My morning prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I’m not sure I have the energy for today, so I’m asking for your help.  Please bless Natalie to take her medicine without screaming, gagging and throwing up so she can get better.  I need courage to start the job of helping my children pick up the playroom.  Again.  Help Matt to be ready for his finals and get done all the papers and work he needs to do so he can graduate in January.  I need my husband back in the evenings so that I don’t harm my children when I put them to bed by myself every night.  How do you do it, Heavenly Father?  How do you not lose your temper when no one listens to you?  Help me to be more like you.

Every time I think about all the laundry I need to do, I want to run away.  I know it’s a silly thing, but please give me the discipline I need to actually start it.  I’m thankful I have a washing machine.  I remember washing all my clothes by hand in Argentina, and I know I’m blessed, but I still need help to tackle the job ahead of me.  Help me to remember that my children are not adults, and they are not like me.  They don’t care if the house looks as clean today as it did yesterday.  Help me to be patient and understanding, but still teach them responsibility.

I’m running out of Thanksgiving leftovers, so I should probably start cooking again.  Help me to plan and be resourceful so I don’t get overwhelmed at dinner time when the kids are all crazy and I have no ideas.  I’m thankful we have food.  And a warm house.  Seriously, Heavenly Father, I’m so glad that I have a place to stay warm and comfortable when the weather is so cold.  Please bless those who aren’t as lucky; help them find the shelter and care they need.

Finally, Heavenly Father, help me to relax and face today with a good attitude.   Forgive me for my mistakes and childish pouting.  Help me be worthy of the blessings of my covenants because I need them.  Help me to remember how much I love my children and how much you do too. Bless me with the patience and kindness and charity I need to give them a good example and teach them all they need to know.  Help me to turn to you again when I start to forget.  I’m sure we’ll talk again really soon.  I love you.

Amen.

This too shall (come to) pass.

I want to talk about stages of life.

Since early 2003, concepts like “personal space,” “alone time,” and “R&R” have only been dreamed about.  Fantasized, even.  Small children are parasites.  They cling on you, suck the life out of you, and basically consume you– blood, sweat and tears.  Of course, they’re also darling little bundles of spirit and light that shape our souls like nothing else, but that’s not the point of this post.  Mothering small children is hard.

Today was the first day of school in my neck of the woods.  Early this morning, Grant got up and excitedly got ready for his first day of first grade.  He gathered all his stuff (and made a weird face when he was supposed to say cheese).

DSCF0081We all went outside and waited at the neighborhood bus stop with a gaggle of school-goers and their siblings.

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Then we went back inside and began loading up Clark’s backpack with all the goods he would need for his first day of kindergarten, half day in the afternoon.  He and Natalie played nicely together for most of the morning and we had a little lunch and readied him for his big moment.

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He was the most excited about finally riding the bus.

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And he was off.  Natalie and I walked inside and she was ready to begin “Mommy School.”

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We hopped in the car, went to the store, purchased cupcake ingredients, zipped back home, and made pumpkin cupcakes for the boys’ first day after-school snack.

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She finished dumping the batter into cupcake liners, washed her hands, and I put her down for her afternoon nap.

The house was quiet.  I paid bills.  I made phone calls.  I signed up the boys for swimming lessons.  I checked email.  Fifteen minutes before the afternoon bus returned my boys, Natalie woke up from her two-hour nap.  We frosted the cupcakes and went outside to wait for her brothers.

They arrived, happy and excited.

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Natalie proudly shared her surprise.

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They told me about their day, called grandparents and repeated themselves several times, and we took a trip to the library.  Now they’re all in bed, asleep.

It. Was. Awesome.

Ladies and gentlemen, I did it.  I graduated to a new stage.  A stage I thought would never come.  I now have some free time every day.  I have quiet.  I have personal space.  I could take a nap!!

So, I just wanted to bear my testimony that the stages in life you long for really do come. Did I feel a twinge of regret about the things I probably should have done with them, the things I should have taught them better, all those years while they were practically surgically attached to me twenty-four hours a day?  Yes, I won’t lie.  But mostly, I got an unexpected lesson about my stewardship, and realized that with this new stage comes a new level of accountability.  All those important things that have been left undone for years because “there’s just no way” need to become part of my new reality.  Either that, or I’m a hypocrite.  I need to be responsible with the time I’ve been gifted and use it in ways that make me proud and still bless my family.  My “calling” as a mother is still the same, and I need to hold tight to my priorities now more than ever.  I don’t want to waste my new-found freedom.

And some day when I hit other stages, like all my kids at school all day, or they’re off to college, or Matt’s finally retired, my responsibilities will rise to the occasion.  A few scriptures come to mind, including, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, ” and “It is not requisite that a [woman] run faster than [she] has strength, … therefore, all things must be done in order.

