Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Life is IN the interruptions, part 2

This is a P.S. to the post that comes just before this.

So I asked Jacob if he understood what "Life is IN the interruptions" means. He said, "Life is in the interruptions because the interruptions are fun. Without interruptions, all you would do is work."

That really made me laugh. It highlights the difference between a teenage boy, who wants to do anything but work, and a mom, who just wants to be able to get her work done. ; )

Monday, November 28, 2011

Life is IN the interruptions

I finish our Christmas letter, and Rich is proof-reading it. He has a couple of corrections. Then he wants an explanation of one of the favorite quotes I always like to share. "So what does "Life is IN the interruptions" mean?" he aks. "Is it like a play on words, with in and life? What exactly does life mean in that sentence?"

I look at him curiously. "You don't understand what that means?"

He looks back at me a little sheepishly. "Well, I mean, I guess I understand. But do you mean like joy is in the interruptions?"

Katie walks in the room, so I ask her if she knows what the quote means. She responds, "Sure, you know, like life is in being interrupted. You know. Like, you haven't really lived until you have been interrupted?"

Rich pipes in. "Maybe it means that you haven't really lived until you have interrupted someone else?"

At this point, I am figuring out that they don't really understand. Of course. They go to school and work all day. They don't know what it's like to have every thought, every task, every attempt to accomplish something interrupted by someone else.

So I patiently explain.

"You know, life, the things that matter, the things you need to cherish and spend your time on."

"It's like when I am trying to make dinner, and Anna comes in and announces that she wants to help me. Really all I want to do is just get dinner made. But we stop to find her an apron, and then everything takes ten times as long because she wants to do it all. But I let her help, because life is IN the interruptions."

"Or when kids get home from a dance or a date or a party. I really just want to sleep. But I stay up and talk about who was there and who they danced with and how it went. Life is IN the interruptions, even when it's your sleep that is being interrupted."

"Or when, every time we try to have a conversation on the bed after church, three or four kids come plop on the bed to join us. Or when you are trying to think, and somebody wants to read you his birthday list right now, even though his birthday is not for four and a half months. Or somebody else wants to read you the page of funny jokes he just read in the Life magazine. Or when you were just settling down, finally, to read your book, and somebody wants to play Candyland."

"Life is IN the interruptions, especially with children, because someday the interruptions, and the children, will be gone."

Rich says, "Okay, I get it." Then he feels the need to defend himself a little. "I would have guessed right if the question about what it meant had been multiple choice, you know," he says. "I just wasn't quite sure of my answer because it was a fill in the blank."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Redfern twins and the bother of parenting

Today, my oldest niece gave birth to twin baby boys. The text came in around 6 am telling us that Albus and Jimmer were here. My husband's reaction: "Jimmer? Really?"

The next text came several minutes later. "Just kidding. We couldn't resist." They really named the boys Christian and Connor. 6 lb. 4 oz and 5 lb 14 oz, respectively, mother and babies all doing well.

This took me back nearly 17 1/2 years when my own baby twins were born. They weighed almost the same, 6 lb 4 oz and 5 lb 11 1/2 oz. I just can't help thinking about all we have been through and gained over the past 17 plus years.

Yesterday, Rich ate lunch with an older man who never had children. He told Rich as they were discussing his plans for retirement, "We don't have kids, so we don't have to bother with all that."

Bother. Maybe that is a good word to describe some of the headaches of parenting. It is a bother, when you look back on it, to give up sleep and hot meals and all capacity to think through a complete thought, when children are little. It's a bother not to be able to do things when you want to do them. It's a bother to have to change your schedule based on other people. It's a bother to try to figure out how to pay for college and missions, and basketball camp, and to wonder how on earth you are going to help this busy teenager find time to complete his Eagle project. And to stay up til midnight (or later) helping with big school projects. It is definitely a bother when they are sad or disappointed, and when they are sick. Yes, there is a lot of bother in being a parent.

The problem is, if you give up all the 'bother', you give up all the wonder and amazement and fun too. Like just this week. Rich had to leave for work before 5 am, and I was up with a sick child during the night. So when 6 am rolled around, Katie and Jacob were on their own. They got themselves up, got themselves breakfast, made lunches, and got themselves to seminary and then to school. I was amazed by these fabulous teenagers we have. Wow.

What would life be without laughing with them this morning before seminary about the crazy Jimmer and Albus text? Or without hearing about how it went when Jacob asked Ashley to homecoming? Or figuring out Katie's busy practice schedule for the musical at the high school, looking forward to watching her perform next month?

Life is so much more fun and sweet and full because, 17 years ago, two babies entered our lives. There have absolutely been times full of 'bother'. But there have also been times full of hugs and kisses and learning and teaching and happiness. And in the end, we have these great people to love and to be a part of our lives.

Besides, I think all the bother is a part of the plan. How can we ever become selfless like the Savior if we don't have something that makes us forget ourselves?

Here's a quote by Erika Jong from the Mary Engelbrite book Motherhood that I love:

You give up yourself, and finally you don't even mind. I wouldn't have missed this for anything. It humbled my ego and stretched my soul. It gave me whatever crumbs of wisdom I possess today.

Brandon and Whitney, you are starting on a wonderful road. You will love it. (And there will be times when you will wonder what on earth you've gotten yourselves into!) The babies will grow, and so will you. What a happy day! Enjoy!!

Monday, August 29, 2011


"Nothing worth having is easy."

Katie is taking a life skills class from a fabulous teacher who tries to inspire her class with simple, meaningful, daily quotes. Katie writes some of them on the white board in our kitchen. This was today's quote.

Boy, is it true.

I was thinking about how this applies to family life this morning, as I dug through the post-Sunday mess and tried to pull the house back together. I feel guilty for thinking this stage of life is hard because people will tell you all the time how the best years are when your children are young. They reminisce about how much they miss the little handprints on the wall and the pitter-patter of little feet. I always want to ask if they miss the footprints on the walls where the boys continually climb up to hang from the ledges that the architect put there just to torture mothers? Or do they miss the feeling that a herd of elephants has escaped and is running through the house, as kids chase one another up and down the hallways? What about the crushed top ramen noodles all over the kitchen floor where somebody was eating at the computer, again, even though it's against the rules? Because I am just not sure I am going to miss any of those things later.

This morning during some rare time alone, I was pondering how messy and busy and crazy life feels right now. Into my mind came this image:

Imagine that you are building a house. You begin with the foundation. At that point, you've created a big mess; it's just a big slab of cement that sure doesn't look like much.

Next, you begin to add the frame. There are nails and sawdust and tools everywhere. The progress is slow, and things begin to take a bit of shape, but the house is really still a picture in your mind. It takes imagination to see how this frame will become the comfortable home of the future.

Eventually, you begin to add the walls and roof. Then the details start to come into place, as you add the specific items needed for each room in the house. It's a long, slow process, but over time, with patience and work, the house will finally be finished.

I realized that we are in the middle of building a family, which is not unlike building a house. We laid the foundation when we had the children. Over the years, we have put up the frame. But now are the years of adding the details to finish each individual. It is slow, specific, time-consuming work. Each person in the family, like each room in the house, needs something different and needs individual attention during this stage. A lot of our time goes to supporting children in sports, school, and activities, and in celebrating their individual achievements and accomplishments. Oh, and in feeding people and then cleaning up from feeding people. It's messy work. Yet there are glimpses of the people they will become.

