If a blog die, shall it live again?

Hi.

Um, remember me?

Of course a dead blog can live again!  It totally can. Right? I checked Google Reader, and some people are actually still subscribed here. It might be an accident, but still…. (Does anyone even use Google Reader anymore?) Plus, whether they actually mean to be or not, there’s still a handful of people that subscribe by email, so hello there long-lost inboxes.

Wow. So where do I start?  I have so much to tell you. Really. Let’s transition carefully back into blogging, shall we? I think I’ll start with a bunch of mini blog posts just so we can all get used to each other again.

Mini-post #1:  Guess What?

Remember how I only occasionally popped in during the summer to beg you to vote for me in that video contest?  Well, I don’t know how to tell you this without a formal plan to compensate you for your goodness, but I won!!!  I’m not even kidding– I won a cruise. Matt and I are going in October and I’m very excited about that. It took a little bit of manipulative creative negotiating to convince Clark that even though it was his story that won the trip, it would still be better for Matt and I to take the trip together.  I’m sure that with the passage of time and maybe a small amount of therapy, he will find it in his heart to not feel completely ripped off. And I will find it in my heart to sit on a ship deck and read books and drink virgin daiquiris.

Mini-post #2: No, Really, Guess What?!?

This part is almost too exciting to say. I’m truly afraid that by embracing it, I may somehow curse it. The reason I took a blog sabbatical in the first place is because I, honest to goodness, felt down in my soul that I needed to write a book. I had never before in my life imagined myself authoring a book, but I felt (select the word that you’re most comfortable with here–>) prompted/compelled/pushed/inspired/obligated to write a book about my testimony concerning motherhood. I have spent a good part of the last decade of my life studying motherhood in a gospel context, and I felt the pieces coming together little by little in ways that gave me new insight and purpose. Motherhood was still hard–it’s always been kind of hard–but I felt like I was starting to get it.  And then I felt like I should write it all down. So I did. And (here’s the exciting part) I recently got word that it’s going to be published. As in, printed by someone else in an actual book that will appear in LDS bookstores next Spring. I’m not the type of person that writes things like *squeeee!* or “yippee! yippee!,” but if I were, I would write that here right now. Other than the fact that I feel a tiny bit terrified, plus an equally tiny bit inadequate, I love the thought and hope that maybe, just maybe, my book might help some mom out there (especially a mom of young children) “get it.” And by “get it,” I really mean get herself–see herself and what she’s doing as she really is and how much it really counts. So, yes, yay for that.

Mini-post #3: In Which a Mom and Her Kids All Grow Up a Little.

Something unbelievably amazing has happened. Perhaps even more amazing than a cruise or a book deal. (I realize that this would be the easy place for anyone who’s having a bad day to hit the delete button real quick before my life gets any luckier, but please don’t. I promise I’m not bragging. And I think this next piece of news just might be some kind of balm for your weary soul. Maybe.) When I started this blog, all three of my children were in some stage of diapers. It is with no small amount of shock that I announce to you that last week, they all started school. All of them. From morning until early afternoon.  Look!  Look at this picture and tell me that they are not the cutest people you’ve ever seen. Just try.

Anyway, I’ve blogged a lot over the years about the stages of motherhood, and how sometimes times and seasons must be endured-slash-appreciated for what they really are. When my oldest went to kindergarten, I felt like I had entered Stage 2 parenting. There were glimpses of my children’s growing independence, and I found random bursts, no matter how brief, of “down” time, where I could choose to read a book, or nap, or hang up my clothes, or nap. Now, my friends, I think I have entered Stage 3. Yes, they are older, and make bigger messes, and more noise, and have developed some snarky habits, but trust me when I say: It is glorious. Do you know what I did yesterday? I did a workout video in my family room and then I cleaned my bathroom. I cleaned it for three and a half hours, and it is a masterpiece. I have not cleaned an entire room from start-to-finish in years. After that, I went to the library by myself and picked out books in peace. Then I went to 3 stores in a row and quickly returned some items, stopped at one more store, and picked up a few groceries. I came home and made chocolate chip cookies. When I got home, my house was just as clean as it was when I left in the morning. It stayed clean; do you get what I’m saying? When my kids got home, I hugged them and gave them cookies and helped them with their homework. I still got annoyed sometimes, but I felt ready to be there for them. I. am. loving. it. I am not trying to rub any of this in your face if you still have small children at home and you feel entirely drained. Nor am I trying to knock anyone who feels terribly sad when their children go to school. Not at all.  All I’m saying is that toddler and preschool mothering were quite challenging for me, and now I feel like I’m hitting my stride. I’m not foolish; bigger kids will mean bigger challenges, but if you are wondering if there’s any light at the end of the diaper tunnel, I’m here to tell you:  Good gravy, there is!  I can hardly believe it myself. Stage 3 just feels like it fits so nicely right now. Carry on, good moms everywhere, the stage that fits you best will come in good time.

