Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Popularity is Over-Rated, So is Water Repellent

This last Sunday while Mike and I were cleaning the kitchen together, he said to me, "I need you to help me do something later." He said this while putting a bottle of water repellent in the plate cupboard. (Somehow the plate cupboard has become a catch-all for pretty much everything. Water repellent included.)

A few minutes later, Mike laid down on the couch. Ellie asked if I wanted to play a game of Skip-Bo, and I obliged, so I got down on the floor to begin playing. Megan was over in the kitchen with stacks of Kraft Food magazines exploring recipes, and stopping to explain to me every single recipe she was interested in, (She was interested in every single one.) Luke was recently introduced to the extra i-pod we've had floating around here for a couple years or so, and wanted a song from i-tunes downloaded. Joshua and Drew were playing quietly nearby. (Well noisely pushing trucks and Hot Wheels around the floor, but quietly as in keeping themselves occupied.)

Remember, Mike is laying on the couch.

Megan continued to give every detail of every recipe, occasionally mixing it up by asking if we had certain ingredients on hand. Luke needed the song on i-tunes right then. The kid has pretty much had no interest in any technology his entire life, let alone interest in music. But by golly, he needed that song from i-tunes immediately.

I love playing games and my relaxing game of Skip-Bo was quickly being sabotaged by i-tunes and potential recipes.

Oh, but wait. That wasn't all. Drew and Joshua realized that they needed  "The black truck that has the thing on it" right away. Slight problem was, that truck was in a container on the top shelf of the locked toy closet. (Obviously our reasons behind keeping our toy closet locked is a subject for another day.)

I was a little too busy at the moment to go retrieve the truck.
Mike wasn't volunteering to play Skip-Bo, or take my place. Which granted, we were playing it on the floor, and Mike doesn't (can't) sit on the floor.

Mike wasn't volunteering to help Luke. He claims he doesn't know how, but really he doesn't want to learn how.

Mike wasn't answering any of Megan's questions. Although a frequent organizer of our pantries and fridge, he is probably quite clueless as to whether we have any Cream of Tartar or Ricotta Cheese stored anywhere.

So to me, it only seemed natural for Mike to go and retrieve the "Black truck that has the thing on it." Except Mike's eyes were beginning to feel the heaviness of a lazy Sunday afternoon and his response was, "There are a lot of toys out. We don't need to get out any more."

But then there was a problem with i-tunes and after about the 45th (no exaggeration) try I was close to absolutely losing it with everybody telling Luke we'd have to wait for another day. Ellie was patiently behind me waiting for me to take my turn, Megan was asking "Just one more question," and the boys were now whining louder about the need for the "Black truck that has the thing on it."

Mike was still laying behind me on the couch. I thought he was asleep until I heard him question, "How does it feel to be so popular?"

I wanted to hit him.
I didn't.
Instead, I told asked him to go and get the truck for the boys.

Two days later, the bottle of water repellent is still sitting in my plate cupboard.
Mike either:
a. forgot whatever task he was going to do with it on Sunday or
b. didn't dare ask for my help

I am hoping that one day when Mike and I are alone on a quiet Sunday evening with all the time and energy in the world to do whatever needs to be done with his water repellent, we appreciate it.

Because I certainly don't appreciate being so popular now.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Tearful Half

I'm a little behind on things around here. Lest you think we forgot Joshua's half birthday a couple of weeks ago, we didn't.
I could blame the tears on the fact Drew got to Joshua's half birthday cake before the rest of us did...
(Please note the chocolate all over Drew's legs, arms and finger-nails. And please do not note the sharp knife left unattended on the counter for him to use.)

But the real reason for Joshua's tears was his behavior. Joshua was pretty darn close to losing his half birthday celebration until good 'ole yours truly intervened, and persuaded Daddy that the half-birthday celebration should commence.

Tears included.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Step Back in Time Alone

During our visit to St. George last week, I took myself on a self-guided walking tour of the St. George historical sites while the boys hiked and the girls stayed with Kristin,

I've had my eye on this tour since May when I discovered it was an option, all neatly mapped out on a glossy brochure. My real dream of doing the tour was to do it dressed in my red pioneer dress my sister-in-law Cindy, made for me four years ago. I didn't quite have the guts to dress in period costume, but I did wear a dress. (I declined Kristin's offer of loaning me her pioneer bonnet, which incidentally I think was offered to me in a slightly mocking tone.)