One additional thought I had. No one would ever tell you as you are building a house that the greatest joy comes during the building time. Sure, it's exciting to see the work progress, and it feels good to be working hard on something that is important. But it's a lot of work. There are years of joy to be had when the majority of the work is behind you, and you get to live in the completed house!

This image sure helped me to feel more patient with our current stage of life. It's messy and it's slow, but we are accomplishing a great work in the lives of each one of our children.

And isn't that what life is really all about?

Monday, July 25, 2011

In good company

I am not a good summer blogger. In fact, I am not good for much in the summer, except wandering around my house between sprinting from one summer activity to the next, wondering when I am ever going to have time for all those projects I put off until summer break.

However, I did have a moment this week to kneel down in exhausted prayer. I was feeling tired and a bit discouraged. It seems like someone in our family always has something that I am worrying about. Like I naively expected to get projects done over the summer, I think I also--naively--expected to have a break from the worrying. Worrying that someone didn't get invited to the party. Worrying that someone else needs more to keep him busy. Worrying that we are not meeting the needs of this child. Worrying that the athlete won't do well. Or the student won't do well. Worrying about the injured hand, foot, finger, shoulder. Worrying about inexperienced teenage drivers coming home from midnight movies, or a tired husband driving in the canyon.

So I knelt down one day this week, and I expressed the thought that I don't really like it that all these people give me so many things to worry about all the time.

Do you know what the answer was? It sure stopped me in my complaining tracks.

The answer was something like, "So you don't want to be like me? Because my children give me a lot of things to worry about."

Ah. So I when signed up to care about Heavenly Father's children, I signed up for worrying. Okay.

It made me feel a lot better. I guess this is what I signed up for, and I am surely in good company.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Long suffering--even during summer vacation

For the past week and a half since school got out, I have found myself getting more and more snippety every day.

I think it’s having so many bodies home again all the time. It’s that many more children leaving messes and dragging their feet about breakfast chores. It’s that many more people making food, again, and leaving their 3rd cup on the counter, half-way full of milk.

I think it’s also that we aren’t keeping our regular routine, which means there is a lot more playing going on. That means a lot more toys not put away. And a lot more books, and blankets, and shoes, left right where the person had been lying for hours reading. And a lot more distractions when the time comes to stop playing and get a few things done.

I find myself wandering through the house wondering why I am the one working so much, with all these kids around me vacationing.

Actually, there are lots of fun things about summer, too--things like movies and play dates and blogging at 8 am on a Tuesday.

But the irritating things are making me tense. So I have been a little snippety.

Then I read this scripture. 1 Nephi 19:9 And the world shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it, and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and long-suffering towards the children of men.

The words that really jumped out at me were long-suffering. What does it mean to be long suffering like the Savior?

Well, using the example given in the scripture, it at least means to show submissiveness and patience, even with those who hate us and want to kill us and do terrible things to us. It means putting up with hard things because of love. It also means seeing a greater purpose in the suffering, and thus being willing to suffer long. In the Savior's case, He was suffering these things because He knew He needed to give up His life in order for all of Heavenly Father's children to receive eternal life and to be given the opportunity to live with Him again.


Maybe long-suffering for me could mean showing the children a little more patience and loving kindness right now, especially since my children actually love me and don't mean to be doing irritating things .

Maybe it means using a nice voice--not a voice laced with irritation and impatience--to ask them do the things I need them to do.

Maybe it means overlooking some of the things they aren't doing just right, giving them the benefit of the doubt that it's vacation and that everyone is tired from a long school year.

Maybe it means trying to overlook the negative and instead focus on the positive things they are doing. They are playing nicely together. Other than that first day, there has been very little fighting, especially when you consider the very depressing and unusually rainy and overcast weather. Several children have school work that has to be done over the summer, or ACT prep, and they are doing it mostly without complaint. When they do forget to do something, and I ask them to come clean up or finish their chore, or whatever, they most often do it cheerfully.

Yes, there are plenty of good things I am not noticing that could be pointed out.

Speaking of seeing things with greater purpose, the great purpose of summer break is to give children some time off from the intense school year schedule (not to mention the teachers.) It also gives families some much needed time together. So I suppose the good always comes with some challenges. In this case, it's more bodies. And more mess. And more thoughtlessness in the face of wanting to get on with the business of having fun. Since it's all for such a good reason, I guess I can try to be a little more patient with it.

So my goal for the rest of the summer is to be more long-suffering, and to show more loving kindness. I'm also going to try to look at the positive and keep the negative to myself as much as possible. I'm going to try to overlook the more obvious mess and enjoy being together as a famlily. And I'm going to keep "I'm sorry for snapping at you" right on the tip of my tongue. Because, let's face it, they all have to learn some long-suffering and loving kindness, too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another Lesson about Mercy

Last week, I was studying the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. I noticed while studying it that both the prodigal son and the older, righteous brother feel that the sins of the younger son are so great that he doesn't deserve any mercy.

I recognized from this parable my inclination to think that we need to 'deserve' mercy and earn it, rather than be given it as a gift from a loving Heavenly Father and His Son.

At the same time as I was studying this parable for my Sunday School lesson, I was also trying to hold a firm stance with our older kids about finding a summer job. They had been super busy and had not had much time to look. I was worried they would get into summer mode and spend their time relaxing and being with friends and never get a job at all. So Rich and I told them that they would lose their driving privilege, except to look for a job, once the school year was over.

One evening last week, I suddenly realized that Katie would finally be able to drive friends one day before school gets out (which is when the mandatory one-year waiting period required in California would be up.) I also realized that she would immediately lose that privilege because she had not yet found a job. We talked about it, and I explained my position: she needed the consequence of not being able to drive in order to motivate her to look for a job. It would be painful, I explained, but it would be worth it.

It all made perfect sense to me, and I went to bed feeling like a good parent for holding firm despite internal pressure to give in.

That night I had a very vivid dream. I was going to the temple, but I had forgotten to bring my temple clothes. So the nice temple workers were trying to help me gather what I would need to participate in the temple session in time. I had arrived a bit late, and so we were rushing. They gathered me shoes from over here, stockings from there, a dress from some place else. When we finally got everything I needed, I noticed that Katie was with me. We both began to rush down a long hallway, trying to reach the temple session in time.

Just as we were getting closer to the room for the session, the doors closed. We missed it! I couldn't believe it!

Then, a voice came in my mind. "Well, these are the consequences of your actions. You didn't bring temple clothes and you didn't get here on time, so you miss the session."

I then woke up from the dream. This dream felt pretty real to me because I am usually late and rushing every where I go, especially the temple. I always pray like crazy, and it always works out.

Several times, I have come to the temple without a recommend or have been unusually late getting there. Yet every time, Heavenly Father finds a way to show me mercy. The time I left my wallet at home, it just so happened that our Stake President was right in front of us and vouched for me.

It was very clear to me that this dream was to remind me how much heaven gives me mercy in my life, as well as to jog my memory about trying to show more mercy to my children as well.

