Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ten Things I Love About You

My kids aren't perfect; in fact, they each have their own set of little weaknesses and annoyances that cause them to stumble at times and be unhappy and drive others crazy. But they are mine, dabnabit, and I just love them so much it's crazy, and so, although I am more than aware of all their flaws, what I want to do most is focus on all that makes them absolutely wonderful.

As a mother, it's so easy to find myself pointing out their inadequacies on a regular basis: "You left your clothes on the bathroom floor"; "You did not get your work done before school this morning"; "You are whining constantly"; "You're bothering your sister" and on and on. If a child is going through a difficult stage, it's especially easy to find negative things to criticize him/her for. But you know what? That negative feedback just isn't helpful. When I'm having a bad day and behaving less-than-appropriately, it does not help if someone points that little fact out; in fact, it seems to usually only make matters worse. And so, a major goal of mine as a mother is to fill my children with positive affirmations about themselves--not just about their physical abilities and talents--but more importantly, about the goodness of their souls.

We live in a world ready to tear us apart if it possibly can. I feel from the deepest corners of my heart that if my children are going to make it through the slush pile, so to speak, they need to know who they are and use those intrinsic strengths to ignore the jabs and demeaning criticism around them and simply forge ahead in the path they feel they should choose. That means I must help them realize their worth, and then realize it again and again and again.

It sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, I haven't found it to be quite that easy. It's something I think about and work on constantly. I don't just want to toss flowers at my children by showering them with flattering words that produce pride and haughtiness; I want to sincerely praise the qualities they each possess that make them who they really are, to help them see what strength of character they can each develop if they dig deep enough within themselves, to help them focus on the kind of people they want to become and to start the journey of becoming that person today through the choices they make. Not so simple anymore.

About a month ago, I was thinking about my children and the different qualities I loved about each one. All of a sudden, I had an idea. I ran to the computer and compiles four lists--one for each of my older children (the ones who can read). Here's what the lists looked like:

They are nothing fancy, as you can see, but they are sincere and they are positive. I taped them on the ceiling right above their beds so that they could read them every night before falling asleep and be reminded of how much their mother loves them. Life requires me to discipline when needed, to follow through with undesirable consequences, to reprimand at times and do plenty of negative stuff more regularly than I would like, making it so vital for my children to have a deep-seeded knowledge of how very much I love them so they know I am disciplining and correcting and training them because I truly want what is best for them, rather than because I don't like them or because I enjoy being a dictator over them. If there is one thing I hope my children can always say, it is that they always knew their mother loved them deeply.

Now, I must admit a few of the points I mentioned on these papers are actually qualities I am hoping they will develop, rather than ones they've actually mastered. It's not fluff, however. It's something I've seen within them at times--just not often enough. And so I'm hoping if they see it, they will begin to believe it and then they will begin to become it. I guess you could say I believe in "self-fulfilling prophecy."

Right now my four oldest children all share one bedroom, the girls on one side and the boys on the other. It makes for quite an interesting motif, I must say. The room is a combination of sports paraphernalia, flowers, dolls, and pictures of temples--each child's favorite one.

Flowers vs. Sports
Hallee's favorite temple--San Diego (her picture is framed and nice--she got it for her 12th birthday)

Nate's, Boston's and Regyn's favorite temples: Draper, Logan, Bountiful (the paper below the temple pictures is a list of Hallee's goals this year)
So, I'm pretty sure this bedroom will never end up in a home decorating magazine, but I still smile every time I walk in (especially if the beds are made) because it is filled with things I hope my children will always remember and it is home to four little people I love like crazy.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

American Mothers Mini-Conference

Ever wondered where your "happily ever after" went? Still trying to make home "the Happiest Place on Earth"? Hoping your motherhood dreams really do come true? (Don't you just love the Disney theme?) Well, you won't want to miss this then.

Below is a flyer about an American Mothers Mini-Conference in Providence, Utah on Saturday, October 27th. I've been to this conference a few times, and it is always wonderful! Seriously. If you can go, do it! It will be worth it. I will be there doing a little demonstration on how to begin a new chapter of American Mothers, so if you are wondering about that, please stop by.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Back-to-School Jitters

Each one of my children is so different.

Where one might love the spotlight, another would rather die than have attention on him/her; where one might be super good at math, another can't add two plus two; where one is responsible, another might need more consistent direction. I used to hate this little fact, wondering why God couldn't just send similar kids to the same family. That way, if the parents happened to figure out how to relate to one child, they could simply follow the same routine for the others. But, of course God is much more wise than that.

He knew we parents had way too much to learn from these different little personalities that enter our homes. And truthfully, I've grown to appreciate the differences in my children and love them for them.

One personality that has been a bit of a stretch for me to relate to is my sweet little seven-year-old. Regyn is a bundle of helpfulness, sweetness, and type A personality all rolled into one. She is also very sensitive (especially if her 10-year-old brother says anything to her at all, and I mean anything), a bit bossy, and man alive, she knows how to put people in their place if necessary. I'd like to say she developed some of these weaknesses from her dear old dad, but I'm afraid they are all a bit too familiar to me for me to pass the buck on these puppies. I too tend to be bossy, sensitive and . . .well, let's just focus on Regyn for a moment.

Who couldn't love this little charmer?
Every school year since kindergarten Regyn has struggled for the first few weeks. It shocks me, honestly, but I can expect a phone call from her at school regularly for the first couple of weeks, complaining of one ailment or another. This year she got really creative one day and told me she had an itchy eye and couldn't possibly be expected to focus on her school work with her eye itching. When I talked with her teacher, she told me her eye looked fine, of course.Ugh! How do I handle this situation?

