Reflections on an amusement park

lagoon

I spent 11 hours yesterday at the amusement park with my son Clark. He got some money for his birthday, plus saved up some of his allowance and decided he wanted to spend a day at Lagoon. Since he’s too young to go unsupervised, and we already established that it’s too expensive to take the whole family, he invited me to come and he paid my way.

Here are a few observations from a day of rides, walking, and people watching:

1. Unfortunately, I did not get the memo that all females over the age of 13 were supposed to wear tank tops and denim booty shorts.

2. I assumed that if I’ve always loved roller coasters ever since I was young, that would not change now that I’m getting older. I was wrong. I seriously think that a ride called The Spider gave me a mild concussion.

3. I’m not sure if there’s any kind of graduation or licensing program for tattoo artists, but there should be.

4. Young love is SO, SO awkward. Clark said, “There sure are a lot of people here on a date.” I’d venture that about 1.5% of them are destined for long-term happiness.

5. Why would a grown woman with substantial girth wear black stretch pants and a HelloKitty plush backpack? Why?

6. I couldn’t believe how many people were there with babies in strollers. It exhausted me just watching them chase and care for their young, little families. I know I tried to pull it off too, but now that I’m old and tired, I wonder why I forced myself to endure stuff like that.  My little kids would have been just as content to play a few board games at home with me, and I might actually have some money left in my savings account now.

7. Most people had way too little clothes on, but once in a while someone wandered past in jeans and a sweatshirt. It was about 93 degrees. I almost got heat stroke just watching them walk by.

8. No matter how vigilant I am about sunscreen, I never remember to consider where my hair parts on my scalp. I suspect I will have fake dandruff for a week or two.

9. Clark is a pretty fun kid.

10. Because I let him take the lead on what he wanted to do, and because he’s not a controlling order freak (like I’m learning that I am in some ways), we probably traversed the whole park a dozen times. I can’t even guess the miles we walked. I took an Aleve last night when I went to bed and only woke up with leg cramps once.

Despite my cynical comments and my utter exhaustion by the end of the day, it was great to spend a full day with my sweet 9-year-old son. It was also great to be completely unplugged from the rest of the world (I even forgot my phone) and just live in the moment. But I may not need to visit an amusement park again for a couple years.

Payoff.

Actually, I do have a post that’s not about my book.

And two posts in one day? Cue the apocalypse.

The last few weeks have been very, very busy, plus my husband has been out of town. In all this chaos, I have made a marvelous discovery. My children have actually learned some of the things I’ve taught them. I have spent years and years repeating the same things over and over to them.

“Do your chores and homework first.”

“Finish what you started.”

“Clean up after yourself.” or the common, “Don’t leave Clark tracks.” :)

Etc., etc. You’re no stranger to these things, so you know what I’m talking about.

Now, I’m not saying I’ve arrived, but it dawned on me that they are starting to get it. Finally! They are doing their chores and homework and actually earning their privileges, with less and less complaint. Grant is suddenly taking a lot more personal responsibility for his homework. Natalie will sometimes come and report to me that she finished doing a task that I don’t even remember asking her to do. This morning, Clark stuck his face in my room while I was still in bed and told me, “I’m starting on my chores early so I don’t have to do them after school.”  Seriously? There must have been an alien abduction. Or an angelic visitation. Something.

Anyway, I just wanted to offer hope. If you find yourself saying the same things over and over and over again and wonder if they will ever get it…. well, they just might. And won’t you be surprised?

Yesterday, Clark walked into the office while I was on the computer and I could immediately tell he was hiding something in his hand. “What do you have?,” I asked, “Hands up! Drop it.” He did, and it was a napkin, folded up. I opened it and this is what I found:

2013-03-07_15-46-14_485

(written in yellow highlighter: “I love you.” and a little heart)

“Oh. Thank you,” I said.

I think I like these kids.

Just keep swimming…

I pretty much overbooked myself the last couple days, and I survived, and it’s all good.  I’ve discovered I can handle high-stress days in small increments (like maybe 2-3 days max), but not over a sustained period of time.  It’s nice when it passes and you can sit back and breathe again.

