Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Few Weekend Ramblings and Thoughts on Work

print via

How was your weekend?  Mine included good conversation with the husband, a successful yard sale, a sunburn that's now fading, an afternoon at church, a trip to the planetarium, and a barbecue at the in-laws.  Sure there was an ear infection and pink eye thrown in the mix along with the normal dose of tantrums and pouting, but it's all part of family life.  The weekend also included a lot of thinking on my part.  

Right now I'm in the midst of self-evaluation.  It's report card time in households across America, I suppose, and I'm currently filling out my own report card trying to figure out what areas are going ok and where I need to check the box for "needs improvement."  Sometimes that list feels longer than others.  It feels pretty long right now.  

There are times when I think women are too hard on themselves- caught up in the trap of comparison and unable to recognize all the good that they already are and the things they already accomplish.  I know that I've fallen into that trap before.  But that is not where I am right now.  

There are also times when it's important for me to evaluate how I'm doing, not compared to anyone else, but in terms of my own personal goals.  I think it's important for us to hold ourselves accountable in our efforts to improve.  I can make a lofty list of things I hope to become or achieve, but it doesn't mean much if I'm not measuring my progress and following up with myself to assess how I'm doing.  I'm two weeks away from my birthday.  It always seems to be a natural time for me to pull out the measuring stick and figure out how I'm doing in terms of where I want to be in life.  

The thing that I forget most often is that life takes work.  I don't feel like I'm a stranger to work, but at the same time there have been times in my life that things have come easy to me.  But I think since becoming a bona-fide adult, I've left that stage of things coming easy.  If I want a happy family, it takes work.  If I want well-rounded, respectful, kind, obedient kids, it takes work.  If I want a marriage that is above average, it takes work.  If I want to learn new skills, I can't just pick things up anymore- it takes work.  If I want to serve those around me and focus on others, it takes work- even if it's just work to make time to do those things.  

I want all of those things.  I have a lot of work ahead.  I want to remind myself that I'm not working for these things because I'm not content with who I am or with my current life.  I'm working for these things because I know that I am capable of more.  I need to remind myself that things worth having are worth working for.  I'm working for these things to become the person I have the potential to be instead of living my life as a shadow of what might have been.  I'm working for these things as a gift to my family and a gift to myself and a gift to my Heavenly Father to thank Him for the abilities I have to work and to offer Him my will to become who He wants me to be.  I'm working for these things because there is joy found in work and I want that joy.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Weekend

sweet print via
Good morning, friends!  Big plans for the long weekend?  This morning we're headed to the elementary school dance festival to watch my almost-no-longer-a-kindergartener perform with the rest of the school.  I can't believe how fast this school year has flown!  One more week and then summer begins.

I found my motivation Wednesday night and I've been cleaning out and pricing ever since in preparation for the big Saturday morning yard sale.  I'm hopeful we'll sneak in a little yard work over the long weekend, but I'm beyond thrilled to be getting so much out of the inside of my house that it's really ok if the outside has to wait for some attention until next week.

Date night and a ladies lunch are also in the weekend mix, and if the weather holds up I'm sure the grill will be out on Monday.  I thought I'd leave you with a few meaningful posts I've read lately- a little weekend inspiration.

-beautiful thoughts on growth achieved through motherhood
-an incredible perspective on time for ourselves as parents
-learning from kids to become like them

I'm excited to have your input on a few things next week and come back with more to share.   Hope you enjoy the holiday and some time with family and friends!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A few mid-afternoon musings

found via pinterest

Someday I'd like to help reform the situation for the disabled regarding Medicare/Medicaid/COBRA.  I've been dealing with a lot of this stuff for my dad, and I'm starting to admit defeat.  The system is truly broken.

Someday I'll feel like I've got this Primary thing all figured out.  That day is not today. And I'm sure when I do, that is when I'll move on to something different.

Someday I'll be able to stay on task.  I'm trying to get myself motivated for a yard sale this weekend.  My neighbor is already having one, so it would be the perfect time to tag along and get the excess out of my house.  Here we are at Wednesday and my preparations to date include thinking about it.  Time to get started tonight if this is really going to happen.

Someday I'll  be a more patient mom.  My 4 year old knows how to push my buttons in a big way.  This morning I left my room having prayed to be more patient and to choose my responses instead of being so reactive, and I found him with a bag of chocolate chips under the kitchen table and a chair in my pantry used to procure his desired breakfast.  And I yelled.  And there went my hopes expressed in my prayers.  But I apologized and I've tried to be more conscious of my choices as the day has gone on.  But there is still a lot of day left to mess up.  Oh, so many opportunities for growth.

For now, I'll go enjoy the sunshine with afore-mentioned 4 year old.  I'll make dinner for a sick friend tonight. I'll clean my house and fold laundry.  I'll work on things a little bit at a time until I've finally accomplished something. And I'll enjoy the rest of this day.

Hope you're having a lovely afternoon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Shortest Longest Trip of My Life


found via google images
The call to go to Idaho came sooner than we'd expected.  The insurance was starting to push back on how much inpatient rehab they were willing to pay for, and we wouldn't know until the day before my dad would need to leave if the insurance would cover another week.  It wasn't feasible for us to take that chance and leave on a moment's notice, so a week ahead of when therapists had hoped he would leave, my dad was discharged.  The decision to come ahead of schedule was extremely difficult, especially knowing how beneficial the additional intensive therapy could be, but it was another situation faced by millions of Americans with our hands being tied by insurance.

