Sunday, December 23, 2012

This Mother's Prayer


Dear Lord, help me remember when he's up at day's first light,
That soon I'll do the waking, and he'll put up the fight.


And when I come upon him in the middle of a mess,
Please help me, Lord, remember how he makes me feel so blessed.


Oh Father, help me stop to see the light that's in his eyes,
When he tracks mud, or colors walls, before he hears my sighs.

And when he breaks another keepsake, ornament, or vase,
Please help me, Lord, to first clean up the tears upon his face.

Lord, help me to be patient with each kick, hit, or bite,
And know the way to gently teach him how to do what's right.

And on those days that seem to hold frustration more than joy.
Dear Lord, help me remember, that he's just a little boy.


-Amanda Hill

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Let it go...Christmas won't be perfect.

I recently saw some people on a forum saying that they love Christmas but they hate the stress. They don't like the stress of buying the perfect present and hosting the family get-together, and all the baking and cooking, and in general trying to make everything perfect and magical for the kids.

If you are looking to create or have the perfect Christmas you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Who's to say what's perfect anyway?


 Today the kids and I made Santa hats out of construction paper, cotton balls, and as you can see from this picture...lots of glue.
Yeah, okay, nobody's project ended up looking like a Santa hat.




But we did get a real nice Cumulus cloud going over here.


This isn't my first try at a Christmas project that didn't go as planned. I plan lots of things and want them to be just as I envision them and they rarely are.  Are you like me?

You may be like me, and envision a fun day of sledding, only to have it end after three minutes because one kid got snow on their chin and the other refused to wear gloves. If you are like me, you swore you were NEVER GOING SLEDDING AGAIN!  If your kids are like mine, the next day they were both talking about it like it had been fun and want to go again.

Or maybe you envision handing out neighbor gifts and singing a spiritual carol at the door, but the only thing your kids will sing is "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".

Or maybe you are trying to make Santa hats and just get a mountain of cotton balls. But in the end my kids didn't look at their project in disappointment. They'd had a blast.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that things ARE NOT going to be perfect, and like Clark Griswald, we've got to stop expecting it and setting ourselves up for failure. The thing is, Christmas is magical for kids with very little effort. They will enjoy anything you try, even if it is a complete failure. Just don't react like I did with the sledding and swear to never go again. Chances are your kids didn't think it was a failure at all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Which Jane Gets the Spirit of Christmas.

I've come to the conclusion this month that Christmas is like one big, month-long caffeine rush. It is fun and magical and special and thanks to my Jane, sweet and meaningful.

We are filling stockings for 71 foster kids. It has been quite an endeavor, with all sorts of fun things rolling into our house. It's been hard for these kiddos to see all the candy and be told they can't have any. I've been telling them that the stuff is for kids with no mommies and daddies.

I think this has really affected Jane. A few days ago she wanted to share our house with people who don't have a house. But yesterday she really went above and beyond for a girl of four.

Jane kept offering yesterday, "I can share my mommy and daddy. Is that a good idea?"
"That's a wonderful idea, Jane," I would reply.
Then, after thinking for a minute she said, "I can give some of my toys to kids with no mommy or daddy."
I thought it was just more talk. I told her if she wanted to do that then she should go pick out some toys to give away.
Jane surprised me further by going to her toy organizer and rummaging through it. I wanted to make sure she understood exactly what she was doing. "Jane," I said. "If you give these toys away they will be gone forever. You won't ever see them again."  Jane just continued searching through her toys.

A few minutes later she returned with five toys. Of course, three of them were actually Max's, but that's beside the point. "Here, mommy," she said. "Let's put these in the stockings, okay?"

I set the toys on the counter, very touched, because one of the toys was a treasured Tinkerbell bath toy (she has Snow White and Tinkerbell and they play together all the time.) "Are you sure you want to give away Tinkerbell," I asked.

"I still have Snow White," she responded. "Can we put them in the stockings?"

"Yes," I replied. But let's do it tonight after Max is asleep."

But Jane wasn't quite pleased with that answer. She quietly went and retrieved one of our stockings, put the toys in there and handed it back to me. If I thought she hadn't understood what she was doing she changed all that by telling me. "I can never see them again."

Last night, Jane fell asleep very early. I put those toys in the stockings (all except Tinkerbell, she was sticky) and thought about my sweet Jane, who really understood and really followed the spirit of Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Paper Lanterns

I was trying to think of a cost and time-efficient gift to give to my neighbors and friends. I wanted it to be handmade, heartfelt, and reflect the true meaning of Christmas. Into my memory walks this picture. Isn't it a beautiful paperbag lantern? There were tons of them my freshman year at Temple Square in Salt Lake City saying different things in different languages.


Here's my cute freshmen self with my old college roommate and friend for life, Whitney. Don't we look so cute and young? Now Whitney is in law school and I have two kids and the next time we take a picture here we will probably be going through a mid-life crisis. ;)

But that's beside the point. It was the paper lantern that inspired me. I didn't have paper bags (at least I didn't think I did. I've since found some. But making little lanterns like this isn't that hard.

Here is one of my creations from today. Not as fancy. But the same message.

I used cardstock so as to be less of a fire hazard (much less risk of the paper crumpling into the flame or anything, but tomorrow I am getting flameless tealights anyways, just to be safe). I also made some pretty ones out of green and red construction paper.

Cut a standard size piece of paper in half. On one side either draw the picture or write the word that you want on your lantern. Be sure to leave about an inch or space between your word or picture and the bottom of the paper. If you are doing a word, write it flipped backwards so that the side of the paper not written on is the side everyone will see. Then take a push pin and poke holes along the lines. You can add embellishments or add thicker lines in some places if you are artistic or know calligraphy.

When you are done punching holes, cut 5-7 darts along the bottom of the paper. Then wrap paper around a cardboard circle, folding tabs between darts over the cardboard and taping to the circle. Tape the piece of paper together at the sides to form a cylinder. Add a handle. And you're done!

This is definitely a project for older kids (at least the punching part), but if you make a lantern of white paper, your younger kids can color on the paper and that shows up against the candle light and looks quite pretty.

Once again, these make lovely gifts, and we handed some out tonight with a real candle burning in them, but will be switching to flameless. I wouldn't leave this lantern unattended for safety reasons, but it was quite fun and pretty to hold while caroling!

Advent Study December 9th

Advent Scripture Study for December 9th

Light two candles today.

Song: What Child Is This?

Scriptures: Your Choice. Read/Tell your favorite miracle of Christ.

Just so you know, our advent reading last week was only about 2 scriptures and one verse of song. My kids were tired and couldn't handle anything more than that. So don't even try to entertain thoughts of perfection, silent nights, and peaceful feelings. If you get that, great. But if not, the tradition will still be remembered for whatever it was.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Button Ornaments

This Christmas we have two Christmas trees. The fake one we bought our first Christmas and a real one!

In celebration of finally ARRIVING, we decided to splurge and buy a $25 barrel's worth of coordinating, shatterproof ornaments. They are lovely, and currently adorning the fake tree in our living room.

But the real tree...well the real tree is decorated differently. It's decorated in what I like to think of as "real life". A hodge podge of ornaments that we've either made or collected through the years.

There's the few, surviving red ornaments picked up at a Village Green yard sale. The wax tooth Rob carved his first year of dental school. There's also the homemade "First Christmas Together" Ornament that we made a year late because we were too busy with finals to actually make/buy one that first Christmas together. A few years later we bought a "First Christmas Ornament" that just happened to have the right year on it. One of those special Christmases when we actually felt comfortable spending the money ornaments cost. There's the one remaining cinnamon ornament and a few white balls (vestiges of what used to be home-made snowmen ornaments) all from our first Christmas together.