The crazy thing about it all is that Regyn is a very good student, and she's as friendly and outgoing as ever. She spends hours at home playing "school" because she loves it so much, so it's such a mystery to me to know why she suddenly becomes extremely insecure at the beginning of each new school year, but it causes me so much turmoil. I mean, I don't want to be insensitive to her fears. I want her to know how very much I love her and care about her. I want to be empathetic. At the same time, I know she's physically fine, and I don't want to start habits that could be very detrimental in the long run. I want her to learn to push through uncomfortable situations and do hard things. It's a tough balance.

So, a couple of weeks ago when she was complaining about going to school, an idea came to mind. I told her I wanted her to notice every good thing that happened to her throughout the day and write it on a piece of paper--when the teacher praised her, when someone asked her to play, when she answered a question correctly, when someone smiled at her--everything! Her response? "Mom, people smile at me all the time; it's no big deal."

My response? "Fabulous! Then you're going to have a great day, aren't you?" Sensing her lack of enthusiasm over this idea, I pushed it aside, thinking it would never actually happen. But, thankfully, I was wrong. Regyn came home from school that day and shoved a piece of paper in my hands.

the front

the back
In case you can't read it, it says (in original spelling), "Dear Mom, I love you. What was happy about my day was thet Alli came and thet I came home and thet I got to vollinteer and the teacher said something nice." I absolutely love the picture on the back! It's so simple but it just reaches into the corners of my heart and makes me smile.

Anyway, I was shocked she'd actually completed the assignment. What has shocked me even more is that she hasn't called me from school a single time since! Whether it really has anything to do with the this little project or not, I can't say, but I'm so thrilled she's doing better. And I've decided next year, if this little scenario creeps up again, I'm trying this little exercise first!

And even if I have to help her through this little problem every year until she graduates from college, I just have to say, she's totally worth it!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Family Life

School has officially been in session for one month now, and just as I supposed, life has suddenly become very demanding and crazy. Part of me loves it; part of me hates it. I love the growth I feel when we are being stretched a bit; I love the necessity of working together and everybody doing their part to make it all flow; I love watching my kids do what they love and shine (i.e. sports). Now to the hate part. I hate feeling overwhelmed; I hate dragging my youngest child(ren) around to one thing after another; I hate how it all seems to inevitably turn me into a nagging, stressed-out woman.

That last part is the part that gets me to me the most. I mean, I really don't want to be that person. I want to be calm, in control, loving and kind. I want to handle the pressure and responsibility that always builds up at this time of year with finesse, character and perspective. I want to be amazing.

The problem is, I'm not--amazing, that is. And every time I try to become everything that adjective seems to imply, I begin losing my grip a little, and before long, I'm anything but amazing. So this year I decided I was going to be proactive. I was going to take it one week, one day, at a time. I was going to take a lot of deep breaths, breathe in a lot of chamomile, and glide smoothly through each ruffle that came my way with clarity and ease.

Wow! That sounds a lot like a commercial and not reality at all. The past couple of weeks as pressure has mounted and my personal responsibilities have increased, I've felt it all coming on. Slowly I've started nagging more and more and noticing all that is NOT  getting done, rather than what is. So, this morning I called my children into the bedroom and told them I was going to make a change now--before it gets worse. I reminded them of how much I need them to do their parts so I had the time and energy to do mine. I reminded them of how unhappy we all are when I become the grumpy, naggy witch, and then I tell them all to look me right in the eyes as I profess my love for them. Because, darnit, I love them so much it hurts. Then we read scriptures and get to work.

Yes, I still nagged a bit, but it was a happier nag. The kids all got off to school and I was just about to take a deep breath when the phone rang. It was a friend of mine. She asked me if she had somehow offended me because she felt I had been ignoring her lately. I wanted to burst into a fit of tears right there on the telephone but I managed to wait until after we hung up. Of course she hadn't offended me! She's wonderful and I love her dearly. I tried explaining how life had just becoming so crazy I was hardly doing more than keeping my head above water. She graciously told me she understood and we ended the call. But I felt horrible. I mean, if I have so much to do I end up neglecting people who mean a lot to me, where does that leave me?

The dam  broke and I allowed the tears to flow freely down my face. I thought of all the ways I hadn't been a good friend, a good wife, a good neighbor, a good mother, a good . . .well, you get the picture. I went to my bedroom to throw myself on my bed and cry it all out when I noticed something unusual. The first thing is that my bed was actually made. I have always been very consistent with bed-making, but this week, it hadn't happened once. So, I took note that the bed was made and thought my husband must have done it before he left for work. But then I looked more closely through my tears and noticed a paper on the pillows. I picked it up and read it. Again, the tears stung my eyes as I read, but this time, they were for a whole different reason. The note was from Nate. It read: "From Nate. You are the best mom so I made your bed for you. Love you."

Man alive, I needed that! So unexpected, so simple and so sweet. I was only sad he was gone to school so I couldn't wrap him in my arms and squeeze him like crazy. How could he know how much I needed to have someone tell me I'm "the best"? I sat down on the bed and thought of how grateful I am for these children of mine and how I could never make it without them. And then I thought of all the reasons I'm stressed out and busy and realized almost every reason is because of these kids, and it put it all back into perspective.

First year soccer is a bit painful to watch, but man, does Boston love it!

Here is my 7th grader starting for the 9th grade team. I'm so darn proud of her.

This kid never ceases to amaze me. Man, I love this #20, and boy, can he play football!
(I don't even have a picture of Regyn doing gymnastics, but she is loving that and improving so fast).

Yes, we are busy. Yes, I feel stress at times--too much of it. But we are happy. We are learning and growing together. We are helping one another. We are heavily involved in what matters most--family life--and we wouldn't trade it for anything.