I knelt down to pray and was reminded how hard Katie has been working in track. Also, how she was offered a job but had to turn it down because it would have forced her to give up running track. Also how obedient and good she had been about obeying the law not to drive friends, even though everyone else around her breaks that law. Also how she had not even complained about the threat to lose her driving period, even thought she had been counting down the days to be able to drive friends.

I felt so dense for not realizing all this before. I also felt pretty unappreciative for what a good daughter we have, and I felt like we had been inappropriately harsh. And I felt very sheepish.

Let's just say that Rich and I decided to modify our position a bit. I mean, looking for a job is probably more under their control than finding a job anyway, right? And I went right downstairs to tell Katie how much I appreciate her obedience to the law and her hard work and to tell her how much I love her.

Why is showing mercy in parenting so hard?

Maybe it's because I don't want our children to make the same mistakes I did. Maybe I see things from a perspective of looking back, and I want them to do it 'just right' to save them the pain of learning the hard way. Maybe I forget what it's like to be a kid, or maybe I expect more from them than even from myself. Maybe I'm not very patient.

Maybe I'm learning.

I think it is of note that the person showing mercy in the parable of the prodigal son is the Father. The Savior didn't hide that comparison or make it hard to figure out, did he? He made it plain as day. The Father always shows us mercy. He always offers up forgiveness with open arms. Are there consequences? Sure, but they are always buffered as much as possible, especially as we try to do our best.

Here is my favorite quote from Sunday's lesson:

Referring to the parable of the prodigal son, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: "I ask you to read that story. Every parent ought to read it again and again. It is large enough to encompass every household, and enough larger than that to encompass all mankind, for are we not all prodigal sons and daughters who need to repent and partake of the forgiving mercy of our Heavenly Father and then follow His example?"

Ah, to learn to follow His example...thank goodness for a persistent Holy Ghost.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Following the Master

Please remember this one thing. If our lives...are centered upon Jesus Christ...nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be permanently right.

--President Howard W. Hunter

Monday, April 18, 2011


I had new thought this week on a scripture that I have read many times.

2 Nephi 25:26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

I think it's interesting that Nephi doesn't say that they preach of Christ so that their children will turn out perfectly, or have perfect testimonies.

Instead, he says that they, the prophets, write to make sure their children know where to look when they need to be forgiven of their sins.

It makes me think of Alma the Younger. When he was 'harrowed up' by the memory of his sins, he suddenly remembered that his father had taught about 'one Jesus Christ.' His mind focused on this, and he turned to Jesus Christ and prayed to be forgiven.

This shows me that, once again, making mistakes, big ones and little ones, is a part of the plan. So when people that we love make mistakes, I guess it shouldn't surprise us. All individuals are given their free agency and the ability to learn for themselves right from wrong. This leads to mistakes, which are naturally part of the learning process.

Our job is t0 keep rejoicing in and preaching Christ to help those we love (and ourselves!) remember that we can turn to Him.

And sometimes the way we rejoice in and preach Christ is very quiet--by loving unconditionally.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 5 Elder and Sister Oaks

Finally, a minute to post about Elder and Sister Oaks' talks from last year. A member of the Quorum of the Twelve, and often his wife, always speak in the closing session of Women's Conference. I love it because you really end on a high note.

(Rich's sister says I am an advertisement for Women's Conference. I guess I am! That's because it's the best women's retreat ever!!)

Anyway....Elder Oaks lost his first wife. Kristin, his second wife, was single before she married Elder Oaks. She is very beautiful. One thing I remember from her talk is that she pointed out how important it is to have occasional 'shopping therapy.' The audience laughed when she said this, and she responded, "It really works!" with a big smile. Cute.

Elder Oaks told a story about when he was called as a new Apostle. Elder Oaks was speaking with a senior Apostle, sharing his feelings of inadequacy regarding his new calling. The senior Apostle (Elder Oaks did not give his name) said that those feelings were understandable, but that he needed to work to be in a position where he was not preoccupied with his own inadequacies and instead put all his effort into concern for the people he was called to serve.

Elder Oaks discussed how teenagers believe there is an imaginary audience in life, that everyone is constantly watching them and noticing how they look and what they do. He called this an over-inflated sense of one's own importance. He said it is not evil to think this way, just childish.

Elder Oaks then suggested that we all need to get to the point where we put aside concern for ourselves and instead focus on those around us that we are in a position to serve. He also pointed out that it is amazing how much we can get done when we don't worry about who gets the credit.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 4 Inspiring Thoughts

Erin Holmes said, "As mortal beings, we will probably do this perfect work imperfectly."

JoAnn Child quoted President Monson as saying, "Love does not grow like weeds or fall like rain. Love has it's price."

Marie K. Hafen, wife of Elder Bruce C. Hafen, expressed that Christ's Atonement allows us the time and space to heal from our weaknesses.

She also said that Christ's Atonement allows us the time and space in which to practice how to love.

She also said that sometimes we have to let others slip so that they will learn for themselves.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 3--My God is a God of Miracles

Dr. Elllie Young's talk, part 2

Sister Young talked about the experience she had when she decided to pursue her PhD. She began these studies after she already had children. She felt older than the other students, who were all in their early 20s, and she felt frumpy and old and inadequate. She felt very intimidated by the intense demands placed on her, especially since she had so much else to do other than be a student.

At one point in her studies, they had to take an exam that would determine her ability to continue in the PhD program. She felt that, compared to her peers, she was at a disadvantage in passing the exam. She was placed with a study partner who buoyed her up. When Sister Young shared her concerns with her study partner, her partner said she was not worried. Her partner said, "My God is a god of miracles." She knew that God would bless her and help her to pass the exam. This struck a chord in Sister Young. She knew that her god was a god of miracles, too. She began to look at everything through different eyes, with greater faith in God.

"My God is a god of miracles"

In my notes, I wrote: Ask myself how I would think in a situation if I was showing more faith. What happens when I see things through a lens of faith? In other words, what happens when I see my situation through eyes that are being faithful, that are trusting in the miracles of God, that are seeking His counsel and then trusting that counsel? That are trusting His willingness and ability to answer my prayers? Does God have a miracle out there for me if I just have faith enough to receive it?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Women's Conference Thoughts Day 2

My very favorite speaker last year was Ellie Young. She is an associate professor at BYU. Every year, there is one talk that really speaks to my heart and addresses the specific struggles I am having at that time. This was that talk.

She shared one principle that her grandfather always taught her. "No one's any better than you, and you're no better than anyone else."

She also talked about the idea of bending to one another's inadequacies. She shared that we all have weaknesses. We can learn to bend to the inadequacies of others. We recognize that no one is perfect, and so we learn to love others despite their weaknesses, as well as to be patient with those weaknesses because we love them.

She said that we can count on others who love us to bend to our inadequacies as well. It may be that we are forgetful or too talkative or not careful about details. When we love others, we overlook their faults. She said that when we bend to one another's inadequacies, and when they bend to our inadequacies, it deepens our relationships.

This reminds me about a line from a book I have been reading lately, Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin. It is the best marriage relations book I have ever read, other than the scriptures. At the beginning of the book, the author describes what a 'fascinating woman' is. (In the quote, 'she' refers to the woman, and 'he' refers to her husband.) Andelin says, "She is not consumed in remaking him into the man he ought to be, but accepts him for the man he is, overlooking his human frailties and focusing on his better side."