Then there are all the other ornaments we've made together, both for the frugality and the shared time together. The cloth stars made on a Super Saturday in Council Bluffs. The four glass ornaments all painted. One says Amanda loves Rob. Jane found that one this morning. She demanded to paint the last, still unpainted, ornament in the box so that it said Max loves Jane. Because someone has to love Jane. So now we have a frosted, glass ball with some black squiggles on it that say more than any learned "reader" would every be able to see.

But nestled between the crocheted snowflakes and Baby's first Christmas ornaments are perhaps the smallest and ugliest ornaments ever. They're my button ornaments.

I made them when Rob was in dental school. We were on a very tight budget and didn't have money to go out and buy ornaments. We'd been slowly building up a store of homemade ones over the last three years, but many of them had crumbled and broken and there just wasn't much to put on my tree. I wanted so desperately to decorate for Christmas. Really decorate like my mom always did. But I didn't have the money. So I made do with what I had. A large supply of rainbow-colored buttons, left over from a failed craft project.

In my head, I had visions of grandeur. But all that was left after the glue gun was put away were small, ugly lumps of buttons. Unphased, I put them on a hook and hung them on my tree, where they disappeared. The hook more visible than the buttons.

And yet, those button ornaments are still hanging around at the bottom of my ornament bag. Three years later, I'm still pulling them out. And this Christmas, when I feel so blessed. This Christmas when I actually had the money to go out and BUY my own ornaments, I hung those little buttons on the tree with pride and reminisced with Rob about school and how tight the money had been. And then I looked at my life and where I am now and today I thank the Lord for all of my many blessings.

Those button ornaments may be the silliest ornaments on the tree. But I don't think I can ever get rid of them. They're much too valuable.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent Devotional - Dec. 2nd

Advent is a Christmas tradition that takes place every Sunday in December. A candle is lit the first Sunday and an additional candle each Sunday after that. So Dec. 2 light one candle. Dec. 9 light two candles, etc. While the candles are lit have a Christmas devotional. Sing a carol, say a prayer, read from the scriptures, have a discussion if you wish. Then blow out the candles and do it again next week! You can customize this to be as long or as short as your children will allow.

You can display your candles however you wish. Usually it is in a wreath, but if you are like me and thought you could just pick one up at the store, you will be disappointed. So for now, each of my tapered candles is in a Christmas glass filled with fake snow. It is the memory that matters, not the beauty of the decoration (although the picture below is beautiful. Is it not? *sigh*)



Here is our Advent Devotional for Dec. 2nd. Feel free to use it.


Carol: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Lyrics found Here

Prayer

Scriptures to read

Isaiah 9:6
Isaiah 25:4
Isaiah 53:3-5
Isaiah 25:8
Isaiah 52:7
Additional Reading for Individual/Couple Study


Saturday, November 10, 2012

11 Tips for A Peaceful Christmas

I know it seems early, but I truly believe the secret to a peaceful, meaningful Christmas has to start early. Here are just a few tips and tricks that have helped me in the past and that I have learned from other great women in my life.

1. Shop for as much as possible now so you can stay out of the store in December. Christmas shop...now! Skip that Black Friday sale. Research shows that, except for a few select items the stores use to lure buyers, everything else is actually a better buy in October! I would also include food. Staying out of the stores will help you avoid long lines and holiday meltdowns from your kids. And just think how relaxed you'll feel when you aren't worrying about Christmas presents!

2. Keep the TV off or just watch movies. I love Christmas commercials, but let's face it. The last thing you need in December is for your kids to see a commercial for some and suddenly change their Christmas list and leave you in a lurch. Avoiding the materialistic side of Christmas will also help make it more meaningful.

3.  Sit down at the beginning of the holiday and write down everything you both want, and have, to do (include your kids tthoughts). Then cross off half the list. We often feel there is so much we HAVE to do to make Christmas special, but frankly, it will feel a lot more special to you and your kids if you aren't beyond stressed!

4. Get your Christmas cards made and addressed before Thanksgiving so all you have to do is send them out. If this isn't possible, think about sending out a Valentine's card instead.

5.  Remember that list you made? Write down one thing to do every day on a calendar and then do it!

6. Be sure to include at least one service project or donation in your holiday and then involve your kids.

7.  Don't let Pinterest get to you! I ran into this at Halloween, feeling like I must be a lousy mom because I wasn't doing all these awesome crafts with my kids. Make Christmas cuddly, snuggly, warm and happy. It doesn't always have to be wrapped in scrap paper and glitter.

8. Wrap your presents early so you don't have to do it Christmas eve. Just do it!

9.  Read several Christmas stories. Out loud. Feel free to bawl your eyes out.

10. Have friends over...once.

11. Read about Christ. Every. Single. Day. Talk to your kids about it.

What do you do to have a peaceful, meaningful Christmas?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Mother's Journal

I keep meaning to write all of these things down somewhere so I never forget them. And I will. But it is just so much easier t type them. So now you get a small glimpse of my thoughts and memories.

- Last week I took the kids to a vintage boutique. Inside was lots of jewelry. I decided to pick some out for myself and my sister who has a birthday coming up. Jane really wanted a necklace of her own, but I didn't want to spend that kind of money on a necklace she wouldn't really appreciate and probably lose. Plus they didn't have an easy release clasp. I explained this to Jane and told her we were looking for Aunt Kim. I pulled out one of the necklaces and held it up for Jane to see.
     "Who do you think would like this necklace," I asked. "Mommy or Aunt Kim."  Jane was very quiet. She pursed those little lips and looked up at me. With a soft voice she said, "Uh, Jane?"  I couldn't help it. I bent down and gave her a big hug and kiss and told her that we would go and get a special necklace for her at Wal-mart, and how did she feel about that.
     "Sounds good for me," she replied. A few moments later she tugged on my pants and said, "Mommy, how 'bout we make a candy necklace."
     She truly is my sweet, simple girl.

-  Max is all boy. He got kicked out of nursery last week for being too rough with the other kids. He has a penchant for turning anything into a bat. And though we are working on it, he thinks it is hilarious to chase Jane around the house with things. She is just sure he is going to hit her. This fear comes from experience. Half the time now, I don't think he is really going to hit her. He just thinks it is a fun game to make her think he is going to. Also, for some reason, Jane has a frisbee magnet in her head. It seems like no matter what Max is aiming for with his frisbee, it ends up hitting Jane in the head 50% of the time. So now, of course, any time Max picks up the frisbee Jane runs from the room screaming and crying. And I can't blame her.

-  The other night, after I put Jane's jammies on, she opened the back door and sat down. She started telling me about the moon and I sat down next to her to look at the sky. It was cloudy and there wasn't much to see except for a few stars in the corners of the sky. Jane pointed to one and said, "She's brushing her hair." It took me a second to understand what she was saying. "The star is brushing her hair?" Jane nodded. "Is she getting ready for bed time?" I asked. "Yes," Jane replied.  I pointed to another star. "Is that one brushing her teeth?" "Yes," said Jane. Then she pointed to another star. "That one's putting on monkey jammies just like Jane's." Here she giggled and walked out to the yard, pointing at more stars and talking and giggling about how they were all wearing monkey jammies.

- I've been thinking lately about how my beliefs stack up with my actions. Especially as far as putting my money and time where my mouth is. It can be overwhelming to think of all the problems in the world and feel so helpless to solve anything. I've come to the conclusion that right now the best thing I can do is be a good mother and involved member of neighborhood and community. Many problems need to be noticed before they can be taken care of. I can donate some money, but not as much as I would like until Rb and I work our way out of some of the burden of this financial debt. I can help here and there, but I realized that I am just in a different season of my life. I can't take my kids on foreign volunteer excursions. I can't even take them to the soup kitchen. So for now, I will give, help where I can, be a good neighbor, friend and mother, and try to make wise purchases from local businesses and companies that are good stewards of their employees and the earth. I realize that the season for much giving and service is in the future. And by that time I will feel even more blessed than I already do. And I will have much more to give.

