Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Motherhood--How can I help?

Having spent the last four days on the couch or in bed with a pillow over my head due to a migraine, I am definitely feeling a bit behind now that I am back at life. I am certainly learning to not take good health for granted. For a healthy, athletic woman (something I always kind of considered myself to be), I have had numerous surgeries and phases of poor health. It has definitely made me appreciate times I feel well and can function normally. Yes, I'm even grateful to be able to do dishes and laundry again--something I never thought I'd say:)

I just returned home from a board meeting for American Mothers. As I sat around the table, listening to this amazing group of women discuss upcoming events and responsibilities, I found myself amazed at their willingness to serve. None of them receive any compensation for their time and efforts. Most are extremely busy already between church callings and family and civic responsibilities (one is even running for a seat in the House of Representatives). Yet, each woman there feels motherhood is something that needs support and recognition and that the American Mothers Association is a worthwhile organization that promotes all they believe in. It was awe-inspiring.

I was asked to say a few words, which I wasn't expecting. I shared a few thoughts, but as usual, I thought about what I really wanted to say on the drive home. So, here it is.

I have been blessed in my life to have a keen awareness of the privilege and sanctity of motherhood. Through various experiences, I have been tutored and patiently taught how sacred and eternal and vital my role as a mother truly is. That is why I write about it, why I blog about it, why I talk about it, why I feel a responsibility to share what I am learning with other mothers in an effort to uplift and strengthen and validate each one of them in their journey as mothers. Everyone's homes are different; everyone's children are different; everyone's backgrounds are different, but in one thing we are all the same. We all hope and work and pray to be successful mothers. It is the burning desire of our hearts. We love our children with the deepest kind of love and want to lead them and help them along this journey of life and become the best that's within them. And we all need support and guidance as we do this vital of all jobs. That's what American Mothers is all about. It provides that much-needed support system that stands for important values, that sustains and uplifts the role of motherhood. That's what I have gleamed from it for the many years I have been associated with it. And it's what I would hope for every mother to find and use in their lives. Besides my faith and the church I belong to, there is nothing I would be more honored and privileged to represent than motherhood and the American Mothers Association. That is why I am grateful and humbled and excited for the opportunity that is mine this year as the Utah Young Mother of the Year.

So, in saying all of this, the biggest question that has been weighing on my mind is this: How can I help? How can I be the most useful? How can I best join with other mothers in supporting and uplifting them in the cause of motherhood? I am so willing to help start new chapters in American Mothers, to speak to groups about motherhood or related topics, to be a sounding board to women everywhere. I'm just not sure the best way to go about it. So, I'm hoping for some response here. If you read this, please give me your input, whoever you are, wherever you are. What are your needs? What could benefit you? What are you looking for that could help you on your journey as a mother? I certainly don't have all the answers but I'm willing to help find them, or at least be a listening ear.

Here are some ideas I've thought of:
1-Posting a parenting question on my blog at least once a month and allowing everyone who wants to to respond. Then, I would respond as well and maybe we could all learn from one another.

2-Having a monthly webinar. Truthfully, I've never done a webinar before but I am willing to learn if there is enough interest. Again, we could have a monthly topic to discuss or a question and answer period.

3- If you have any interest at all in starting a chapter of American Mothers, please don't hesitate to contact me. I have done that and will help in any/every way possible. This organization is worthwhile. It can bless your life and the lives of your friends and neighbors as well. I know everyone is busy but if done right, it is worth it to everyone who participates. Let me help you become involved.

4-Give me your ideas as well. I am here for you.

Thank you for reading my blog, for commenting, for being faithful mothers who work in the trenches every day with no thought of reward or recognition. Together, we can do this!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Day on Capitol Hill

I'm still in awe at the amazing experience our family had yesterday as we went to Capitol Hill. One of the wonderful opportunities made available to nominees and finalists for Mother of the Year and Young Mother of the Year is to spend a day at the Capitol Building. As the Young Mother of the Year for 2012, I, along with this year's Mother of the Year, Cynthia Richards, was introduced before the House of Representatives. I personally had never been inside the Capitol Building, so I was amazed at the hustle and bustle happening all throughout the place.We were quickly ushered in, introduced, given a standing ovation, then ushered out again before we could even have time to absorb the experience.
Mother Honoress in front of the Senate

After visiting the House of Representatives, we were then introduced in front of the Senate. This was such an amazing experience as they took the time to read an "Official Citation" about both of us, we were able to meet the Senators for our district and were presented with pins. The other nominees for Mother of the Year and Young Mother of the Year were also recognized--wonderful women who truly embody what motherhood is all about. Cynthia and I were then asked to say a few words in front of the Senate. Being the small Wyoming town girl that I am, this was definitely a new experience for me, one that was meaningful and memorable.

