Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Flushed Away

Piano lessons.

Ugh! That's sort of my response when those two words come up. I, of course, am a piano drop-out and so have this nagging desire for my children to not have the regret I do. That means I want to sign them up for piano as soon as possible and then patiently tutor them through years of lessons until they master it well enough to at least play all the hymns and some other enjoyable music of their choice.

OK, so maybe instead of "patiently tutor" I should say, "nag, beg, force, coerce and manipulate." It never starts out that way. I mean, my two oldest children were just as excited to start piano lessons as I was for them to start. But then, it slowly wore of--the excitement, that is. Until, inevitably, I have found myself paying for weekly lessons without hearing the daily practice. That makes for slow piano learning, let me tell you. We seem to be on the 20-year plan when it comes to mastering those hymns, and I just can hardly take it.

Truthfully, Hallee is doing well (finally). She is to the point of practicing without complaint and without urging. Thus, she is making great progress. I love it!!!! There is hope for her.

Nate, on the other hand . . . well, let's just say, it's not quite that way. Let me explain.

Nate started lessons a couple of years ago and has done quite well. That is, until he became so actively involved in sports (his first love by a mile) that his free time became more limited. That led to a decreased desire to use some of that free time up practicing the piano. Now, I can hardly blame the kid, but still, 20-30 minutes/day just doesn't seem like it should kill him.

Here he is at his last piano recital in May. Doesn't he look like a piano player?

Long story short, this summer I finally decided to put my foot down. I had tried the reasonable techniques most mothers used: reward systems, encouragement, sitting down with him to practice, praise, etc. No results. There are times when moms have to pull out something more, when they have to dig deep and really come up with something good. Or maybe desperate is a better word.

I called Hallee and Nate into the bathroom one day a couple of months ago. I showed them a $10 bill and asked them how they would feel if I just flushed it down the toilet. Hallee immediately caught on to the object lesson, but Nate was a bit slower. "Why would you do that?" he asked. I simply repeated the question. "What would you think of me if I just ripped up this $10 bill and flushed it right down the toilet?"

"I'd think you were crazy!" Nate finally said. Aha! The desired response. That's when I ripped up the money before you could say "jackrabbit" and flushed it down the toilet--right before their bigger-than-saucer eyes (I just have to say it was worth it just to see the expressions on their faces).

My husband had come in at that point. My frugal, save every penny and count every penny you ever spend husband. "Was that real money?" he asked incredulously.

"Of course," I responded. "This powerful lesson wouldn't have been effective if it wasn't."

"Are you planning on doing that again?" I guess he realized we had TWO children in piano and thought I may have plans to do it twice. I shushed him. He was ruining the moment.

I looked at Nate, who was smiling in shock and disbelief and I think even a little respect and pride for his crazy old mom and said, "This is exactly what I'm doing every week when you don't practice the piano. I'm flushing my money right down the toilet, and you're right--it's crazy. In fact, I'm not doing it any more. You either practice or you're done." And then I left them all in the bathroom, wondering if I had inhaled too much cleaner for the day.

Now, I'm not suggesting to anyone that this is the way to light a fire under your children, but for me, it was my last great attempt at helping my 10-year-old understand the full commitment. I told him to think seriously about his choice because if he quit now, it wasn't likely he would ever start up again. To his credit, I think he did seriously consider his choice, and in the end, he decided to continue with lessons.

Another victory! Mom-1, kids-0. Not exactly.

The very next day, Nate began complaining once again about practicing. His lesson was the following day. He told me he had changed his mind. He really did want to quit. I told him it was too late. He complained all morning the next morning about having to go to his lesson. I ignored him. We drove to lessons. He came out ogling about how much he loved piano. I mean, was I on a roller coaster ride or what!?

This went on for a couple more weeks until I finally could stand no more. I sat him down, and using the best analogy I could think of--a sports one, of course--I explained to him the necessity of practicing. "You wouldn't expect your baseball coach to simply let you show up to the games, would you? You wouldn't expect to get better without practicing, would you?" He seemed to understand the concept when it came to sports. Piano? Not so much. Finally, I realized I was trying to save a sinking ship, and we decided together to let piano lessons go.

I wrote a heads-up e-mail to his amazing piano teacher but told Nate he had to talk to her in person to let her know he would no longer be taking lessons. We drove there the next day. We sat in front if his teacher (who, by the way, is so nice and such a great teacher and so easy to talk to). Nate whispered in my ear that he wished he was dead. There was an awkward silence. Finally, Nate said, "I think I'm just more of a sports guy." His teacher told him what a privilege it had been to teach him and that she would always leave a spot open for him if he changed his mind. And then we left.