It feels a little indulgent, but several of you have asked about the notes from the fireside I taught last night, so I’ll work on a blog post in the next few days (after I breathe).  I saw one young woman recording the whole thing on her iPhone, so I wish I would have just asked her for a copy of it, but oh well.  Despite the nerves and the self-induced pressure to just get it right, I felt like it went well.  I’m satisfied when I can walk away from a teaching opportunity and say, “Well, that’s the very best I could do.”  You just hope it’s enough.  For those of you who expressed curiosity, this is what I wore.  (I know it was silly of me to post about that, and I really knew the right answer — which you were all so kind to share–, but you have to admit you’d feel the same way if you were going to stand up in front of a group of people as some kind of “beauty” expert.  Ha!  Even typing that made me laugh.)  Anyway, voila:

I know, I know.  “[Insert name of real beauty expert* here.], eat your heart out.”

*I couldn’t think of one since I’m so in touch with the fashion world and all.

In the meantime, if any of you are dying to study some great reference material about beauty, modesty, self-image and virtue, here’s a link to a list of things I studied in preparation for the talk.  There’s a lot of great direction available to us.  It made me realize that our leaders have given us a lot of clear direction, so it’s surprising that there’s still so much confusion.  I guess Satan does a good job of scrambling signals.

In other news, after several failed attempts to communicate to Clark my complete dissatisfaction with finding his recently-washed clothing back in his dirty clothes basket instead of put away, I finally decided to take a more practical approach.  I informed him on Sunday that he is now in charge of the laundry for a while.  I’ve spent the last couple of days teaching him the system.  They’ve always sorted their dirty clothes and put away their clean clothes (in theory), but I decided to let him actually wash them all, switch loads, dry them all, fold them all, etc.  This photo I took tonight shows you how happy he is about the new arrangement:

Well, that’s about it.  I’ll finish up with one of my favorite quotes I found while preparing for the fireside (thank you to my friend Velda for making it look pretty for me):

 

I almost didn’t post this because I don’t want to be on Good Morning America.

Some of you may have (or have had) 6 year olds that you think are pretty cute and clever and all that.  With all due respect to your own wonderful children, my Clark is really something else.  He has this unabashed enthusiasm about things.  He feels stuff all the way.  His happy is bouncy-like, and his sadness is of the weeping and wailing variety.  Today the tears and tragic cries flowed freely when his post-baseball game brownie fell out of the package onto the ground below the bleachers.  Oh, the suffering.  He loves to laugh, giggle, scheme, and grin mischievously about things.  He also likes to sneak food, hide his clean laundry in the back of his closet instead of putting it away, and make way too many jokes about underwear and other bathroom-related topics, but that’s all fodder for another post.  Clark is a boy with heart.

So we made this video a little over a week ago because he kept singing this song over and over again around the house and it occured to me, You know, I really ought to record this for posterity’s sake because it really is kind of priceless.  So I convinced him to come over to the computer camera and sing his song for me.  Unfortunately, the stupid program kept cutting off the recording partway through, so he had to start over many, many times.  By the time we got to the final (and first complete) recording, he had somehow come up with a whole bunch of “actions” to go along with his singing (oh, the actions!).  And maybe it’s just me, his proud and totally amused mom, but I think this is a classic.  It’s definitely classic Clark, and maybe I’m delusional thinking that anyone else will find it as equally endearing and awkwardly hilarious as I do, but I decided to share it anyway.  But then I thought, What if it really is as great as I think it is and it goes viral and then I’ll have to go on those early morning talk shows?  I’m wearing my pajamas and yesterday’s mascara in this video.  I don’t even have anything to wear on TV, and I need a haircut, plus we’d be sitting there on national television and Clark would crack some joke about underwear or something and I’d be mortified.  So enjoy the video, but not too much.

Dear readers, this is my Clark:

Why I might let Clark teach FHE every week

Occasionally I get into a funk where I know exactly what I should be doing in my life, but I feel a little bit too lazy to do it. I try hard to have realistic expectations for myself, so I’m not referring to to-do lists. I’m talking about the basics: Reading my scriptures, praying, serving my family with the right kind of attitude and fulfilling my role as the kind of mother I know the Lord wants me to be. Some days I feel worn down– and just lazy, I guess– and I rationalize that I need a break. I only feel like doing stuff I want to do, not the stuff I should do (which is obviously self-defeating because I’m denying myself the very blessings I need to get back on track).

Clark is 6. Last night he taught our family home evening lesson about service.  He bore his testimony at the end of his lesson:

“So if you know you should do service, but you really don’t want to because you just don’t feel like doing service even if someone tells you to, you still have to do it. Because service equals love.”

And that’s when the Holy Ghost reminded me of a lesson I learned earlier this year: When I struggle, I need to pray to love what the Lord loves. When I see the love, I see the joy.