One of the best parts about the day was that we were able to bring our children along. I was definitely worried about how my five children would handle three hours in their Sunday best clothing, moving from one appointment to another, being expected to behave with graciousness and manners, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity for them to experience such a memorable day. Everything actually went quite well overall until we passed the three hour mark. By then, we were in the "Gold Room" meeting with Governor Herbert. It was a wonderful experience! He shook each of my children's hands and asked them their names. His personal photographer captured each moment, and they are pictures I will always treasure.
Governor Herbert shaking my five-year-old's hand

President Hebert was awarded a special gift honoring his late mother. He unexpectedly took time to tell us a bit about his mother and what she meant to him in his life. It was very personal and touching as tears rolled down his cheeks and he was caught with immense emotion at times. I felt it such a privilege to be with him. He honored mothers all over the state of Utah and talked about the immense gratitude he has personally for mothers and the importance of the role of motherhood in making Utah great. At one point, he humbly said something I wish I could remember word for word. It went something like this: "Although you mothers may never make the headlines in the newspaper, I want you to know that this Governor on Capitol Hill understands the sacrifices and contributions you make to society and the state of Utah." It was a powerful, poignant moment, and my appreciation for this man grew greatly.
Governor Herbert accepting gift in honor of his mother

It was about at this moment that I realized my little flock of children were losing their edge. My mother-in-law's phone started playing a Lady Antebellum song that my children accidentally started. And then, my five-year-old lay down on the carpet and started making snow angels, only a few feet from Governor Herbert's feet. That's when I knew it was time for the experience to end! I quietly gathered him in my arms and we thankfully made it through the last few moments before my husband and I whisked them away to be taken home.

Following the events at the Capitol Building, we were privileged to go to the Governor's Mansion for High Tea. There, we were all honored with roses and plaques. Then we listened as Mrs. Herbert gave an inspiring speech on strengthening families through her Uplift Utah Families initiative. It was a wonderful, memorable, exhausting day. I left feeling gratitude for the American Mother's organization and all it stands for. I felt grateful for my years of involvement and how it had blessed my life by uplifting me in the cause of motherhood and helping me understand the importance of my calling as a mother. And I felt grateful for the amazing responsibility and privilege of being this year's Young Mother of the Year and being able to be a voice for motherhood and work to uplift and help all mothers throughout the state of Utah understand how important and loved they are and how vital they are to Utah and to this country and to the world.

Being honored with First Lady Herbert at Governor's Mansion
Strong mothers definitely strengthen families. And strong families definitely strengthen our state and our nation.
Me with Governor Herbert and Cynthia Richards (2012 Utah Mother of the Year)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Quality Time" With My Kids

Have you ever started the day with good intentions, but by the end of the evening you're frustrated, deflated and ready to pout? I think I'm the queen of such days. For example . . .

Feeling a desire to spend some quality time with each of my children yesterday, I made a point to specifically seek each one out. Since I had already spent the early afternoon with my five-year-old, I decided to start with my 12-year-old daughter. She arrived home from school, and as usual, retired to her bedroom to pick up her ipod. Not so fast, I thought. I plopped down on her bed with her and told her we should spend some time together. She agreed and put down the ipod. But what to do? After some small talk, I suggested we go to the piano and sit down and play and sing together (note: I do not play the piano or sing well, but I was trying to be creative). She was not interested. After some coaxing, we both pulled ourselves off the bed and headed to the office. I sat down and began trying to pluck out a tune to a song I'm hoping to learn. She sunk into the office chair and pulled her ipod back out. I tried to get her to come join me on the piano bench. Not going to happen. Finally, in desperation I said, "Are you going to spend time with me or am I just going to have to cry?" Her answer? "Cry." I'm pretty sure she was joking, but I found no humor in it. I stood up and sulked to my bedroom.

