Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Ironic Assignment

For years my BFF and I have had a re-occurring conversation about homework. Although we have differing opinions on a lot of subjects, we agree 100% on homework. We both think it should be abolished and banned from every school worldwide.

We complain to each other about worksheets, book reports, science fair projects and just about anything else that comes home in our children's backpacks.

So I found it very ironic when I took on an assignment to write an article titled, "Five tips for getting homework done without a fight."


I couldn't bring myself to tell Melanie about my assignment, even though writing the article gave me a little added stress for a couple of weeks. Though typically a big cheerleader of my writing, I figured this one she would outright laugh at.

I really wish I had the nerve to send it to my daughter's second grade teacher, but I don't. (And please, nobody out there forward it to her!) Because really, I don't even think homework should be given to elementary school children AT ALL. Let alone on Fridays and holidays.

I strongly dislike homework. In fact, I'd even bring myself to use the "H" word on this one. I HATE homework--nonetheless it is probably here to stay.

And so I dedicate this article to my dear friend, Melanie.

Five tips for getting homework done without a fight...
(click on the link to read).

PS-If you're a teacher or a parent, please share with me your opinion on homework!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Big News

It's official!
Feel free to send me cards of congratulations.
Send me flowers.
Buy me chocolates.
Call or text me to congratulate me.
Make me a tray of Rice Krispie treats
Announce it from the rooftops
Sing it from the hills.
It's official.

After 13 years and 3 months, without so much as a week break in between kids--I am FINISHED with DIAPERS!!!!!
Drew is potty trained.
I can't even begin to tell you the relief I feel from the "potty training anxieties" I have had for longer than I can remember. (Remember this post HERE from 2009?) I know, I know. People potty train their kids every day. And some change diapers for longer than I did. But I also know nearly all of my friends/family have had breaks in between kids. I haven't, so this is a VERY big deal to me.

I'm not quite sure exactly what I'm going to do to celebrate. But I'm going to do something BIG. I deserve it. Potty training five kids and thirteen straight years of changing diapers deserves something.
Doesn't it?

Congratulations to ME!

And to Drew too.
Oh and I can't forget Ellie--she's the one that got him to go potty the most.
And in case you are wondering, no he still doesn't wear clothes. So instead of seeing photos of my diaper-clad toddler on here, you will now be seeing photos of my UNDERWEAR-clad toddler.
It is what it is.
We love him anyway.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The 5% Part of Motherhood

A couple of weeks ago, Drew entered my room at 5:41am. After turning on the bedroom light he declared, "Want bef-fast." I found absolutely nothing endearing about the moment. The next couple of hours didn't go so well either. It was probably no coincidence that at about 8:45 that same morning I read an article on the Power of Moms site that was timely. My friend, April authored a fabulous article, "It's Not Just You" that in essence dissects the 95% of motherhood that isn't glamorous and the 5% that is glamorous.

Any mother knows that her using the word "glamorous" in the context she did is not describing fancy meals, limousine rides and diamond bracelets. She is referring to those beautiful, everyday moments that we wish could last forever, but are often nothing more than fleeting moments amidst the typical chaos and mayhem that usually reigns supreme.

I left a comment on her post acknowledging its timeliness for me. I also expressed optimism that though my day had started out as a 95% type of day, I was optimistic it would be interspersed with at least a few 5%'s.

It wasn't really the article that filled my mind for the next few hours, it was the idea of "5%". I was bound determined, despite the rough start to the day that I was going to find my "5%" no matter how hard I had to look.

Turns out I didn't have to look very far.

You see the early, rough start to the day made me pretty lazy and slow for the morning. I lacked any real motivation to get going. I was still wearing my bathrobe and pajamas when I plopped down on my bed to answer a text message on my phone. Before I knew it, I found myself in the thick of "5%". 

Joshua wanted me to read him a book, and with no desire to conquer the to-do list just yet, I obliged. Of course Drew soon climbed aboard the bed with us. Within moments the book was tossed aside and an all-out tickle and pillow fight ensued.