I think that describes perfectly what it means to 'bend to one another's inadequacies.' We recognize that everyone has human frailties, and so we love and accept one another in patience and with kindness.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Update and thoughts from Women's Conference

First, I wanted to give another quick update on the praising effort. I have still never reached ten pennies in one day. I have, however, noticed that I am getting better at noticing when my children are doing good things and at pointing it out to them. That, I believe, is progress!

Second, I came across my Women's Conference notes from last year, just as I am preparing to go back again this year (hooray!!!) Have I mentioned how much I love Women's Conference? I love it because two days of conference generally translates to about four days away from home. That is do-able for me. It means spending precious time with beloved friends and family (and eating yummy food that I don't have to cook myself), all while sitting at the feet of great men and women, and always one Apostle, to be taught of the Lord. I just love it! I always come home feeling happy to be back with my family and motivated to honor my responsibilities, especially as a wife and mother, with greater enthusiasm.

I remember coming home last year feeling so inspired and wanting to share what I had learned with anyone and everyone who would listen. I never got around to posting anything on this blog, though. So I am going to try to post one thing every day this week from my notes. We'll see how it goes.

Today's thought is from Sister Julie B. Beck's keynote address, which you can read here.

Sister Beck taught us how she learned to prioritize her time as a young mother. She divided her activities into three categories: Essential things, Necessary things, and Nice-To-Do things. Essential things are those important things that must be taken care of every day, eternal things that are essential to our salvation. Necessary things are those things that keep home and family running, like cooking dinner and taking care of the needs of children. She also listed smiling in this category! Nice-To-Do things are activities that are fun and bring variety to life but won't save us or our family members. She took her list to the temple and asked the Lord to guide her to know which category her daily activities fell under.

She said, "To walk with the Lord, we have to know what is essential, what is necessary, and what is nice to do. There is a lot to do, but I find that it is amazing how much I get to do on my nice-to-do list. The Lord blesses us with those mercies, but only if the other priorities are in order."

I wrote in my notes, "The Lord wants me to prioritize so that I am using my limited energy on what really matters."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Penny Update

So this has been pretty humbling.

The first day I attempted to praise my children, I only moved one penny from one pocket to the other. Okay, so I shouldn't have started on a busy Saturday with a full day of cleaning ahead of us. But still.

I really have to get better at verbalizing the positive things I notice about my children. I am thinking it is like any skill. It will improve with time.

So this weeks goal is to put 10 pennies in one pocket and see if I can successfully move all of them to the other pocket in one day by the end of the week.

I did better than Rich. He didn't move any pennies from one pocket to the other that first day. ; )

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pennies in your pocket

I read a great idea yesterday in a magazine. The author was discussing the need to be more positive to children than negative, especially when noticing their character strenghts. He recognized that it is much easier to scold children for what they are not doing than to commend them for what they are doing. That is the truth at our house!

So he suggested putting 10 pennies in one pocket. Then you move a penny to the other pocket every time you give a child a sincere compliment. The goal would be to move all ten pennies to the other pocket by the end of the day.

Isn't that a great idea?

Of course, since we have 8 children, I would have 80 pennies in my pocket!

I love this ideas because it is such a tangible way to remember to praise. I also love it because I want to develop the habit of catching my children being good, but I forget from day to day.

So my plan is to put a pile of pennies in my pocket and see how many sincere compliments I can give each day.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go

Yesterday in Sunday School, the teacher referred to Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." He asked us how we know what our treasure is. Answers came back that our treasure is determined by what we use our time, money and thoughts on. He asked us to consider this in our lives to see if we need a course correction.

I have been thinking about it since the lesson. There are so many endless ways to help, and so many endless distractions and demands on a woman's time. It can be hard, for me at least, to keep it all straight.

Tonight I read a blog post that reminded me about my greatest treasure and greatest responsibility right now. It is from my wise friend, Britt, again. She said:

"a CS Lewis book kept coming into my mind…Screwtape Letters. At one point wormwood is reminding screwtape that if a person must feel charitable and have a desire to help, try to focus it on people as far away as possible. Let them feel all sorts of love and compassion for those on the other side of the world, but for those closest to them encourage little annoyances. Especially in this internet world I feel prone to look at those who have real needs far away. It is possible that God wants me to do something for them. Yet it is equally important to cloth the naked and feed the hungry in my own home. One service may get more attention, but both care for God’s children. If we really feel that we’ll go where God wants me to go, that may include time sitting on the bathtub with a child, or into our very own laundry room."

For me, right now, my treasure, where the Lord wants me to spend the majority of my time, thoughts and energy, is at home.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Perfecting ourselves vs. becoming perfect in Christ

Today I was tired from working so hard last week on a Sunday School lesson. I estimated that I spent 12 hours preparing for a lesson on Matthew 5. You see, I teach Gospel Doctrine, and the Temple President, the Stake President, and the previous Stake President, plus any number of ex-Bishops, can be found in our ward on any given week.

That makes me a little nervous.

So I spent hours looking up cross-references in the scriptures and studying commentary from various sources. I spent about two hours each day, Monday through Saturday. That is all my spare time, the time I usually exercise and read and blog, the time I have to do things that make life fun and more than just a lot of work.

The lesson went well, and I think we all felt the Spirit and learned more about being a follower of Jesus Christ. But today I felt pretty worn out from the effort.

Then, this morning as I sat there feeling reluctant to dive into Matthew 6 for next week's lesson (which the team teacher will be handling, thankfully), I glanced at Matthew 5:48. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect."

What does it mean to be perfect?

I did my best to prepare perfectly for my lesson yesterday. As a mother, I try to do everything just right so that my efforts will prepare our children to be adults and to be independent. I try to be perfect as I serve and work and take care of all these bodies and juggle all the demands of life.

But am I trying to perfect myself or am I allowing myself to become perfect in Christ?

It's a fine line that divides the need for individual effort versus the need for faith. However, I read a verse this morning that helped me see things differently.

D&C 121:35 ...their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world and aspire to the honors of men...

Am I aspiring to the honors of men? Am I trying to become perfect on my own so that others will give me recognition? Did I work so hard on that Sunday school lesson because the Temple President might be there? Would I have worked as hard for a class of 15 year olds?

The answer is one of those gray areas of life--my motivations aren't completely focused on bringing honor to the Father, but they aren't completely focused on bringing honor to myself either. To have intentions that are free from selfish motive and concern probably takes more than this lifetime.

But the important question I asked myself is who am I relying on?

When I am trying to perfect myself and relying more on my own efforts, then I quickly get impatient with my children for getting in the way of the things I want to get done. When I am depending more on Christ, then I am full of love for my children and I am patient and understanding and slower to react with anger when they don't fall in line with my plans for the day. I know He will somehow help me, and so I can trust that, although things might go more slowly, the important things will still get done.

When I am trying to perfect myself, I am impatient and hard on myself for my weaknesses and imperfections. I am also impatient and hard on those around me. When I am depending on Christ, then I am patient and kind and gentle with others when they make mistakes. I am also more kind and patient with myself. I recognize that change takes time and that we are all doing our best and that the Atonement is real. I see the big picture and am not in such a hurry for everyone to be just the way I want them to be, even myself.