- We are potty training. Yesterday was great with only two accidents. Today we've had more misses than hits. But that is the nature of the beast. It will get better. And soon there won't be anymore babies in this house. No more paci's or diapers. Just in time to start thinking about having another little one, I guess.

-  I have found a new hobby. Writing. I sent off a very promising revision to Highlight's. I haven't heard back yet, but it hasn't been that long. Now I am working on another article about Kiwi's and conservation dogs. It has been very interesting so far, but it will be more difficult to write than the last one as there is less of a story line to the information. I love it though. I love the connection and information from people all over the world, deeply passionate about what they do.  I have been enjoying my writing. Who knows how much success will come from it, but it is a talent I want t develop. So that means practice. I was wondering the other day about if it was the best use of my time. I usually only write outside Max's bedroom while I wait for him to fall asleep. It doesn't take away from my kids, although sometimes it takes my thoughts far away in daydreams. But a few weeks ago I got a blessing from a leader in our church. He barely knows me. We just moved here. But he mentioned at least three times balancing my time so that I was able to pursue my interests. S I took that as a "keep going" message.

- Jane's IEP meeting was on Monday. She still qualifies as delayed in some areas, but in other areas she is ahead of the curve. Like in her knowledge of letters, colors, and shapes. It was so nice hearing those positives along with the things to work on.

Well, that's all for now. I'm off to make "star cookies" with the kids.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

First Day of Fall

It's the first day of Fall!

Today we are going to go on a nature walk and see if we can see the oncoming change in season. It is still pretty warm here, so I don't know how that will go.  We will also be picking out a few trinkets from our walk to bring home and display on our nature table (it's the top of the piano).

I also hope to make leaf shaped sugar cookies. We might even top it off with apple cider!

I'm going to try and keep you updated on our nature table display every time we add something. I'm just getting started with this sort of thing.

Do you have any plans to celebrate the first day of Fall?  If not, here are a few.

Crochet a warm hat for those fall walks.
Go on a nature walk.
Make pinecone bird feeders. The time to feed the birds is coming soon!
Go buy a few pumpkins to set around your house.
Make pumpkin something (cookies, muffins, bread, etc.)
Drink apple cider and tell stories.
Make a list of all the fall things you want to do this year.
Make a Fall color collage with red, brown, yellow, and orange construction paper pieces glued to another piece of paper.
Buy a sweater!


Add your idea to the list!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Getting the Most Out of Your Library

We love the library at this house. We, of course, love all the fun picture books, the alphabet books, the number books. But it wasn't until recently that I realized there were so many different kinds of picture books that would help supplement my children's education.  I'm going to let you in on some of the neat books you can get at the library. I try to get at least of few of these kind of books to introduce new things to my children each week.

Biographical Picture Books - Our children's section has an entire section of children's biographical picture books. Most are a little long for my kids, but in a few years they will be perfect for introducing characters and events from history. I try to get something off this shelf every week. Here are some good ones that we have enjoyed recently.
Into the Woods: John James Audubon Lives His DreamUncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa

Non-fiction books about animals - For my kids age, we check out the easy-reading ones with just a few, informative sentences on each page. Just think if you read one of these books every week, how much your children would learn!

Illustrated Classic Poetry - These books are classic poems by the great poets with beautiful illustrations. They are a great way to introduce your kids to some of the great works. This week we are reading Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. My kids love it, and the nonsense words make perfect sense to them when Mommy reads it just right.
   JabberwockyWhen I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer (Golden Kite Honors)

Books that explore other cultures - These come in non-fiction and fiction. It is a great way to shine a light on our differences and similarities. Here are a few to get you started that we love.

Same, Same But Different   Apple Pie Fourth of July
One Child, One Seed: A South African Counting Book

Science Books - These can range from Biology to Chemistry to Physics to Ecology. They can range from explaining scientific concepts, giving experiment ideas, to exploring the purposes of bubbles.  These books are not the boring encyclopedias that we usually  associate with this genre. Check out these titles!

Bugs and Bugsicles: Insects in the Winter  Bubble Homes and Fish Farts (Junior Library Guild Selection (Charlesbridge Paper))



There is a book on just about anything you can think of. If you are looking for it, ask your children's librarian for help. They are your number one resource. I have known so many librarians who, when I ask for books about apples, or eyes, or cows, or whatever, say "just a minute" and then come back five minutes later loaded to the gills with books featuring whatever it was I asked for. Usually far more than came up when I simply searched the term in the library database.

What kinds of books do you make an effort to check out on a regular basis?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Apple Sauce Nights

A leader in my church once said that if he could do it all over, he would plan more family work projects. He says looking back on his time with his family, those were the things they remember most, especially when the fruits of their labors are still visible.

Family work projects with young children can be difficult, but I assure you they are worth the extra effort. I have been canning the last week. Peaches, strawberries, apples. One night, I decided to let the kids help me make apple sauce. I remembered the one time my mom had made apple sauce, cranking the strainer and watching the sauce come out while the skins and cores came out a different hole. It was fascinating.

So I cooked up the apples. Daddy sliced the apples. Miss J helped stir the apples in the stock pot. Then we set up the strainer. Miss J smashed and Little Man helped crank. I finished with the pouring and sealing, and boiling.

I didn't realize what a hit the activity had been until the next morning. Both kids kept talking about making apple sauce, about smashing and turning the handle. They asked to do it again. And so we did! It didn't feel like work at all. Could I have done it faster by myself? Probably. Would I ever trade that time for anything else? No.



I'm out of apples now, but it is only the beginning of fall. I foresee many more days of apple sauce making.


What other family projects can you do with young children? Well, just about anything if you aren't afraid of a mess and taking more time.

Check out my friend Bobi's blog to see her family remodeling their home.

If you want a list, here are some ideas.

Make your own Christmas Ornaments
Put up the tent and take it down together.
Plant a garden, weed a garden, water a garden, harvest a garden!
Build a birdhouse.
Pick all the dandelions out of your yard. (seriously, my kids loved this one)
Cook together.

Do you have any ideas for family projects?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Family Service

I love the idea of serving and volunteering as a family. However, with very young children it can sometimes feel like more of a challenge than it is worth. They can't go with you to the soup kitchen, or help at the food pantry until they are older. The AIDS clinic probably isn't the best place for them to be either, if they are even allowed. I've found that most of these places have an age limit, which makes sense. Taking my toddlers to the soup kitchen wouldn't help out the soup kitchen.

So what can we do to foster compassion and a spirit of service? I've been brainstorming ideas and these are a few that we are going to try.

Choose a holiday to give donations as gifts. Perhaps at Christmas your family will always donate a lamb through World Vision to commemorate the birth of The Lamb.  Perhaps, at Valentines Day you can donate a monetary gift to a charity of your choice.  World Vision lets you choose specific gifts.  Maybe on Mother's Day you can give a loan through Kiva.org to a mother in another country to help her business.  There are lots of ideas and opportunities for this at your fingertips. Involve your children in choosing the gift.

There are of course the normal holiday things too. Adopt a child from the tree of sharing. Help deliver turkeys at Thanksgiving. Provide a Thanksgiving meal to a family in need.