I think April just happened to use an arbitrary number when she wrote her article. I'm sure there are no scientific studies to back up her claim, although there are plenty of mothers that would! I'm one of them. 5% isn't much, but when you're in the thick of it, it's everything.

Here's to another 5% day. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Uniqueness and Rudeness

I'd let the pictures tell the story, but
a. I'm not really a very good photographer and
b. I'm really not good at not saying anything.

But I promise to only say a little about...

The Cub Scout Pinewood Derby

I love Luke's individuality. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that Luke doesn't care a WHIT about whether or not he has a fast car. He wants something he loves. He wants something that depicts him. And so yes, for his third (and final!) Pinewood Derby "car" he made a truck. This time with a trailer no less. (The (toy) livestock in the back of the truck made it BARELY too heavy to race, so they stayed with me in the spectator section.)

You know, it's kind of funny. I had so much more I was going to say but have changed my mind because of this:

Mike went to the rec center tonight to do some lap swimming. He just barely returned and said to me,
 "I saw Bryan (my BFF's husband) as I came out of the locker room and before I think he even said 'hi' he said, "nice outfit." 
This grabbed my attention and as I looked up at my dear, handsome husband I saw he was wearing his swimsuit, a coat and cowboy boots.

And with that mental picture in your mind, you can better understand what a great quality my son has developed from his father. They don't care what other people think of them.

Who cares if some other Cub Scouts can't abide by the simple adage "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."? I love Luke's individuality. I love that Luke is probably the least competitive person I have ever known (also inherited from Mike) even though the rude comments over and over from a couple of kids about his truck being slow and never winning any of the rounds put a slight damper on his evening. The confidence of individuality is well worth it.

(Luke's trailer carrying his Pinewood Derby "car" from two years ago that Drew claimed as his own.)

Glad we are finished with Pinewood Derbys for four years or so!
Wish I could say the same about all Boy Scout meetings.

Enough said.
Don't get me started.
The end.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nostalgic Playing

The other day I picked my boys up from playing at my parent's house. Joshua and Drew had a little "Town Mat" spread out with Hot Wheels cars arranged just so on it. Our need to leave seemed too premature to my boys, and so to accommodate a more timely departure I asked permission for us to borrow the mat for a couple of days.

Oh boy has it been a big hit!

It isn't that I'm really a big fan of Hot Wheels cars. And it certainly isn't the fact that I love getting down on my stomach and making "vrmm vrmm" sounds. It's the fact that I remember distinctly playing with this mat (that my mother made!) for hours as a child.

I loved the church that had a roundabout close to it, just as ours did.
 I loved the shops she chose to use that were shops we frequented.
I love the houses that as a child I thought nothing of because that's how houses were where I lived, but made Joshua ask, "Why are all the houses stuck together."
I love the school that is remarkably similar to my Alma Mater, Cheam Park Farm Junior School.
I couldn't help but tear up slightly as I "vrmm-ed" little cars around it with my children the other day. In a weak moment of nostalgia I committed myself to making one for Drew for his 3rd birthday. With landmarks, icons and store-fronts that he will hopefully remember one day as fondly as I do this one.

"Nana's mat" that Drew affectionately named it has been returned to its home in my parent's "sleepover room". I won't be shy about admitting that I'm hoping this sentimental spiel will convince my parents to make any necessary adjustments to their legal will stating that I should be given highest priority in receiving this mat at the appropriate time. It needs to be with someone that will love it, protect it and care for it.

I know I'm the right person. I can see me now having the same conversation about roundabouts and attached houses in 30 years with my grand-kids that I had the other day with my kids.

How's that for stirring up a little family drama?

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Valid Question

I am repeatedly asked if all three of my boys are cowboys. I pretty much give the same response every time.

Through absolutely no influence of ours, Luke "became" a cowboy when he was about five years old. Despite my dad buying Luke his first pair of cowboy boots one summer evening, it really wasn't until I saw Luke dressed in Wranglers, a belt buckle and a cowboy hat a couple of months later that I knew this was probably not just a phase.