As for my shoes?
They worked out just fine despite the lady in the Visitor's Center who when handing me my brochure clucked her tongue while looking at my shoes and told me, "You will be walking miles and miles. These miles here aren't your typical miles." Not sure what she meant, but I knew I would be walking a lot and planned my shoes accordingly.
This little self-guided tour was the highlight of my trip. By that, I mean no offense to the people I spent the weekend with, but I quite enjoyed the two hours alone walking the streets of downtown St. George.

I loved walking and observing at my own pace. No one whined about how far it was, no one got bored and nobody made me look at things I didn't want to look at.

I fooled myself into thinking that for some reason I was now cultured and entered an art museum. None of the pictures appealed to me in the least, and we had a slight hic-cup when the Art Museum man asked me which print I liked the most and why? Again, I say that none of the prints hanging on the walls interested me at all and for a brief second, it brought up my suppressed memory of being at the National Museum of Art and History with Luke last year in Washington DC. I momentarily felt trapped that this Art Museum man would discover my non-love of art, and I made a quick escape. (After first politely declining his offer to get me in for free to a special display of art at another museum across the street.)

I did however, absolutely LOVE Michael Bedard's Art Gallery. Being already familiar with a few of his paintings, I was anxious to go to his gallery. One day I will have a print of his hanging in my home. I'm not quite sure the poor luck of my art gallery experiences... In this gallery, the artist paid little to no attention to me, especially compared to the other gallery person. I would have quite liked to discuss Michael's paintings and would have loved to have pointed out my favorite one to him.

Instead I left his gallery wondering if there is some sort of Art Gallery communication system and he had already been tipped off by the first Art Museum man "To pay little attention to the woman alone who may enter your gallery soon. She is an imposter."
I visited the old Tabernacle (again declining the tour). My experience in that beautiful, historic building could have been better if Mike hadn't have chosen that particular time to call me four times in a row, despite me declining his call each time. I was trying so hard to act interested and cultured while listening to the sweet sister missionary give me some brief details of the building, but the constant interrupting of Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" ringtone was a slight distraction.

(the clock on top is from London)
I loved the Pioneer Museum (have I told you before I would have loved to be born in a different era?), I declined the tour of the Brigham Young House. I don't do guided tours, I get bored. (There comes the non-cultured side of me again...), 

I saw and read historical markers, and I loved looking at old buildings.

Anytime I read this phrase in any of its varied forms, I tear up. I have walked the streets of Salt Lake City, I have (now) walked the streets of St. George. Of course so different than what anyone would have envisioned 150+ years ago. These cities (and many others) stand as a testament to the faith, dedication and foresight of the early Mormon Pioneers.  I feel honored to be a part of their vision.
Of course my absolute favorite was my visit to Judd's General Store. I purchased myself a cold bottle of cream soda there and sat outside drinking it while also enjoying a Hostess Cupcake given to me by my brother James upon my arrival at his home the previous night. (He's pretty swell to have bought me a box of those delicious, processed, calorie-laden, treats.) I was feeling a little too embarrassed to ask someone to take my photo during my cupcake/cream soda/Judd's experience. Not so much that I was embarrassed then, but I knew as soon as either of my two younger brothers knew I had done that, they would be embarrassed for me.

I opted instead to put my camera on self-timer, but then some people came walking by and I felt a little silly taking a photo of myself drinking cream soda and eating a processed cupcake. So I quickly jumped up from my seat to retrieve my camera. Only to have it take the picture right as the passers-by were inches from me. I've never thought a camera click was loud until that moment. It was a little awkward.
One day I want to stay at this Bed and Breakfast. Although I likely will have to alone. Mike is not a fan of Bed and Breakfast's, but I won't tell you why here.
Avoiding anymore potentially embarrassing camera episodes, I not only refrained from asking anyone to take my picture alongside this statue of Brigham Young I didn't try the self-timer either.
 What a solitudinous and glorious way to spend an afternoon. I will surely do it again one day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Heading South for Fall Break

It's funny that even though we had a fabulous time in St. George with my brother James, Kristin, Annie and Kate last weekend, we have very few photos capturing our time together.

Actually, I take that back. I have about 176 photos (no exaggeration) of the trip, but most of them were taken by either Megan, Luke or Ellie in a quest to take the perfect photo for the upcoming PTA Reflections Contest. Remember when Megan and Ellie entered a couple of years ago? Well I think they consider Cousin Annie to be the key to success, and all sorts of efforts were made to procure the perfect shot.