Mini-post #4: More to Come.

I’ve got fun summer stuff to tell you. I’ve got some giveaways of things I’ve been saving up for you. The September celebration of The Family: A Proclamation to the World is coming up, and that will be epic. Basically, I’m excited to be back. This party ain’t over yet. Please say hi. I missed you.

Baloney.

This post may seem like a rant.  It’s not intended to be.  I’m not even angry.  It’s just me analyzing life in general and trying to get past the myths of motherhood. (For the record, I know how bologna is really spelled, but this alternate spelling seemed like the best fit when used as an exclamatory phrase.)

Do you know what one of my least favorite pieces of “advice” is when I complain about something I’m struggling with (because I am a horrible person and I do complain)?  It’s this juicy morsel:  “Just wait.  One day they’ll be grown and gone, and you’ll miss it.”

That’s a bunch of hogwash.  (a.k.a. Baloney.)

I happen to believe that parenting is a little like cancer, not only because it slowly kills you (I’m kidding. Kind of.), but because it comes in stages.  (On the bright side, anyone who has had cancer or any other life-changing trial will testify that it is a refining fire and brings them closer to God.  Also, I haven’t really thought this analogy all the way through, so take it with a grain of salt.) Stage 1 is a very physically demanding stage– it’s the baby and toddler years where everything you do is awash in a haze of diapers and sleepless nights and picking up toys and doing laundry. You wonder if your body and mind will ever return.  I’d say there’s about a 50% chance of full recovery.

Stage 2– where I am now– is when your children finally break free from total dependence and start to exert a tiny bit of functional intelligence.  It means you can step outside and talk to your neighbor on the driveway for 5 minutes and leave your children unsupervised (with an obvious level of assumed risk).  It means you can give out chores and instructions and expect that they can be done.  Unfortunately, this functional intelligence does not come with a social compass or any real common sense, so you spend most of your day listening to your children argue with each other about absolutely meaningless things or constantly talk about poop, farts, or how hilarious it would be if so-and-so tripped and fell in the toilet, etc.  As far as I can tell, this is the mentally exhausting phase because, for the most part, you are required to have conversations throughout the day that make your brain want to explode if you haven’t already self-combusted due to a completely depleted reserve of patience.  You also find yourself repeating the same requests and family rules over and over and over and over and over again and wondering if your children’s brains will ever work rationally.  Again, I’d say there’s about a 50% chance.

Stage 3.  The teenage years. I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve spent a lot of my years working with youth either professionally (as a teacher) or in church callings.  All I can say about this stage is that it seems like it will probably be the most emotionally challenging one.  There will be much to worry about as you watch your children grow and make decisions of their own– often wrong decisions.  You will be in the line of fire of their own hormonal and emotional roller coaster.  There are clearly some things to look forward to (like *maybe* kind of real conversations and camaraderie), but let’s not be naive– it will be challenging.

Stage 4.  This is the stage that Matt and I fantasize about the most– the one where they go off to college or on missions and we only have our very own messes to clean up at home.  I obviously have no real experience with this stage either and I know that like every other stage, it is fraught with challenges.  Adult children still make lots of dumb decisions and come face to face with a cruel world, and you probably struggle with how much to help and how much to let them struggle.  I imagine it is a stage of worry and anxiety with respect to your children, and perhaps a little longing to be more a part of their lives.

However, I promise that when I am in stage 4 parenting, I will not miss stage 1 and 2 parenting.  Will I miss my children and the joys that were a part of that stage?  Absolutely.  I will sometimes crave the sweet little newborn head that fits just right in the crook of my neck.  I’ll miss the eyes that stare up at me with unending trust and love while the baby nurses.  I’ll miss the giggling, the tickling, the hugs and kisses, the holding hands.  Oh, the holding hands.  It’s one of my favorite things– how they reach up for your hand instinctively as you walk them to preschool or through the Costco parking lot, how they choose to be connected to you.  I’ll miss looking over and seeing them sitting on the couch with their arms around each other reading a book together.  In short, there are plenty of things I’ll miss.

But I won’t miss what I’m complaining about in each stage.  I can’t imagine myself in my golden years reaching for the TV remote and wishing that someone had hidden it under the couch cushions.  I won’t walk into a room to find it exactly the way I left it and then wish that there were Legos and wrappers from sneaked food on the floor.  I won’t do a project from start to finish and wish I had been interrupted for 3 diaper changes and argument arbitration.  I’ll admit that I sometimes might think it’s too quiet.  Maybe.