But what about a monthly service project? This is something I have been wanting to incorporate for a while now. I would like to dedicate one family home evening a month to service. Here are some of the ideas I came up with.
Tie a blanket to donate to your local homeless or women's shelter.
Organize a food/blanket/hygiene supplies drive for your local shelter or food pantry.  You can hang up flyers in your neighborhood, put notes on cars and doors of the date and then pick up the donations for your activity.
Assemble kits for your local shelter. Perhaps a welcome kit for mothers and children who have just fled an abusive home. A hygiene supplies kit. Birthday goodie bags for children in the shelter on their birthday. These don't have to be terribly expensive. You could even get a group of your girlfriends or family friends together and have everyone bring $5-$10 of supplies, and then assemble the kits together.
Teach young children how to crochet or use a knitting loom to make caps for the cold winter months.
I know a family who put together paper bags filled with food to hand out to the homeless people they saw around town. They kept the bags in the car to hand out whenever the opportunity arose.
Adopt a grandparent at the convalescent center and visit monthly.
Go sing songs around the convalescent center and visit with the residents.

Every little bit counts. Don't feel like you have to start off with a two week trip to build a school in Mexico. Although, when your children are older that might be awesome. I would recommend trying to make your monthly service projects local. I think sometimes we forget or dismiss the needs in our own community.

What are some of your ideas or things you have done as a family?


Monday, July 30, 2012

You Have Permission to Step Off the Anger Treadmill

I debated in high school. The experience has given me the ability to see both sides of an issue. A lot of times it feels like more of a curse than a blessing. But in the past few years I have noticed a trend. Anger. There is always something to be mad about. Last week it was Chik-fil-A. The week before that it was the US Olympic uniforms being made in China. A little before that it was Obamacare. Before that it was.....you fill in the blank. There's always going to be something that we don't agree with. Sometimes we are upset as a nation, sometimes our outrage splits down party lines. And for some reason we have come to the conclusion that the best response is anger.

I am now giving you permission to step off that treadmill. Next week there will be something else to get your panties in a bunch about. Heck, every commercial break during the Olympics is filled with negative political ads. There's nothing I love more when trying to cheer on my country in solidarity than to feel divided during the commercials. 

Hate and anger seem to be this two-way street that everyone walks down while loudly complaining that other people are on the road with them.

Technology is great, but it has left us quite desensitized in my opinion. Because of this, it seems that political leaders and media personnel (from all areas, TV, blogs, print) feel the need to often resort to stirring their followers up into a frenzy just to make them care about an issue. It's like, if we aren't foaming at the mouth, we won't call that congressman, boycott that restaraunt, go to that town hall meeting, etc. 

The other downfall of technology is that it gives people the opportunity to easily bash those they disagree with, with much more hate and vitriol than they probably would in person. I'm amazed at the number of people who feel inclined to respond to the little facebook notifications that my church puts out just asking people to talk about what their parents taught them or what brings them peace, with mocking and anger. What kind of person subscribes to a feed of an organization that they don't agree with? It's like we want to be angry. It's like we thrive on it and enjoy the thrill of that moment when we ball our fists and grind our teeth.

The problem is anger is exhausting.

I once saw a bumper sticker that said "If you aren't upset, you aren't paying attention." And maybe that's true. I used to be on the anger treadmill. Always upset about something. There's so much injustice, heartache, sadness, hate and evil in the world. It is too much for one person to really take in all the time. It isn't healthy. It affects our well-being and it affects my mothering when I am always angry, or upset, or feel slandered by an angry comment from someone who doesn't even know me but disagrees with something I believe.

It's okay to stay up with politics. It's good! But you don't have to respond with anger. Simply take a deep breath, remind yourself that politicians are human and as humans we all come from different backgrounds and will disagree and THAT' OKAY! Then DO SOMETHING. Calmly call your representative, or attend that town hall, donate to that cause, change a habit, swear off that restaraunt, or proudly go to that restaurant. Whatever it is, do it, and leave it at that. Don't get in comment fights on the internet. For your sanity, I suggest never reading the comments anyways.

Sometimes, it seems there is nothing we can do to change or help the situation that leaves us angry and upset.  Or, what little we've done doesn't seem to be enough. I think those are the times when we feel the need to fight with others about it, or get angry about it, in hopes that it will make us feel more powerful against the situation or like we are making a bigger difference. We aren't. You aren't. It's not worth it. 

You can't fix everything. But you can do your best to improve your corner of the world. And I mean the physical world, not your corner of the virtual world. Love your neighbor, visit the sickly woman down the street, give to the homeless shelter. Is it helping the world find Kony? No. But is it making a difference? Yes. A lot more than getting mad about what a terrible person whoever is this week's person-to-hate and stewing about it all night.

Show your children that happiness and change come through action, kindness, and love. Hate and anger only rip us apart and keep us up at night.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mommy Humiliation

Like most mothers, I can't even find privacy in the bathroom.  This has had the unfortunate result of Miss J knowing, and asking, all about the end result of a menstrual cycle.  I had to explain in 3.5-year-old terms to try and calm her worries.

Well, I had to go stock up on supplies at the store.  If you thought getting feminine hygiene products was embarrassing enough as a teenager when the cashier was some boy from school, try doing it with chatty little girls who know way more than they should.

I was rushing down the aisle with "the package".  The whole time Miss J was trotting behind saying (quite loudly, I might add) "You got bloods, Mommy?  These make your bum feel better? Your bum hurt?  Alright, these make your bum feel better."

We could not get out of there fast enough.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rapunzel


This week, we learned the story of Rapunzel.  Not familiar with the story?  I had to shorten and simplify it, because the original is just a tad long and complex for my 3-year-old.  I would be willing to put up a vieo of me telling the story if you want some ideas on how to tell a story out loud.  Let me know, if you would like that.

You will need:
popsicle sticks
contact paper
yellow yarn
vanilla wafers
strawberry frosting

Monday: Tell the story and talk about the letter.  This week's letter is H for hair.  Draw a picture of the story with a big letter "H" either on the window, or on a large sheet of paper and display it by the kitchen table so you can talk about it at meal times.

Tuesday:  Make Popsicle stick puppets.  You can use the pictures I have here or find your own.  Color them, cut them out, and tape them on popsicle sticks.  If coloring holds your child's attention, have them join you, if not, do it on your own.  Then tell the story with the puppets.  Laminate them if you want them to last longer.  Your kids will want to play with them!  I added a small braid of yellow yarn onto the tower so that Rapunzel could "let down her hair".






Wednesday: Act it out.  I surprised the kids by braiding a long bunch of yarn and fastening it to our stair railing.  When Miss J woke up she shouted for me to "Come and Look!  It's Rapunzel's hair!"  Then she wanted her brother to come help her get it down.  Later that day we acted out the story with some letting down Rapunzel's hair and someone else climbing up the stairs holding onto it.





Thursday:  Make "hair art"  Cut several different lengths of yellow yarn.  Cut a large piece of contact paper into some shape(a heart, sun, tear drop) Then decorate it by arranging the yarn on the sticky part.  Cover with another piece of contact paper, and hand in a window.

Friday:  Eat it!  Make Rapunzel's tower out of Vanilla Wafers and strawberry frosting. 



 Don't forget to tell the story at least once every day!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Fairy Tale Preschool

I realized last week, that the preschool curriculum I was using was ok, but I didn't feel passionate about it.  So I decided to make up my own.  I really want my learning interactions with my kids to be about more than just the ABC's and 123's.  I feel like with reading and talking to them (and a healthy dose of letter factory) kids will catch on to those things in their own time, without it being pushed.  I wanted to give my kids more of a literary foundation than just the basics.  Thus, my fairy tale preschool curriculum.

Fairy tales, folk tales, myths, fables, and legends are an important basis to understand future literary works.  Especially more complex works that will draw on them for allusions and metaphors.  They also teach a child about how a story works, the build up, the foreshadowing, the climax, the end.  Children love fairy tales!  Adults may find some of them in their purest form gruesome, but children don't think like that.  They just enjoy the story, and when good wins out over evil, they feel safe in their world.