That's when I heard my seven-year-old's cheerful voice. Aha! Regyn is usually a little more desperate for attention. Perfect. I called to her and she came in my bedroom. I shut the door and she asked what was going on. "We're just going to spend some time together," I said cheerfully. "OK." Awkward silence. "What are we going to do?" I had no good ideas. I decided to ask her about her day. She proceeded to tell me about all her problems at school and how she didn't like her teacher because she told the class to stay in their seats and how someone had tattled on her twice at school the day before so she had cried. . . and on and on. Pretty soon, I was wishing I hadn't asked. I forgot how dramatic she is. I tried showing empathy, even though I felt more for the teacher than my daughter. Finally, tiring of the conversation herself, she asked if she could call a friend. I was now zero for two.

Okay, so maybe I would have more luck with the boys. Where was my 10-year-old? Miraculously, this social child was home without any friends over. I found him in his bedroom reading a book (not something normal for him--I should have taken a picture:). Determined to talk with him about something other than the usual--sports--I ventured to find a topic. Finally, in desperation, I started inspecting his teeth and thus ensued a conversation on how many baby teeth he still had as opposed to permanent teeth. Teeth. That's all I could come up with. Could I be any more lame? I thought to myself. I'm totally blowing this "quality kid time."

I decided to give up and start on dinner. After slaving away for an hour on what I just have to say was an amazing dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, etc.) with no help from any of my children, even though I solicited it many times, we sat down to dinner. At this point, I was giving myself a little internal pep talk. I was frustrated that my children hadn't helped with dinner. I was deflated that none of them really cared to spend time with me, and I was doing my best not to pout.

To no avail. Chaos broke out. My children started begging and whining when I told them they couldn't have a track meet in the house and race throughout our tiny basement living space, and I totally gave in to every temptation to have a pity party. "I need a break," I said as I grabbed my keys. I walked out, only to return for my phone. I walked out once more, only to return for my purse. If I was going to feel sorry for myself, it was going to be over ice cream. "Call me when you are all ready to appreciate me a little more and I will come back," I jabbed before I left. I mean, if I was going to throw a guilt trip, I had to make it good.

After driving around for a while while the milkshake I didn't even really want melted in the cup-holder next to me, the phone finally rang and Regyn told me they were ready. Was I ready to return? That was the question. I took a deep breath and walked into the house (I was already in the driveway by the time they decided they wanted me back). Colorful love notes hung from the ceiling above the snack bar. My children were ready for bed and ready for me to be impressed. I wasn't really in the mood to shower them with praise over their masterpieces, but after reading the first one, I couldn't help but smile. Darn it. I loved these kids and their sweet notes were more than even my pouty self could ignore. Here is what they said.

My 10-year-old:
"To Mom. You are not good. You are not great. You are the greatest though."

My seven-year-old (with original spelling):
"To Mom. I can't weit tell you come home becase I am gowing to say sorry."

And finally, my five-year-old:
"To Mom. I love you more than never-ending."

I love that! How could I possibly resist being loved more than never-ending? My pity party was definitely over.

Love notes hanging from the ceiling
That's when I went into my bedroom and found a notebook on my bed. It was my 12-year-old daughter's. Here's what was written inside:

"In a person's life, the place that a mother holds can never ever be taken over by anyone else. She is always there to love them, care for them, and even make sacrifices for them. In fact, there is hardly any person in this world who would be willing to do what you do. I love you, Mom. I am so sorry I was rude to you!"

I couldn't help it. My selfish, pouty heart was so full of gratitude for each child and their goodness. I picked up the notebook and wrote back, and this is what I said:

"Dear Hallee,
In a mother's life the place her daughter holds can never be taken over by someone else (I stole that line from someone very smart:). A daughter--especially the oldest one--is someone very special, someone who reminds you how great it is to be a mother, someone who is not just a daughter but a friend, someone who makes you feel like you're okay, even when you have a bad day. You are so dear to me, my sweet Hallee. I'm so grateful for you and so proud of you. You are just . . . amazing! You simply rock! Maybe that's why I want to spend time with you so badly. Anyway, thanks for the note. I forgive you and I love you--tons!

So, not a perfect day for sure, but a worthwhile one. And maybe the time I spent with my children wasn't what I had in mind, but at least we got the chance to express our love to each other.