Our trip to pick him up was a whirlwind.  The muffin was about  6 weeks old and luckily a great traveler.  After the 5 1/2 hour drive, we headed straight to the rehab hospital.  Overwhelming doesn't even begin to describe how it was to see my dad for the first time post-stroke.  He seemed so young but so old at the same time.  He was throwing a ball around and seemed playful, telling jokes that one might hear in the halls of a junior high.  We realized that mentally, we would be caring for a teenager.  Physically, he could've easily been 80.  His movements were so labored and deliberate, and sometimes just out of his control.  I'm pretty sure I cried after we returned to the car.  It was so much to take in.   

The next morning we returned to the rehab hospital, ready for an intense day of training.  We met with therapist after therapist and nurse after nurse.  Sessions with each specialist were timed with breaks in between so I could feed the baby.  It seemed so surreal.  I took pages of notes.  The physical therapist was so proud as we walked the length of the gym several times, the husband and I taking turns spotting so we knew what we would need to do after we returned home.  We practiced stairs, and I was a nervous wreck.  We ventured outside to practice curb transfers and car transfers and I played a continual loop in my head of what would happen if he fell.  I'm 5'0 and my dad is 6'3.  There was no way I would be able to get him up or offer him much assistance in the event of a fall.  And yet, here I was, learning how to steady his steps with the expectation that I could help.  I remember feeling slightly confused at the joy the therapist had.  To me it felt like my dad still needed a lot of help, and I think I was too nervous about helping him to focus on the progress he'd made.  

We met with the occupational therapist and learned how to do stretches for my dad's arm to help him regain mobility and prevent atrophy.  We watched him play games stacking cups and reaching across the table, trying to teach his arm and hand the things it used to be able to do.  We discussed the mechanics of showering and eating and getting dressed and other activities of daily living.  This session also brought increasing realization of the help we would need to provide my dad.

We met with a nurse who brought in dinner rolls and needles so I could learn how to give shots and administer insulin.  During this session I also learned wound care for multiple wounds on my dad's feet.  His diabetes has led to neuropathy in his feet meaning his feet have no feeling and are also very slow-healing, so the slightest scratches become wounds that need great care to prevent infection. Her thoroughness in explaining his medications and dosages and routines was reassuring. Unlike the uncertainty I felt with getting my dad safely from point A to point B, I knew I had the abilities to keep track of his prescriptions and rely on the routines of scheduled dosing times to provide some structure amidst the chaos.

At lunch time, my dad went to the dining room to eat with other patients, and the husband and I had a few minutes alone with our baby.  We found the hospital cafeteria, ate bad sandwiches, and tried to process all that we'd be learning.  Our lunch was full of conversation regarding the mechanics of our situation- how would this really work?  How would these new responsibilities become part of our everyday lives?  And what questions did we have as we tried to drink from the fire hose, because this was our opportunity to get them answered?

The afternoon brought more meetings.  Carb counting with the nutritionist, logic puzzles with the speech therapist, and a pep talk with the social worker about how to handle it all after she helped us with some disability paper work.  We packed up some of his belongings and then left to get some sleep before the drive home the next morning.  We made a quick trip to Wal-Mart that night to fill his prescriptions, an errand that couldn't wait for us to return to Utah.  $500 later we left with more of a realization of the financial sacrifice we'd be making, hopeful that we would recoup his medical costs later if he was able to get approved for disability.

The next day we loaded up our car and our baby.  We drove to the rehab hospital, putting the last few belongings needed immediately into boxes and then packing our car really full.  We pulled the car around to the curb and were escorted down with the physical therapist for our first real car transfer.  And then we pulled away.

My dad sat up front with the husband.  I sat in the back next to the baby, pumping and meeting his needs throughout the drive back to Utah.  The husband tried to talk to my dad the entire drive, getting to know the life story of what seemed like a stranger who would be living with us now.  It was hard for my dad to talk.  It was hard for us to understand.

We stopped for lunch at Subway.  I was nervous when he got out of the car. I was nervous when he stepped onto the curb.  I was nervous when he opened the door.  I was nervous when he chose what to order.  I figured Subway was our healthiest bet, but I wasn't planning on him asking for chips.  After lunch we resumed the drive as we read through literature on diabetes and strokes and carb counting.  We talked about foods he liked and didn't like so I could try to plan meals accordingly.  I can still see the sun streaming through the car window and the pictures of foods on the purple-bordered pages.

Things felt awkward and strange.  We made it home around dinner time.  Things begin to blur around this time- I know someone brought dinner, but can't remember if it was my mother-in-law or my sister-in-law.  I remember freaking out internally while my dad was trying to make it in the house.  Navigating the 4 stairs from the garage was one of my biggest concerns.  I remember following him everywhere he went, worrying about his every move, straining to understand his every word.  We helped him get dressed for bed. We did stretches with him.

And then we went to bed and everything was completely different.  Our house felt different.  We cried and prayed.  It had been a long road from Idaho to Utah.  The shortest, longest trip of my life.  And we knew the longer road, the journey, was still ahead.


In an effort to remember what I've been through taking care of my dad post-stroke and share the growth and beauty that came along the way, I will be journaling this experience as part of Bee a Little Better.  You can find all posts in this series under the label "the dad story".  I hope you'll stick with me as I record this experience.  If it doesn't interest you, come back tomorrow for something different.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Life lessons with a 4-year-old

image from the amazing Ali Edwards

Today was another one of those days when I had to re-evaluate my parenting skills.

It all started with preschool graduation this morning.  We checked Miss A out of school so she could come with us to watch her brother.  Grandparents came to celebrate.  Parts were memorized, songs had been practiced, baths were given, and de-Man was ready for his big day.  His class came marching up the steps from the basement of his teacher's home to her family room, ready to take their places in front of their adoring parents.  But when de-Man got to the top step, he broke down and was not to be calmed.