I was right.

Even though Joshua received his first pair of cowboy boots before he was even two. I was determined to let him "choose" his own way and not do something just because of Luke. For Joshua's third birthday all he asked for was "a cowboy hat and Wranglers." Really, the rest is history. That kid doesn't even own a pair of jeans that aren't Wranglers.

Along came Drew. Despite receiving some new cowboy boots before he was two years-old, I've committed to let him choose his own interests too.

So, when I am asked the question, "Are all three of your boys cowboys?" I tell them, it is probably too early to tell if Drew will follow suit.

Except the other day, when I poked my head out the mudroom door and saw this:

Perhaps I have the answer after all.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Deliberate Thinking

What a wonderful evening Mike and I had on Friday night at another Power of Moms Couples Workshop. No matter how many times I attend or present at a Power of Moms Workshop or Retreat, I am amazed at the new stuff I learn from other great mothers and in this case, some great dads too.  
While I love all the Power of Moms stuff, there is something really unique about occasionally, dads being a part of it too.  It's been interesting to see Mike's enthusiasm for this stuff increase. Even though I would always have considered him a pretty deliberate father, he was quite hesitant to attend the first Power of Moms Couples Retreat last fall in Park City. He went purely to support me, yet came away with so much more than a happy and content wife.

Back to Friday night.

We spent two and a half hours discussing ways to be more deliberate in our parenting and how to create family systems that will help make strong families. It didn't matter that some couples had younger children or some had older. It didn't matter that some couples had more children than others. What mattered, was that thirteen couples were gathered together in one place talking about their families. What a feeling!

Despite being slightly mortified that Mike and I gave into peer pressure and sang our family rule song, it was a wonderful evening.
I've told you before and I'll tell you again. Finding the Power of Moms just about two years ago has been life changing for me. There hasn't been an article, program, or event that I have been a part of that I haven't learned something from.

Indeed, a fine place for mothers to gather. Check it out HERE

Friday, January 20, 2012

Down South

With a four day weekend around Martin Luther King Day, we decided to head south and visit my brother, James, and Kristin and Annie. We don't have fancy modern gadgets in our 12 year old car. Instead, we travel the old fashioned way. We have no movies, no DVD players. Just a good old CD player, a few road games, and most of all the DROWSY version of Dramamine required for each child.

Our car heater would not turn off half way on our drive, and resulted in a car far too hot to travel in any longer. Thankfully we were able to stop at this rest stop and turn the car off for 10 minutes or so to let the car cool down. It was just enough time for the kids to run around to exert some bottled up energy and for Joshua to dump a can of rootbeer upside down on himself in the car. 

All things considering, it was a fairly uneventful drive. If you don't count the child that had to poop, the children that got yelled at, the child that had to pee every hour, and the etch-a-sketch that caused more contention than any of the children combined. Oh and we can't forget the near constant sounds of Primary songs playing for four hours straight that began to get slightly annoying. (Yes, we catered exclusively to the 2 year-old.)

The drive was more than worth it though to spend time with James, Kristin and Annie. What a fun weekend!

Obviously knowing well my love for early pioneer history, and my conviction that I was mistakingly born 100 years late, James took me to this charming, quaint little shop. I wish we had had more time to sit and eat lunch there and I wish I had worn clothes from another century. Maybe next time.
It was a novelty to enjoy a picnic at a park on a January day. Mike went above and beyond making sandwiches and packing lunch for the ten of us; individually bagging and labeling each sandwich variety while Kristin and I shopped and James attended to church duties.
Not only was Mike a swell sandwich maker--he was a pretty adept handy-man. James and Kristin are fairly new home-owners and Mike was the right guy to have around. Mike installed a couple of door locks so Annie can no longer escape, replaced a toilet seat, and fixed a sink. Mike was also a pretty stellar house guest. Every time I turned around he had either Megan or Luke vacuming, and Luke even paper-towel mopped the kitchen floor. They were less than thrilled to not be on vacation from chores.

