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.

Mom Shame: Whom the Lord loveth, He maketh cry like a baby.

I paraphrased that scripture in the title a little bit.  It really says “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” but I was just trying to make it more accurate as it relates to me.

(Deep breath.)

I’ve been drafting this post in my head for five days, and it’s still going to sting a little.  In fact, as soon as “the incident” happened, I knew I was going to have to blog about it, but that I would have to wait until I had recovered my dignity.  I don’t know why I feel so compelled to tell this story, but my best guess is that it has something to do with confessing and moving on.

I’ve been busy. There’s the regular busy:  the meals, laundry, carpool, church responsibilities, volunteering at kids’ schools, homework and chore supervision, etc.  On top of that, I have several writing projects going on, many of them with deadlines (even if they’re self-imposed). I’ve also had some lesson and teaching preparations happening on the side. I’ve been doing some behind-the-scenes research and really-small-scale activism about some social issues that have captured my attention and that I feel strongly about. It seems like I’ve had a really long ever-growing list of emails to reply to and appointments to make and stuff that just keeps taking a few minutes here and a few minutes there.  Other tasks and details added to my juggling efforts, and I started to feel a little out of balance.  You know, the nagging feeling that maybe I needed to pause and refocus, but I was too busy to do that, so I just left the thought hanging and kept on going.

Fast forward to Friday.  I was hosting a girls’ night party at my house that night, so I was engaged in must-get-the-house-clean-and-do-party-prep mode.  I got sucked into some emails and other online “business” in the morning that I kept going back to and checking on in between chores.  The boys were at school and Natalie was working on her own chore chart and then I turned on a show for her.  The phone rang and I talked to my good friend for a while.  Toward the end of our conversation, I told her I would email her a link about something we were discussing, and I headed toward the computer to log in and pull it up on the screen.  When I walked over to my desk, I saw this note taped to my keyboard.  It knocked the air out of me.

It felt like a kick in the stomach. I stumbled through a quick goodbye to my friend, hung up the phone, and carried the paper into the family room.  Natalie was sitting on the couch.  She saw the paper, and her eyes were wide waiting for my reaction.

I started to cry.

“I’m sorry, Natalie.  Do you feel like I think the computer is more important than you are?”  She nodded yes.

“Have I been a bad mom?”  Yes again.

I cried more and said I was sorry more.  She looked a little worried, but she hugged me, and she mostly seemed relieved for having voiced her grievance and been understood.  I, on the other hand, was mortified.  Here I was writing a book about motherhood, blogging about motherhood, trying to find ways to fight pornography and protect my children, and frankly, forgetting to be a good mother.  I felt it deep.  You can talk it away and rationalize, but I know it was a necessary, personal wake-up call.  It was a guilty flame that burned out a little hole inside of me, and God was giving me a chance to fill it back up again with the right stuff.

I talked to a friend.  I talked to my mom.  And when I thought I could tell the story without crying, I told Matt.  I was wrong.  We all came to the same conclusion.  I was doing good things.  I really was, but I neglected the most important things.  It was a classic case of good, better, best, and I failed.  It’s not like I had abandoned my children and all household responsibilities, but I could have done better.  I should have done better.  I like to think that God heard my silent heart-prayers about feeling out of balance and not quite knowing where to fix it, and then He sent me a lightening bolt answer.  It wasn’t a fun answer.  It was humiliating.  But it was the right answer.  It was just hard.

Natalie and I have talked about it more, and we’ve come up with a system that allows me to work on some projects, but still gives her the time and attention she needs from me.  It will take a little time for me to change some habits, remind myself often what matters most, and get things balanced again.  It’s totally worth it.  Maybe even the shame part.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” –Luke 12:34

—-

A few post-scripts:

1.  The girls’ night was fun!  Natalie joined in and loved it.
2.  Next weekend is the Story @ Home conference in Salt Lake, where my friend Jana is teaching this workshop: “Striking a Balance with Real life and Online: It’s unacceptable to put our families in crisis or fail and give up on our dreams, both can work.  Come learn five essential principles for following your dreams and striking a balance while keeping God and family first.”  Coincidence?  I think not.  Come join us.
3.  The book I contributed to is still at its special pre-sale price.  Here’s a link to know more and buy a copy or two.  :)

A joy report.

