I knew I had to teach preschool the next morning, as well as meet some other commitments.

Somehow I made it through the night, although quite miserably. Morning found me finally able to rest a little deeper, and I thought to myself that if I could only sleep in a bit then I might be able to actually get out of bed and make it through the day. The problem was my husband had to leave early for a meeting at work and could not stay to help me. That left only my children, and although I wanted to believe they were up to the task of fixing themselves breakfast, getting ready for the day, and accomplishing the morning routine in time for school, I admit I was a bit skeptical. In fact, I didn't even dare ask them to try. I just kept willing myself to get out of bed, only to find myself falling sound asleep again.

I finally awoke with a start and realized it was 8:00. My older children needed to be leaving to catch the bus soon and I wasn't even sure they'd had breakfast yet. Just as I was throwing back the covers to slide out of bed, all four of my children appeared at my bedside. They were dressed, had eaten breakfast and were all ready for the day. Even better than that, my 10-year-old had organized family scripture reading. My eight-year-old was speaking to me in soothing tones as he rubbed the back of my neck and back and asked me if there was anything else he could do for me. The beds were made, the teeth were brushed, and they were ready for family prayer.

I was amazed and humbled and grateful. Wow, they're getting it, I thought. In fact, it seemed they'd gotten it. I began to wonder if they needed me at all in the mornings since they had accomplished all of this 10 minutes earlier than usual. That's when my eight-year-old told me to fold my arms and close my eyes so he could pray for our day. My bedroom became a sacred place when his simple words included a humble plea for me to get feeling better. Tears filled my eyes as my four sweet children each kissed me, hugged me and told me to have a great day. I was overcome by the love and compassion and service they had shown me, and as I lay there in bed a little longer, I wondered when and how they had become such thoughtful, loving children.

That's when it hit me. It's who they've been becoming all along, and I just hadn't fully realized it. I'd been so adept at noticing the weak spots in our family, I had failed to grasp how effective our daily righteous habits had been on teaching my children goodness. Now, I'm going to be quick to say that my dear children have a long way to go. They certainly aren't always so thoughtful as they were the other morning, nor are they always so efficient and loving. But I believe our efforts to fill our lives with important habits like scripture reading and prayer and service make more of a difference at the end of the day than we could ever imagine. It's a lesson I hope to not soon forget.

And I've been thinking that maybe, just to give them extra practice, I'll be sick a little more often!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!!

Mother's Day this year proved to be an education for me. Not only did I learn some things about myself I didn't know, but I also came to the realization that one reason I have had less-than-ecstatic feelings about this holiday every year is that my children seem to choose this day to be at their absolute worst. Fighting, name-calling, whining, begging, and more all seem to culminate on Mother's Day, making it extremely difficult to refrain from my usual hollering and nagging long enough to feel like an accomplished mother.

This year my children inundated me with special notes, which were not only sweet, but very informative. For example, from my 10-year-old I learned I am "octofantastic". What, you might ask, does octofantastic mean? Well, I'm not sure, although I've chosen to assume it's something great. She didn't know herself; it was just a word she made up when she couldn't think of any other one that started with "O" for an acrostic with my name (I was just thankful the word "ornery" didn't come to mind).

My eight-year-old attempted to show his love through an acrostic poem as well. Using the word "mother," this is what he came up with: Money, Oatmeal, Tame, Hot, Easy, and Rough. Not exactly words I would use if I wanted to impress my mother, but oh well. I was just about to ask what he meant by writing money, oatmeal, rough and tame when I decided instead to focus on the word "hot." Wow, I thought, at least he thinks I'm something great to look at. He must have read my mind, because without me even asking, he said, "The hot just means you get hot when you're outside, Mom." Great. Thanks, son. I feel so special now.

My five-year-old filled out an entire paper all about me. Apparently, I'm 21 years old (I love that girl!), I'm as pretty as a heart (whatever that means), and my favorite food is tomatoes and onions in a sandwich. At least she didn't have to make up a word (like octofantastic), or use a word like oatmeal or rough to describe me.

The real kicker was my three-year-old, though. In an effort to make the day meaningful, my husband gathered the children together for a special Family Home Evening on none other than . . . how great mom is! He started by asking the kids to think of things I do for them. This brought a lot of sighs, eye rolling, and inaudible muttering from the kids. They were less than enthusiastic about the topic. Personally, I thought it was a great idea. I sat back, folded my arms and waited for the appreciation to start flooding in.

Number one on the list was the laundry. Okay, not bad, but is that the best these kids can come up with? It was Boston's turn next. My husband turned to him and said, "Boston, what does Mommy do for you every day?" I held my breath as I awaited what I was sure would be a sweet little answer that would melt my heart. Instead, he looked right at my husband and said matter-of-factly, "She gets mad at me." Not exactly heart-melting material. Young children are so uncensored!

Round two of this little activity found my eight-year-old saying, "Mom's a good influence." Finally, a thoughtful answer. If only he hadn't followed it up with, "What does influence mean?" Somehow a compliment becomes less meaningful when the person saying it doesn't even know what it means.

The end of the day found me grateful it's 365 days until Mother's Day rolls around again. I've given it quite a lot of thought, and I think I'll use the time to coach my children on more appropriate, meaningful responses for next year. If nothing else, I plan to be the most octofantastc mom ever !