So, this is basically a rally-cry to all you Stage One moms:  Stage Two really will come! And to all you Stage Two moms:  Let’s do this right! And to all you Stage Three and Four and Five moms:  I hate you. Just kidding.

The stuff we suffer will pass.  The stuff we hope for will come to pass.  Stages in life are good.  They are tangible markers of the progress of our souls.  I hope I leave a good mark.

“Hopefully you will find joy in your womanhood during all stages of your life.”  — James E. Faust

“The challenges you face, the growth experiences you encounter, are intended to be temporary scenes played out on the stage of a life of continuing peace and happiness. It is your understanding and application of the laws of God that will give your life glorious purpose as you ascend and conquer the difficulties of life.”  — Richard G. Scott

“Don’t cry over spilt milk.” Seriously?

(This post was originally published on August 20, 2008.  I’m trying to recreate my lost archives.)

dscf1430Maybe your children are cleaner than mine, but I honestly think that we average about 5 spills a day at my house.  Milk, cereal bowls, yogurt, toothpaste, boxes of anything small and impossible to pick up, the list goes on and on. Here is a picture taken just today of a routine cereal box tumble.  Is this kind of clumsiness really necessary?  I’ve thought about this long and hard because it boggles my mind about why God would want this spill routine to be a part of my daily experience.  And, let’s be honest; He probably doesn’t want it to be, but He allows it to be.  That usually means there’s a lesson to be learned.

  1. We have to clean up our own messes. I think it’s important that my children know that whether we were careless or intentional, we need to make it better.  Let’s work together and clean up.  I know a few adults (and I’m sure you do too) that don’t accept responsibility for their mistakes and then leave all the fixing to someone else.  I believe that our Heavenly Father looks at our mistakes with mercy, but He wants us to be accountable for them and do all in our power to make it better.  And just like a mom will be by your side to help you pick up the pieces when you spill, He will be by our side picking up the pieces of our own mistakes if we turn to Him for help.
  2. Maybe my plans aren’t that important. A big part of the frustration for me is that every time there’s another spill I have to spend 10-15 minutes cleaning it up instead of doing something else I think I should be doing.  Is it possible that Heavenly Father is giving me a gentle reminder over and over again that what I think I have to do doesn’t matter that much?  I doubt he considers cleaning up the spill a monumental task with eternal consequences, but why are my own plans any more important?  So maybe each spill is just a little “get over your own agenda” reminder.
  3. Be patient. I mean, seriously, if mushy cereal on my kitchen floor is among the greatest trials in my life, I really need to put a smile back on my face and move on with my day.  Remember how the scripture says “charity is kind, patient, long-suffering, etc.”?; I’m sure there’s a footnote in there somewhere that says, “and charity wipes up spills with a smile.”  Ugh.  I’ll work on that.  I’m sure I’ll have the chance again tomorrow.

Happy Easter, everyone.  Check back on Sunday (probably evening) for Round 1 of General Conference Book Club.

The Angry Mom sign

So I’m suffering a little from post-vacation stress disorder.  The one where you come home and there aren’t doting relatives taking care of your children’s needs anymore, and as a result they have turned into little monsters, plus you are so angry that it’s snowing again that you could spit, and getting back into your old boring routine just bites.  Other than that though, things have really been alright.  Today was nuts, but despite the chaos, I feel good that I did manage to get a few things done.  I’ll share my greatest success in a minute (because it might just be something you could love too).  Anyway,  everytime for the last two days that I ask my children to do or not do something, I have recieved one of three responses:  1) They argue. “But, I just want to…”, 2) They whine.  “Nooooooo.  That’s not fair (each word becomes three syllables).”  or 3) They flat out disobey.  “Hmmph!”  (then proceeds to do what I just told them to stop).  So I’ve had enough of that.

When something does not make me happy, I make a sign.  Oh yeah?… Well, (scribble, scribble, grab tape, slap on wall) take that!” Here is what I made today, and affectionately call the “angry mom sign.”

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Like the angry eyes?  Whenever they started up, I just pointed to the kitchen wall and said, “Please read the angry mom sign!”  I don’t know if it worked or not, really, but it at least saved me from repeating the whole, “I am sick and tired…” speech.  It’s hard for me to count the number of times today I thought of this quote by Neal A. Maxwell:

“Like our faith, our patience is to be tried as well in order to be developed.”

And I am convinced that this is why Heavenly father saw fit to give me children.  I had totally unchallenged and undeveloped patience.  Except for particularly hard weeks on my mission in Argentina, or the year that I taught high school Spanish, my patience by and large had not been tested too much.  But then I became a mother.  And I think about my son’s kindergarten parent-teacher conference where Grant’s teacher told me “Continue to challenge him in these (such-and-such) areas,” and I can’t help but suspect that in my heavenly parent-teacher conferences, God is making similar plans for me– plans to challenge me in areas where I could stand to grow, even excel.  Especially in the area of patience.

