Saturday, June 23, 2012

Perfect Grades?

I'm still trying to understand how our oldest daughter managed to fly through her elementary years and is now (excitedly) entering Jr. High in the fall. Seriously, where did the time go? How did this sweet little baby girl transform into a beautiful young woman who is now taller than I am at the ripe old age of 12? I always knew this would happen and so have made every effort to BE THERE IN THE MOMENT as much as possible, but despite my best efforts to take notice of every day and every moment, here I am wondering how we got here already.

This past year, her sixth grade year, Hallee really wanted to excel, to give her best effort to school. It paid off. Term after term she came home with a perfect report card, and I was so proud of her. I mean, I always knew she was capable of that, but it was so rewarding watching her find that out about herself as well. And reality was, it didn't take strenuous effort to get there--just a bit more focus and desire really. Hallee has always been extremely responsible, so despite the many warnings and threats that sixth graders often get about needing to be on top of things, she had that part in the bag, constantly checking her grades and scores online to make sure she had everything turned in.

That's why when she came home from school the last day and collapsed on the couch in uncontrollable sobs, I couldn't imagine what the problem could be. My first reaction was that someone must have done something terrible to her, caused her some sort of tremendous physical or emotional pain. When I finally comforted her enough to find out why she had fallen into a puddle as soon as she walked in the door, I couldn't help but be surprised at her answer. She had perfect grades again--almost--but one 2.75 (our grading scale is from 1-3, 3 being the highest you can get--mastery) glared at us from the page like a child sticking his tongue out as if to say, "Ha! Ha! You didn't do it. Nanana boo boo!"

I searched for words of comfort but really couldn't come up with anything great. She had worked hard and been on top of everything. She had even talked with her teachers to make sure everything was under control, and they assured her it was. So, how could this be possible? The worst part is that her father and I had already planned to make her perfect grades all year a wonderful "event" that would help her understand how much we supported her efforts and how proud we were of her. We were going to take her to the Olive Garden for a very rare dinner experience out. We were all excited about it, including Hallee. Until now.

What to do. I panicked inside, I tell you. Should we still offer the same reward, even though she didn't quite hit the mark? Should we tell her, "Better luck next time, but you didn't quite accomplish the goal, so we can't go out now?" My mind hastily explored my options as I awaited the dreaded question I knew would come, "Mom, does this mean we can't go out?"

Man, parenthood is tough sometimes! I have been thinking about this a lot lately. As a parent, it seems vital to know when to be tough, to stick to your guns, to allow nothing less than what is required, and when to hold your child in your arms and offer support, acceptance and love, even when he or she hasn't quite hit the mark. There have been so many times over the years when I have been determined to follow through exactly, to be consistent, to show "tough love" when it was necessary, and then a moment has occurred when I looked into my child's eyes and knew that what he or she needed more at that moment was understanding, forgiveness, release from the pressure and of course love. Was this one of those moments?

I looked into her beautiful, heart-broken blue eyes and knew it was. "Of course we will still go out, honey. You've been a remarkable student this year, and you deserve it." I wrapped my arms around her and remembered once again why I loved this girl so much.

Here are a couple of pictures of our experience. Dan and I wanted it to be meaningful, so we all dressed up for the event. I made a special invitation and left it by her bedside table, writing in my best calligraphy (lol!). Nate volunteered (or maybe it was that we volunteered him) to watch the younger children so we could go, and off we went. I had been suffering from a migraine all day and wondered if I could manage the event, but knowing how much Hallee was looking forward to it, I donned my most comfortable dress (one I seldom wear due to the fact it makes me look pregnant) and tried as hard as I could to soak up the moment.

Ha! I look taller than her in this picture due to my shoe choice:)

Hallee loved every minute! Especially since she got to eat steak (steak--I didn't even know the Olive Garden served that), her favorite. I was so glad we took her. I was so glad I had listened to that overriding voice that told me to do it, even though she hadn't quite met her goal. And hopefully next time she will. I have all the confidence in the world in her.

Watch out, Junior High, here she comes!

Friday, June 15, 2012


A couple months ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a room of delegates on the importance of the family. In doing so, I shared some statitstics from the State of Our Unions Report in 2010 about the structure of the family in our nation. The numbers were a little staggering. From the decreasing number of marriages to the increasing number of births to adolescents and unmarried women, it is obvious our country could do well to focus more on the family, the basic unit of society.