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Making the Grade

Life lately seems to be a test on motherhood. And although failing might be a harsh grade to give myself, I think my GPA would probably fall somewhere below average. And as hard as I'm trying to keep up on everything, inevitably a "pop quiz" appears, finding me unprepared. Since repeating the term is not an option, I keep telling myself to get my act together; unfortunately, my act has been hard to find. Think I'm exaggerating? Trust me, I'm not. In one day, I forgot to send my son with his speech homework; was late (the last mom to arrive--every child's worst nightmare) to a preschool program, and when I did arrive I had forgotten the camera; forgot completely about sending my son to scouts; made dinner, only to find that apparently the rice was supposed to be cooked before being thrown into the crock pot, so we had to go to plan B for dinner--Ramen noodles and toast. Oh yeah, and I lost my cell phone. These mistakes are just minor, I realize, but I think it suffices to say, I'm not excelling.

Yesterday my sweet little five-year-old broke into an all-out tantrum when I picked her up from preschool because she wanted to stay and play on the playground for a while. Truth be told, I've been promising her all year that one day (when the weather was warmer) we would stay and play, and that promise has yet to be kept, so I hardly blamed her for feeling frustrated. I was even considering changing my mind when the fit started, and when I say fit, I mean screaming, flailing, pushing, bawling, HUMONGOUS fit. So, of course, I couldn't give in at that point and let her stay to play, even though I sympathized with the poor child. The tantrum lasted for at least ten minutes, and all the while I kept kneeling in front of her to try to calm her and talk with her about options, but she just kept pushing on me and screaming at the top of her lungs. I finally had no choice but to pick her up and throw her in the van. Even then, she opened the door and tried to escape. It was truly every mom's worst nightmare. I finally got her locked in long enough to make the drive around the corner and home. I told her when she was finished with her fit she could come inside. She cried it out for 20 more minutes before she finally came in, her red, puffy eyes looking sorry as ever.

Grateful the episode was over, I went about trying to get dinner on, only to find the same sweet little five-year-old throwing yet another tantrum. My patience wearing thin, I immediately took her hand and led (drug is more accurate) her to her bedroom, explaining she was to stay there for five full minutes. Then I shut the door. Of course she opened it right back up, so I felt my only option was to put her back inside, shut the door, and hold on to the doorknob. I wasn't sure I could last for five full minutes with her yanking on it from the other side, but I was determined to give it my best shot. She had gotten the best of me all day, and it was my turn to return the favor.

After about 20 seconds, I felt my patience wearing even thinner. I was sure I could not hold on for another four minutes and forty seconds. What to do? Hmm. That's when a thought struck me. What would a good mother do in this situation? Good question. I don't know--run and hide? It's what I felt like doing. I looked down at my white knuckles gripping the doorknob and realized that a good mother would probably not battle it out like this with her five-year-old.

That's when an even better question came to mind. What would a great mother do? Oh yeah, I don't want to be just a good mother. I'm not sure being a good mother is going to get the job done these days. I have to be better than that. What would a great mother do? Beats me.

And that's when the really important question flashed through my mind. What would an exceptional mother do right now? It didn't take long to loosen my grip on the doorknob. In fact, before I knew it, my heart had changed completely. I no longer cared about winning the battle with my little girl; I only cared about showing love to a very tired, frustrated child. That's when I opened the door, hit my knees, and held out my arms to her. At first she just stared at me, wondering what the catch was, but then she seemed to understand. When she met my embrace, and we held each other close, I realized how often I do it all wrong. Not that I can be an exceptional mother all the time--I have too many weaknesses to maintain such a high standard--but I couldn't help but wonder why I settle far too often for just being a good mother, or even a poor mother.

"I think we're both having a rough day," I whispered as I stroked her long, blond hair. "And when I'm having a rough day, the thing that helps me most is if someone I love wraps her arms around me and tells me it's going to be okay." Her beautiful blue eyes looked up at me as she wrapped her little arms tighter around my neck and we cried together for a few minutes. It may not have been what an exceptional mother would really have done, but at that moment, it seemed right.

I'm not hoping to earn any worldly accolades for my role as a mother; I'm not worried about impressing anyone with my mothering skills (if I even have any); and I'm not trying to outdo anyone else or be a better mother than the woman next door. But what I am trying to do is be the best mother to my children I can possibly be, and sometimes I find I just don't give it the right kind of effort. At the end of the day, my children and I (and maybe my husband, although he's gone most the day) are the only ones who really know what kind of mother I've been (a fact I'm extremely grateful for). But I'm learning I sleep a lot better at night when I can think through the day and know I've given it an "A" effort, even if the pop quizzes that inevitably come with motherhood have found me a bit unprepared.

So, if you've been finding the tests of motherhood to be especially daunting lately, hang in there. That's exactly what exceptional mothers do!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Waiting Room

Five-thirty a.m. this morning found me lying in my bed, staring at the ceiling, a dreadful pit forming in my gut. Not the way I usually like to start my day, but on my agenda was a trip to the gynecologist for my yearly exam (t.m.i--too much info? Sorry), and no matter how hard I try not to, I always end up working myself into a sweaty, nervous wreck by the time I get there.