So the good thing I got done today was making six pans of baked ziti for the monthly Make-ahead Meal Exchange I have at my house.  It’s awesome.  We get together and swap meals and walk away with 5 new dishes made by friends.  We eat a snack, share our recipes, and hang out and talk.  Let me know if this sounds remotely intriguing to you, and I’ll draft up a future post with all the details of how we make it work.

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite limerick.  I hid the results because I’m wicked and controlling like that, but there are several that are neck-to-neck for the lead.

I wonder if I’ll even die on time.

makes_eat_timeIn college, I had a roommate who was ALWAYS late.  It made me crazy.  We would all be ready to leave for church or a night out and she’d still have curlers in her hair and just be beginning the process of looking for her things and grabbing something to eat.  She would pretend like she was in a hurry, but she was so slow at getting things done.  I had no patience with her.

Fast forward to the present.  I know God loves me, but I’m confident He laughs at me.  He turned me into her.  He gave me children, and I became my old roommate.  I think I have been on time to less than one dozen events since Grant was born six years ago.  I do not think He will cure me of this problem until I stop getting mad about it.  I noticed the other day that I always drive like I’m in a hurry because, well, I usually am.  At best, I’m about five minutes behind schedule, and at worst … um, let’s just say that sometimes I give up on even going where I was headed in the first place.  Not to make excuses, but — actually, yes, I will make excuses!  These are the reasons I am never on time:

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  1. Children who wear diapers ALWAYS poop on the way out the door.
  2. It does not matter how many times you have done laundry and sorted thousands and thousands of pieces of mismatched footwear, your children will NEVER be able to find socks when you say it’s time to go.
  3. They do not want a coat when they need one, and they want to bring extraneous toys and books along when they do not need them.  Battles about said preferences ensue.
  4. Even if you get all your children dressed and ready one hour before it’s time to leave because you are trying EXTRA hard to be on time, they will pee their pants or step in yogurt in their socks or take off their jacket and hide it in some place that will take you at least 25 minutes to find later because they “don’t remember” where they put it.
  5. Although I’m finally starting to get past this stage, small children have a mass amount of equipment that needs to accompany them on every outing.  So even when you get them ready to go, you have to check your “suitcase” and make sure you  have enough junk to prepare you for anything that may come your way, from an extreme diaper blowout to the possibility of being abducted by aliens and having to entertain your child for an extended period of time while you wait to appear before the intergalactic tribunal.  I have no idea where that just came from.
  6. Even if I am going somewhere without the children, the process of getting out the door feels like trying to escape from quicksand.

Every time I hear one of those talks about how important it is to arrive to church early so that you can prepare yourself to hear the messages, and not be disruptive to the congregation with your late entrance, I just get mad.  Do the people who give this counsel remember what it’s like to have small children?  I’m mad at myself, mostly, because I can’t seem to figure it out.  I do not know why I have not been able to overcome this struggle.  I have tried many experiments.  Charts on the door.  Restraining all children in car seats and THEN gathering equipment.  Getting ready earlier.  Organizing my front closet so that all coats and shoes and backpacks and bags are easy-access.  Yelling and barking orders.  Skipping breakfast.  I’m still late.  I’m doomed.  Wait a second.  I just realized, for the very first time in six years, that I have never once prayed about it.  I’m serious.  I’ve never had that thought before.  Duh. Is there really a chance that Heavenly Father would help me get out the door on time?  Then what would He laugh at?  Oh please, He’s got PLENTY to keep Himself entertained on the Stephanie Channel.

I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, part of this whole struggle is not so that I learn to be on time, but so that I learn to be PATIENT.  Can I be rushed and still be kind to my children?  Can I purge myself of all the frustrated feelings and just get on with my life?  Can I be running late to church and not get mad about it, thereby ruining my chances of feeling the Spirit there anyway?  Ugh.  I have always loved the writings of Neal A. Maxwell and I found an awesome talk he gave entitled, “Patience.” Check out some of these gems from that talk:

“When we are impatient, we are neither reverential nor reflective because we are too self-centered. Whereas faith and patience are companions, so are selfishness and impatience.”  . . .

“Clearly, without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually mean less. The pressures of now, time and time again, go against the grain of the gospel with its eternalism.”

I love his stuff because he takes simple principles and attributes and places them in an eternal perspective.  So I’m feeling a little renewed after writing this.  I might even humble myself enough to hear some of your suggestions for being on time.  I’ll try really hard not to roll my eyes when I read them.  But I’m definitely trying that prayer thing, too, because bless my roommate’s heart, living late all the time is no fun.

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