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

Priorities and empty wells, or why I need blog rehab.

My inner voice has been nagging me a little bit.  It should.  This quote by M. Russell Ballard has been on my mind lately:

Women-drawing-water-“Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others, even to your children.”

You know how you nag your kids over and over about the same things, and if they would just do it your life (and theirs) would be much easier?  Well, that’s where me and my inner voice are right now, except that I am the disobedient child.  (And by the way, let’s give credit where credit it due:  my inner voice is not that bright; it’s really the Holy Spirit–the way God talks to me when He’s trying to get a message through.)  So I need to do an all-out better job of this replenishing business.  My kids deserve that from me and I deserve it for myself.  But there’s a catch, and I’m just starting to get it.

The word replenish means “to make full or complete again, as by supplying what is lacking, used up, etc.”  (Three cheers for dictionary.com).  For me, the only real way to replenish myself is to read my scriptures and pray more sincerely.  I’ve been allowing myself to get distracted by other things, even good things, and some of that replenishing has been left for the 11:00 p.m.+ hour.  And then, big shocker, I fall asleep.

Here’s my mistake:  I’ve been replacing replenishing with refreshing  (wow, that was very alliterate of me).  Clarification– I’ve been trying to do things that refresh me instead of things that replenish me.  I just figured out that to refresh is kind of like spraying a cool mist in my face, but to replenish is to drink deeply.  One makes me feel better, but the other heals me.  Does that make sense?

Case in point: this blog.  The purpose behind it is to help other moms (and myself) remember and recognize the divinity in motherhood.  It has been a “refreshing” outlet for me, but I cannot achieve its purpose or any of my other purposes if I am not sufficiently “replenished.”  So while things like blogging, or reading a book, or spending a gift certificate on a new pair of shoes might really give me a lift and get me through a rough day, they do not heal me.  I need to go to the source, the living water, if I really want the strength to do what I should do and be who I should be.

Then last month, I was reading an article in the August Ensign about the spiritual dangers of excessive online gaming.  I thought it was interesting in a very I’m-glad-I-don’t-have-that-problem kind of way.  It had a little quiz you could take to determine your level of addiction and I skimmed through it.  It occurred to me that if I replaced “gaming” with blogging or facebooking or dinking around online, I might be in trouble, so I payed more attention.  Behold (and beware) the quiz:

Am I Addicted?

A good measure to use when determining the value of a hobby is if it adds to or takes away from your sense of balance. Healthy activities help you feel revitalized, refreshed, and ready to tackle your challenges. Destructive activities leave you feeling drained and empty inside and less able to cope with the struggles of real life. Destructive activities also tend to leave you feeling compelled to continue rather than feeling in control of your decisions.

Although there is no specific test for addiction to online gaming, the following are factors that, taken together, may indicate an unhealthy involvement or addictive tendency.  [my own edits are in italics]

  • • Do you play compulsively?
  • • Do you play for long periods of time (often longer than you had planned)?
  • • Once online, do you have difficulty stopping?
  • • Do you play as often as you can?
  • • Do you sneak or violate family rules in order to play, even when facing punishment or loss of privileges for doing so? [or try to slip away from activities with your kids so you can check your email?]
  • • When you are not playing, do you obsess about the game, plotting and planning your next opportunity to play?  [do you not pay attention to something happening in your family right now because you’re drafting a blog post in your mind?]
  • • Do you sacrifice real-world things for your online world?
  • • Is your gaming negatively affecting your relationships with family members or other non-gamer friends? For instance, if you are a parent, does it cause you to neglect your children’s needs? If you are a child, does it cause you to distance yourself from your parents and siblings?
  • • Do you consider other online gamers (even those whom you’ve never met in real life) to be among your best friends? [Okay, I actually feel fine about this one because my answer is “yes,” but they are an added blessing to my real-life friends and I think it’s one of the blessings of a blogging community.]
  • • Is your school or work [or housework] suffering because of the time and energy you spend gaming?
  • • Are you having a difficult time [fulfilling your responsibilities like your calling or visiting teaching] because of the extended break from the game that will naturally result?
  • • Do you neglect personal hygiene?
  • • Have your sleep patterns changed since you became involved with online gaming? Are you staying up extremely late or getting up in the middle of the night to play?

So… um… yeah, that hurt a little.  There’s nothing worse than realizing there’s a part of you that’s exactly like the other people you judge (admittedly not right, either).

Anyway, I am recommitting myself to my real priorities.  I love my blog and I’m not going to abandon it; I’m just going to be more focused and come up with strategies to help me prioritize and use moderation.  This other quote from M. Russell Ballard will be my focus:

“Pray, study, and teach the gospel.  Pray deeply about your children and about your role as a mother.”

Anyone care to join me in your own tailored challenge to replenish?

(confession: part of this post is recycled from a year ago, but I needed to hear it again. Oh, and the image is from who.org)