When I am trying to perfect myself, I am focused on worldly things that will bring me the attention of others. When I am depending on Christ, I am focused on spiritual things that will bring me closer to Him and to my Father in Heaven. I feel the Spirit and want to feel it more and care less about things that don't matter eternally.

So how do I stay more focused and dependent on Christ? It all seems to come back to having the Holy Ghost as a companion each day by doing those simple things that the Prophet asks us to do--pray, study, ponder, attend the temple. It also comes from turning my burdens to the Lord in prayer and asking for His help and then trusting that He will give it.

One thing I also realized through this contemplation is that Heavenly Father knows I can't put 12 hours into preparing a Sunday School lesson every week. He doesn't expect me to give up all my spare time and the things I enjoy doing, even for something as worthwhile as service and scripture study. He doesn't expect me to try to perfect myself and rely on my own efforts in order to have successful, uplifting lessons.

He knows who comes to that class. He also knows how much I have to do each day. He just expects me to do the best that I can each week, ask for His help, and then rely on the perfecting power and mercy of the Savior and His Atonement. Then the Sunday School lessons will take care of themselves, and I will still get to exercise and read and blog a little. And maybe I won't be quite so worn out on Monday morning.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What is life all about anyway?

My friend Britt Kelly posted this very poignant thought in her comments on her new fly lady blog:

Life is IN the interruptions.

Love it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How do I Serve?

In Relief Society today, we had a lesson on Service (probably like most people around the world.) The teacher put four categories of different kinds of service on the board, and then we made lists of ways that we can serve under each category. The categories were economical, social, physical and spiritual. It created a very inspiring discussion to think of so many different ways to serve.

Ever since the lesson, I have been pondering how the service of motherhood, probably the greatest service most women give, was not very represented on the list we made.

Maybe we don't see all the work we do for our families as 'service' because it is so menial and so every-day. It doesn't get us much attention from others, and most of it has to be done all over again the next day.

It's like not being able to see the forest through the trees.

Motherhood begins as women are willing to literally 'lose themselves' to provide physical bodies for Heavenly Father's spirit children. What greater physical service could someone give? Then, whether you give birth to the children or adopt them, the work of taking care of them is some of the most demanding physical work around. In fact, there aren't many other professions that require someone to do all his regular work during the day after being on the night shift, and being woken up regularly, all night.

Sister Julie B. Beck said at Women's Conference last year, "...I learned something from my father-in-law years ago. He was steel worker and spent his time working three different shifts. He either worked the day shift, the night shift, or the swing shift. As a young mother I realized that I was working all three shifts, and that's why I was so tired."

And while all acts of service are worthwhile and appreciated by our Father in Heaven, I believe that the most effective and long-lasting service we can give is the service we give to our families.

We serve as we do the physical work, such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and carpooling. We also get the fun physical service, like giving lots and lots of hugs and kisses, and playing together.

We serve as we persevere through Family Home Evening and scripture study and Sunday church and trying to go to an event as a family, only to spend most of it watching toddlers in the hall.

We serve as we come up with creative ways to make breakfasts and lunches for everyone, and then get up early to make sure they eat and get out the door with lunch in hand on time.

We serve as we give over our bodies to little growing babies for 9 months, and then to big growing babies for possibly another year or more. We give up our sleep and we give up our fashion style and we give up our cute little compact car.

When they grow up and have some more freedom, we give up our sleep again, this time driving them to and from Stake dances and never really falling asleep until they are safely home once they can drive themselves.

If I had to sit in that lesson again, I would try to make my comments focus more on motherhood, just to give all those great mothers some more appreciation for all of the service they do every day without even thinking about it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's nice growing older

Happy Valentine's Day

Today we are having an afternoon holiday, which means that I can post the significant thought that I just had on the blog.

Here is the significant thought: It's nice to get older. It seems, to me, that life gets easier as I get older.

Here is why I had that thought: Last night, Rich and I stayed up late putting together little valentine boxes for each of the children. I had purchased all sorts of little treats at the dollar store the week before. Rich helped me assemble them and then read his book while I cut out hearts and put a short note in each one. Then, when Rich went to brush his teeth, I put out a card and a treat for him.

I had to do this last night because Rich gets up with the high schoolers and gets them breakfast and out the door to seminary (and on Monday, signed up for basketball reffing), and I sleep in.

Just now, Rich called from work. He thanked me for the note in the card. He apologized for not leaving a note for me. I told him that I didn't care. I know he loves me. I told him that my "note" was that he got up with the older children and handled the basketball sign-ups and breakfast and the laundry crisis that happened this morning and let me sleep in. I told him that I know he loves me because he does things.

And I really meant it.

Something about this exchange took my mind back 16 years to our second Valentine's Day together. I remembered, with a cringe, how mad I got because Rich completely forgot Valentine's Day. He finally remembered about three days later and brought me flowers, but I held this against him for something like five or six years. I said I forgave him but, oh, I sure didn't forget about it.

And yet, somehow, with the passing of time and the closeness that comes with weathering the storms of life together, I don't feel like he has to do something special on Valentine's Day to show his love for me anymore. Maybe it's about understanding his heart. Maybe it's about forgetting myself. Maybe it's about getting more mellow with age (even though it seems I am less mellow in a lot of other areas...) Maybe it's called maturity.

Anyway, it's nice, whatever it is.

It's nice to grow older with someone and know them so well that you know what is in their heart. It's nice to give them the benefit of the doubt and not waste a bunch of time pouting or angry. It's nice to just feel happy on Valentine's Day because I was able to do something for my family to show them I love them.

Well, and I could write an entire post about how wonderful my husband is and how much I love him. (But I already told him that in my note.)

Yep, it's nice growing older.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It's a new holiday

Have you heard about the new holiday? It's March 9--Get Over It Day. The best thing is, you celebrate it year-round.

I love this concept. "Get over it!"

For some reason, probably that I am now in my 40s and experiencing those nasty peri-menopausal hormones, I have gotten obsessive about things that I used to take in stride. Like when I recently signed Katie and Jacob up for the ACT before waiting to get their track season schedule. Once I received the schedule, I realized I signed them up for the same day as their biggest home track meet of the season. I should have waited.

I talked to Katie about it. I talked to Rich about it. I talked to Jacob about it. They each said, "Oh well."

I looked it up to see if we could change it. We can--for $20 each--$40 I am not willing to pay just to change the date of a test that I should have waited to sign up for until I got the track schedule.

It still bugs me.

It's at this point--the point where I cannot change the thing that is driving me crazy, the thing that I wish I could go back and do over, the thing that makes me cringe when I think of it--that I need to say to myself "Get over it!"

I did everything I can do. I made a mistake. The consequences aren't that bad. They are only Juniors. They will have another big home track meet next year. They need to take the ACT. They don't seem to really care that much. So get over it!

Issues like this seem to come up more and more these days (hormones). So I am trying to learn to say "Get over it!" sooner.

Like Friday night. I had signed up to bring 2 dozen homemade cinnamon rolls to the Young Women fundraiser. I had also signed up to bring a potato salad. We also had a lot of home schooling to do to finish the week. Daniel also had a basketball game.