I have decided, though, that next time I want to spend "quality time" with my children, I'll have a plan!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Little Surprises

I remember before I got married someone told me there would be lots of little surprises--things I would learn about my husband and about marriage that I couldn't possible imagine or know beforehand. Flashes of picking up dirty socks or trying to sleep through bear-like snoring and other such images immediately flashed through my mind. My mother wisely told me not to worry, that most of the surprises were good ones. And she was right.

I've found motherhood to have just as many--or more--such surprises. I think my favorite is the hilarious things my children say. At times when I least expect it, one of them will say something incredibly clever or just plain funny.

For instance . . .

The other night during our dinner ritual, I drew out this question and read it to my children and husband: What country would you like to visit and why?

My five-year-old immediately spoke up. "Salt Lake City! Because we get to go on an airplane." (We had just recently dropped someone off at the airport there).

I thought that was pretty funny, but then my six-year-old said, "St. George!" I thought to myself, Apparently I need to explain what it means to go to another country. So I did. And that's when my 10-year-old said, "Oh yea. Well, I know which country I want to go to--Greenbay, Wisconsin!"

So, I realize my children obviously aren't geography buffs, but I love it! Where else can you go to find such great laughs?

Just a couple of days ago, my children came home with their report cards. One by one they filed in from school with shouts of jubilation at their wonderful grades. That is, until my first grader came marching in. "I hate first grade!" she complained. "I just want to go to sixth grade."

Well, this made very little sense to me, so I inquired as to why as I skimmed over her grades. Right as I noticed she had one disturbing grade, she answered, "Because they give perfect report cards in sixth grade. In first grade, they don't!" Apparently, she had seen her older sister's perfect grades and thought it came with simply being in sixth grade. I tried not to laugh, but I couldn't help myself. "Regyn," I said, "Your sister has earned those grades. They don't magically come to all sixth graders." Well, this did nothing to brighten her mood. To think her bad grade was actually her fault, instead of her teacher's.

Just a few days later, we were sitting in front of this same child's first grade teacher for SEP conferences. Everything was going well until this teacher told Regyn to read to us something she had written. She explained that she would give her students a prompt each week, and then they would have a certain amount of time to write. She praised my daughter for writing so much. That's when she began reading. Apparently the prompt was something like, "My favorite thing I got for Christmas was . . ." because that's what the paper was about. It was all going fine until she started mentioning things like a trip to Mexico, and I-phone, and other such elaborate gifts that she simply hadn't received. "Wait!" I interrupted. "Did you say Regyn wrote this paper?" The teacher shook her head affirmatively. "Well, that is very interesting," I said, "because most of the things she mentioned are fabricated!" The poor teacher didn't quite know what to say, so she responded positively by saying, "Well, it looks like Regyn is going to be a great fictional writer." I looked at my darling daughter, hoping for an explanation, and all she could come up with is, "Well, so-and-so went to Mexico and so-and-so got an I-phone." Where have I gone wrong? I thought to myself. I think my child is a habitual liar. That's when her teacher asked us to come up with goals for the new term, and I looked at Regyn and said, "How about telling the truth?" She readily agreed. I guess we'll see what next term brings!

Later, I was preparing to sit down and snuggle with my five-year-old to watch a little movie. He came to me and asked me what I wanted to watch. Since my only motivation was to spend time with him, I told him I didn't care about the movie, that he could choose. "No, you can choose this time, Mom," he said. "I always choose."

"Okay," I agreed, and I pointed to a movie.

"Fine. I'll choose," he immediately said. Apparently, he didn't like my choice. It made me smile clear to my toes. I just love such simple, happy moments.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Utah Young Mother of the Year--2012

"What made you accept the nomination for Young Mother of the Year and begin this selection process?" It was a valid question, one I myself was wondering about at that very moment, as I felt my knees knocking together under the table. How did I get here and why did I accept the nomination? And then it came to me, quickly and assuredly.

"Years ago, when I first became a mother, I was introduced to the American Mothers organization. I remember going to a few meetings and feeling uplifted and inspired by other mothers who were going through the same things I was or who had gone through them and made it safely to the other side. It was a wonderful thing to be a part of. I believe strongly in motherhood and in helping lift and inspire mothers, and so I was happy to have an opportunity to participate in that."