He wouldn't continue on to the front of the room with his friends to find the seat with his name on it.  He wouldn't sing the songs with his classmates he'd been practicing all year.  He wouldn't say his part that he'd worked hard to learn.  He wouldn't go up at the very end after the program to accept his book filled with pictures and memories from the year and hug his teachers.  He wouldn't say goodbye to his friends.

I went through a range of emotions sitting there watching the program with him on my lap.  Sad that he was missing out on his time to shine.  Frustrated that there was no convincing him he wanted to be part of it all.  Disappointed that everyone came but he didn't participate.  I tried to get him excited to join in.  I tried expressing disappointment to urge him to give it a try.  As a parent, I felt like there was nothing I could do. My attempts seemed to bring more tears and escalating sobs, and the boy has always been a noisy crier.

I've learned some things about this sweet boy today.  While he seems at ease around people and will begin volunteering information and talking the ear off any stranger who shows interest, he has a real fear of being in front of large groups.  In primary at church he's had several opportunities to participate by saying a prayer or sharing a scripture, and only recently after three separate attempts when I ended up fulfilling his assignment has he gotten comfortable enough to be in front of everyone.  I think it catches me off guard every time because Miss A was a very shy toddler and he is so opposite around people that I forget a large audience is still very overwhelming to him.

I've thought a lot today about how I might have handled it differently.  I'm not sure I've come to many conclusions yet.  I want my kids to learn that they follow through on commitments and do hard things, even if they don't want to.  But I also understand that he's FOUR.  He has a lot of years ahead of him to practice that, and I don't want to push too hard too soon.

The most crushing part was when the reality started to set in later today of what his choices meant.  He wanted to go visit his teachers.  He wanted to play with his preschool friends.  I had the hard job of trying to explain that he'd missed his chance to do those things.  Preschool is over for the summer.

This is my child who moves at his own pace.  His letter to Santa last winter said, "Dear Santa, I'm still thinking about it."  Getting him to make a choice could easily turn into an all day affair.  I want him to learn to be decisive.  I think it's essential to his future.  And I want him to learn that some situations have time-tables that you have to function within.  Learning that certain situations in life don't give second chances is a difficult lesson.

There is always so much to think about as a parent.  When I put it in perspective and realized that the things that are mentally/emotionally taxing right now will only multiply a thousand times as my children get older, it's enough to send me into a tail-spin.  But I know that somehow, we will muddle through and figure this out.  My relationship with him is more important than any preschool graduation, and I hope I communicated that to him today.  He will learn these life lessons...I just have to realize it will most certainly be at his own pace.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Today

wood block print via

Today is a day to celebrate my sister-in-law.  What an amazing woman.  I learn so much from her and wouldn't mind being her when I grow up.  I am convinced that aside from the amazing partner I have in my husband, I needed to marry him so I could be part of his family.  I really lucked out with my in-laws.  

Today is a day to make a slightly guilt-inducing but completely delicious dinner (with bread and salad on the side).  Company is coming- an old roommate that I haven't seen or talked to in way too long.  I can't wait to catch up!

Today is a day to help out a friend while watching her little boy. He's playing happily with kid #2 right now, and hopefully they'll continue to play the afternoon away.  

Today is a day to do some cleaning.  Oh wait, that's everyday.

Today is a day to finish up end of the school year preparations.  Tomorrow is pre-school graduation, so I need to get teacher gifts situated.  Miss A has her first big report due Friday that we need to work on this afternoon. Her topic of choice: cats.  I'm not sure there's an animal I'm less fond of, but this is when I have to remind myself it's her report.  

Today is a day to cozy up inside.  The rain and the cool this week are doing nothing for my spring fever.  I'm pretty sure it's going to get instantly hot and I'm going to pine for the handful of days we've had in the 60s and 70s.  Lingering on cool-weather food is the only plus.  Making bread this afternoon softens the blow of cold weather just a little when my kitchen isn't overheated from turning on the oven.

Today is a day to reflect.  Rainy days always seem to do that to me.  Today my reflecting has turned me again to the realization that I am really blessed to know some amazing people.  And I'm even more blessed to realize that none of that is by chance- the people I know have been placed in my life for a reason.  Pretty awesome.   

How is your today? 


Monday, May 16, 2011

This One's Dedicated to the One I Love...

picture of my sweet husband being a fun dad from my sweet friend Melissa

Tonight I'm reflecting on my husband.  Maybe it's because I've actually seen him the past few days, but I feel like I've seen him in a whole new way.

Like when he remembered tonight to tell me that he heard on the radio H+M is coming to a nearby mall.  I realized that he pays attention to my shopping enjoyment, even though there is nothing on earth he would rather not be doing than shopping.

Or today when he had his glasses off and I noticed the sizable crows' feet surrounding his eyes.  I realized that those lines are completely perfect to me because he's earned them by smiling all the time.  Although he has his moods sometimes, he is a generally happy person.  He loves to laugh and smile, and he loves to make other people laugh and smile.  And that makes me happy and appreciative of his crows' feet. And it also made me wonder if I will earn crows' feet from smiling a lot, or if I'll earn wrinkles in other places from repeated sour expressions.  I'm going to work on crows' feet.  

I looked at the mess on the front porch and realized that even though a lot of the weekend projects were completed, it's ok for us to admit that we need help from the experts now and again.  Hanging our porch swing may involve an expert (I put my trust in the stud-finder, he doesn't want us to come crashing down and thinks we need to take the roof off the porch to make sure we hang the swing in the studs), and I appreciate that he doesn't have to be right or let it affect how we feel about each other.  We've learned that some things, especially when it comes to house projects, are worth paying someone and saving our marriage from the accompanying stress.