Nate was soaring. I was nearly crying. I mean, seriously. I was hoping to raise a well-rounded individual who was somewhat cultured. My chances of that seemed to be gone now that he had quite piano. I knew in my heart he would never do it again. Life was only going to get busier, his demands greater. This was really it.

That was three weeks ago, and I'm sorry to say, I'm still not completely over it. But I'm OK. And I know Nate can still be a contributing member to society without playing the piano, but it sure is hard to let go of the pipe dream I always had of him being an amazing athlete AND a piano player. I guess I'll just have to settle for amazing athlete. And kid. Because he is a great kid. And I love him so much I could burst.

Life will go on, but I just have to say, I seriously don't know if I can commit any more children to piano lessons!

Friday, August 17, 2012

BYU Education Week

Just got back from BYU Education Week and my mind is in a flurry. And my heart. It was a wonderful experience. I have always wanted to go but could never swing it. This year I did. Thanks to Hallee and Nate (and Dan, of course) being willing to take care of things at home for a few days, I stole away with my mother-in-law and went to Provo. My darling sister-in-law, Jen, let us stay at her home there and got up early to fix us delicious breakfasts every day--omelets and smoothies and such. She's such a great hostess, seriously (man, I wish I would have taken a picture of her--she's darling). Never mind that she has four small children, including a 4-month-old baby and a husband who is equally wonderful but seldom home due to the fact that he is a graduate assistant to BYU football. Enough said, right?

Anyway, the last few days before it was time to leave I seriously debated whether I should go. I mean, I was dying for some inspiration and focus, but at the same time, I was deserting my family in the process of gaining what I hoped would make me a better mother and wife. Kind of ironic, don't ya think? In the end, I packed my bags and went, feeling only a little bit selfish. As I was headed out the door, Regyn began crying. "Why do you have to leave?" she asked. "I'm going to go learn how to be a better mom," I said. "But you already are!" she declared. I loved her for that comment. I took her in my arms and told her how much I loved her, then walked out to the car with a bit of a heavy heart.

Here I am with my booklet, my notebook and my bag of snacks, also my name tag.

Here is the booklet of classes. The theme this year was from Proverbs: "Where there is no vision, the people perish."
Not for long, however. I woke up the next morning eager to soak up as much knowledge and guidance as I possibly could get. The hard part is deciding which of the many amazing classes they offer to attend. Seriously.
Here is one page of the list of classes. There are tons more. Everything from gardening to food storage to parenting to legal issues and much, much more.
I ran from class to class all day, not even stopping for lunch. I had packed some snacks in my bag and munched on those during the breaks. One great thing was that one of my dear friends happened to be there all week, too. And I'm sorry to say I didn't get a picture with her, either, dabnabit. We attended some classes together, which was fun, then shared a wrap later in the afternoon and went to dinner together with her and her family that night. I was so tired by this point but she talked me into going to one of the night classes. It started at 8:30 p.m. (I know--late, right?). She told me I would not be disappointed.

She was right. The presenter was Scott L. Anderson. The topic was "A Perfect Brightness of Hope." It was a wonderful experience. The air was thick with the spirit. I laughed. I cried. I felt a desire to be better. It was everything I needed. I found myself so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and for the spirit that teaches us more powerfully than anything else could. I went to bed that night tired but grateful.

Next morning I was just as eager. I again spent the day mulling over classes, jotting down notes and just soaking up all the information I could get on topics relevant to my life right now. It was like I was a seedling in a drought and the heavens had just opened up and poured light and knowledge down on me, livening my senses and awareness of all I need to do better in my life. I felt God's love so powerfully I could not speak. I felt like I was opening my mouth to the rain and just swallowing its living waters in as large of gulps as I could.

That night my sister-in-law, mother-in-law and I went to the Vocal Point Concert. What a treat! They were awesome. Their singing is amazing, but what impressed me the most was their charisma and their goodness. It emanated from them every time they spoke or sang. I highly recommend that opportunity if you ever get it. I loved it!
Don't know why this is sideways. I corrected it, but it keeps going back this way. Sorry.
After two-and-a-half days and 19 classes, I started home feeling refreshed, renewed and grateful. I had learned so much. I had remembered so much. Mostly, I had felt so much. And all of it made me want to be better. I realize the hard part is to live what I felt, to implement into my life the inspiration that came to me about my relationships and my responsibilities and my life, but at the same time, I must also remember it happens one day at a time. I can't conquer it all in one fail swoop, so I have to be patient enough to do what I can today.

One thing I seriously hope to do is keep this blog up better. My goodness, I have struggled with that this summer, and I'm sorry to say I have missed recording some darn good stuff, memories I never want to forget.