So I was a little frazzled when I put the cinnamon rolls in the oven. I put two small pans on the top rack, and they cooked too quickly. They were done on top but not it the middle. I didn't realize it until I frosted them. Then I put them back in the oven, but I couldn't be sure they cooked all the way.

I still had the pan from the bottom rack. Those cooked perfectly, as usual. But that meant I could only bring 1 dozen cinnamon rolls. Can I tell you how much this was bugging me? I wanted to bring 2 dozen cinnamon rolls. I had signed up to bring 2 dozen cinnamon rolls. I always bring 2 dozen cinnamon rolls.

But I only had 1 dozen.

So I told myself, "Get over it!" They will survive with only 1 dozen. No one will notice. It will be fine. It will all work out.

I was still a little tense, but I am new at this.

And so I took only 1 dozen cinnamon rolls, and guess what? It was just fine.

There are lots of things in life about which a mother cannot say "Get over it!" The important things, like keeping the commandments and giving basic care to the family and accomplishing big things that matter to other people. But most things that don't go just right really won't matter in the long run. In fact, most things that go awry will either be a vague memory or a funny story later on.

Oh, why can't I remember that at the time?

So tonight I vow to say to myself "Get over it!" as quickly as possible when the details of something are really getting under my skin.

In fact, here are a few things that have been bugging me lately. I am going to tell myself "Get over it!" right now about these things.

So I am not the weight I want to be and very much not the weight I was when we got married. For 17 years, I have been bearing and raising children. I have the family that I always hoped for. But because I have that family, there hasn't been a lot of free time to exercise. And when there has been free time, there has also been illness and low iron and surgery. I eat healthy food and exercise. My current weight does not interfere with our life or with doing the things that I love. The day will come when I will be able to focus more on myself. So get over it!

So what if my husband does not pick up a room unless specifically asked? He does pick it up when I ask him. And he does a lot of other things that I don't ask, like balance the budget and pay the bills and unclog the toilet. And he never complains about how the house looks. He is 40 years old. He has lived half of his life. If he doesn't notice a messy room now, he probably never will, unless I point it out to him. So get over it!

And speaking of the house, it is more messy than I would like during the week. But we have a large family, and more than half of it is home all day long. We home school, which means I spend much of my time during the day teaching my children, which otherwise would be spent keeping things up. And the toddler spends much of her time undoing anything that I do manage to get done when my back is turned! I like home schooling. The day will come when there are no more children to teach, and no more toddlers, and it will be a lot easier to keep up with the housework. Plus, it will never matter how tidy our house was during the years that we raised our family. So get over it!

I could go on, really I could, but you get my point!

So celebrate with me and say "Get over it!" about something that has been bugging you today!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Done is better than perfect

I learned this phrase at a meeting last week. We were discussing family home storage. Ward members had taken a survey about food storage, and we noticed that many people feel defeated by and can't make progress in storing food because they can't do it perfectly--don't know what to store, don't know where to store it, don't know what to do with it, etc. I actually see each of these concerns as valid obstacles, but our committee found that often, people don't do anything if they can't do it all perfectly. One committee member then taught us the phrase "Done is better than perfect."

I have been thinking about what that means ever since.

To me, it means that I can't get so caught up in the details of a task that I mentally shut down and don't do the task at all if I can't get the details just right.

Here is an example that I heard last Sunday. Sister Rosemary Wixom, LDS Primary General President, spoke at our Northern California Regional Conference Broadcast. She gave an example of a single mother who read the scriptures to her son every morning as he ate his breakfast. One day, he interrupted her to say that he wasn't listening to her, that he was reading the box of Wheaties. The mother responded that it didn't matter if he was listening; she was commanded by a prophet of God to read the scriptures and she wanted the blessings he promised. Sister Wixom said this mother received those promised blessings because she was obedient in reading the scriptures.

This was a perfect example to me of "Done is better than perfect." The mother could have been discouraged by her son's lack of interest. She could have beat herself up for not being more creative to get her son involved. She could have skipped the whole thing all together, figuring how much difference could reading to a boy who never listens make anyway. But she kept on reading, and she gained the blessings she was hoping for.

I also liked this example, especially one given by a General Authority of the Church, because it made me feel better about the scripture reading that happens in our family.

For example...Just tonight, when we read as a family, Jacob got to choose who would read first. We each read one scripture and rotate around the room until we have read two or three columns. Jacob chose by counting to see what would give Adam the shortest possible scripture to read. He did this because Adam likes to get the longest possible scripture to read. Then, when it happened to turn out that Adam got three very short scriptures in a row, Jacob rolled on the ground laughing. So much for feeling the Spirit as a family.(I used to fume when the Elders would do things like this on my mission, like choose the shortest song, that no one knew, just to be funny. Now I see it's typical teenage boy behavior.)

So now I can tell myself, when scripture reading goes like this, which is most of the time, "Done is better than perfect." We still get the blessings. (Sister Wixom said so.)

I am going to use this phrase to get through Family Home Evening, and fasting with complaining nine-year olds, and when I look at the job the kids do when they clean the house (although I will never tell them this--they don't need any encouragement to put forth less effort when it comes to cleaning!)

Actually, when I think deeply about this concept, I realize it applies to parenting in general. Sometimes, I wonder what on earth Heavenly Father was thinking by sending these children to such inexperienced, young parents. But we have just kept at it, doing our best, and having faith that it will all work out. And we have had faith that the Savior's Atonement will make up for our weaknesses, as real and as big as they seem to be.

But "done" is literally better than "perfect" in this case. Heavenly Father allows us to parent His children, knowing that we will make mistakes (again, evidence that making mistakes is part of the plan) and that we will learn the hard way most of the time. But He also knows that those mistakes will turn us, and will turn our children, to Him, over time. And He knows there is an infinite Atonement that will make up for all the mistakes, over time.

Truly, in this case, done is better than perfect.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Technical Foul!

I decided this week that being a mom of teenage boys is a lot like being a basketball referee. And not just because we are forever breaking up fights.

I have learned more about referees since the beginning of the year. Our oldest three children are working as basketball referees for the local rec league. They had to participate in a 5 hour clinic to review basketball rules and to practice refereeing games. Now they referee each Saturday for 2-3 hours.

One important thing I have learned from them is that the referee is in charge of the court. No one can give the referee trouble because he or she is the final word. The referee can give warnings and then fouls as freely and as often as required to establish this.

One thing my children are learning is that parents and coaches don't always respect teenage referees like they should. They yell at them and accuse them of making bad calls. It's no fun to be yelled at by a coach for the whole game when you are supposed to be in charge and when you are the one who spent 5 hours going over basketball rules that the coach usually doesn't know, especially when you are a teenage girl who has P.M.S.

The other important thing I have learned about referees, both from my kids and from watching the refs at Daniel's high school basketball games, is that the best refs make the calls as they see them. They aren't always right because they can't always see what is going on as well as the people in the stands. But they make their calls and then stand by them. And they ignore the fans, players and coaches as much as possible. When they can't ignore them, they unemotionally give a technical foul. That shuts coaches and players up pretty fast.

So how is a mother like a referee?

Well, she certainly deserves respect that she sometimes does not get. And she sometimes makes bad calls because she can't always see everything from the same perspective as the spectators (oh, to be a spectator rather than the ref when one child is screaming "he's bugging me!"...)