Hoping to get the appointment over with as quickly as possible, I climbed the three flights of stairs with optimism, only to feel my heart sink when I squeezed into a chair in the packed waiting room. It was obvious my visit was not going to be speedy. The worst part was that I had forgotten my book so I had no choice but to people-watch. Perusing the waiting visitors in hopes of finding someone or something interesting, I settled into light despair--almost everyone was absorbed in either a book or their cell phones. Drats!

That's when a young mother with two toddlers in tote and a baby car seat trudged in. We could actually hear them before we could see them. The mom lugged the car seat on one arm while she balanced her diaper bag and backpack on the other and herded her small children to the only available seats--right next to me. As the crew made their way past the rest of the visitors, the mother announced rather loudly, "We'll try to be as quiet as we can." I couldn't help but grin as I wondered if she realized she had already broken the peaceful mood.

Oh, goodie, I thought, this little family will at least provide some entertainment while I wait. No sooner had my thoughts formed than this darling woman announced to the entire waiting room that she was there to get birth control (definitely a little t.m.i, don't you think?). She then pointed to her children and said, "Can you tell why?"

That's when I noticed her children were all very young. After talking with the oldest, a little girl, I found out she was only three and was trying to get rid of her binky and get potty trained. Her little brother was nearly two, and the baby was three months old. Wow! As a mother who has been through the stage of three small children (not that close together, however) I have humble adoration for mothers who are managing such an ambitious load. I've decided that no matter who you are, if you have three children under the age of four (or something close to that), you are in over your head! Some mothers may not be willing to admit it, but it's nonetheless true. That doesn't mean they aren't perfectly capable of loving and handling their little ones, but it does mean they are doing the hardest job ever, and they are more than likely exhausted in every way by the end of the day.

I couldn't help but notice that this dear mother's children, like many children those ages, were quite a handful. The poor lady never sat still for longer than 20 seconds. After about ten minutes, I thought of her promise to be as quiet as possible, and giggled to myself. They were anything but quiet as they pushed chairs up to the fish tank, ran around the waiting room, begged for snacks, and asked when they could go home. It was all so familiar to me, I sat there with a knowing smile. Before long, the mother was ripping covers off the waiting room magazines to make paper airplanes. That worked for about . . . two minutes, and then she was taking them for their third drink to the drinking fountain, and pulling out cars from her bag, and so on.

I noticed some of the other visitors had set their books down by now so they could enjoy the entertainment as well. One lady volunteered to help keep the two-year-old from escaping, and it was at this point I decided I would put my visit off longer to let her go ahead of me. I couldn't help but wonder if there was anyone in the waiting room who had come to the doctor with the intention of hoping to get pregnant soon who was having second thoughts.:) But I watched this young mother patiently deal with each new scenario, and a new kind of lump formed in my throat. I saw how resilient she was as she ingeniously thought up new ways to keep her kids entertained (I have to say, the looks on people's faces when she started tearing pages out of magazines for paper airplanes was a little priceless!), and I was filled with awe once again at the miracle of motherhood.

It was a scenario I've seen or experienced myself many times over as I've struggled with children at a doctor's office, or a grocery store, or anywhere else I've dared drag them along, and to me, it's the greatest sign of selflessness and love there is. I looked around the waiting room once more at each woman there and wondered what their stories were. I'm sure most, if not all, were mothers or hoping to be mothers. I watched one very young girl and found myself wondering if she was just beginning this journey, and I couldn't help but think she had no idea what kind of roller coaster ride she was hopping on, but it was sure to be filled with excitement! I watched another expecting mother waddle painfully to the back when they called her name, and although I have no idea what her struggles are, my eyes filled with tears for her willingness to endure discomfort to carry a child and bring it into the world.

That's what motherhood is about. That's what it's always been about. Love, sacrifice, unending service, pain, embarrassment, laughter, selflessness, and my personal favorite--pure joy. I endured my appointment and rushed home to my own children with a renewed gratitude for the gift of being a mother. It is the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's also the most rewarding. I wanted to tell that young mother to hang in there because one day she would look back on this time of her life and realize it was one of the greatest, but I didn't want her to lose optimism for the future!:)

Instead, I silently thanked her for reminding me of what I've always known, but sometimes forget: I am profoundly grateful to be a mother!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Throwing Away the Textbook

I had looked forward to this past week for at least a month, anxious for a change in routine and a reprieve from the pressures of every day life; however, our Spring Break ended up being anything but spring or a break. Between the icy cold temperatures and snow of Wyoming storms and dealing with the flu bug half the week, by mid-week my expectations were not being met in any sense of the word. On top of that, my children decided to veto bedtime, and I found myself spending over an hour getting my children to bed on more than one evening, resulting in frustration and impatience on my part.

When we finally returned home, I was ready for our regular routine. The last couple of days in Wyoming proved a little sunny and relaxing, but I looked forward to normal bedtimes and a schedule that keeps my children busy and happy. I guess I'm a bit of an optimist because we've now been home for three days and I'm still waiting for the no-hassle bedtimes, the productive busyness and the happiness.

Last night was the final straw. My two youngest had been in bed and asleep for two hours, but my oldest child was determined to stay up as long as possible. Knowing school awaited the next morning, I was adamant that she retire early enough to get plenty of rest. Unfortunately, she did not see things the same way. She kept insisting she wasn't tired as she followed me around the house. Finally, I realized I had to take some serious action.

"If I have to tell you to go to bed one more time, you're going to lose your privileges," I warned.

"What privileges?"