I saw the way he helped man the iron with our Sunday night waffles (becoming a bit of a tradition lately with church at 1:00) while I cooked bacon and made smoothies.  He's happy to do a job if I ask, and things are so much better for me when I do ask instead of just assuming he should see what needs done and jump in.

On Saturday he came out and weeded the garden with me.  This year is showing very little results considering time invested so far, but he still worked willingly by my side even though there were things he was trying to work on inside.  He listened intently to conversations about Buzz Lightyear and biting ants and splinters and spiders as the kids wandered around helping and playing, and he didn't complain.

I watched how he cherished our kids.  Instead of the hurried hugs and kisses that I dish out at the end of a long day, he still has patience to make those moments meaningful.  And he does the same for me, helping me realize I can slow down and give him a hug and the rest of the world can wait.  Because really, what is more important than that?

I am blessed with a good husband. I realize it more everyday.  And I am so grateful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Bee in My Bonnet

Sweet as honey!
awesome honeycomb print via

It's Friday!  Blogger is functional enough to post again!  I thought I'd leave you with a list of comings and goings, bees in my bonnet if you will, to start the weekend.

1.   The husband is home today, and it's turning into a weekend of projects.  I'm very excited to see what we can get done.  Nothing is better than the sense of accomplishment after a productive weekend!

2.  Project 1: Porch swing assembly.  It's currently waiting in the garage, ready to hang later today or tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to summer nights spent swinging.

3.  Project 2: Set-up the new computer.  After 5+ years with my trusty Dell, I am now coming to you from an iMac.  So far it's fast and big and pretty awesome.  If we don't install Microsoft Office soon, I may go a little batty.  I have a lot of word processing to do this weekend.  (And if that doesn't sound totally geeky, I'm not sure what does).  I have a feeling I'm really going to love this new set-up.

4.  Project 3: Fill up our new Super Tanker.  I've been trying to ramp up our emergency preparedness lately, and water storage is a big piece of the puzzle.  Our new 250-gallon tank has found a home in the garage and we are now in the filling stages.  Next step is finding some aerobic oxygen to add to our water to increase the length of storage time.  I'm sure I'll have more to share soon about home storage and preparedness.  It's been a definite bee in my bonnet for the past few months.

5.  Project 4: Garden love.  Our poor garden boxes are off to a rough start this year.  I have planted twice now with not a lot to show.  I'm not sure if bad seeds are to blame, but I'm sure the amount of grass trying to infiltrate my garden has something to do with it.  I'll be spending a bit of time in garden gloves this weekend cleaning out and doing some more planting.  And speaking of garden gloves, if you have a pair you love, please recommend some.  I have about 5 and am yet to find a favorite.

6.  Project 5: Primary organization.  I am so excited about my new calling, but wow there is a lot to learn.  I'm sure the dust will settle soon and we will find a groove, but there are a lot of changes going on right now and a lot of details I feel like I'm missing.  Hence the word processing that needs to happen this weekend- I've got lists to make!  Logistics aside, I am so happy in my new place.  Things feel really great.

7.  This is the point where my list of projects starts to get too ambitious and the husband has to reign it in.  If it were up to me, we would also be doing serious tree-planting and landscaping this weekend.  But in this weekend mix, I have an afternoon to spend at the doctor with my dad for routine labs and check-up, plus tending the nieces and nephews tonight, plus another quick meeting for church to hand off a few things, plus the normal Saturday chores that need to happen.

Hope your weekend is a happy/productive one.  Get a bee in your bonnet and get something done.  It will feel so good!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Looking for the Good

image via the totally inspiring I Am Project found at Because It's Awesome

Good morning, and if you're new here from Bloom, welcome!  I hope you'll stay a while.

A few weeks ago I decided that when Mother's Day came this year, I wasn't just going to honor my own mother and mother-in-law, but I wanted to recognize all of the mothers making a difference in my life.  This included those who may be helping in the nurture of my children in various places, as well as those mothers who teach me regularly through their example.  I ordered extra cards to share, and I wish I'd ordered more than I did!  Had I made a list ahead of time, I would have realized how many influential women I am blessed to have in my life, but I was limited to the six extra cards I'd ordered.

One thing I didn't expect to happen was the growth of love I'd have for each of these women as I sat down to write their cards.  I reflected on lessons I've learned from them.  I thought about their own strengths as mothers and the things they do that I'd like to improve at.  And while it was nice for Mother's Day, it also confirmed to me that it's nice for everyday.  The depth of my feelings for each of these women intensified, and it was a powerful exercise for me as I looked for the good so I could acknowledge the strengths of each of them.

Imagine if we all looked at each other this way!  It would be such a different world if we took time to reflect on the strengths in each other instead of feeling irritated and offended by each other's weaknesses.  This is something I desperately need to work on, but I am excited to continue sending notes and reflecting on the good that we each possess.

If you're looking for a Tuesday challenge, write a note today.  Who doesn't want to hear that they're doing a good job?  Who doesn't want to know their example has influenced someone for good?  Who doesn't love a little good mail?  And I promise it will start to change how you view others and put a spring in your step.  At least that's what it's started to do for me.  Happy Tuesday!