We discussed the service we do for each other in our family, and Clark said that “if Mom was gone from our family, that would be horrible.  I would starve to death.”  He told us all to draw a picture of service and then we showed them to each other.  This is what my husband drew:

He said (pointing to the right side), “This is mommy putting socks in the washing machine,” and (then pointing to the left) “This is Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.”  The kids all giggled at his artwork, but I understood what he meant, and I love him for it.

“Follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.” (3 Nephi 31:12)

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

So, Clark pretty much got it right, didn’t he?  Service equals love.

Why children’s prayers are better than adults’ prayers

Since I am a horrible person, I sometimes roll my eyes at the “prayers” I hear given over the pulpit.  They are sometimes sermons, sometimes poetic declarations, sometimes dramatic presentations, sometimes obviously scripted, and sometimes downright over-the-top long.  (Notice the abundant use of sometimes.  I’m not trying to make a sweeping generalization about all prayers.)  I remember a few years back in General Conference, Elder Cree-L Kofford got up and said a one-sentence prayer asking the Spirit to be with us.  It was awesome.  It may have been right after Elder Russell M. Nelson taught “Lessons from the Lord’s Prayers:”

A closing prayer in a Church meeting need not include a summary of each message and should not become an unscheduled sermon. Private prayers can be as long as we want, but public prayers ought to be short supplications for the Spirit of the Lord to be with us or brief declarations of gratitude for what has transpired.

So it’s about a thousand levels of refreshing to hear my children say their prayers at the end of the day.  Sure they seem super short, and perhaps even a little thoughtless, but take a close look at one of my recent favorites from Clark:

Dear Heavenly Father, Please bless me that I won’t have any bad dreams.  But if I do, I won’t be mad.  But please bless me that I won’t have bad dreams.  Please help us that our days will be great.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

There’s much to learn in that prayer.  Children just get it sometimes.

A three-course post

Chris Dimino Keyboard Eat Arkansas

Appetizer:

I really think that someone who understands life as a mother of small children should invent a “stink detector.”  Lately, my days have been riddled with phantom odors that I can neither find nor identify.  It’s making me crazy.  If there were some kind of contraption with a raunch radar that could beep when you’re closer and closer and give you some kind of bacterial analysis and tell you what’s causing the smell, THAT is what I would call making the world a better place.

(Now wasn’t that appetizing?)

Main course:

Matt and I went out on a date last weekend and played this free “game” at Borders.  We had 12 minutes to go find a few books that the other person would just love, then we met up, showed each other our books, sat on a couch and perused them.  One of the books Matt picked for me was “Mother Teresa, in her own words.”  Anyway, I read almost the entire book while Matt flipped through tomes about Chinese characters, the founding fathers, and Native American historical sites.  She had so many great things to say, that Mother Teresa, but one that really jumped out at me was this (paraphrased, because I didn’t actually buy the book):

“God doesn’t expect us to be successful.  He expects us to be faithful.”

I’ve been thinking about that for days, and how true I think it really is.  God can be successful with or without our help; he’s omnipotent for heaven’s sake (no pun intended)!  He only needs our faith, our devotion, our heart.  Then He can work out our salvation.  It made me reflect on how much I’m always trying to “accomplish,” when really I should just be increasing and acting upon my faith in Him.  It was a quite liberating moment of enlightenment that ties in nicely to all the thoughts I’ve had recently (and we’ve discussed here in the comments and beyond).

And there was one other thing, too.  Mother Teresa worked with lepers and poor people tirelessly.  One person commented to her that they wouldn’t touch a leper “for a million dollars,” to which she replied (paraphrased again), “I wouldn’t do it for a million dollars either.  I wouldn’t do if for two million dollars.  But I would do it for the love of God.”  How cool is that?  It made me think of how so many women today opt out of motherhood because they wouldn’t make all that hard sacrifice even if someone paid them to do it.  I’m no Mother Teresa, but I have to agree that I do the hard things I do because of the love of God… the love I feel for Him, and the love I feel from Him when I do what he asks of me.

Dessert:

Behold, a little Clark video we made to share with grandparents.  Please do not tell me what a stellar mother I am, or how I’m doing a great job and all that other nice stuff you might be compelled to say (and that grandmothers are obligated to say), but you really should see this because it is SO sweet.  Also, don’t be distracted by the sound of a dropping toilet lid in the background.

This is seriously just a simple case of great kid.  (His idea, his testimony, his conviction.)