Mother has to learn to make the call and stand by it. And when they won't stop arguing, unemotionally give a technical foul and walk away.

Unfortunately, the 'unemotional' part is the part that gets me every time. What I usually do is get caught up in arguing my point until I get so frustrated I want to scream (and sometimes I do scream).

So my goal this week is to be more like a good referee. I am going to make a call about who was bugging who and who needs to apologize or do a chore, or about who gets to drive the car, or about who's turn it is to choose the show on Netflix, and then I am going to stand by it. No questions asked. (I am the final word most of the time, after all.)

And if I have to give a technical foul (like another chore or punishment), I am going to do it calmly and unemotionally and walk away, just like those high school refs. Nothing seems to ruffle their feathers.

Of course, they don't have to live with the players...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Things that matter most

Last week I was worrying. Our van was, again, making a loud noise that surely meant another very expensive repair. We had decided to buy a new-used van. We prayed about it together and separately, and we both got very clear, peaceful answers to go forward with buying a different van. Yet I was still worrying--I was worrying about having a car payment and about rising insurance payments, and I was worrying about giving up our current, beloved van and it's big 14" screen for watching DVDs on long trips.

I read these scripture from the Doctrine & Covenants on one of the days that I had woken up early and had been unable to go back to sleep due to my worrying. This revelation was given as the Saints were being forced to leave Kirtland, Ohio and sell or leave their properties, causing them to experience financial losses.

Section 117:4-8 "For what is property unto me? saith the Lord...For have I not made the fowls of the heaven, and also the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the mountains? Have I not made the earth? Do I not hold the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth?... Is there not room enough on the mountains of Adam-ondi-Ahman and on the plains of Olaha Shinehah, or the land where Adam dwelt, that you should covet that which is but the drop, and neglect the weightier matters?"

I love gaining my perspective from the Lord. Suddenly I realized that I was focusing wholly on the drop, worrying about money and things, and neglecting the weightier matters. I was also not trusting that the Lord would provide and that He truly knows best. This helped snap me out of my worrying and back into trusting His judgement and revelation.

Since I read those verses, I have pondered and discussed with my family what falls in the category of the drop and what are the weightier matters. I believe that there is a broad, simple answer to this--eternal, spiritual things are the weighty matters, and temporal, worldly things are the drop.

But I think there are specific, daily choices between this and that which can be separated into these two categories. And I think these are individual to each of us and require personal revelation to figure out what belongs where.

For instance, last week it occurred to me that spending time on-line finding a stick family sticker to replace the one on our old van, which became a very time-consuming endeavor, was really drop since it kept me from keeping my daily goal of doing 30 minutes of family history work. Also, I noticed that talking on the phone or spending time of the computer--drop--can keep me from stopping to really listen to my 5-year-old or reading books to he and Anna when they ask--much weightier matters.

I love being reminded about what matters most. Rich and I are now together looking at things a little differently.

Today, for instance, I texted him to ask if cleaning the garage and taking down the Christmas lights was considered drop or if I could say it was a weighty matter and have us tackle it for family night.

He responded: In December, it's drop. In mid-January, it's in the middle. By February, it becomes a very weighty matter. : )

We cleaned the garage.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Learning more about mercy

Saturday was a busy day. We had the typical Saturday cleaning. Then our oldest three had three different shifts to referee basketball games. Then Jeffrey had a birthday party for his twin friends from 6-8 pm. He had been counting down the days since he received the invitation. Also, it was Stake Temple Day. Katie was signed up to do baptisms for the dead in the afternoon, and Rich and I were scheduled to attend an endowment session at 6:30. Oh, and there was a Stake Dance that night from 8:30-11 pm.

By 5:55 pm, everyone was fed, Jeffrey was ready for the party with two wrapped gifts, the house was relatively clean, instructions had been given for the care of the little children, Rich and I were dressed, and we were ready to head out the door. Then I realized that I couldn't find my wallet. I frantically looked all over the house.

Katie offered to drive Jeffrey to his party, so they left and I had a prayer and kept looking. At 6:10, I told Rich I couldn't go with him to the temple since I didn't have my temple recommend.

At 6:15, Rich found my wallet in the van. We left for the temple at 6:16. I felt like it was a tender mercy that Rich found my wallet, and I wanted to relax and believe that we were going to make it to the temple on time, but the cars in front of us were traveling unusually slow and I was tense.

We pulled into the temple parking lot at 6:22. We hurried in, hoping we wouldn't make the whole room full of people wait for us. Our Stake President and his wife greeted us at the door. They seemed calm. The brethren checking our recommends were friendly. They seemed calm. Then, a nice sister greeted us as we separated to hurry to our individual locker rooms. She said something like, "No need to worry. You are just fine."

I knew we were going to make it into the session, hopefully without embarrassing ourselves too much, through what felt like a series of tender mercies

As I found my seat in the endowment room, I breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn't even the last woman in there. In fact, another five or six people came in before they started the session.

As I sat there, I thought through our day. Although it had been a busy day, I had spent 30 minutes looking something up on the computer that could have waited. That contributed to our tardiness. I felt humbled by the mercy Heavenly Father showed me, despite my weaknesses, to help us get to the temple on time.

Mercy. This seems to be one of the reigning qualities of our Father in Heaven. My prayers are answered even when I am not perfect in my efforts. I am forgiven every time I ask. I usually only feel love, not chastisement or heavenly scolding. When I make mistakes, which I do daily, He helps me to right the wrongs.

Heavenly Father provided a Savior so that we could make mistakes and repent and still return to live with Him again. It seems as if making mistakes is actually a part of the 'plan.'

Sitting there, I pondered how often I show mercy as a parent, especially when I consider that making mistakes is maybe part of the plan.

Am I patient as my children make the same mistakes over and over? Am I kind enough when they say they are sorry and express a desire to do better? Do I gently offer mercy when they don't live up to my, or their own, expectations?

Right then, I made a promise to be more merciful in the future. Then I prayed for help to feel more inclined to show mercy when that promise is tested.

It was tested right as we walked in the door.

The older three children had left for the dance before we got home. They had left without doing any of their dinner chores. They would be home too late to do the chores before bed. The chores had to be done because we had church the next morning and needed to have some dishes for breakfast.

Upon further investigation, we found that the boys had sat around watching a favorite tv show until it was time to get ready for the dance.

My first reaction was frustration and anger. Those kids! I wanted to get angry at everyone, and then make the teenagers feel the consequences by waking them up early to do their chores in the morning before church.

But then I remembered, I know with a gentle nudge from the Holy Ghost, my promise to show mercy. Funny how my first reaction is always anger at their imperfections.

I was reminded how hard they work all week long and how busy they all are. I was reminded how nice it feels to have the night off and to get a break from work. I was also reminded how it was their first day of referee work and that they were probably extra tired from that.

Instead of fuming and storming about the house, doing their chores, Rich and I came up with a plan to reward the little children to do the undone chores. It worked!

I felt happy, and I was able to be kind to the three teenagers when they got home later.

I am going to try harder to show my family and myself mercy. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. There is a time and a place for consequences, and there is a time and a place for mercy. Thankfully the Holy Ghost is available for guidance as we walk this fine line.