---Can you think of notes you've received that have made a difference to you?
---Do you naturally look for the good in others?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Weekend Recap

printable available via

What a lovely weekend.  The husband indulged my every whim, which includes many things that are normally not on his list of favorite things to do.  Saturday was spent cleaning out the garage, venturing to Lowe's for my new mother's day present, returning home to assemble said gift and realizing the screws included were too short, admitting defeat for the day (you can't win 'em all, right?), and eating Chinese food at our favorite local place.  My fortune was the perfect Mother's Day sentiment, and really the solution to some of my musings on selfishness/selflessness last week: "Rest not from duty, but find rest in it."  And so on Sunday, that is what I tried to do. 

I woke up and made two batches of waffles, these for the majority of the family (sans cheese- I haven't been brave enough to try it yet), and an egg-free, rice milk batch for the baby.  I made dough for rolls so I could roll them out and shape them later, giving them time to raise while we were at church.  I talked to my mom on the phone and felt bad that her gift was not yet in the mail.  I bathed the baby so he could catch an early nap.  I wrapped gifts and wrote cards for important mothers in my life while the husband bathed the big kids, and then I took over for lotioning and combing and dressing.  I shaped rolls while the husband fed the kids lunch and we listened to music.  I showered and make-upped and ironed my dress for church and got us all there on time.

And then something happened that is overwhelming and wonderful and happy and bittersweet all rolled into one.  For the past three years I have served in my church in the presidency of our women's organization.  It has been an incredible experience full of growth and service and love and fun, and it's been a huge part of my life.  Yesterday I was released from that job (the bittersweet) and called to do something different (the overwhelming/wonderful/happy).  I am now the president of the primary, the organization for children ages 18 months to12 years old.  I will be working with wonderful women to lead these children, and I am really excited.  I can't wait to be there with my kids.  I can't wait to listen to children's voices singing beautiful music each week.  And I can't wait for the learning and growth and service that is sure to come in this new opportunity.  It felt like such a perfect day for this new calling to come.  I can't think of anything more appropriate for Mother's Day than nurturing, and I have an opportunity to nurture a lot of children with my new responsibilities. 

We finished off yesterday with delicious dinner at the in-law's and gifts of love and adoration.  We talked about our Sundays and about motherhood and about our families.  We watched cousins have fun.  We lingered over desserts of peach cobbler and strawberry shortcake and cookie bars.  And then we returned home and tucked in kids way too late and went to bed at a respectable hour, a good way to start the week.

A great weekend indeed.  And despite the rain and cold outside, I think it's going to be a great week.  Be back soon!

Friday, May 6, 2011

On Bee-ing a Mom Part 4: Living in the Present

Gorgeous print available here, with half the proceeds from sales benefiting a camp for kids whose parents have cancer.  What a worthy cause to support at this time of year!
 
Three years ago, I was asked to speak at church on Mother's Day.  Though I've learned a lot since then and added another child to the mix, many of my thoughts and feelings recorded in this talk remain the same.  Several ideas shared here have strong references to my faith- if you need clarification don't hesitate to ask, or find more information here.  Thank you for indulging me this week as I've shared a few of my ramblings on such an important topic.  Happy Mother's Day!