(I must add-our vacuming and mopping had NOTHING to do with Kristin and James' housekeeping skills, but EVERYTHING to do with our family of seven descending upon their house for 3 days.)

Everyone (Ellie and I weren't there) enjoyed a little hiking around the red hills of St. George. One of Luke's FAVORITE things to do when there, since Mike first introduced him to it when he was barely 2 years old passing by on our way to California.
We enjoyed a visit to the St. George Temple and Visitor's Center. I am always touched by the evidence of President Brigham Young's prophecy "The desert shall rejoice and blossom as a rose." It is applicable to both Salt Lake City and St. George. (Brigham Young declared Salt Lake City to be the place for the Mormon Pioneers to settle and of course had a major part of the settling of St. George). Even though I have an awful tendency to laugh when I shouldn't, I love visiting temple visitor centers.
I wish I had taken more photos. I wish I had a photo of us enjoying a Sunday afternoon at Kristin's parent's house. Her mom was very generous to invite us over and we felt very loved and welcome there.

Many things will simply be mind memories--you can't capture everything with a click of a button. Mike, James, Megan and Luke enjoyed an afternoon golfing, Kristin and I did a little shopping, the adults enjoyed a Mexican restaurant alone, a few of us enjoyed a good card game, some of us went on walks, some of us died laughing over funny jokes, several of us cried at tender memories, and all of us loved being together. It was a glorious three days. We hope we are welcome back. We'll be there.

These two orphans cousins loved playing together and it breaks my heart every time Drew says, "Want go at Annie's house." and I reply, "Sorry, not today. It's too far."
(Cousin Annie and Drew--January 2012)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Lego Band

Far too often I get all jumbled up in a never-ending to-do list. In fact too often lately I'm not even paying attention to any type of to-do list, I'm simply running around like a chicken with it's head cut off. I start one project or job, and then something else catches my attention mid-way through and I'm off to some other task while the previous one sits either undone or half done.

Lately I'm listening with half an ear to my children, looking without seeing and being there without really being there. All the while the laundry sits waiting to be put away, toilets wait to be cleaned, children wait for a book to be read while I'm running from one room to another not quite accomplishing much of anything.

The other morning Joshua and Drew entered the room and announced they had a "band" and "look at my guitar." I, of course was listening with half an ear, and looking with half an eye as I cleaned up the kitchen and gathered dirty towels, pajamas and socks to take upstairs to the laundry.

And then I realized that half look-really needed to be a whole look. There was Joshua strumming a guitar made from Legos, and there was Drew with a Lego-made drum and drumsticks. (Joshua was not happy that Drew kept mistakingly begin to conduct his own singing with the "drumsticks" instead of hit the "drum" with them.)

I couldn't help but stop, SIT DOWN and enjoy the show. I had my own personal concert with two boys singing "I am a child of God" while playing a Lego guitar and pounding a Lego drum. For fear of the concert ending, I didn't even get up to grab the camera until the third or fourth time through.

 I need to slow down more and remind myself MORE OFTEN that the other stuff can wait.
Lego bands won't be around forever.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Husband's Other Love

A few years ago Mike put in a couple of wooden posts to claim his "shed spot" in our back yard. Despite being cemented into the ground, they served no other purpose than an eye-sore, a conversation piece, or an odd backdrop to the trampoline as you can see here.
(April 2011)

As fall turned into winter, Mike found himself with a little extra time on his hands and even recruited his brother and two nephews to spend a Saturday in December helping him.
Last Saturday we had our first real snowstorm of the season. Having braced myself for a day of jealousy pangs as my husband turned all his time, energy and excitement to his shed, I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to snow. Kind of a lot of snow, at least too much snow for Mike to spend the day lovingly hammering, nailing and drilling his shed.

When snow falls around here, we of course shovel our driveway and front walks almost immediately. In the almost seven years we have lived here, we have never shoveled our back patio and/or back yard. Until last week...
 I guess if he can't actually work on the shed, at least he can go visit.
I will add however, that it was Luke and I that noticed and were absolutely fascinated by the melting snow on the pitched roof.