But I think I will try to err on the side of mercy more because that is the way my Father in Heaven treats me.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Parenting Wisdom from the Stake President's wife

Tonight we went to the Stake Standards Night with our teenagers. Parents were invited, too. We considered sending only one parent, but I'm so glad we both went.

What I expected was a talk on how important it is to keep the standards the Lord has outlined in the For The Strength of The Youth pamphlet. That is what our Stake President spoke about. However, his wife also spoke. She discussed the tender mercies of the Lord in our lives and how to recognize them. She showed a slideshow of pictures of her husband as a boy and of some times in her life when she has felt the tender mercies of the Lord.

Her talk was full of uplifting examples of how personal the Lord is and how often He sends tender mercies to show His love for us.

I went up to Sister Harrison after the meeting to talk with her. She is in our ward, and in fact, is Anna's sunbeam teacher. Anna sat on her lap in sharing time today. : )

In the course of our conversation, I told Sister Harrison that I am having a hard time being patient with our teenage boys, not because they are doing anything wrong so much as that they are hard to live with. They get so angry and crabby a lot of the time, and they bug and tease younger siblings and generally require a lot more patience than our teenage daughter (which is the opposite of what I expected at this stage of life.)

She gave me advice that I know I will always remember and rely on as I raise teenagers, and children, from now on. She said that, because our boys are comfortable at home and know they can trust us, they can release all their negative feelings around us, knowing that we will continue to love them. She said they deal with a lot outside the home and have to be 'good' while they are away. Home is the place where they know they can release all that stress and negative emotion and that we will still love them. Eventually they will learn to find a different release, but for now, they feel safe and comfortable doing it at home with us.

Wow! That was sure a paradigm shift for me.

I love the Gospel and am so grateful for excellent friends, and for timely meetings like Standards Night. I got at least as much as the teenagers out of it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Potty Training Power Struggle

Disclaimer: I am going to write this whole blog post about what is apparently a subject that is unmentionable in a public setting like this. But it's my blog, so I guess if a public discussion of potty training offends you, or bores you, stop reading now.

I am in the middle of a power struggle. It's a power struggle that I have pretty much avoided for nearly 17 years. And it's not my fault. (I don't think it is, anyway.)

Anna is attempting to potty train. Well, attempting if you mean wearing underwear and changing her clothes a lot. But if you mean actually going potty on the toilet, then she's hit and miss with the whole thing. Now that I think about it, maybe she's just making a fashion statement.

I am the mother of seven successfully potty-trained children (well, unless you count Jeffrey, who still struggles with accidents, but he is only 5 and he does have a bladder that gets about twice as big as it should and apparently doesn't feel that painful urge to go that the rest of us have. So I don't think that counts.)

My usual potty training approach is to wait until they beg me to wear underwear for a while. Then we only attempt it if they have some immediate success. Or we bribe them. One of those two approaches has worked every time all these years.

But Anna keeps changing her mind. She begs me to wear underwear, but when it comes time to actually go potty, she refuses to go and begs to have her diaper back about half the time at least. But it goes against my motherly instinct to have a daughter tell me she's going pee while she's wearing a diaper. Or, at the very least, it goes again my penny-pincher instincts.

To illustrate the struggle we are having, let me describe a situation that happened at a basketball game the other day. For some crazy reason, we let Anna wear underpants in public. (So basically we were asking for trouble.) Rich assured me that she had gone potty just before we left, and the game was only an hour or so, so I figured we were okay. But then Anna announced that she had to go potty during half-time.

My first mistake was letting her go into the stall alone. My second mistake was letting her go into the handicapped stall. She immediately locked the door. I told her to go potty on her own while I went in the stall next door. She proceeded to dance about the big open space while singing to herself.

After I had washed and dried my hands, she was still dancing around. I peeked under the door to encourage her to please go potty. She shouted "Don't look!" Just then, two women entered the bathroom. Anna was still shouting "Don't look! Don't look!" at the top of her lungs. One of the women gave me a shocked look.

"She wants her privacy," I told the woman sheepishly.

By the time both women finished washing and drying their hands, Anna was still dancing about and I was done waiting. I jimmied the lock, marched in and forced her to sit on the potty for about half a second until she announced, "I'm done." Grrrrrr......

I gave her a lecture as we washed her hands and went back in to the game, having missed half of the 3rd quarter.

I keep threatening to take away potty training rights. I keep threatening to keep her in diapers until she proves she is serious.

Of course, we have tried bribery--I have a whole pack of bubble gum stashed away and we have offered every prize we can think of--but that also only works when she's in the mood, and never long enough to actually earn the prize.

Yep, she's a tough one.

Over the years, the advice I would give a mother like me is to 'Wait until she is ready' and 'You can't rush these things.' But I'm not buying it now that I am the one that needs the advice. We are talking about being done with diapers! I can see the finish line. Can't we just sprint to the finish?!

No, you can't. Not when you're dealing with a stubborn 3-year-old.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dealing with Anxiety

I just finished reading 29 Gifts by Cami Walker. (Inspiring read, but I have to note that there is a decent amount of swearing that began to bother me.) It is written by a woman who has MS and has dealt with a lifetime of chemical addiction. She learns to deal with her illness by giving something to someone for 29 consecutive days. One specific thing she wrote taught me an important lesson. She said, "For me, anxiety always stems from fear, so I ask myself what I am afraid of."

I struggle with anxiety in daily living a lot. It feels like it has gotten worse over time. I think it's because our life moves so quickly, so I feel anxiety about all the demands and my inability to meet them all. I learned several years ago that anger is often a secondary emotion that comes from fear, the primary emotion. So it makes sense that anxiety would sometimes come from fear as well. It's amazing how much easier it is to deal with anxiety when you recognize it as a fear about something specific.

For example, the other day, we were leaving our house to take Daniel to the third basketball game in three days. I was reluctant to leave because I really don't like to be away from our home day after day like that. But I didn't want to miss Daniel play in the last game of the tournament. The tournament was held in Carmichael, which is about 20 minutes from our house. I was feeling very anxious as we left because we were leaving Anna home with the rest of the family while we went to the game. The other two days we had taken Anna with us.

I decided that my anxiety was stemming from fear. So I spent the drive in the car thinking through what I was afraid of. I realized that I was afraid that Anna wouldn't be safe while we were gone. I thought through that fear, mentally disputing it. We left her snuggled in our bed, watching cartoons. We left her with Katie and Jacob watching her. Katie was downstairs cleaning, but Jacob was sitting at the table in the kitchen, doing a project, just a few feet away from her. She is old enough now not to put things in her mouth, and our home is child-proofed, so she was safe from harm if someone wasn't paying attention to her every second.

I also realized that I was feeling badly that she would be watching cartoons all afternoon as well as when we went to the temple later that night. Sure, it wasn't the best thing for her to watch tv for that long, but since it's not our regular routine, it would be okay for one day.

I was able to analyze my feelings and figure out all the things that were making me anxious, and then I was able to let go of the anxiety, realizing everything would be fine at home and that I had no reason to fear.

This one skill is invaluable to my peace of mind! I am so glad I read 29 Gifts, just for this little coping strategy alone. I do a lot of feeling anxious and I have a hard time relaxing. Maybe it's hormones; maybe it's age; maybe it's just motherhood. I am so grateful to learn a way to deal with it rather than just suffering through it.