Luke's photographic efforts tended to focus on nature:
Megan's on Annie and the water:
And Ellie was dead set on capturing the perfect photo of Cousin Kate. Not exactly easy when the focus is a wiggly, squirmy 8 month old. I love Kate, but I sure have a lot of blurry, unusable photos of Kate now on my computer.
We shall see how encouraging I am about the Reflections contest next year.

Too many photos aside, we had a marvelous time together with some of my favorite people on earth.

I actually think Drew may have been fully dressed more often than Annie.
The x-box or ninetendo or whatever it is, is always a hit.

 And it really is too bad that the one time I remembered to take a group shot, was when they all had "We just woke up eyes."
Although the "Just woke up eyes" may be slightly better than this:
The temperature was glorious...

The company was fabulous...
And the whole weekend, pretty darn fun...

We were repeatedly told we are some of their favorite house guests. I'm not sure if they were just being polite or if they really did love the fact that Joshua vacumed their floor, Megan swept, and Mike kept the freezer stocked with ice cream. We're choosing to forget the part where Drew threatened to throw a toy at James, but other than that, perhaps we are pretty swell company to have around.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Real Deal

Despite absolutely LOVING my birthday, and thinking it is one of the very best days of the year, they don't always go quite as smoothly as I'd like.

For example, this was the text I sent to Mike mid-day today:

"I'm not blaming you, or expecting you to do anything about it. I'm merely telling you for your enjoyment and/or pity... Drew decided to smash tomatoes on the tile floor today, both boys were very naughty and ran laps around the shoe store I was just at, and now I'm taking them to the store to buy groceries for my own birthday dinner. Go ahead and laugh. I'm trying to, otherwise I will surely start crying."

This is the text I wanted to send but refrained.

"This birthday stinks. I'm mad that the pair of shoes you and Megan picked out don't fit, due in large part to your lackadaisical attitude towards my correct shoe size, and your rumored comment that said, "Just get them. They'll fit her just fine." Also, I'm mad that our son decided today would be a good day to retrieve tomatoes from the bowl and the potato masher from the drawer and have them come together on my tile floor. Furthermore, I'm not happy that when I tried to exchange the shoes, the store didn't have the shoes I wanted in my right size. I am trying to believe both you and Megan that they really didn't have a size 8 when you chose to get the other ones that will "fit me just fine" as opposed to my belief that really you just wanted a more timely departure from the store. Therefore, in the vain and determined attempt to get a new pair of shoes on my birthday, I had to drag two little boys who were full of a little too much energy (thus the aforementioned tomatoes) into a small shoe shop that you would never be caught dead in. The boys ran laps and very nearly knocked over a tall shoe display. The worker thought they were just darling (???) and I was almost willing to offer a trade; shoes for boys. I didn't. Instead after the shoe store I dragged the two boys to the grocery store to buy groceries for my own birthday dinner. I don't think I even need to say anymore about that sentence. I hope it doesn't happen again: the size 9 shoes (they will never fit me. I'm a size 8, unless it is high heels then an 81/2), the tomatoes on my tile floor (although if it isn't my birthday it may not make me as mad), and most certainly I hope I never, I repeat never, have to go the grocery store on my birthday for my own birthday meal."

But then I see my dear husband over in the kitchen preparing dinner that I don't have to lift a finger for (except of course for the grocery purchasing part), after he recently walked through the back door with a bouquet of flowers. I really shouldn't complain.

Which I really am not. I promise.
It is all just part of life when you're an adult on your birthday.

Nonetheless, Happy Birthday to me still.
Oh, and I can't forget that Megan got completely carried away on close-up pictures of me. I kept asking her NOT to use the zoom feature quite so much, but perhaps she wanted to accentuate those 38 year old wrinkles?

Oh and of course I must talk about the birthday hat. I wore the hat all afternoon and evening. I even wore it while driving a few miles to pick Luke up from somewhere, I was sort of hoping someone would honk and wave at me upon seeing me wear a birthday hat. I sat through at least 4 red lights and nary a person honked and recognized my birthday. I also continued to wear it during the presidential debate, even though it seemed every time I re-positioned myself I'd hear, "Tiffany, I can't see through that hat." (The hat comments started out polite, but got a little less polite as the 90 minutes passed.)

Oh and big news in the "cake" department. This year I opted for a Rice Krispie treat "cake" instead of my usual request for chocolate cake. I didn't regret it one bit. Megan certainly knows how to make Rice Krispie treats.
So you see, despite wrong sized shoes, squashed tomatoes, naughty boys and shopping for my own dinner, it really was a splendid day. Like I said to Mike as I kissed him goodnight, "birthdays really should happen more than once a year."