Life is so good. It's hard, but it's good. I start thinking about how good the Lord has been to me and I find myself asking why? The only thing I can figure out is that He just loves us more than we can comprehend. I felt that so strongly this week. God's love. It's amazing. It's truly more powerful than I can ever understand, but it's real. And if there's anyone He's more than anxious to bless, it's mothers and fathers. Families. We are not alone on this trek called life. And boy, am I grateful! I could never do this alone.

More soon.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Random Summer Happenings

Wowzers! I am so far behind. Summer just keeps flying by and I very seldom even make it to the computer (which, I have to admit, has been kinda wonderful). Whereas I use to be on this puppy every day, I think it's been . . . well, since my last blog post. . . since I've even sat down at this thing. It's been fabulous to not be tied to it, the down side being I have missed recording some things. Oh well, here are a few random occurrences floating in my head today.

You know how your kids will sometimes show up after church or school with a little bag of seeds to plant? It's usually because they had a lesson in Sunday School that tied into faith or planting seeds, or because they are learning about photosynthesis or something in school. I decided a long time ago I'm not a fan of these little bags of seeds simply for the fact that they always get my child's hope up that some miracle is going to grow from them, when in reality, we're lucky to even remember to water them once or twice in a month's time.

Anyway, Nate came home from church at the beginning of the summer with a bag of the dreaded seeds. I didn't think much of it. I've learned to act excited, then conveniently get rid of them a few days later when my child has forgotten they exist. This time, however, he was so excited, he found a little pot and was determined to plant his seeds. Thankfully, Hallee reasoned with him that if his seeds were what he claimed them to be--watermelon and zucchini--they would probably need to be planted in something larger than a little pot. I thought this was the end of the story.

I was wrong.

About a month or so later, I was weeding in the back yard when Nate rushed to stop me from pulling what I thought were two rather large weeds, claiming he had actually planted his seeds in the side yard, right by the downstairs entrance. I was surprised, to say the least, since I had thought the matter had been closed long before and that the seeds had magically disappeared. I avoided picking his plants and moved on.

Well, another month later, and this is what we now have:

Those are two large plants, let me tell you. This all happened with absolutely no care. Apparently, the sprinklers water them (my husband also almost pulled them out as weeds a couple of times) and they get enough sunshine to thrive. Who knew?

To top it off, one of them is actually growing zucchini!! It happens to be the plant Nate told us was the watermelon, but who's keeping track:)

One of the zucchinis was pretty darn large (this coming from someone who's never grown anything before, so maybe I'm naive).
Here's Nate with his proud zucchini (I mean, here's proud Nate with his zucchini--the zucchini probably isn't too proud:)

Boston picked one up and said, "Doesn't this look like my smile?" I loved it so I had to include it.

Then here's another Nate moment. I realize I've blogged a lot about this 10-year-old kid lately, but he happens to take a lot of parenting energy, even though he's a great kid. So, I feel like I've spent a lot of time and energy on him this summer. Anyway, he went to the gym with Dan and me the other day. In the process of our work-out, he happened to make a comment about my thighs. I didn't actually hear him, but his dad did and got after him a little bit. Now, I absolutely don't want my son saying negative things about anyone's body so I was grateful Dan immediately pointed out that it was disrespectful, but I also have to admit he was right about my thighs--they are flabby--and knowing his sense of humor and the mood he was in, I wasn't offended.

However, when I went to bed that night, this is the note I found on my pillow.
Sorry this is sideways--I changed it but it didn't stay, for some reason.

A closer look
In case you can't read it, it says, "To Mom, I am sorry that I said that you have fat thyse. You look great for your age. Love, Nate."

I love it! His spelling cracks me up, to say the least, but the "looking great for my age" was the kicker. I learned long ago you can either cry at the things your kids say or laugh. I try to laugh most the time. This one definitely brought a chuckle and smile. That kid is a corker but he sure has a good heart and I just love him to death.

On one of our trips to Cokeville this summer, I got such a kick out of Regyn and Boston and their darling cousins. I mean, these kids are ingenious. Most kids would come up with the idea of selling lemonade or having a little yard sale or something to make a little money, but not these kids. They came up with something much more unique. Selling rocks.

The part that really makes me smile is the sign. It doesn't just say, "Rocks for Sale," but rather, "Cool Rocks for Sale." What makes them cool? Well, I'll tell you. They colored them with markers and crayons. These are no ordinary rocks, mind you. These are cool rocks!
It looks like they had trouble spelling the word, "sell" but finally got it almost right. It just makes me smile.
I just love the randomness of summer. After nine months of tight schedules, it's so great to enjoy the spontaneity of summer life. I can only handle about three months of it and then I'm ready for a better routine again, but for now, I'm so glad it's summer!