Okay. She's smarter than I thought. She's going to weigh her options. I'd better come up with something good. "Television. No TV this week," I said, naively waiting for her to hop right up and head to bed.

After thinking it over for a few seconds, she said, "Okay. No TV this week."

This was not going well. I knew I had to come up with a privilege that meant more to her, so I said, "Friends. No friends, either." I immediately knew that was a rather ridiculous punishment since she rarely plays with friends anyway.

"Okay," she said.

Now I was floundering. "Your Ipod. I'm taking away your Ipod."

"I don't have an Ipod." Darn it! This is not looking good. She's outsmarting me at every turn.

"Okay, well, whatever it is you have, I'm taking it away." Knowing I was sounding completely desperate, my frenzied mind struggled to come up with a punishment that would mean something to her. Finally I had it.

"Food. You're grounded from food," I said. It was the only thing I thought she would really miss.

At this, we both looked at each other and burst into the giggles. We laughed so hard we were rolling on the floor. What kind of mother threatens to starve her child if she doesn't go to bed on time? Certainly not a sane one.

At least the tension had been broken, and somehow the absurd threat worked because my clever daughter finally picked herself up off the floor and mozied into bed. We were both still giggling as I kissed her goodnight.

This morning as the kids were getting ready for school, I heard her tell her brother that I had grounded her from food. Her "I think Mom's pretty much crazy" tone was not lost on me, but I decided I'd rather have my children think me a little loony than think me hard-nosed and unapproachable. So, although my parenting skills are far from textbook (As soon as I said it I knew I had broken Rule #436 in Parenting 101--Never threaten to take away something you can't follow through with), I just have to say, sometimes as a mom you just have to throw the textbook out the window and go with your gut instinct. And if your gut instinct is telling you to discipline your child in a somewhat ridiculous manner, go for it. You never know when your sense of humor will pay off. And if you're having a hard time knowing how to discipline a particular child who doesn't seem to be fanatical about anything you can use as leverage, may I suggest taking away . . .


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Some Days Just Stink!

Remember a couple posts ago when I said I was reaching the point of maturity where I could take a deep breath in the middle of motherhood disasters and simply deal with the problem at hand with a degree of composure since I reached the realization that motherhood isn't meant to be easy?

Well . . .

I must have been asking for it, because since then I've found myself having to take a lot of deep breaths, and my degree of composure is diminishing in a hurry. I've repeated the phrase, "It's not meant to be easy. It's not meant to be easy" over and over, but it hasn't seemed to help. I'm to the point where I don't care if it's meant to be easy--I'm ready for a few easy days. Here's why.

Thursday night my three-year-old woke up in the middle of the night hollering my name. I ran in his bedroom and spent the next couple of minutes trying to figure out what he was saying. "I need a ?" he kept repeating. Trying to guess, I kept plugging in answers: a drink? to go potty? a blanket?

"No," he finally screamed, obviously a little frustrated at my lack of understanding. "I need a . . . "
And that's when I finally understood exactly what he needed--a bowl--because he threw up all over me.

Okay. Not what I hoped for at 2:00 a.m., but whew! (my deep breath). I can handle it.

I cleaned the vomit out of my hair, off my clothes, stripped my son, washed him up, scrubbed the carpet, and tucked him back in--with a bowl this time.

Things went great until about 24 hours later when the process repeated itself. Thankfully, I was johny-on-the-spot this time, and the kid already had a bowl in bed with him, so there was no big mess to clean up. But what I didn't know is that it was just the beginning of four long days with the flu.

He threw up again at breakfast and again at lunch. That's when I had to load up all my kids to make the two hour and 15 minute drive to Wyoming so my older son could speak at my niece's baptism. One hour into the trip I stopped to get my little guy a drink since he acted dehydrated. I scooped him into my arms and rushed into McDonald's, setting him down on the bathroom sink. That's when I realized he now had bodily fluids coming out the other end. I don't think the poor child even knew he had soiled himself, but believe me, I did. The stench was unforgettable, and it was now all over my dress. Praying no one would need to use the women's restroom for a few minutes, I stripped the poor kid down while he draped himself over one of the disgusting toilets so he could throw up again. I kept trying to pick him up so his chin wasn't resting on the front of the public restroom toilet, but he was too weak to even care.

Whew! (deep breath again). I was sure I was about to join him in throwing up myself. Between the smell of my now-soiled clothing and the sight of my sweet little boy wiping himself all over the filthy toilet, I was about to lose it. Fortunately, I kept myself together, and we continued on our trip. Five minutes out of town, he threw up again.

Whew! (yet another deep breath). I was beginning to feel a bit stressed. Not only did our van smell like a dozen dirty diapers, but if we had to make many more stops, we were going to miss the baptism entirely. And at this point, I had to squeeze in a change of clothes before attending.

The good news is we did make it in time. My oldest daughter stayed at Grandma's with my sick little boy, and all was well. By bedtime he seemed better. Yes! The flu bug had finally run its course and would be over soon.

Or so I thought.

Two more days, two more sleepless nights, one more time of being completely puked on, and I will admit, the deep breaths were not doing it for me anymore. I know mothers deal with sick kids all the time. I even know it was probably my turn. But after four days and four long nights of it, I didn't care. I was tired of trying to handle it with composure, sick of trying to be mature about it. I just wanted it to be over.