A Wonderful Day Indeed

If you don't know why I officially turned 38 years old the day before my birthday you can click HERE, otherwise, you can all rejoice in the fact that it is indeed,

the most wonderful day of the year.
my birthday.

What a fabulous day.

Happy Birthday TO ME!!
After Monday it will be back to business as usual. I have about 184 blog posts to get caught up with, 37 loads of laundry, 291 receipts to enter, 543 photos to sort through, 29 emails to reply to, and about 761 things on my calendar for the week. I'll enjoy Monday, my birthday, while I can.

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Accomplished, Proficient and Skilled Children

(Please, please note the sarcasm of the title. Upon further reading it may make sense...)

Fairly early on in my parenting,  I received a free magnet with 101 ways to praise your children. It had all sorts of phrases on it, I suppose to add variety to the very quick and often over-used phrase, “good job.”

I threw it away last week. It sat on my fridge for YEARS, was never really good at actually holding a paper in place, and was not anything I referred to since probably 2001 when maybe I told Megan, “Her driveway chalk art looked sensational.”

For years now, I have felt that we as a society, specifically my generation, are over-praising and rewarding our children. Although I am a huge fan of making sure our children feel successful, accomplished, and have self-confidence and self-esteem, sometimes I think too many parents are rolling out the red carpet (so to speak) for anything from a single goal during a soccer game to a 100% score on a homework assignment.

Now, I’m not talking about situations where a lot of effort was put into it or a goal was set and reached. For example…

One of my children is a fabulous speller. The spelling words brought home on Monday are rarely looked at, and the child has yet to get below 100% on a spelling test. I have another child, who is not a great speller. That child (as a motivator) is given the chance to earn money per correctly spelled words. There have been times this school year that one child’s score of 12/20 received more whooping and hollering in our house than the 100% score of another.  

Lest you become concerned about the (100%) child not receiving a lot of praise, we choose to focus their praise on the areas of their life that they succeed after putting extra time, effort, and energy into something.
See what I mean? It shouldn't be about praising for the sake of praising. It is praising/rewarding when genuine effort is exerted or goals are set and achieved.

It’s probably no different than the fact we don’t shout any congratulatory phrases when the 14 year old “wakes up dry” in the morning, but we do when the 5 year old does. 

Mike and I were both raised in families where verbalization of praise and compliments were kept to the minimum. Early on in our marriage, we decided (among other things) we wanted to parent differently in that area. Although our intentions with our children are deliberate, probably somewhat due to our upbringing, we have equaled out to be fairly “average” when it comes to praising our children. We certainly have room to improve, and recently took on a new phrase shared by my friend "Raise the praise, reduce the criticize."

Perhaps some would argue that we’re way off base, but I am concerned that children seem to be rewarded and praised for everything these days.  I think more parents need to let their children “just be.”  

Currently, both Mike and I serve in the children’s organization in our church and are in the children’s meetings every Sunday. Before that though, we did not always attend every talk, prayer, or scripture recitation that our children gave. Although we clearly support our children, and have practiced numerous scriptures and talks in the week before, we have chosen not to be the parents in the back of the room giving a great big thumbs up, or recording with our cell-phones.  We make every effort to be sure our children know we support them, love them and encourage them, by telling them and showing them.

Perhaps I am alone in my thinking that praise can be overdone.  I get that everyone parents differently, I really do. I just can’t help but become concerned sometimes that a generation of children are becoming entitled, cocky and self-centered. And I think a large part of it comes from rewards and praise for every little action and effort.

I want my children to know that praise and rewards are given for good effort and hard work. Which perhaps explains why I don’t need a magnet suggesting 101 ways to respond to a cowboy and horse drawn on a piece of paper or every school-paper that flies out of my child’s backpack.

More children today need to understand that the very best praise or reward they can receive, is the personal satisfaction of a job well done or the confidence that their efforts really made a difference.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

For Posterity's Sake

Last month I met a young mother who had a photo of her mother on a bookshelf in her home. Her mother died when she was 6 years old. She admitted that she could remember very little about her mother, even though she thought certainly her similar aged daughter would remember her, should she die.

It was a fairly brief exchange, but the short conversation had a big impact on me. It also made me think about a journal entry I made in my journal when I was 13 years old, "I write in this for my children to read. Because I won't always remember."

Which is funny, because I haven't exactly turned over my journals to my children for their reading pleasure, and I'm not exactly sure I will. Except for the one I wrote in from age 4-13. The other volumes of journal can wait for a few years.
Anyway, teenage journal writing aside, that brief conversation with this young mother made me think about all the every-day things we do as mothers that one day our children (and even ourselves) may forget about us.