My topic today is living in the present as a mother. I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to study and ponder this topic because it was already one I’d been thinking about and I’ve had a chance to reflect on it more in depth than the few moments I had recently. Living in the present as a mother is something that has been a challenge for me. I’m often so caught up in lists of things to accomplish and thinking about what comes next that it’s hard for me to focus on the joys that surround me and enjoy each stage as I’m participating in it. I feel like I’m definitely getting better at it the longer I’m a mother. With my first child, I was so eager for each milestone to come that I could barely enjoy it before I was waiting for the next one, wondering if she was on track, doing all in my power to help her development along to the next step. Addie was rolling, crawling, walking, and running in the blink of an eye because I couldn’t wait for each thing to happen and spent the moments in between wondering when her next milestone would be accomplished. It’s been a very different experience having a second child. Because I knew what was coming I could enjoy each phase without rushing Sam along to the next one. I rocked him and didn’t mind as much, knowing he’d be squirming before long. He rolled around the room to get from place to place, and I was in no hurry for him to crawl. In the past two weeks he’s finally started walking as his main mode of transportation, but I really enjoyed the crawling, maybe in part because I know now that walking just means he can get into more trouble faster. Although I haven’t had children for years and years, I’m grateful that in the short time I have, the learning curve has been pretty short and I’m already starting to catch on to the fact that I need to enjoy each stage of raising children while I have it instead of trying to hurry up and wait for the next stage to begin.
President Monson speaks of living in the present in his first presidency address in the April Ensign by saying “Sometimes we let our thoughts of tomorrow take up too much of today. Daydreaming of the past and longing for the future may provide comfort but will not take the place of living in the present. This is the day of our opportunity, and we must grasp it.” Although this can apply to many areas of our life, I think one of the greatest applications of living in the present and grasping our opportunities is found in motherhood. Today is the day of my opportunity as a mother, and I must grasp it! Sister Hinckley had great counsel that she addressed to mothers of young children. She said, “These are golden years for you. These are years you will probably do the most important work of your lives. Don’t wish away your years of caring for small children. Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans. This is a time of great opportunity for you to build the kingdom. When you teach children to love their Heavenly Father, you have done one of the greatest things you will ever do.” There are three points I’d like to focus on in helping us to live in the present as parents, and more specifically mothers. They are to understand our role as mothers, to understand the constraints of time, and to gain perspective so we may fill our time with the joys of family life and the gospel.
The first point is to understand our role as a mother. I believe that as we come to understand the significance of this responsibility, we are better able to live in the present as we strive to make the greatest impact we can knowing how vital our performance in this role is. David O. McKay said, “Motherhood is the greatest potential influence for either good or ill in human life. The mother's image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child's mind. It is her caress that awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.” What beautiful words penned by President McKay, and what a responsibility to know that motherhood is the greatest potential influence for good or ill in human life! Before we get too far, I’d like to point out, in the words of Sister Holland, that “[motherhood] is first and foremost a statement about our nature, not a head count of our children.” Regardless of the circumstances we may be in as a woman, we are all mothers. Sherri Dew clarifies more on the role of mother given to all women. “When we understand the magnitude of motherhood, it becomes clear why prophets have been so protective of woman’s most sacred role. While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living”—and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us." President Gordon B. Hinckley stated that “God planted within women something divine.” That something is the gift and the gifts of motherhood. Elder Matthew Cowley taught that “men have to have something given to them [in mortality] to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. [They] are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls … and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children.” Knowing what we know about motherhood being an inherent and eternal part of our nature, doesn’t it make you want to rise to the call? As I read these statements, I feel blessed that I’ve been chosen to fill this role, but also a great responsibility to do something with the blessings I’ve been given. Kind of like the parable of the talents, I don’t want to bury these skills that are part of my nature, but I feel the pull to use these talents to the best of my ability. Sister Beck shared an experience in conference a few years ago that I can very much relate to. “I was recently at a park where I met a group of women with mother hearts. They were young, covenant-keeping women. They were bright and had obtained advanced degrees from respected universities. Now they were devoting their considerable gifts to planning dinner that evening and sharing housekeeping ideas. They were teaching two-year-olds to be kind to one another. They were soothing babies, kissing bruised knees, and wiping tears. I asked one of those mothers how it came about that she could transfer her talents so cheerfully into the role of motherhood. She replied, “I know who I am, and I know what I am supposed to do. The rest just follows.” That young mother will build faith and character in the next generation one family prayer at a time, one scripture study session, one book read aloud, one song, one family meal after another. She is involved in a great work. She knows that “children are an heritage of the Lord” and “happy is the [woman] that hath [a] quiver full of them” (Ps. 127:3, 5). She knows that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily mothering is far more lasting, far more powerful, far more influential than any earthly position or institution invented by man. She has the vision that, if worthy, she has the potential to be blessed as Rebekah of old to be “the mother of thousands of millions” (Gen. 24:60).” I love the words of the young sister- “I know who I am and I know what I am supposed to do. The rest just follows.” I believe that as we come to learn more about our roles as mother, when we understand the significance and impact that we can have, the rest will indeed follow.
The second point is to understand how fleeting time is. I loved the words of Elder Ballard, along with every other young mother, in this past General Conference. I quote from him, “There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part- or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else. I am impressed by countless mothers who have learned how important it is to focus on the things that can only be done in a particular season of life. If a child lives with parents for 18 or 19 years, that span is only one-fourth of a parent’s life. And the most formative time of all, the early years in a child’s life, represents less than one-tenth of a parent’s normal life. It is crucial to focus on our children for the short time we have them with us and to seek, with the help of the Lord, to teach them all we can before they leave our homes.” I have thought frequently of these statistics since this talk was given. Although my days can seem so long and overwhelming, it saddens me to realize that this time I’m in is most likely less than one-tenth of my life! It definitely puts things in perspective. In the past year I’ve also realized how fast time goes when my niece started kindergarten. I was at the hospital shortly after she was born, and she was only 5 months old when Patrick and I were married. As cliché as it sounds, it seems like yesterday that she was toddling around, and now she’s about to finish her first year of school. Although I know I didn’t feel the same depth of emotion as her parents as she started school, I was still saddened to realize that the safe haven of home, the period of life when her family would have the greatest and most intense influence, had come to a close. She has a great foundation on which to build, but other influences are now factored in to her choices as looks to others like friends and teachers for input and approval. I’m grateful I’ve had such a great friend to look to in my sister-in-law as we raise our children. To realize I’m more than half way there until I reach this milestone with my own child makes me wish I could stop time. I’m coming to understand the adage that the days are long but the years are short. President Monson shared a story by Arthur Gordon also illustrating this principle. “When I was around thirteen and my brother ten, Father had promised to take us to the circus. But at lunchtime there was a phone call; some urgent business required his attention downtown. We braced ourselves for disappointment. Then we heard him say [into the phone], ‘No, I won’t be down. It’ll have to wait.’
“When he came back to the table, Mother smiled. ‘The circus keeps coming back, you know.’
“‘I know,’ said Father. ‘But childhood doesn’t.’” Childhood doesn’t come back. To repeat President Monson’s words, “this is the day of our opportunity, and we must grasp it.”
Now that we understand our role as mothers and the passing of time, how do we live in the present? How do we make the most of the time we have? I know that our greatest happiness and satisfaction will be found in the simple joys found in family life and in living the gospel together. I really appreciated these words from Elder Ballard, also from the recent conference. “Recognize that the joy of motherhood comes in moments. There will be hard times and frustrating times. But amid the challenges, there are shining moments of joy and satisfaction. Author Anna Quindlen reminds us not to rush past the fleeting moments. She said: “The biggest mistake I made [as a parent] is the one that most of us make. . . . I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of [my three children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less”(Loud and Clear [2004], 10–11).” It sounds so simple to live in the moment, but it truly is one of the most difficult things I’m learning to do as a mother. The list of tasks is endless, and it’s hard for me to set the list aside, but I know that some of my happiest moments as a mother have been when I’ve tossed out the list and enjoyed the doing and the being with my children. The past two weeks have been particularly busy, and thanks to a husband who helps me keep things in perspective, we took dinner to the park one night this week to enjoy a picnic as a family. As we shared our plans with Addie, she couldn’t contain her excitement as she repeatedly said “This is such a wonderful day!” I remember a couple of years ago being pregnant with Sam and returning home after running errands with Addie to find a warm spring shower. Instead of hurrying to get our shopping bags and ourselves inside, I decided it would be a great time for Addie to enjoy her first dance in the rain. She talked about it for months and still mentions it on occasion. As we heed the Savior’s commands to become as a child, it’s amazing what will happen as we take the world in through their eyes. It not only helps us to live in the present as we see the beauty and wonder in the world around us, but it makes the present so much more enjoyable to live in! President Monson related a story that can teach us another way to live in the present. “I remember reading the account of a man who, just after the passing of his wife, opened her dresser drawer and found there an item of clothing she had purchased when they visited the eastern part of the United States nine years earlier. She had not worn it but was saving it for a special occasion. Now, of course, that occasion would never come.
In relating the experience to a friend, the husband of the deceased wife said, “Don’t save something only for a special occasion. Every day in your life is a special occasion.”
That friend later said those words changed her life. They helped her cease putting off the things most important to her. Said she: “Now I spend more time with my family. I use crystal glasses every day. I’ll wear new clothes to go to the supermarket if I feel like it. The words ‘someday’ and ‘one day’ are fading from my vocabulary. Now I take the time to call my relatives and closest friends. I’ve called old friends to make peace over past quarrels. I tell my family members how much I love them. I try not to delay or postpone anything that could bring laughter and joy into our lives. And each morning, I say to myself that this could be a special day. Each day, each hour, each minute is special.”
Sister Hinckley outlined some of the responsibilities we have as mothers along with a healthy dose of perspective. “These are busy, busy days for you… It is my opinion that… Mormon women are among the hardest working women in the world. They plant gardens and bottle the produce, they sew and bargain shop. They go on the heart fund drive. They take dinners to new mothers and the sick in their neighborhoods. They take care of aged parents. They climb Mt. Timpanogos with Cub Scouts, go to Little League games, sit on the piano bench while Jennie practices, do temple work, and worry about getting their journals up-to-date. My heart bursts with pride when I see them come into church on Sunday, some as early as 8:30 in the morning, their children all clean and shiny, their arms loaded with supplies, as they head for classes where they teach other women’s children. They scrub their houses with little or no domestic help and then try to be the glamour girl in their husband’s life when he arrives home at night. But remember, my dear young friends, that you are now doing the work that God intended you to do. Be grateful for the opportunity.” I know that I am doing what God has intended me to do, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity.
I’ve thought a lot about the words of Queen Esther as I’ve prepared this talk. I feel like there are a few things I’ve accomplished so far in my life that I’m pretty proud of. I hope that after a lifetime of living, there will be many more things I may add to the list of things I’ve worked hard at and been successful at. But regardless of education, hours of service, callings held, instruments played, I know that the years I’m in right now are some of the most important, if not THE most important of my entire life. Regardless of anything else, I wonder as Mordecai wondered of Esther, “Who knowest whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Mother is the most important and sacred title I will ever hold, and in President Monson’s words, this is the day of my opportunity- I must grasp it! I pray that we might all live in the present in whatever our current circumstances may be, embracing the season we’re in and knowing that to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. I’m grateful for the season I’m in right now and for the sweet children I’ve been blessed with. I have a testimony of the sacred role of mothers and of motherhood as the divine nature of all women, whether or not they currently have children. As I attended two sealings this weekend I was again reminded of motherhood as an eternal role, and I know that motherhood is part of our identity. I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and for a knowledge of the plan, knowing that if I live worthy I can enjoy the blessings of motherhood eternally.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