 And that is probably the most enthusiasm and excitement I have shown about my husband's love shed.

As for this picture, yeah well I never have claimed to have the greatest parenting skills...

PS-Want to know how much the shed materials have cost him?
Well I don't have an exact figure, but I will say somebody told me about a television show called, "Dumpster Divers" (?) and I wonder if they would be interested in featuring Mike and his shed!?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Food Processor or a Stylish Coat

(I have been amazed at the comments I received privately from my post about breastfeeding and/or the guilt that comes along with it. A lesson to us all about the greater need for unconditional support of fellow mothers... But I will say I still have a tendency to judge those sharing a family bed....)

Anyway... on a lighter note here's an article that you can read below or HERE or HERE.
Have a great loooong weekend.

I have a dear friend, twelve years younger than me, three kids less, probably 40 pounds lighter, and with a far more stylish wardrobe than I could ever hope to have. Her first child and my fifth child are only days apart. You can imagine what that means can’t you? Her child has always been dressed to the nines. Even as a young baby he was dressed from head to toe in stylish, name brand clothes while my baby was lucky to have an unstained onesie on. Now as almost three year olds, mine is barely ever seen in more than a diaper and hers (of course potty trained) is for the most part always immaculately dressed.

Just the other morning this dear friend dropped her children off at my house for a couple of hours. Her two little boys' darling matching outfits immediately caught my attention. Of course I couldn't help noticing her cute shoes and fashionable coat as she hurried and ran off to her car. A few minutes later as I snuggled with her one year old on the couch, I smiled as I looked at his cute little hair-gelled just so into place. I glanced over at my youngest child prancing around the family room in just a diaper and smiled as I realized that in his almost three years of life, I don't think I have ever touched a comb to his hair!! (Did I really just admit that? I will say though that we keep his hair pretty short. Good save.)

As I listened to my friend's almost three year old begin jabbering about what toys my little boy recently received for Christmas, my immediate, almost natural thought was, "Why does he speak so much better than my little guy? Then just as quickly as that thought began, I stopped it. You see I've learned to do that over the years. Everyone and everything is different. And that is OKAY!

I couldn't help but think back to my younger self. The mother I was eight years and three kids ago. I remember distinctly my two little pre-schoolers walking up the sidewalk hand in hand and a neighbor saying to me, "Your children always look so clean and put together. They are darling." I smiled proudly and remember inwardly complimenting myself that my children looked nothing like another neighbor with a few more kids than mine who rarely had a clean face or clean (or matching) clothes on!

The other day, as I continued to snuggle with this stylish little neighbor boy on the couch I began to laugh out loud. Eight years and three more kids later I am that other neighbor! And guess what? I'm okay with that. Why wash a face if they are going to get thrown in the tub in a few hours? Why fight about un-matching clothes when you'd much rather fight about brushing teeth? Why worry about the odd nose dripping snot when you know soon it will come in contact with a shirt sleeve? (I may or may not be slightly exaggerating!)

My little memory lane trip while I sat on the couch continued as I positively compared myself to my younger friend. I realized that had I been friends with this now dear friend 10-12 years ago I would have felt insecure and frumpy. I would have envied her life and begrudged my own. But oh the wisdom almost 13 years of motherhood have given me!!

My friend are I are completely different. We are in varying stages of our lives. While she juggles two young toddlers at home I send four children off to three different schools on an almost daily basis. When I see her children's grandparents stop by almost daily to shower them with time and gifts, I am reminded that my children have lots of cousins to share grandparents with. When I thought about the fashionable rust colored coat she was wearing minutes before, I remembered it was a gift she received a couple of weeks ago for Christmas while I was receiving a food processor that I desperately wanted.

Ahh! The wisdom of years. I couldn't help but smile from my perch on the couch as I looked at our two little boys playing side-by-side together. Neither of them caring a whit that one was dressed in name-brands from head to toe, and one of them was wearing a generic store-brand diaper. I basked in the glorious moment that I could readily acknowledge "This is my life. My family, my children, my choices, my consequences and I love it."  In that moment I wished desperately for every mother in the world to have that same contentment and acceptance of their friends and themselves.