The way I am doing it, is that every week we focus on a different fairy tale.  Last week it was "The Gingerbread Man".  This week it is Rapunzel.  I choose a word from the fairy tale and make it's first letter, the letter of the week.  Then I write the letter really big on our window, with a small illustration of the word.  Sometimes I add a picture from the story.  This week, H is for hair, and there is a picture of Rapunzel's hair flowing out of her tower to the witch down below, while the prince hides and watches.

Every day of the week you tell the story.  I highly recommend telling the story aloud without a book.  Children love storytelling, and imagining what is happening.  Get into it.  Add some details, give your characters different voices, change your volume.  If storytelling isn't your forte, practice a few times to make sure you have the story right.  Try and keep the story as similar as possible with every retelling.  Repetition is key.  Don't be surprised when your little one asks you to tell the story again, and again, and again!

Every day of the week has a different theme/activity to go along with the story.
Monday - tell it
Tuesday - Puppet Show
Wednesday - Act it out
Thursday - Arts/craft it
Friday - Eat it

So last week I told "The Gingerbread Man" story on Monday, went over F is for Fox and printed off a picture of a fox to show the kids.  Then Tuesday, I printed off these coloring pages of the different characters in the story, we colored them and taped them onto popsicle sticks and told the story using the puppets.  Wednesday, we acted out the story together.  Miss J couldn't decide who she wanted to be and tried out several different characters.  Thursday, we decorated felt gingerbread men and turned them into hand puppets.  Friday we baked, decorated and ate gingerbread men cookies.

I will post what we are doing every week and you can follow along or use past stories if you want.  Or you can make it up for yourself and just follow the flexible guidelines for each day.  The most important part is telling the story every day.  I have already had so many fun moments with my kids, and the thoroughly enjoy this part of our days.   I can't wait to share more with you!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Our Screen Free Week

...wasn't 100% screen free.  But it was FAR less than normal.  Except for searching for rental homes on Tuesday and the occasional printing off of a coloring page, I was able to keep my internet time to after the kids went to bed, and even then it was pretty short for the most part.  The kids didn't even seem to notice the change much.  The weather was beautiful and we played outside.  There were some changes though.

The kids played more, and their play was more imaginative, deeper, and lasted longer.

We found a frog in our backyard, visited the river, and had picnics at the park.

I was able to take pleasure in things I wouldn't have even noticed before.  For example, on Wednesday I was making bread and a movement from my favorite symphony came on the radio, and I was able to just appreciate that moment of beauty and peace.

I got a lot more done!  We had homemade bread every day this week (I made it on Monday and Wednesday).   My house was cleaner. I wrote thank you notes, planned lessons, and even scrapped the preschool curriculum I was using and made my own (more on that later this week, let's just say it is so much more fun).

I felt sharper, and more with it, more in the moment.

I realized on Tuesday after I had been on the internet for a while, that I just felt blah.  My mind felt passive and kind of numbly buzzing.  I realized that all the times when my fingers itch to get on the internet, with no good reason other than to surf, that I am just craving that feeling of doing something without actually having to think.  That escape.  I finished up "Simplicity Parenting" (if you haven't read it, you should) and the author quotes a definition of addiction he liked, and I realized that it pertained to me.  He said that an addiction is using an outside stimulus to avoid inward growth.  When I looked around at all the things I was doing, the little moments and pauses, the extra work, the extra cuddles, books and time with my kids, I realized that I had been replacing inward growth with my outside stimulus of choice...the internet.

So things are changing around here.  I am going to continue the pattern of only checking my social media and  e-mail after the kids go to bed.  I may still get on the computer to print something off or look up a recipe or craft, but other than that, I am rally going to try to keep the computer off during the day.  Same for the TV.

Although, as a caveat to all of this, I am moving soon, so I am sure the computer and TV will be used a lot here in the next 6 weeks to get things done.

I enjoyed the change. I enjoyed the peace, the small things I wouldn't have noticed before.  I know most people didn't participate, but I would challenge you just to make a small change, a slight drawback in your screen activity, and see what you notice!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

How to Prepare for Screen Free Week

The latest studies, show that kids 2 and up spend 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen!  And that doesn't include computer time or video games.  Yes, you are allowed to scream right now.  But what about you?  How much time do you spend in front of a screen?Yes, you have to count computer time.

Screen Free Week starts April 30th and goes through May 6th.  The challenge is to turn off all the screens in your house for the week and see what happens.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we can spend that time outside.  While I am going to try to turn off the TV for the kids and the computer during the day for me, both will still be available after the kids go to bed for me.  We are in the middle of a move and need to be able to check and send important e-mails.  We also just rented 3 movies that need watched by Wednesday, so.....that is my excuse.  However, I am going to try to only check my e-mail.  No facebook, no pinterest, no online news reading, no blogs.  Cold turkey.

It is going to be hard, so how am I going to prepare to soften the blow?  Especially, since most of our lives seem to be on these little computers.  You are going to have to go back to being old school in a few things.  Here are a few ideas to make the week easier.

1 - Take a look at your day and when you use TV.  Then, brainstorm activities your child can easily and happily do on his own without much help.  This will help replace the TV time during dinner prep or other busy times.

2 - Plan on getting up when your early riser gets up.  No more TV for one last half hour of sleep this week.

3 - Get all the important numbers you think you may need this week off your computer now, locate your phone book, and just remember 1800-free-411.  If you still need a number, forgive yourself and look it upon the internet, but control yourself and keep your computer time to that one activity.

4 - Print off all the recipes you will need for the week.  Plan ahead!

5 - Get a hold of a radio for music and news.

6 - Hide your computer!  No I'm serious.  I am sending mine off to work with Rob so I won't be able to give into temptation.

7 - Plan your time.  What are you going to fill in that extra time with?  Get a good book, start a project/craft (print off the instructions if necessary), clean and organize.

8 - Take advantage of all the extra moments where you are truly "in the moment".  Have your camera ready.  Plan a few outings to a park.  Live in the moment.

Good Luck!
Will you be participating in Screen-Free Week?  Are you like us and need to make a few adjustments?  What are your plans?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mother's Day Candles

When you think about gifts for Mother's Day, what to you makes the perfect gift?  For me it is something thoughtful, perhaps handmade, personalized, and frugile (let's face it, you have to buy for mom's, grandma's, daughters, it can get expensive).

These candles are the perfect Mother's Day present (or any time of year present if we are completely honest).  They only cost whatever the candle costs plus a dollar for tissue paper.  I got these jumbo ones at Walmart for about 7.50 a piece.  You can personalize them with any quote, note, or picture your little heart desires.  And you get to feel crafty giving a homemade gift!

I found the idea for these candles here. If I were to do it again, I think I would cut out the background on the pictures and just have the people on the candle (like shown on the website).  The link I provided gives very broad instructions, here are some tips to make this project easy-peasy.

1 - Cut your tissue paper (yes just regular tissue paper gift wrap) down to about the size of a regular sheet of paper.  Then tape the tissue paper around the edges to a piece of printer paper.   This makes it possible to print your picture or graphic onto the tissue paper.  Then print it out.

2 - Cut out picture and pin to candle.

3 - The original instructions call for a heat gun.  A hair dryer worked just fine for me.  You are melting the candle to the tissue paper.  Your picture will look like it is starting to get wet, you want the whole picture "wet" or melted to the candle.  Make sure you have it totally smoothed out because it can get wrinkled.  Also don't overdo it on the melting of the wax will bleed through the tissue paper.

And you're done.  In about 10 minutes.  Now go make one for all the mothers in your life.  Then make some more to decorate your house.  I am thinking you can print off quotes and put them on your candles.