I finally got my wish yesterday when my child slept through the night and woke up as if nothing ever happened. As the day wore on, he acted naughtier and naughtier, and that's when I knew he had made a full recovery.

Whew! I did it. I survived the four day stomach flu. It wasn't easy, but I did it. And I never totally lost control. I'm amazing. I'm resilient. I'm a rock star.

Okay. Back to reality. I'm no rock star. I'm just a regular, old take-everything-as-it-comes mother. And to be perfectly honest, I'm scared spitless. Why? Because, as you all know, an illness that tough is sure to affect more than one of us. I'm just waiting for another of my children to tell me they're not feeling well, and then we'll start the process all over again.

So, in summary, although I know motherhood isn't meant to be easy, although I know it's what I signed up for, I just have to say. . .

Some days just stink!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What A Week!

Tuesday: My five-year-old daughter marched into my bedroom and made a ridiculous request. I don't even remember specifically what it was, but I remember my response: "Regyn, you've got to be kidding me. Get real."

"I am getting real," she said, her bottom lip sticking out.

That's when my three-year-old chimed in. "No, you're not. You're getting fake, Regyn."

Have I mentioned how funny three-year-olds are?

Wednesday: I changed my clothes four times: once to work out, once after I showered (dressed up to teach school), once to coach volleyball, and once to go to a Relief Society meeting. Add getting my p.j's on, and that makes five times in one day! Does that seem like overload to anyone else? No wonder I feel like all I do is laundry! One thing is for sure--I'm scheduling a nap for tomorrow.

Thursday: Taught eight delightful, energetic preschoolers, before fixing lunch and looking forward to my siesta. Unfortunately, all my responsibilities kept chanting my name, so I gave in and stayed busy the rest of the day instead. Okay, now I definitely deserve some time to chill tomorrow.

Friday: Was up all night with a sick three-year-old. When I finally groaned in exasperation at 4:14 a.m. at the sound of my little guy getting out of bed again, my husband awoke out of his comatose state and asked what the problem was. I told him I'd been up six times in the night and had not slept at all, to which he replied, "Really? I didn't even hear anything."

I wanted to punch him . . . really hard . . . in the nose. Hasn't he learned by now that is NOT the thing to say to his exhausted wife when she's been up all night with a child? Some people are such slow learners.

Saturday: Planned on napping since I got no sleep the night before, but instead I: went to the temple; painted our entrance, hallway and staircase; spring cleaned the house, including all window sills, ceiling fans, shutters, and more; weeded the entire yard; completed two loads of laundry, and crawled into bed that night because the pain shooting from my back down my legs made it nearly impossible to walk. Planned a nap for Sunday.

Sunday: Went to church to find I was supposed to have planned the lesson. Winged the lesson. Drove home promising myself I'd be more on the ball. Cooked dinner for friends and my sister's family (she came from Wyoming to stay the night), plopped into bed, hoping like heck I'd get a nap the next day.

Monday: Drove to Salt Lake with my sister and six children (two of mine, four of hers--all under the age of seven). Spent two and a half hours at Ken Garff while my sister's van got repaired (I'm sure you can fill in the missing details of that scenario), ate a greasy, over-paid-for lunch, made two more stops with the six children in tow, and pulled in my driveway glad I don't really have six kids under the age of seven. And yes, I promised myself I would let everything else go the next day so I could have a snooze.

Now it's Tuesday again, and I still haven't had that nap. The truth is, it eludes me every day. You'd think I would "get real" myself and stop planning it, but somehow deceiving myself into thinking I might actually have an afternoon when I can curl up on the couch and rest, keeps me going every day.

So, although I have no idea what tomorrow really holds, you can bet I have a nap planned. And if you are finding you need a comforting, wonderfully relaxing activity planned for the next day just so you have something to look forward to, my advice is this:

"Get real!"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Take the Shot

I recently read somewhere that good photographers have a motto they work by--"Take the shot." In other words, don't be afraid to get the picture--just click away without holding back and see what great results you can get. Too often those of us with a camera in our hands hesitate clicking the button because we are waiting for the perfect shot--the exact pose, the flawless smile, the textbook moment. Somewhere in the midst of our reluctance, the perfect photo passes by us, and we end up with disappointing results. Sound familiar?

Instead, we should take advantage of the moment and simply take the shot. The lighting doesn't have to be just right; the clothing doesn't have to be impeccable; the grouping doesn't have to be staged. We just have to push the button.

I know for me, the first step is getting my camera out in the first place. I've somehow convinced myself that something absolutely amazing, unique, or hilarious has to be happening for it to be a camera-worthy experience. Thus, I've missed a lot of great memories by simply leaving the camera behind, or not pulling it out.

The next important key is for the camera batteries to be charged. I hesitate to count the number of times I've pulled out my camera only to find it's dead. Ugh! I hate when that happens.

But the most important part of it all is simply to take the shot, to find the miracle of life in that one certain moment and not be afraid to push the button. It's to stop waiting for just the right time or place or situation and just soak up the here and now, because one day, those captured moments will mean everything.

That's how I feel about motherhood.

It's easy to let life pass me by each day without taking the time and effort to pull out my camera, so to speak. And if I do sort through the stress and busyness of every day life to see the great moments, it's then I find all to often my batteries are not fully charged, and I still miss the most important parts. I find I'm not living in the joy of the moment; instead, I'm rushing through each day, sticking to schedules and deadlines, fulfilling my ever-growing list of responsibilities and missing the whole point.