On Bee-ing a Mom, Part 3: Selfishness versus Selflessness

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Part of the reason I remember desiring to have children is because I felt like I was starting to become a selfish person.  I figured if I was a mother it would help to get rid of the selfishness.  Looking back, I probably was becoming selfish, but oh how naive I was to think that motherhood was the cure-all for an unselfish life.  Yes, having another person you are responsible definitely takes some of the focus off of self, but I have now been around long enough to realize that there are many parents who are still completely selfish. 

Selfishness in motherhood is still something I'm trying to figure out.  We spend a lot of time hearing about how we have to take care of ourselves in order to be better mothers.  The airplane analogy of putting on our own masks first before we can adequately help anyone else is brought up frequently.  It doesn't take a lengthy search to find magazines and media encouraging women to take more time for themselves, and perhaps rightfully so.  Our own needs are usually the last ones met.

The paradox is found when I think of my kids, and I'm sure the same is true for most mothers.  When I take time to digest that these amazing people were entrusted to me, I want to be selfless.  I wish I could give them more than I already do.  I think back on the times when I do focus on myself and yearn for a way that I can be all they need me to be without needing to take time for myself.  The quote is often seen at  this time of year that,"A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie," (by Tenneva Jordan).  I think that kind of sacrifice is what typifies motherhood.  We want our children to have happiness and know that sometimes that means our own happiness-even if it's found in something as simple as a piece of pie- comes second.

Can we have both worlds?  Can we meet that instinctual need to sacrifice as a mother and still care for ourselves?  How do we find the balance?

Last week while getting ready for church, Miss A got upset with me.  I spent time getting her ready (along with everyone else), but I also took a few minutes to get myself ready.  When I found her mid-fit and tried to figure out what had caused her feelings, she tearfully told me that I only do things for myself.  She was hoping that I would have time to paint her toe-nails that morning.  A combination of my duties and her dawdling led to us having no time for toe-nails, and she took it to mean that I had spent too much time on myself.  I tried to explain to her that had I really taken time for myself, I would have looked much different than I did that morning, but her words stung.  Having my child think I took too much time for myself, although inaccurate at that moment, was a hurtful accusation that I hope never to be rightly accused of.