So in summary, when young mothers whine about their exhausting struggles, please don’t tell us that we’ll miss them when our children are grown.  Should we wish it all away?  No.  Should we cherish the parts we love in every stage we’re in?  Absolutely. We will miss our children and the loveliest points of parenthood (and of course there will be new challenges at every stage), but we’ll happily kiss the hard parts goodbye.  President Monson says I’m wrong.

“If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.”

I can’t help but think that when he says “them,” he means the children, and not the fingerprints and laundry. Am I delusional? What do you think?

I am evolving. No one is more shocked than I am.

In the last couple years,  I’ve written a few posts that have revealed some of my personality points that seem a little . . . well, at odds …with how I perceive my role as a mother should be.

For example, I once wrote a post called “Other People’s Children,” in which I said:

When there’s a family in need, and they pass around a sign-up sheet at church, I’ll sign up to make them ten meals if I can, but please don’t make me watch their kids! . . . If funds were super tight, I think it’s more likely that I would take a job at a gas station cleaning toilets than run a day care out of my home.

I also wrote a post called “I Hate Playing With My Children,” where I admitted the following:

I hate tea parties.
I hate Stratego, and Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders, and Hungry Hungry Hippos, Lucky Ducks, and especially Don’t Break the Ice.
I hate pretending I’m an animal.
I can’t stand holding little toys and making them have conversations with each other.
I really don’t enjoy activities where all the cushions and pillows from my couches are spread haphazardly on the floor throughout my house.
I would rather clean out my closets than use a silly, high voice and make Webkinz tell jokes to each other while they bonk each other on the head. . . .

And yet here I am.
A mother of three small children. They love to play.
And they want me to play with them, which I am as excited to do as I am to train for a marathon. Sometimes it feels that hard.

So.  What I am about to say may just blow your mind.

1.  Matt was out of town last weekend, so it was just me and the kids at home.  We didn’t even go anywhere.  We played games, and painted pictures, baked cookies, read stories, and made friendship bracelets.  And I liked it.  My children are now big enough that we can play normal games and not brainless toddler garbage.  They can help me in the kitchen a little without making me develop a nervous tic.

2.  Tomorrow I am hosting a little party at my house where there could be 30 children or more in my house watching a movie and eating stuff and making all kinds of child-related noise.  And I’m looking forward to it.  *pausing to let that sink in*  I know.  It is weird.

The point of this post is not to say that it’s time for me to have more children, so don’t get cheeky and put that in the comments, nor is it to point out that I might get translated at any given moment (though I probably should be, don’t you think?), but it’s mostly to point out and relish the fact that I am growing into my children more and more.  I am becoming more comfortable with things I previously claimed to “hate,” and part of that is simply because they are growing up and have reached a stage that my personality feels more equipped to handle. (So really, when I say I’m evolving, what I really mean is my children are evolving.  They are becoming much more human and much less alien.  It’s a good thing.)

In speaking of mothers generally, I especially wish to praise and encourage young mothers. The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. . . . Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones. . . .  Remember, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  — Jeffrey R. Holland, “Because She Is a Mother”, Ensign, May 1997

Lost teeth and lost time

I hope you will indulge me in occasionally re-posting an entry that was lost when my blog went down (TDBD).  It allows me to re-create my archives little by little over time.  This was originally posted August 17, 2008.

dscf14251 So my oldest child, Grant, just lost his first tooth and I’m thinking to myself, “It wasn’t that long ago that he got his first tooth!  And he’s already losing them?!”  Other moms (the ones who had toddlers and preschoolers a long time ago and actually lived to talk about it) always say, “they grow so fast.  Enjoy it while you can,” and you know how inside you say stuff like “yah, whatever…  I’ve already planned in detail the first 3 weeks of activities once my youngest gets into school, and don’t even get me started on retirement…”?

Well, this tooth thing has made me think that maybe I do want time to slow down a little.  I mean, come on, kids are just never as cute once those big ol’ crooked horse teeth start growing in.  And now he’s starting kindergarten in a few weeks, and even though I’m thrilled about the tiny dose of “freedom” it might offer me, I dread the influence of “bad kids” and elementary school Darwinism once he’s out of my watchful eye.

I find comfort in the scripture in Ecclesiastes that says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  Then it talks about things like dancing, crying, etc., but I think that it really does mean every thing, like losing teeth, going to kindergarten, and retiring.  I can’t help but think that God wants me to take in each season and actually live it through, the same way I must live each season of the year . . . I can’t just skip ahead or pause or rewind the calendar.  So, I’ll just start to enjoy the toothless years in one child and the teething years in another and just take the moments as they come.  (But, seriously, don’t you think God must laugh a little when he puts those ugly big adult teeth in little kids’ mouths?)

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