By the way, I found this quote that would go perfectly either on the candle or in the card with the candle.  

The love of a mother is the veil of a softer light between the heart and the heavenly Father. ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What to do when you "Stop It".

I loved this quote from Elder Uchtdorf.  I think deep down we all know this is what we should do.  But it is so hard!  I am going to be honest here, my biggest fear of not using negative speech is not having anything to talk about.  How silly is that?  And yet...sometimes I wonder what I would have to say.
Like always, a child has taught me.  He is a 9-year-old, autistic boy in my ward.  On Easter Sunday I sang a solo for my congregation.  After the meeting was over, this boy just lavished me with praise.  He told me that I had the best voice he had ever heard, and it was beautiful, and I was better than professional singers he had heard.  Over the top?  Maybe ;).  But did it feel so nice to hear?  Most definitely.  The next week he continued to tell me how wonderful I was.  I told him he could follow me around everywhere if he liked.
This is not the first time I have heard this boy give a sincere, wonderful compliment.  He was flabbergasted when one woman mentioned her grandbaby.  "You don't look like a grandma.  You look like...32!"  Of course, everyone shrugs off the grandiosity as coming from a 9-year-old autistic boy, but everyone also walks away feeling a little brighter and better about themselves.
This morning I realized I had an addiction.  We all have little addictions.  Overcoming an addiction is hard work.  A lot of times it is easier to replace one addiction with another.  I once knew a woman overcoming an alcohol addiction who replaced it with smoking, smokers who replace their addiction with chewing gum.  I need to replace my addiction with a better one.  An addiction to building up instead of tearing down.
I realized that while "Stop It." is a good prescription, it is awful hard to do without filling the void, and the only way we can fill that conversational void is by changing how we look at people.  We need to truly view the people around us like that little boy does.  Wonderful.  Amazing.  Because they are.  We all have the potential to be great.  We are all sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father blessed with divine talents.
Can you imagine how much better the world would be if, instead of picking at the differences and perceived shortcomings of others, we built them up and treated them the way the Lord sees them?  As beings with potential and promise.  Start with yourself.  See yourself this way.  Then look outside.
What have you missed noticing about the people around you?

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them." -Mother Teresa



Sunday, April 22, 2012

Being Nice to the Earth in our Kitchens

One of the best places we can make changes in our home that benefit the environment, is in the kitchen.  I don't just mean in the ways everybody immediately thinks of either, like switching out paper towels for dish rags, a recycle bin, or a compost pile.  I'm talking about what you actually use and make in your kitchen and how those choices affect the earth.

You are probablywondering if I am going to go on a spiel about the wonders of Organic farming, and how the idea of "slow" farming and natural fertilization, fields lying fallow, and lack of chemical pesticides is so much better, yadda, yadda, yadda. I've read it, and it does sound wonderful.  I wish I could go completely organic.  But I can't.  It is just way too expensive!  So here are a few quick ideas and recipes to help the average joe cook "green".

So you can't afford to go organic.  That's ok. There is, in my opinion, a far better way to improve the eco-friendliness of your food choices.  As much as possible.  Abide by the slogan "Eat Locally.  Eat Seasonally".  Not only is this better for the earth(your food traveled much less to get to you) it is also good for your local economy and your food is fresher.  There also seems to be a link between what our bodies need at certain times of the year and what the earth provides.  Cold and flu season also seems to be when oranges are in season.  Your lighter fruits and vegetables(strawberries, lettuce, asparagus) are in season in the spring, while your heavier ones(squash, potatoes) come in the fall.  Use the guide on the right to see what is in season, and then try to plan your meals accordingly.

To eat locally, try and do your produce shopping at a local farmer's market or sign up for a weekly share in a CSA.  If you live in a part of the country where produce doesn't grow readily (like where I grew up) and there is no farmer's market or roadside produce stand close by, try to find the produce in your grocery store that is farmed in the US, or as close as possible. You can also grow your own. If you live in a place that doesn't grow well, try a planter garden.  If you live in an apartment complex or some place where even that is impossible, try a small indoor herb garden, or hanging tomato/strawberry plant.

The other way you can go greener in your food preparation is designating one dinner a week as "meatless".  I try to have 2-3 meatless dinners every week, just because it is so nice on my grocery budget.  Here are some of our favorite recipes for those nights.

Cheese Fondue
Black Bean Burritos (I add diced tomatoes and taco seasoning to my rice)
Waffles
Cheese Potato Soup
Tortellini with Tomato Cream Sauce
Tomato Basil Soup(I add cheese tortellini to this recipe)

So what do you say?  Willing to make a change for a healthier you and a healthier earth?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where is Our Focus


I am the Mother of six children. My oldest three girls are adults and living their lives in beautiful ways that exemplify all that is good in Womanhood. I still have three sons at home..all teens. My boys are going through the trials of adolescence. I love being a Mother and have loved every stage from Young Mother, Mother of Teens and Adults, to the joy of being a Grandmother.

My perspective come from a place where I can look back with fondness and empathy for all Mothers of young children. The sheer amount of time needed to Mother little ones correctly is sometimes overwhelming. It is also the time when many women realize how much more important the home is compared to the boardroom. It is the time when women realize they are happiest when they are serving others fully. The time when nursery rhymes are more familiar than the latest novels, High heels and skinny jeans are exchanged nursing bras and larger pants. The time in a woman's life when she realizes her love and care will influence generations.

I also know the joy and sorrows that come from Mothering teens. This is the time when a child outgrows the incredible physical need of a Mother, in exchange, exhausting her with emotional and social issues. I have loved being a Mother of teens, they can talk, you can have wonderful conversations with them. It is also such a joy to see them grow and make their way in the world...it is also heartbreaking when the world knocks them down. As a Mother you are always there, no matter the situation to help them back up.

I love being a Grandmother. It is so amazing that I can love my Grandchildren as much as I love my own children. I love seeing my Daughter mother. It is so rewarding to know she loves Motherhood and Womanhood as much as I do.

Motherhood is a very focused part of Womanhood. As a Mother we live the majority of our lives focused on others. Once we become a Mother everything changes for a woman. We will never again make decisions without wondering how it will affect our families. This is how it should be. As women we have been endowed with the gifts of compassion, love, gentleness, healing, and care giving. It is this focus on others that sets us apart...making us vital for the salvation of the family and mankind in general..and that is why I am distressed.

I have noticed that for many years Motherhood has been diminished in the eyes of the elite. We have been told it is more important to have careers, and fancy clothes and homes. We have also be spoon fed the notion that we should never age. We should always be a size 5 no matter our age, number of pregnancies, and genetics. We have been told we should be bored, and put out for how much time little ones take. We have been told we are nothing more that glorified babysitters and it is more important to have "me time" instead of family time with our husband and children. Most distressing is the fact that we have been told that instead of us as women serving others, that to be truly happy we need to be self-focused.

It is so sad to see so many women accept this line of thinking. I have seen too many Mothers abdicate their responsibilities to home and family, so they can socialize, diet, and look and feel important in the eyes of the world...all the while their children whether babies, teens, adult children or Grandchildren starve for their affection, and nurture. We are losing too many young and not so young Mothers to this mindset...somehow we need to put Mothering back into focus....What it truly should be.

I don't know how to do this other than commit myself to Motherhood in all its stages, with all its consequences. What are the consequences...As a committed women to Motherhood and family I will never be skinny again. It is more important to have tasty nutritious meals enjoyed by my husband and children. (I will try to be healthy, but I will never diet).
I will never be a fashion plate again. My clothes will always be chosen for comfort, durability and ease. I will always try to look nice but I would rather be able to have a baby spit up on me and not worry about it, than wear white suede. I will never be considered important, smart or successful in the eyes of the world...But what will I have? I will have the happiness that comes from serving others my entire adult life. I will have solid relationships with my family, and friends. I will have the memories of my children.. from all the TIME spent with them. I will KNOW that I assisted in a divine work. I will know LOVE.