Today, though, since I have fathers on my mind, let me share this statistic with you:
Only 63% of American children grow up with both biological parents (that’s the lowest percentage in the Western World). Twenty-three percent of children are growing up without their fathers. The implications of this are extraordinary. In his book, Fatherless America, David Blankenhorn writes:
“Tonight, about 40% of American children will go to sleep in homes in which their Fathers do not live. Before they reach the age of eighteen, more than ½ of our nation’s children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhoods living apart from their Fathers. Never before in this country have so many children been voluntarily abandoned by their Fathers. Never before have so many children grown up without knowing what it means to have a Father.

Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. It is the leading cause of declining child well-being in our society. It is also the engine driving our most urgent social problems, from crime to adolescent pregnancy to child sexual abuse to domestic violence against women. Yet, despite its scale and social consequences, fatherlessness is a problem that is frequently ignored or denied. . .

If this trend continues, fatherlessness is likely to change the shape of our society.” (Introduction, page 1).

As a voice for mothers, may I also be a voice for fathers? If anyone thinks fathers are not vital to the upbringing of children, they are in serious error. I cannot begin to describe the powerful influence of my husband on my children. And I can say right now I could not do it alone. He is an anchor in our home and an example of stability and strength my children desperately need. I thank God for him every day.

I recently had an experience that drove this topic home in a very clear way. I was away visiting family while my 10-year-old son opted to stay home with Dad so he wouldn't miss one of his baseball games. This was a great choice, but it did mean he was home alone for just a bit each day. His father left him with some work to do each morning while he was gone to keep him busy and things were working out great. But while he was home one day, something happened that upset him greatly.

I was visiting my brother when the phone rang. My son was sobbing. He could hardly speak as he begged me to come home. This was highly unusual behavior for this child, and I felt immediately that something was terribly wrong; however, I was over 2 hours away from home, so there was no way I could offer immediate help. The best I could do is tell my son to hang up the phone and say a prayer for comfort while I called his father in hopes he could get away from work to come home (looking back, I wish I would have done one thing better--prayed with him myself on the phone).

Fortunately, I was able to reach my husband right away. I explained that I didn't know what was going on but that I felt our son needed him right away. We talked for a few moments, then hung up. In the mean time, my son had called his dad and left a message. When my husband listened to the message, he too sensed an urgency to get home and left immediately.

As a mother my heart was greatly concerned for our precious child. I felt helpless, wishing I had insisted my son come with me instead of staying at home. At the same time, I was relieved that my husband works only 5 minutes from home and could leave right away. In the end, what I felt most was complete humility and gratitude for the way my husband handled the situation and what he did for my son, and I realized that maybe this situation occurred while I was away for a reason. My son needed his father. He needed his embrace, his encouragement, his understanding, his calm and measured influence. He needed someone with the Priesthood of God to comfort him and reassure him and pray with and for him. 

My heart goes out to anyone trying to raise children without a husband and to children who are growing up without a father. I am certain God watches over both with extra special care. One thing I am sure of--children need a mother and a father; at least, I know mine do. Here are a few pics of my husband with our children. Man, am I blessed to be married to this guy! He's such a great father.

Bear Lake (look how tiny our baby was!!)

Lagoon--he's the only one brave enough to go through the Haunted House with the kids.
Ice skating--I was the wimp on the sidelines taking pictures.

I love this picture for some reason!
Bountiful pool for Family Night.
Love this picture of him with our baby, taken just a couple weeks ago. His tie even matches her dress--how did that happen?:)

So, I dedicate this post to my husband, to my father, and to all men everywhere. Know you are so needed and so loved.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Family Vacation

I grew up in a family that didn't go on vacations. Ever. My dad was (is) a rancher, which meant he never really had time off, and then add the expense of travel, and we just simply didn't do it. Instead, we went as a family to State Volleyball and Basketball tournaments to support one another, something we all loved to do. We went on one family vacation my whole life--to Yellowstone--and had a great time together (that is, until the ride home, when we kids fought incessantly the whole way). So, I didn't really even know what a family vacation should consist of when I got married and started having children.

Well, this year we were so excited to get away and do something together as a family, we left two days after school ended. Our destination? St. George, Utah. Doesn't sound very exotic or amazing, I know, but for us, it was perfect. For one thing, not too far to travel in a car, and for another, most of our children hadn't ever been to southern Utah, so it was a new adventure. Lastly, it was rather inexpensive. What could be better?