That's when I look at my children around the dinner table and wonder when they grew up. When did my ten-year-old get to be so beautiful and mature? When did my eight-year-old start using manners (actually, I'm still waiting for that one)? When did my five-year-old get to be so smart? When did my three-year-old stop talking with that adorable little lisp? When and how did this all happen? And where was I?

I was waiting too long to take the shot. I was waiting for things to settle down a little bit, for life to get less hectic. And in the meantime, the most precious photo ops passed right by me, and I found I missed them entirely. I am left with an empty album because I can't get those moments back.

I've decided photographers life by a very wise motto. And in the past few years I've tried to adopt it. I'm not perfect at it, but I try to remind myself every day of how fragile and fleeting life really is, and then I tell myself to soak up every single moment so it doesn't escape my heart and my memory.

When my children were little, I decided to never walk into my their bedrooms when they're sleeping without taking a moment to simply watch, to take in the miracle of each child, and then to lean in close and kiss them one more time. That's a shot I never want to think I missed.

Now I am working on dropping my own priorities so I can focus more clearly on my children and their pressing needs. When one of my children ask me to read a book, no matter how busy I am, I try to do it--to not put it off, because inevitably I will forget and then I will have missed the chance to snuggle close and share someone's wonderful imagination with a child I love. And one day they'll stop asking me. I hope to get in lots of shots before then.

When my children come home from school and have a hundred silly, meaningless stories to share about their day, I try hard to take the time to listen. To drop what I am doing and look them in the eye and really listen, because I know I will miss the endless chatter and laughter of children one day when they are all grown up and don't race home from school anymore.

So, all in all, I'm hoping to stop letting the simply joys of motherhood pass by me unnoticed. To stop waiting for life to offer the perfect moment before I take time to notice and enjoy every day life as a mother. In other words, I'm simply going to take the shot!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Marriage, Parenthood, and Frosted Flakes

Lunchtime today was interesting, to say the least. Sharing the snack bar with two five-year-olds and one three-year-old proved to be both informative and entertaining. As usual, they talked while I served them lunch and listened, hoping my constant grin wasn't too obvious.

Today, the topic was marriage.

"Remember you're going to marry me?" the five-year-old neighbor boy asked.

"I've decided I'm not going to marry anybody. I'm just going to have kids," my five-year-old daughter answered with complete seriousness as she leaned her chin in her hand, resting her elbow on the counter.

As hard as I try not to intervene during conversations such as these, I couldn't help myself this time. I felt I had to clarify a very important point. "Well, actually honey, if you want kids, you need to be married first."

"Yeah, you're going to have to be married," the neighbor boy said with new determination. "You're going to have to marry me."

"No!" I think my young daughter was feeling trapped in this relationship. "I don't have to marry you."

Worried her comment may have come over a bit harshly, I gently reminded her that just last week she told me she was, in fact, going to marry this very boy.

"I've changed my mind," she stated matter-of-factly. Now I'm going to marry Wyatt" (the neighbor boy who lives behind us).

I watched her newly cast-off beau intently, hoping his feelings wouldn't be crushed. Then, in an effort to smooth over the rejection, I said, "Well, the good news is you don't have to decide today. You're only five. "

But the matter was not closed. My daughter must have finally found a bit of her conscience because she suddenly thought it important to find someone for her friend, and she began naming girls in the neighborhood.

"No. I know who I'm going to marry," the undeterred boy said. I could tell he wasn't about to let her boss him around or have a say in his future at this point. "It's that girl that lives over there," he said pointing. I thought it quite amusing he didn't even know her name.

"Sarah?" my daughter asked.

"Yeah. Sara. I'm going to marry her." I couldn't help but wonder if Sarah knew anything of this impending union, or Wyatt either, for that matter.

The topic seemed to fade while the kids leaned over their cereal bowls, slurping up their lunch of Frosted Flakes. And then, just when I thought the marriage conversation was over, my three-year-old son looked at the two other kids and said,

"I'm going to marry Frosted Flakes!"

We all threw our heads back and laughed.

The rest of the mealtime consisted of the three of them explaining why being a mother is so easy and being a dad is so hard (according to my daughter), and vice versa (according to the neighbor boy). I just listened with a constant grin, reveling in simpler days when I too was young and naive.

Lunch finally ended and we loaded into the van to head to preschool, but I couldn't stop thinking of wonderful life must seem to five-year-olds. They're sure they have everything figured out. And if five-year-olds possess a unique outlook on life, three-year-olds have it even better. So, although I'm pretty certain my little guy will never actually grow up to marry some cereal, I just have to say, I will never eat Frosted Flakes with the same perspective again!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Easy Button

You know that Staples commercial that shows people in distressing situations who are trying to meet deadlines and perform under pressure, and just when they find themselves stressed completely out, a big red button with the word "Easy" on it appears out of nowhere? They press the button, and, wha la! Their problems are magically solved.

Have you ever wished there was one of those for motherhood?