After all those serious posts the last few days about how January bites and the world is falling apart, I realized that those of you who just started visiting recently probably think I’m kind of a downer.  I’m lucky enough to know that most of the rest of you who have been around for a while know me a little better and can just roll your eyes and think:  She’ll be over it in a couple days.

So here’s a report about some things that are making me happy lately.

Last weekend, we went to St. George.  Matt took the kids and hung out with his dad, and I stayed by myself all day to write.  I’ve been working on a book for a while, but I really needed some alone time to catch up.  It was wonderful.  I learned so much and wrote a lot, and honestly felt the Spirit a lot.  It was a great dose of invigoration.

I’m sure a small part of my writing success was due to having these on hand:

Next: I like to give parties.  I am not a really good party giver because I never take the time to scan Pinterest or Google for ideas to make my parties all they could be.  I don’t really decorate or craft or do much of anything for parties because I kind of feel like great company is what makes a good party (plus I’m lazy).  I just like to create an excuse for people to get together and then I like to enjoy those people.  So for the last two years, I’ve planned some kind of girls’ night out for February (probably to recover from January).  These February girls’ nights seem to have a recurring theme.  Last year, a group of us went to see the play Persuasion at BYU. And eat of course.  The year before, I did something I loved in Minnesota called a J.A.M. party:  A Jane Austen Marathon.  It was so fun, and since I obviously don’t get sick of Jane Austen, I’m going to do it again this year.  So if you live near Happy Valley in Utah, or are willing to drive that direction, you’re officially invited to J.A.M. Party 2012.  Here is a geographical hint.  (I’m so cryptic.)

The party is not actually in this building, because, well, that would just be silly, but it gives you an approximate location.  It will be February 24th.  We will watch Persuasion, Sense & Sensibility, and Pride & Prejudice, all in a glorious row.  And eat of course.  Email me if you want more details (address is on the sidebar in the “Nice to meet you” paragraph).  Once I have used my superpowers to determine you are not a creep, I’ll give them to you (the details, not my actual superpowers).  So anyway, yay! I’m excited about that.

Moving on.  I have been loving the Ensign and general conference, but duh.  You already knew that about me.

You may have noticed that in the aforementioned overly-serious posts, I used the word “hard” a lot.  Today I  drove Natalie to gymnastics.  She was recently invited to be in a higher-level class which is, obviously, more difficult.  She’s only been a few times, and she has a little anxiety about it.  It’s not as easy and carefree as her little preschool gymnastics were, so she tried to convince me that she doesn’t like it.  The thing is, I know she does like it.  She does cartwheels, roundoffs, handsprings, etc. around my house endlessly.  She loves it when people watch her and tell her how great she is.  She’s just nervous about the new class.  So I started reassuring her in all the ways I knew how, trying to build her confidence.  I said, “Here’s one thing I know about you:  You can do hard things, and you are smart and strong.”  She held back a grin and stared out the window.  When we arrived at the gym, her nerves returned and she didn’t want to go in.  I helped her change into her leotard.  “No peeking,” I said, and then I grabbed a pen and took her hands.

While we walked into the gym, she kept looking at her hands and giggling.  I told her to look at her hands every time she felt nervous in her class.

Then I started thinking some more on the way home about the stuff I already wrote about.  And I started giving myself my own lecture.  “I can do hard things, too.”  I remembered that Sister Dalton talked about that once, so I looked it up and found it.

Last general conference, I was called by President Monson to be the new Young Women general president. As I stood in the presence of a prophet of God and was given this sacred trust, I pledged that I would serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. Prior to this calling, I had a small plate inscribed with a motto that read, “I can do hard things.” That little plate bearing that simple motto gave me courage. But now if I could change that motto, it would read: “In the strength of the Lord, I can do all things.” 

And then I did something that will amaze you.  I made a printable. Or quote, or whatever.  I don’t know the real terms.  I only have the skill to make things out of Microsoft Word and Google Images, so if any of you have some old version of Photoshop you want to give away for Valentines Day, you know who to call.  Anyway, here it is:

(I was thinking about that one quote about not crashing your heart on the rocks of grief.)  So now that quote is making me happy, too.

Last item on the joy report:  I’m going to the temple tonight.  All those people I’m worried about are going right on the prayer roll, and Heavenly Father is going to take care of them.