There it was. The reason I was nervously sitting at a table with a panel of three judges who were working to select the next Utah Young Mother of the Year for 2012. Question number one answered. Now on to many more delving questions about my philosophy on motherhood, from what my greatest challenge is and how I deal with it, to what message would I want to share if I was selected. As I answered each inquiry, my confidence and passion for my purpose in being there continued to grow, and I realized, as I have many times before, that the real reason I had agreed to be a nominee for this year's Young Mother of the Year is simply this--that I believe motherhood to be the most important, noble, and inspiring role I would ever play in my lifetime; that I believe mothers to be one of God's greatest gifts; and that the opportunity of joining with other amazing women to uplift and build each other up in the cause of motherhood would simply be too great to pass up.

I left the interview feeling empowered--not because I had nailed it--but because I knew I was a small part of something great, something that acknowledged the amazing power of womanhood and motherhood, and I felt humbly grateful for that. After presenting a short speech at a wonderful luncheon, I went home exhausted but happy. I thought of the other nominees and knew I had been blessed to simply meet them. I could see how each one could be selected as this year's Young Mother of the Year, and I felt privileged just to have been among them.

I fell down, exhausted, on my couch. That's when the phone call came. "Lori, I am calling to inform you that you have been chosen to represent Utah as the Young Mother of the Year for 2012!" It was hard to take in, I have to admit; in fact, my first reaction was, "Really?" After meeting the other nominees and hearing their thoughts, I hadn't expected to have been selected. My head was swirling as congratulations were offered and I hung up the phone. That's when my 12-year-old daughter, who had come to hear my speech earlier that day, said, "I knew you would win, Mom. You were awesome!" And it was all worth it.

And so, believe it or not, I will be spending this upcoming year fulfilling the amazing responsibility of representing Utah mothers as the Young Mother of the Year. It is certainly an honor and a privilege I am looking forward to. But I must say, right from the start, that I was in no way chosen because I am the most fabulous mother in Utah, or because I have a terrific parenting plan that I carry out perfectly, or because I have all the answers mothers need. Parenting mistakes are part of my daily regimen. I do yell at my kids sometimes; I do lose my patience and handle situations all wrong; and I do go to bed many nights wanting to be so much better. Motherhood is not about perfection. And so, as I begin this journey, I hope to be seen as a woman who is teachable, approachable and oh so willing--not only to share my experiences, lessons learned and love for this sacred calling of motherhood--but also to learn from each and every one of you, for you are all remarkable women in numerous ways.

I think most people would agree (especially mothers) that motherhood is a job that usually receives few accolades. Amazing women all over the world are working in the trenches daily to raise the next generation, and they do it without physical rewards of any kind. They are doing the most important job on the planet, and yet, the most they receive for their time, effort, blood, sweat and tears (literally) is one day a year to hear repeated the cliche, "Happy Mother's Day." And so, for all you incredible women out there--from mothers of 12, to single mothers, to mothers of children with disabilities, to mothers of one or two, to mothers who have a mother's heart but haven't yet been blessed with children of their own--I say, this is for each of you because YOU DESERVE IT!! I share with you this title. Stand up and take a bow--yes, you--Mothers of the Year 2012! I don't know most of you personally, but I do know somewhat of your sacrifice, your devotion, and your endurance, and I honor you for it.

Being the Young Mother of the Year gives me the opportunity of being in your service, and so I invite anyone who reads this to share your thoughts, your worries, your successes and triumphs--even your questions--concerning motherhood. I don't have all the answers, but together we can learn from one another and build each other up in this amazing, but often difficult, journey of mothering this generation of bright, amazing children. I am also available to speak and help in any way possible to move forward the cause of motherhood, so if there is a need, please ask. It is indeed an honor to be an ambassador for motherhood and for the American Mothers organization, an organization that has blessed my life for many years.

To end, I just want to take a moment to honor the 2011 Utah Young Mother of the Year, Emi Edgley, an incredible woman who has represented Utah mothers remarkably well. She is amazing! She is a woman of virtue and goodness and light. I have been blessed with the opportunity of getting to know her a little, and her influence is immediate. To fill her shoes would not be possible, but I feel honored to work alongside her and follow her lead. Well done, Emi.