I certainly have. It wasn't that long ago that three of my four children were younger than kindergarten age, the last two being only 20 months apart, and I often found myself searching frantically for that big red button! Unfortunately, it never appeared. I just kept reassuring myself with the thought that some day things would be easier. Now, a few years later, my youngest is three, and although I can admit motherhood has become less difficult in ways (no baby to keep me up at night, no teething or potty training, no diapers to change or small toddler hanging on my legs all day, etc.), I have found my challenges have only changed, not dissipated. I guess what I'm trying to say is this . . .

There is no "Easy" button in motherhood because motherhood isn't meant to be easy!

That seems like too simple a truth to be meaningful, but it has actually been a life-changing fact to recognize. Why? Because in those difficult mothering moments when it seemed I was drowning, I found myself being frustrated by the fact it was all so hard, and I kept waiting for things to magically get easier. When I finally came to the self-realization that it wasn't going to get easier--that motherhood wasn't meant to be easy, that we just simply have too much to gain from our experiences as a mother for it to be easy--then my whole perspective changed. Somehow knowing there is no easy button, and that there never will be, made me rise to the challenge and plunge ahead, expecting and conquering difficulties, rather than wondering why they were in my way or wishing they weren't. And that has led to a happier, more patient, more self-fulfilled motherhood experience for me.

For example, just yesterday I ventured to the store with my two youngest children. Experience has taught me that taking my five-year-old along only leads to an unhappy shopping experience, so I usually go to extreme lengths to leave her behind. Unfortunately, it was not an option yesterday, so I loaded both children in the van and forged ahead with determination to make the most of our trip, secretly hoping my five-year-old would find it within herself to behave today.

She didn't.

She was great for the first ten minutes while we were picking a few things out for her, but then as the real grocery shopping began, so did the fits, the whining, the begging, and so on. Now, I have learned (both from my own sad experience and that of others I've seen) that Wal-Mart is the least desirable place for an episode to occur between parent and child. Someone you know is bound to be there and witness the whole embarrassing scene, so no matter how frazzled I am, I try desperately hard to keep my cool while maneuvering through the store with crying, bratty children. Yesterday was no exception.

As problem after problem arose, I constantly found myself reviewing in my head the parenting books I've read about how to deal with aberrant behavior. I squatted down to eye-level, looked right at her, and explained to her that I wanted to go home as badly as she did, that the constant stopping to deal with her problems was slowing the process down, that I expected better behavior. After about the sixth time, I didn't care about eye-level anymore. It hadn't seemed to be effective. In fact, I hardly cared about making a scene at this point. I simply wanted the child to get a grip, and I was nearly ready to use more extreme measures to get my point across.

That's when I turned to choose something from a shelf across the aisle and I heard a big crash. Something told me it probably had to do with my children, but I hardly dared to spin around to see. I heard someone draw a quick breath and I saw someone else from the corner of my eye rush to the scene, but it wasn't until I heard my five-year-old start wailing that I knew it was indeed my children with the problem. Taking my eighth deep breath of the shopping trip, I forced myself to turn around and see what the commotion was about. That's when I saw my two dear children lying flat on their backs on the floor, both pinned beneath the tipped shopping cart, their hands still gripping the handle. They had been fighting over that "spot" and had decided to both hop on it at once in an effort to steal it from the other, and in so doing, they added too much weight to the near-empty cart, and it tipped over backwards, right on top of the two of them. It actually would have been quite a funny sight if it wasn't that they hit their heads pretty hard on the cement floor and that my darling daughter was screaming bloody murder.

I was tempted to gather my children and simply escape, leaving it all behind me, including my cart, but I knew I would regret it when I went to make dinner that night and we had nothing to eat, so due to the fact no big red "Easy" button appeared to magically solve all my problems, I had no choice but to pick up my kids and the cart, and continue on our way. Regyn cried the entire time. The old me would have been frustrated and frazzled, but the new me, the one who realizes these are the moments that really shape us as mothers, the one who understands that this road I chose wasn't meant to be easy, the one who believes it will all pass one day--all too quickly--simply smiled as I maneuvered down the grocery aisles with two tired, crying children.

And I've just gotta say that although that "Easy" button has always held an enticement for me, I think I'm finally getting to the point where I am ready to embrace an "I Can Do This" button instead!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Simple Pleasures of Motherhood.

Last Friday was a bad day.

I won't bore anyone with all the details, but suffice it to say I wasn't at my best, and apparently, neither were any of my children. When 1:00 rolled around and I heard my youngest yell from the bathroom not to come in--a sure sign something disastrous had happened--I trudged to the bathroom with drudgery and an overall feeling of self pity. Apparently my cute little boy had waited too long to hop on the potty, and while he had been climbing on to the toilet in his unorthodox way, the poop just started oozing right out. And apparently he's been eating too much fiber because his stools were especially soft that day. And apparently, he hadn't had a bowel movement in a while because there was a whole lot to clean up--more than is normal. I found myself cleaning up soft, squishy poop from off my toilet seat, the floor, the bathroom counters, the front of the toilet, and my three-year-old's legs (and later, his bedroom carpet, which I can't even begin to imagine how poop made it all the way into there). It would have been far less of a disaster if the darling child had not tried to clean it up himself, but by golly, if there's one principle this kid has caught on to, it's that he's responsible for his own messes, a lesson I wish he had not learned so adeptly, at least when it comes to messes that have to deal with poop!