I still have a lot of learning to do in this area, but it's something that weighs on me a lot. I hope that as long as it continues to be something I'm mindful of, something I try to keep in check, it will eventually be something I settle into so I can care for myself to be the mother I need to be, but still be able to give my children everything I can.  I hope someday I can become selfless enough to find fulfilment that as I care for others, it is the best way I can care for myself.  I'm not there yet, but I'm trying.  

"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden.
I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived."
Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On Bee-ing a Mom, Part 2: Timing

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 I feel like a constant theme of motherhood for me has been timing. 

Timing is a key part of family planning.  I naively entered married life assuming that people just had kids when they decided to and lived happily ever after.  My eyes were quickly opened to the amount of thought and prayer and stress and sometimes heartache that accompanies the decisions surrounding when to have children, especially as we realize that the decision isn't completely up to us. 

One of the greatest blessings that has helped me get through the hard days of parenting is the knowledge that each of our children has come to us exactly when they were supposed to.  I remember distinctly the impressions I received each time that helped me know I was ready to have another child.  When we started our family, I had finished my education and found a job.  But I saw things developing in my world view as we transitioned to a two-income household.  I was worried about where that path may lead, and I knew that it was time to have a child before we became too dependent on my income or too wrapped up in the pursuit of all of the things money could suddenly buy now that we were done with school.  

After we had Miss A, I was a very stressed out mom, but I still somehow jumped back into the fire shortly after she turned 1.  I just knew it was time.  There are almost 25 months between my first two kids, and although they were close in age, it was completely perfect.  Well, I can say that now.  For the first year, their demands were so constant I knew I needed a break for a while.  And then I settled into the honeymoon of motherhood with my two kids.  It became so do-able.  Sure, there were still days when they drove me up the walls, but  I became very comfortable in this stage.  I knew we would have another child someday, but I didn't mind letting the gap between numbers 2 and 3 get a little bigger.

One day I was sitting at the table with de-Man playing a game.  Miss A was at preschool, so it was just the two of us.  I remember him bending over to look at something on the table and then looking up at me with his big blue eyes and signature grin.  While I was busy melting at his smile, I suddenly looked at him through different eyes and had the thought, "you're ready to do this again."  I soon got pregnant with the muffin, and things were great.  Shortly after his birth when my dad has his stroke and then came to live with us, I could really see God's hand in the timing of his arrival to our family.

Had I gotten pregnant any sooner, and the demands of three kids and the space we were used to them occupying in our home would've made my dad living with us seem too difficult.  Had I gotten pregnant any later, and I would have still been pregnant when my dad has his stroke, and hesitant to take on his care because of the uncertainties of what the delivery and the new baby would bring.  But this baby came just in time so I was able to recover before my dad moved in.  He was still small enough to be sleeping in the bassinet in our room, so it didn't feel as cramped to have my dad stay with us.  While I was pregnant with the muffin, I searched the scriptures a lot for a name and was drawn to Elias.  When he was born, it just didn't fit, but we ended up using it as his middle name.  I kept feeling the impression that this little boy would be preparing our family for something special as I studied the entry in the bible dictionary over and over while pregnant with him which refers to Elias as "a preparer". Looking back, I can see how his name was so significant to the timing in which he came to our family.  He was preparing our family for something hard but also something wonderful as we cared for my dad.  As I've studied that entry more since then about the meaning of Elias, I can also see how he's played the role of a "restorer" in restoring happiness and joy to our home during an extremely difficult time.

Timing is really special to me as a mother.  It's one aspect that always allows me to see that God is involved in the details of my family.  And I know that if He cares that much about when my children come, He also cares about how I raise them, and He'll help me do it.  His timing is perfect.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

On Bee-ing a Mom, Part 1: Own It

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Good morning, friends!  I feel so happy this morning- a new week, a new month, new opportunities abounding, and a new week-long series here at Bee leading up to Mother's Day.  Yes, I'm just one more person adding my thoughts on motherhood to the mix, but I hope you won't mind. I certainly don't have all the answers- I've been a mom for about 6 1/2 years, but I have definitely learned a lot since becoming a mother.

Lesson one: own it.  Motherhood is a place where overwhelming inadequacy can be found without looking very far.  I've had many days at home with my kids where I've doubted my abilities to handle the challenges of mothering.  I think one morning with a roll of toilet paper unravelled across the house, a toy explosion, a potty-training accident, and a tantrum accompanied by shouts of "I don't like you, Mom," are enough to make any of us wonder how we're qualified for this job, or why we're doing it, or what makes us like it.  It is hard to be in the trenches of motherhood. 

But I know from experience that dwelling on our (perceived) deficiencies can be a dangerous place.   I think we can channel those feelings two ways.  If we choose to see our inadequacies as ways to keep us humble, but we're still ready to learn how to do all that is required of us as mothers, we are on the right path.  But if we allow those inadequacies to snowball into guilt, that guilt can quickly become debilitating and we will give up in becoming the kind of mother we are meant to be. 

I think we will all have days wondering if we are up to the tasks of motherhood.  I think it comes with the territory.  But I am happiest when I can own it and realize that I am meant to be a mother.  I am most content when I recognize the truth that this is my most significant work.  I am most confident when I contemplate that my children are actually His children, and He will help me become the mother I am meant to be if I ask and then listen.  I feel peace when I remember that I chose this, and I would choose it all over again a thousand times because of the three beautiful people I've been blessed with and because of the person they are helping me to become.