Dreading the long car ride, I tried to plan ahead. After all, I the last thing I wanted was for our vacation to start off on the wrong foot. I bought a $5 movie I knew my kids loved, a coloring packet of felt pictures, snacks, and some great reading material and shoved them in what I lovingly called, a "Grab Bag," then explained my plan to the kids. If they could ride peacefully for 30 minutes, we would choose something from the bag to do. It worked! So often, my hair-brained ideas fail, but this one was actually effective. My kids were entertained the whole way there and didn't start asking, "How much further?" until we were nearly there. Here is a shot of the wall of pictures my kids colored on the way.

We arrived on a Sunday evening, so after moving in to the condo and going on a walk to scout out the premises, we snuggled into bed and hoped for sleep, despite our uncontained excitement. The next morning, we woke up and the fun began! I'm warning you, lots of pictures follow (and these are only a fraction of what I actually took). I just kept loving the moment so much, I had to snap a picture of it.
Nate, flexing his muscles by the pool

Hallee, lounging by the pool, shooting self-portraits of her beautiful face . . . and her feet apparently:)

Berkley wasn't too sure about her new swimming apparatus

Dan and I even managed to have matching swimsuits. Are we cool or what?

Kids PEACEFULLY playing games at the condo. Had to snap that.
Monday night we went to Tuacahn to see Aladdin. It was so awesome! I am so sad that my phone is having problems and I can't get it to send me the pictures I took that night. This was the first showing of Aladdin, a preview night, so we got in for a discounted rates and had great seats. It was completely full of people but so worth it. The only problem was that the show didn't start until 8:45 p.m. and it lasted for 3 hours, so by the time it was over, Regyn and Boston were so exhausted they could hardly stand it. The Genie was fabulous! It was truly a ton of fun.

Now, on to more pictures . . .

If there is one thing I have learned as a parent, it is this: kids love it when you're crazy! Seriously. My kids thing I'm a rock star when I let loose a little bit and act like a kid. And I just have to say, I enjoy it quite a bit myself:) I've gotten pretty good at it, too, I might add. Here are a few photos of me at the pool, acting even crazier than my kids. It was so much fun!!
Not exactly sure what I was going for in this one.

Or this one. I just needed someone to kiss and it would have been the perfect "kick back kiss." LOL!

Even more pictures of our fun:

Love this picture of "the Guys." Boston may need to work on his muscles just a bit.
While there, we spent an afternoon at the LDS Temple Visitors Center and watched a short but touching movie on families (I bawled my eyes out, as usual, but that stuff just hits me to the core). We saw some beautiful art on the Martin & Willie Handcart companies, then took some pictures outside the St. George Temple. These are my favorite. There is just such a special spirit around the temple, no matter which one it is.

This picture was too precious to not share. Love it.
Then we went to tour Brigham Young's winter home. So interesting.

Had to throw this picture in. The kids took the lenses out of our 3D glasses from Tuacahn and decided to sport the "nerdy" look. I love it!

On our last day, we visited Zion's National Park. We had a good time, but in truth, we should have probably not waited until the last day of our vacation to go. The kids (and Dan and I) were pretty exhausted from the week of fun and were less-than-enthusiastic hikers. Still a good experience though.
Berkley loved riding on Dan's back.

Loved this. I couldn't help but think to myself, I hope I can always teach my children to look up--for answers, for help, for guidance. They were looking at the "Weeping Rock," a beautiful structure of rocks that trickles of water fall from constantly, but seeing them all holding hands and looking up seemed so symbolic to me. Glad I caught a snapshot.

When we pulled in the driveway last night, Boston (5) said, "I"m sure glad to be home." I was surprised. We had just immensely enjoyed our time away together and I wondered if the kids would feel disappointed at being home again. "I love home," Nate (10) said, and he sounded almost giddy. My heart swelled within me at these simple comments. They meant more to me than my kids could have imagined. I work constantly at creating a family culture that is full of love and acceptance and forgiveness and happiness--one that is stronger than any other outside influence--and to hear my children express their gratitude to be home again made me feel like my efforts are not in vain. I love home, too. There is nowhere I love more. I hope my children always feel this way about coming home.