How about you?  What’s making you happy these days?

Negotiating with a terrorist, and other parenting dilemmas.

See this little angel?

She is going to be the death of me.   She was my easiest baby by far.  (Except for nursing.  I’m hoping someday I can forgive her for the multiple cases of mastitis, plus the lack of weight loss that I had so joyfully experienced while nursing my boys.)  She is bright and sassy and social and fun, and has a vocabulary far beyond her four years.  And yet, most days I want to put her on Craig’s List by 10 a.m.   Although “undiagnosed,” I’m pretty sure she has some sensory issues.  Her clothes always “feel funny.”  Her socks and especially her shoes always “bother” her.  Meltdowns ensue.  They involve crying, wailing, shrieking, flopping around on the floor, throwing shoes, and on lucky days like yesterday, a little bit of kicking and pinching.   Not to mention screaming out completely irrational things like, ” I … HATE … MY … NOSE!”  Seriously.  ?!??!

Last summer, I complained about this a little bit and DeNae suggested that I get rid of all her clothes and just buy her some loose summer dresses.  It actually worked pretty well, at least for the summer, and we’ve managed to garner a collection of a few clothing items that she considers to be comfortable and suitable.  This works until they’re all dirty, and then she spends her morning screaming down the stairs at me that “all the clothes in my closet bother me!”.  The shoes and socks situation, however, seems unsolvable.  The meltdown usually “ends” when I just drag her kicking and screaming to the car barefoot with her shoes and socks in tow, ready to begin the battle again at the place of arrival.  At that point, usually the threat of her not being able to go inside (or the threat of being left in the car … a slightly empty threat, I admit) finally convince her to put them on.  This process is a painful 10-minute exercise in on-and-off, on-and-off, open and close the straps, do it again  . . . . whimper, whimper . . . you get the idea.

Shopping for shoes is a nightmare.  Shoes, sandals, flip flops alike are all met with complete disdain and a quick eject button. (I think I’m going to try crocs this summer, but I’m not hopeful.)  Sometimes I just buy the pair that seems the most comfortable to the touch, and then we battle it out for a few months.  The solution is elusive to me.  She has been up to 90 minutes late to preschool before because of it.  I have tried to set up award systems (“If you can be all the way ready and on time to school, then we will go get the stuff to make that necklace you saw in a magazine”),  punishment (“Fine. No gymnastics today because you can’t get ready to go.”), and embarrassment (“Okay, instead of preschool today,  you have to come with me to Clark’s school and sit in the corner of the room barefoot while I do my volunteer work.”).  I have followed through with all of those by the way, except the necklace which she did not earn.  Nothing so far seems to make a difference or even move her toward more success.  By the way, she likes preschool and gymnastics, so I don’t think this is some kind of avoidance feat.

So, wise blog readers, give me your ideas, solutions, sympathy.  I’ll take any of it.

And in addition to all that, I would love to hear your ideas on a related matter:  the balance between “loving instruction” and just forcing them to do what they’re supposed to do.  I give my kids choices all the time: “Do this and get this, or do that and get that.”  I think that’s not forcing them, but helping them understand the relationship between choices and consequences.  However, sometimes I just resort to “You can’t do anything else until this gets done.  Do it!,” and obviously, in Natalie’s case, I sometimes end up literally dragging her to where she needs to be and shoving her shoes on her feet myself.  I’m starting to have concerns about how to fix this now so that I don’t have to deal with the embarrassing mess it would be when my children are big strong teenagers and I’m trying to drag them somewhere or lock them in their rooms until they’re clean … know what I mean?  Real question:  How do you not resort to “forcing” them to do things, and get to the point where they choose it on their own?  I think I mostly get it, but I feel like something’s missing.

My apologies to those of you who come to this blog thinking I’m some kind of parenting expert.  Let’s face it.  I’ve still got a lot to learn.

The wisdom of an immature mind

My daughter Natalie is a 4-year-old genius.  (Doesn’t she look great in my glasses?) She’s like a grown-up, intelligent woman in a little tiny body . . . assuming that the grown-up, intelligent woman pees her pants a lot and screams like she’s being axe-murdered when her socks “feel funny.”  Anyway.  I was looking through some old abandoned drafts and I found this comment that Natalie made to me one morning.  It wasn’t just any morning.  It was one of those mornings where you’ve decided to give up before the sun even rises.  I think I actually crawled back into bed and told her that I’d decided to stay in bed all day and hide.  She bellowed with great sincerity:  “Nooooo.  We love you.  We want you to get up every day.”  I have to admit, it made me feel better, and I (mostly) recovered and survived the day.