Will you also commit yourself to Motherhood. Never to lose focus on what is truly important..no matter what the world throws at you? You will be glad you did.





Monday, April 16, 2012

Going Green: My Limits Part 2

Remember when Cheryl Crow remarked that we should try to use just one square of toilet paper to be more eco-friendly?  Well, some people don't use any toilet paper at all.  Those cloth baby wipes are for everyone in the house.  I guess if you are willing to do it for an infant, then it isn't much different for an adult.  But for me...it just isn't happening.

As I have read about this though, people really seem to love it as they feel they get cleaner with cloth. Hmmmm.  Something to think about.  Another comment I heard was that you should really have these for emergency preparedness.

I think that is a good point.  Instead of stockpiling disposables, just having a nice little storage of cloths wipes, diaper, and yes, even pads, would be a life saver if there was ever some sort of emergency that left you either stranded in your house, or left grocery stores unstocked.  So just a thought for you!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Going Green: My Limits

I really do enjoy finding ways to "go green".  However, I have my limits.  In honor of Earth Day coming up in a week, I though it would be fun to count down some of the grosser or more ridiculous things that may be eco-friendly, but are totally off-limits!

Limit #1

I am all for cloth.  Cloth diapers, rags instead of paper towels, cloth nursing pads, heck even cloth wipes.

However...this just isn't going to happen.  There are only some things that I am willing to reuse.  Feminine hygiene products are not on that list.

However, I did see an interesting charity where you can buy cloth pads for a girl in Africa.  This enables her to be able to still go to school even when she is menstruating.  Which is a really good idea...but I think I just added disposable pads to my list of reasons I love being a woman in America.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Simplicity Parenting: Food for Thought

I am currently reading "Simplicity Parenting" by Kim John Payne.  I have only read three chapters, but so far it is wonderful.  It is based on the fact that our familie's and children today are confronted with "too much".  Too much stuff, too many activities, too much information. I would highly recommend it to all families.  However I just wanted to share with you a quote from the book for you to chew on.

"By starting at home-embracing experience over things, and "enough" rather than always more-you've made room.  You've cleared out space, literally and emotionally.  You've made a container for relationship and the slow unfolding of childhood.  You've allowed room for your child's own imagination and their explorations through play.
It's a small environment, an even smaller circle of light we draw around those we love.  But for a while, when they are young and growing, we adults can offer the protection of more time and ease, less speed and clutter.  We can be the stewards of our child's home environment, setting limits and saying no to too many choices, to much stuff."

Interested?  You can read more and get more of an idea about this "simplicity" approach at simplicitiyparenting.com.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Baby-Weight Blues: 7 Steps for How to Avoid Them

Guess what I found out today from reading the tabloid covers at the store?  Jessica Simpson has had a baby girl.  But more importantly, she has a plan to lose the baby weight!  Well, HALLE-freakin'-LUJAH!  I was afraid she was going to focus on less important things like what a baby needs in the fourth trimester, or proper nutrition and sleep habits(for both herself and the baby).

NAH!  I'm sure in 6 weeks I will get to read the next headline about how JESSICA LOST THE WEIGHT IN ONLY 3 WEEKS!

Sometimes, the media gives us a very false sense of what is normal (and an even worse idea of what is healthy).  So ladies, let's just remember that for most folks, you should expect at least 6 months to lose the weight, probably longer.  And sometimes, you never can quite get rid of every pound.  I still haven't lost all the weight from my first, and I've given up caring about it too much.  This is my body, and you know what?  It grew and gave birth to two beautiful babies!  So if I carry around a few extra "trophies" from that experience, then so be it.

But now is when you get to learn from my mistakes.  Here are my rules for not feeling bad about your non-celebrity weight loss/body.

1 - Don't even think about exercising those first 6 weeks.  You are allowed to go for walks.  That is it.  Your body needs to recover, and you need to sleep and get to know your baby.  Those are your jobs(not to mention everything else a mom has to do anyway).

2 - Don't even think about putting on your pre-pregnancy clothes 'just to see if they will fit' for at least 2-3 months, but if you are like me...closer to 4-6.  Yes, you are a lot smaller than when you were pregnant, but this will only crush your soul.

3 - Control top pantyhose with your dress clothes is a self-image-saver.

4 - Skirts are your friends, dresses(except for Maxi dresses) are not.  Just trust me on this.  5 months after giving birth, I felt good and really wanted to buy a new dress.  I ended up near tears in the dressing room.

5 - Get a new (yet small if money is tight) wardrobe.  You don't want to go back to maternity clothes, but you can't wear your pre-pregnancy clothes, and you can only sit in sweats and pj's for so long before feeling yucky.

6 - In that new wardrobe, trade out your low-cut jeans for a higher waistline.  You just gave birth.  Your hips have widened, and those low cut jeans will never quite fit the same way again.

7 - Look in the mirror, and love yourself.  You are a mom, and as long as you put some effort into looking nice (do your hair, dress nicely) your kids wil still think you are beautiful.  You should think that too!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Miss J Getting Married

Ever since Miss J found some pictures of mine and Rob's wedding day in a folding frame, she has always wanted to hear "the story".  Lately, she loves to talk about getting married in the temple and "wearing a pretty, white dress."  This last week we were able to visit the temple where Rob and I got married.  When I told Miss J the plan she was very excited and kept asking if she could wear a pretty, white dress.  I wish I had a pretty white dress for her to wear, but I didn't.

When we got to the temple, we were able to see a few brides in their pretty white dresses.  Miss J kept talking about wearing one of those dresses.  I told her that she could wear a pretty white dress when she was big like mommy.  Near the end of our visit, Miss J turned to me and confidently said "I get married tomorrow."

I'm sure when the day comes, that is exactly how it will feel.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Keeping Score

We live in a world of competition.  We grew up in it, and many of us thrive on the system of requirements, approval, and promotion.  However, in motherhood, there are no quarterly reviews, no promotions, no pay raises, no awards, and very little recognition.

I remember as a new mom feeling lost because I had no way to "score" myself.  How would I know I was doing a good job without a grade?  Things that used to take doing for granted, suddenly became a challenge and a chore.  Let alone, somehow going above and beyond like I was so used to doing.  All the milestones seemed so far away.  And the problem with grading yourself by the milestones and how fast they are reached is three-fold.

First, as mother you can train, and encourage, and discipline, but you can't control.  That sweet little baby has a personality and a mind of its own, and will not always turn out just as you want, despite all your hard work.  That is a risk we all take as mothers.

The second risk is that "grading" yourself by milestones only encourages you to hurry your children down the path of growing up, and there is always a bittersweetness to those first steps into toddlerhood and out of being a baby.

The third risk is one I have faced personally, and why I had to change my mindset.  Sometimes our children come to us with a learning struggle or disability.  Both of my children have had to see a speech pathologist.  One for a mild processing issue, and the other for delayed language development.  I felt that because both of my children were behind and needed help meant that I had failed as a mother.  I must have been doing something wrong.  I must not have been talking to them or stimulating them enough.  It took a lot of pep talks from my sweet husband and mother to get past those feelings, and they still sometimes creep in as guilt.  Don't make my mistake!

There are numerous ways that we grade ourselves as mothers.  Most of them end up leaving us feeling more like failures than successes.  Clean house. HA!  Good behavior.  Tried that.  Looking perfect.  Always someone who looks better.  Nicer stuff.  Have fun with that debt load.