NOT that I'm planning on going anywhere soon, but because I have such strong feelings about personal journals and records, I decided to record things about now.

I love to play primary songs on the piano while my children get ready for school in the morning.

I absolutely love that Mike gets out of bed a good 1-2 hours before me each morning. As soon as he gets out, I roll into the middle of the bed and sprawl out across the mattress. I do believe my last hour of sleep is the most blissful.

Burping is allowed in our house. Enough said.

I don't like to eat food if I don't know who made it. (Example: church functions, anonymous gifts, etc.) I can't help but wonder if the person who "Boo-ed" us yesterday knows me well, as they were not homemade treats. Hooray! (I would have felt awful throwing a plate of homemade goodies away, but it would have had to be done.)

I have an awful tendency to laugh when I shouldn't. Like at the 5th grade maturation clinic, at a temple visitor's center when "Jesus" speaks in spanish, and when performing a musical number with people in college during a sacrament meeting.

My two small toes on each foot are triangles. (And we noticed for the first time last week that Luke's are too!)

I absolutely have to make my bed and open my blinds within the first hour or so of waking up. I require the same of my children. Except on Fridays. If the kids have made their beds all week they don't have to on Fridays. (Works out well for a "wash the bed sheet day" anyways.)

I squeeze the toothpaste from the top. It makes my husband crazy and every once in a while he wishes aloud that he didn't have to share a toothpaste tube with me.

I love to run up the stairs taking two at a time. I wonder frequently when I will get too old to do this.

I like to lay in bed at night and read or do a Sudoku puzzle, while I watch the evening news. Unless I miss the news right as it starts, then I don't bother with the rest.

I would rather eat chocolate chip cookie DOUGH than chocolate chip cookies. I can usually pass up cookies as dessert. Now brownies or Rice Krispie treats, is a whole 'nother issue.

I dislike making packed lunches. I'd make my children eat school lunches every day if I were a mean mother. Which I am a lot of times, but apparently not when it comes to school lunches.

I talk to myself. It irritates me when Mike or my children try to respond to me. I've even had people at the store think I am talking to them. I'm not. I'm talking to myself.

One day I will have a pair of shoes for every day of the year and one day I will attend an opera. They aren't related, but are two things I will do before I die. Perhaps I will relate them, when I go to the opera, I will wear a pair of new shoes.

I have never had a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, nor have I ever tasted Macaroni and Cheese. And don't try to get me to. I like enough unhealthy things, I don't need to incorporate anymore into my diet.

When I was a child, to fall asleep every night I daydreamed about being a mother and pushing a stroller down the street with a toddler walking close by. I pictured the same street, and the same stroller every time. Even now, as a mother of five, if I have trouble falling asleep, I always go back to this same scenario in my mind.

Perhaps no-one really cares if I have triangle toes or think burping should be socially accepted, but for today, I've done my little bit to preserve something for my posterity.

And now I must go fold my posterity's laundry. (Which incidentally, I LOVE to do.)

Happy Monday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

14 Years of Mothering

Fourteen years ago, Megan made me a mother. I feel like every birthday for her is a bit of a milestone for me too. She and I have been forging into new territory together now for 14 years.

I shan't make this into a anniversary about me being a mother, because it is her birthday after all. But I still can't help but feel a little sappy and even a little melancholy that while I blinked, Megan went from this...
(Megan's 1st Birthday-1999)
to this:
(Megan's 14th Birthday-2012)

I love watching the person Megan is becoming. Megan's soul is deep and it seems like she is still the same person she was when she was three, or five, or seven, just more refined and more polished. Although there are times I want to smack her upside the head, more often than not, I find myself thinking how blessed that she is my daughter and that forever and ever, my life and hers are entwined together. She's a pretty swell daughter to have had around for 14 years.
Even though she could totally have made herself a better cake than I could, she was kind and didn't say a word about my inept cake skills like she did on her 2nd birthday when she asked, "What is dat?". (It was a Barney cake.)
Which reminds me.
For Megan's 2nd birthday she received Barney Halloween on VHS. She watched it so much it broke. I myself was somewhat of a Barney fan too, and every fall we find ourselves still singing some of our favorite Barney songs from that VHS we haven't had for almost a decade.

I got awesome video captured this morning of the excitement on my 14 year old's face when she opened this present up this morning:
What a girl.
Happy Birthday Megan!


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