Needless to say, I was feeling less than enthusiastic about motherhood at this point. Since I was already experiencing a less-than-fabulous day, all I wanted to do was to go to my room, shut the door, and bawl for a while, BUT due to the fact I recently decided I'm reaching the point where I should be more mature than that, I sucked it up and cleaned up the mess. I didn't even have the gumption to lecture my son, although I couldn't help but wonder how this could have happened, seeing how he's been potty trained for a long time now.

Anyway, as I scrubbed and wiped, cleaned and sanitized, I found myself muttering under my breath, "Yep, this is motherhood at it's best, right here!" Determined to feel sorry for myself the rest of the day, I plastered a frown on my face and plopped into bed that night glad to have the day over. And while lying there staring at the ceiling, rehearsing the events of my horrible day, it hit me. . .

Stop focusing on the negative.

Nothing new or profound but something I needed reminded of. I simply had a bad attitude. So, in the past three days since then, I have decided to focus on all the simple pleasures motherhood affords. Here are just a few of them.

1-My morning walks with my 10-year-old. I recently decided to spend some one-on-one time with my oldest daughter in an effort to keep communication lines open and just focus on her every day for that time (an idea I stole from a good friend). She talks and I listen. It's wonderful.

2-My eight-year-old son got up early to go to the bathroom this morning and then snuggled into bed beside me since his father was already up and in the shower. My son reached over and grabbed my hand. It was a simple gesture, but it made me smile all the way to my toes. I have a feeling those moments are not going to last forever. I'm so glad he had the urge to hold his mom's hand for a minute. It was a great way to start the day.

3- My five-year-old's fashion statements. She came out of the bedroom Sunday in blue tights, a black and silver mini skirt, a green shirt with pink trim, a brown jacket and a red headband in her hair to top it all off. She looked a bit eclectic, to say the least, but it brought a smile to all our faces. And of course, she thought she looked fabulous. I sure wish I had such a healthy sense of self-style--I love that about five-year-olds!

4- A dinner date with my three-year-old. Last night I found myself in a very rare situation: my three-year-old son and I were eating dinner together with no one else around. It was the most delightful conversation I've had in a long time. We talked about everything from why Heavenly Father made me a girl and his dad a boy, to what we're going to say to Mickie and Minnie Mouse when we see them at Disneyland (he chose the topics--I just followed along). I was grinning from ear to ear the entire conversation, and I found myself thinking, What a wonderful little boy. This time I have with him is priceless. And it was.

And so, from now on, when my job as a mother isn't going particularly well, I think I'll take a step back, stop focusing on everything that might be going wrong, and simply train my eyes and heart to see all the simple pleasures of motherhood because I'm learning there's a whole lot of them!

Monday, February 22, 2010


The more I live my life as a mother of four children, the more I realize how clever kids really are these days. There have been plenty of occasions when I have thought I had gotten the best of one of my children, only to find he/she ended up getting the best of me instead. I try to remember being that clever when I was young, but I just don't think I was. Apparently, I need to take "clever lessons" from my kids. At least I'm developing a healthy sense of humor; in fact, I'm learning that few things are greater than laughing right out loud when my kids have out-smarted me. It makes for a great memory.

For example, a couple mornings ago I was perched at the kitchen table, my head dropped over the scriptures as I read while my children busily finished eating their breakfast and got their school bags ready to go. I kept inadvertently lifting my head and glancing around to ensure my children were still in the room and listening (There's been more than one occasion when I've gotten a little too caught up in reading and looked up only to realize my children had disappeared and I was reading to myself--not that I don't need all the scripture reading I can get, but reading to no one but myself seems to mute the point of "family scripture study"). More than once I found myself shushing them and reminding them to be quiet and listen while I read. It seemed pretty obvious they were getting nothing out of our reading that morning, and I was feeling a little bit irritated by their basic apathy and lack of focus.

Now, I admit reading scriptures is probably not at the top of my children's "fun" list, and I also acknowledge that some days, the reading is even more laborious and difficult to understand than others, but that aside, it was still something we committed to do and had been doing for a long time. I found myself thinking they should be more interested than they were (I mean, they could have at least pretended to be listening, couldn't they? ), especially since I made a sincere effort to make the words we read come alive for us by pausing to try to explain what was happening and by occasionally inserting my own thoughts and feelings on our subject matter.

I finally finished the section, which happened to end like this: "Watch, therefore, that ye may be ready. Even so. Amen." Then, thinking to make a point to the kids that they needed to be better listeners, I decided to quiz my eight-year-old son about what we had just read, sure he would have no answer, driving my point right home.

"What was your favorite part of what I just read?" I asked, as if I was naive enough to think he'd actually been listening. I flashed him my famous "I caught you again" grin, and waited for him to falter so I could begin my lecture, but just as I opened my mouth, he surprised me with a confident answer . . .

"The 'amen!'"

I burst into laughter at his all-too-clever response. "At least you're honest," I chuckled, realizing how true his answer had really been. I'm sure the "amen" probably was his favorite part since that meant the section was over!

I sent my kids out the door to school without the lecture, grateful my son had lightened the moment, even if his answer only proved he hadn't been listening to what I read (I'm pretty sure the only word he remembered from the reading was the last word I had said--"amen"). Laughing together was a much better way to end our morning than my harping would have been, and I found myself smiling and chuckling inside throughout the entire day whenever I thought of his quick answer.

So, although my kids will probably always find ways to get the best of me, I can at least honestly say . . . I'm looking forward to it!