Do you notice the problem with all these ways of grading yourself? It all requires a comparison to someone else!  Milestones, behavior, cleanliness, it doesn't allow your family to be who they are, only how you think they should be based on someone else's performance (and even then, only what you see of it).

But we are still left with the problem of feeling like we are moving forward in a profession filled with very similar days and seemingly, at the time, slow development and growth.  How can you tackle your need to "make the grade"?

I can tell you, that has been one of my biggest challenges as a mother, to let go of that competitive drive as a mother, or even at need to have results in order to feel productive.  No matter how hard I work, there will always be more laundry, more cooking, more discipline, more tears, etc.  I have had to take joy in the more simple ways of measuring my efforts.

As a new mom, I took to writing down every single thing I did that day, no matter how small(showered, got dressed, did dishes, made dinner, tummy time,etc), just so I could see that I was really doing something.  Nowadays, I give myself a high-five for staying on my grocery budget, being able to count on one hand the number of processed foods in my cart, learning a new recipe, turning out a good loaf of bread, a decluttered space, a giggle, a hug, a game played, a song sung.

It isn't easy to change our way of looking at "results".  But these little "grades" are a much easier and positive way to look at things.  Perhaps one day I won't feel the need to give myself a score at all.

Have you had difficulty needing to grade or compare yourself?  How did you overcome it?  How do you keep a positive "score" for yourself?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Banning Books

With the release of "The Hunger Games" movie, there has been some talk about the appropriate age of the audience of the movie, as well as the books.  Some parents go so far as to say they will not allow their children to read "The Hunger Games", just as some parents have forbade "Harry Potter" and other books.

The thought of banning certain books in a household is somewhat foreign to me.  My mother encouraged such a love of reading, that oftentimes we were reading books that she had never read before.  We would sometimes have to stop reading a book, when we no longer felt it was appropriate, but those guidelines were never explicitly stated anywhere, they just came through our own consciences.

I don't believe in banning books.  I believe in talking with your children about what is and is not appropriate, and letting them decide from there.  Even if you do not agree with the content of a book, I think it is much better to let your child decide whether or not to read it, and then leave the lines of communication open.  Talk with your children about what they are reading.  Sometimes, a book that you disagree with can lead to some great discussions where you can lay out your opinion and discuss openly with your child.

A far better solution, in my opinion, is to put an age requirement on certain books.  Rob and I have decided that no one younger than 9 or 10 in our family should read "The Hunger Games" simply due to it's violent nature.  However, the gruesomeness in the book can lead to some very thought provoking discussions about government, rebellion, and so forth.  I would not want to give that up.

So far we have one other age limit in our house.  You must be in at least 8th grade before reading Tolkien.  This has nothing to do with the content, and everything to do with the difficulty of the book. It is a story Rob and I both love so much, that we don't want our children wading into it too early and souring on the complexity of it.

But what about if you get a teenage daughter who only wants to read trashy romance novels?  Or a son who can't veer out of the comic books?  I think these kind of books, mind candy, as I call them, are ok in small amounts, but too much can make one feel dissatisfied with life or have false illusions of love.

Try to encourage books with more substance to them.  Read a chapter book aloud in your family.  Perhaps put a stipulation of your child reading a book you choose before another book they choose.  Then try to choose an appropriate book for their reading comprehension that still fits some of the same story lines that they love.  "Little Women", "Anne of Green Gables", "Witch of Blackbird Pond" are all wonderful stories with some romance to them.  In the action-adventure set, try "Percy Jackson", "Harry Potter", "Peter Pan", etc.

What are the reading rules like in your house?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Easter in eggs

This is a fun way to tach your children the Easter story. You will need 12 plastic eggs and an empty egg carton.

Fill each egg with the materials (bolded) for each part of the story, and then number the eggs in the order they are to be opened. I have included the parts of the story for each egg as well as italicized the specific thing each piece is to represent. You can also use the scripture references if you like. As you read, you will see that some parts of the story are not included in the eggs, you can fill in the spaces as you like in between eggs.

Pictures also help with telling the story. I remember doing this as a kid. Let each child take turns opening the eggs. Have fun, this can become a fun tradition for your family.

Sacrament cup
Explain how Christ in the Garden of Gesthemane asked for this cup to pass from him. Then "Not my will, but Thy will be done" and how he bled from every pore.

Luke 22:41-42

3 dimes
Explain that Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver
Matt 26:14-15

Twine
The soldiers bound Jesus with rope and led him to Pontius Pilate
Matt 27:2

Soap
Pontius Pilate asked the crowd what he should do with Jesus who had done nothing wrong. The crowd called for him to crucified, so Pilate said he washed his hands of the whole thing.
Matt 27:22-24

Red material, thorn
The soldiers put a red robe on Christ and a crown of thorns on his head and then hit his head with the thorns still on it. Lightly prick each child with the thorn if they want to feel.
Matt 27:27-31

Cross (made from toothpicks), nail
Christ was then crucified on a cross. They hung him there by putting nails through his hands and feet (you can lightly prick the braver of your children on the hands)
Luke 23:33

Dice
Explain that the soldiers cast lots, or played a game, to decide who got to keep Jesus' clothes.
Luke 23:35

Dirt (wrapped in a plastic baggy)
After Jesus died the temple veil was rent and the rocks were crushed (the dirt is supposed to be the crushed rock)
Matt 27:51
White cloth
Some of Jesus' followers took his body and wrapped it in linen cloth and then laid him in a tomb.
Matt 27:57-59
Rock
A big stone was rolled in front of the door of the tomb
Matt 27:60

Spices
Explain that Mary Magdalene and two others went to put spices on Jesus body so that he wouldn't stink. Have each child smell the spices (I like to use cloves and a bay leaf)
Luke 24:1-2

Empty
Make a big to-do about this egg. Say that the stone was rolled away and there were two angels sitting on it. What was inside the tomb? Have a child open the egg. It is empty, just like the tomb!
Luke 24:3-6

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An "Anne of Green Gables" Daughter

I am reading "Anne of Green Gables" and just love it.  I have always loved the movies, and the book is obviously wonderful too.  Who can help but love the heroine, Anne, and her imagination?

What I love about Anne, and the other girls in the book, is that they stay young for so long.  They are 14 years old and still playing.  They aren't hung up on boys, or dating.  They can't even "wear their hair up" until they are 17.  People were in the business of keeping little girls LITTLE back then.

Nowadays, our poor daughters are thrown to the sexual wolves at an earlier and earlier age.  Have you seen the Halloween costumes for 8-year old girls?  Girls are stopping their make-believe play and chasing boys earlier and earlier.  Puberty is also coming earlier to many girls.  These changes are not without consequences.  They have resulted in higher teen-pregnancy rates, STD's, etc.

I only have one daughter and at the moment, she is three and just growing into that big, beautiful imagination of hers.  I want her to stay young, and playful as long as possible.  She has the rest of her life to be grown up!  But how do I do it?  I can't pretend to have all the answers.  I have some ideas, but I want yours as well.

I would say most importantly, turn off the TV and go outside.
 Encourage imaginative play.
 Look at the toys your daughter plays with.  Do they encourage sexualization? (I personally hated the Bratz dolls for this very reason)
 Encourage your daughter to just focus on having good girl friends.
 Don't even tease about "boyfriends".  Don't turn every friend of the opposite sex she has, into a potential relationship in her mind.
Let her be little.  Don't dress her like a mini-adult.
 Read "Anne of Green Gables" aloud when she is old enough.
Focus on other ways to be "grown-up" other than having a boyfriend or doing teenager things, such as cooking meals, learning to sew, helping plan the family vacation, etc.

That's all I got...what about you?  How do you try to keep your daughters little?