This past Sunday, I arrived at church in a tizzy because I don’t care if we had church at 6:45 p.m., we would still be scrambling to get out the door on time.  It’s pathetic.  And in this case, I was pretty convinced that our family was hopeless, and that I was destined to be the lone, unappreciated crusader to get my family out the door and to church on time without missing any major articles of clothing.  I was annoyed.  During sacrament meeting, the hymns and prayers and sacrament began to cool me down (as they are designed to do), and at some point Natalie leaned over and whispered to Matt, “Daddies don’t have diamonds in their rings because they don’t make dinner.”

I love that girl.

That’s all.  Carry on.

Parental Preference

Natalie is a daddy’s girl. One night while I was tucking her into bed, she told me, “I like daddy better than you.” “Why?” I asked. She responded matter-of-factly, “Because daddy smells like truck, and I like the smell of truck.”

Alrighty then.

The other day (after reading one of those horrible news stories) I breached the subject of child molesters while she and I were driving in the car together. Basically, it was a 3-year-old-level discussion about appropriateness and safety, etc. When I told her that she could always come talk to me and daddy about anything, she rolled her eyes and looked up at the ceiling.

“Is this embarrassing to talk about?” She shook her head no. “Is it silly?” She sighed and said, “No, but I’m going to talk about it to daddy instead because I like him better than you.”

Oh, right. I reassured her she could talk to either one of us about anything and if she wanted to talk to her daddy about it, that was fine.

This weekend I’m taking a little girlfriend-type getaway. I’m going to meet up with a few bloggy friends and do important stuff like talk and eat food. I’m really looking forward to it. Every time I mention it to Natalie, she gets all pouty and doesn’t want me to go.

This morning, I reminded her I’m leaving soon and she made the most disapproving face she could. I said, “You’ll be fine. You like daddy better anyway, remember?” She softened a little and said, “But you’re the best cooker in the whole world.”

Take that, Matt. You may smell like truck, but I can make a mean chocolate chip cookie.

I’m expecting an angel to ring my doorbell in about 5 minutes

I’ll spare you most of the details of how miserable the last 24 hours have been. On Monday, Natalie had a 2-hour consultation with a pediatric urologist at the local children’s hospital in an attempt to stop the onslaught of urinary tract infections. While we were there, she peed in a cup and was pronounced clean. By that evening, she was starting to fever. Again. By morning, the fever was rising. I got her in to get some labs done and -surprise, surprise- it looked like there was some bacteria in her urine. There has been much medicine wrangling, shivering, vomiting, and general misery. This morning her temperature was 105.7. Seriously?

I had to take her in to get some shots, which she was not happy about, and in the struggle to get her to put her shoes on (that were all too tight, or too bumpy, or too “weird”) I told her that we can get her some new shoes another time, but please just put them on so we can get to the doctor on time. She got shots in both legs and was not pleased. She demanded that we buy her some new shoes on the way home. Even though I know it’s probably not the wisest idea, I decided to appease her and fulfill my promise and maybe ease some of her misery. (Note to anyone who’s thinking about calling the CDC: UTIs are not contagious even if they have a fever.) We tried on a few shoes, but that wasn’t going well, so I convinced her to go home and come back another day when she felt better. I tucked her into her carseat and covered her with her blanket and headed home.

A few minutes later, Matt called me to tell me that a lady called him from my cell phone saying she found my purse. Oh great. He then told me that she’s bringing it to my house. After a day like I’ve had, her honesty and kindness are a real blessing. I’m so glad that there are people who will respond with charity, even when they have no idea who I am or what I might need.

“I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind. . . . My beloved brothers and sisters, I testify of angels, both the heavenly and the mortal kind. In doing so I am testifying that God never leaves us alone, never leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face.” — Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Ministry of Angels,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 29–31

I hope when my doorbell rings, I can express how much it means to me.  Any wagers on whether I can do it without crying?  These are the kinds of days you can’t make it through without knowing that God is watching, helping and caring.  And now I know He is, because he sent me an angel.