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!