I'm reminded of this quote from Anna Quindlen: "The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself."

Not that we're all necessarily trying to be perfect, but too often we are not working on becoming ourselves! Now don't get me wrong. I have not perfectly mastered this concept myself. There are certainly days I get wrapped up in desires for a perfectly toned body, a calm and even temperament, a new wardrobe, or a well decorated house like this friend or that friend. To say I was content all of the time would be a lie.

What I am beginning to master though is the concept of  looking beyond the differences between me and another to see the reasons behind them. When that happens it is easy to see that the differences are often just that!  They're just differences! Kind of like a fashionable coat or a food processor? Neither one is better. It all depends what they are being used for, right?

What a glorious thing to be able to see differences and accept them. What a glorious thing when we can take that one step further and accept ourselves.

I wouldn't trade that wisdom for anything.
Even for a stylish coat.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mustaches, Four-Arms and Such

Joshua has had a pretty legitimate sore above his lip now for a few days. As it began to scab over, he kept licking it and it was having a hard time healing. Mike (ever the Neosporin and bandaid Nazi) suggested covering the scab with some ointment and a bandaid to help it heal faster.

Well, that just caused all sorts of commotion and excitement around here. Because if you remember, not long ago Joshua exclaimed to me, "When I get big I will be really, really happy if I get a mustache."

It was no surprise that I came home from the store the other day to find the bandaid had been colored to more closely resemble a mustache.
Joshua has been pretty much in heaven all week.

We are now out of bandaids and I'm pretty sure the black marker reached it's coloring capacity and has been tossed in the garbage.

Ellie on the other hand discovered the other night during dinner preparations that she had four arms. She was delighted. I was less than delighted that she wasn't able to use two of those four arms to help assist with aforementioned dinner preparations! Guess having four arms comes with its privileges.
(That was Ellie's attempt at a monster face. Not sure if she was just posing for the photo, or trying to scare us from asking her to carry through with her assigned dinner chore.)

As for Drew--he actually got dressed one day this week to go visit Hank and Hazel with Luke. We were all in a state of shock when 2 hours later he was still fully dressed. It was certainly worthy of a photo.
As for Luke, he too often thinks it is his assigned duty to entertain the rest of us at the wrong times. Like at scripture time or bedtime. Take last night for example. We had already been unimpressed and un-humored by his attempt at reading from a Spanish Book of Mormon instead of one of the 500 ENGLISH ones we have lying around. (I'm humored about it already, but at the time Mike and I were pretty frustrated with his antics.) After scripture reading hadn't gone so well, Luke was given strict instructions to shower and then do his assigned school reading quietly by himself and not disturb anyone.

Instead, Luke exited the bathroom from his shower with his underwear practically pulled up to his neck, his shirt tucked in, and some sort of awful feather contraption in his hair. He came into our bedroom and began dancing and leaping around in an effort to entertain us yet again. Unfortunately for him, I just happened to have my camera in my hand ready to take downstairs to upload pictures with. 
Can you tell how fast he started running when he saw the camera in my hand?
Pretty darn fast.

Luke heard us all laugh as we viewed the captured photo on the camera screen and quickly returned to attempt to delete the picture. As Luke grabbed for the camera, Mike grabbed for Luke-except Mike didn't really have much to grab onto except... well let's put it this way, Luke experienced first-hand what "a wedgie" feels like.

I declined to take a picture.

Of course I can't leave out Megan. But I don't typically have my camera with me as she is being told 30 minutes after having been told "goodnight"  not to come into our room one more time. More often than not, the first 67 times of telling her don't quite work, but as our voices get slightly louder and our tones a little meaner she gradually gets the hint.

And that pretty much sums up a typical day in our neck of the woods that I must record, why? Oh yeah, because supposedly, Mike and I are gonna miss this one day!


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