Thursday, February 28, 2013

Love My Husband, Reprise

At the beginning of this month, I wrote this nice little thought:
This month, I will work on loving my husband, without asterisks. Without fine print. Without inserting any "yeah, but..." comments....My new choice, then, is to not get bothered.
And then, on Valentine's Day (Valentine's Day! Of all days!), I typed out this gem:
It was nice to have a break from cooking - even if dinner was much later than I'd intended.
With shame, I must admit that the comment about the timing of dinner constitutes an asterisk, fine print, a negation of the previous positive words. Dang. I guess I'm not perfect after all.

To say that this month has been all lovey and roses (although there have been plenty of both - and more than usual) would be a blatant lie. Or I would be living on some other planet. Here on Earth, I live in Realityville and I know that I screw up. Often. And my husband sometimes makes mistakes. And my kids are not perfect.

In retrospect, my February goal was a good one. I did better on being less snarky and having fewer sarcastic thoughts. Not that I'm a terrible wife! At least, I don't think I am. But I do have room to improve. Don't we all?  My husbands's quirks don't bother me anywhere near as much as they used to.  I've been ever so much better at not depending on him for my happiness.  I give that one to the Lord, who helps me keep a more even keel (assuming my body is healthy and working properly).

 I want to love with everything I've got and have an amazing relationship and be one of those old grandmas who is still holding hands with her sweetheart while she is falling over.

And I'm getting closer to that. The loving part, not the falling over dead part. (Trent sighs, relieved)

Let Them Eat Fruit

I watched a documentary about food.  Anyone who eats food comfortably and wants to continue eating in comfort should probably never watch food documentaries.

It talks about - among lots of other things - all the chemicals that companies add to our food to make it taste better so we keep buying their food.  It makes me angry and scared - which is, I'm sure, the whole point of the film.

Afterwards, it was time to get Family Home Evening together.  Lesson, song, prayers, activity... treats.  How on earth can I make treats for my family that I can feel good about after I just watched THAT?

So after the short and sweet lesson, and singing some Primary song while Angel waved her arms to lead and Georgie banged an accompaniment on the piano, we combined the activity and treats portion of the evening. We went to the grocery store and bought fruit.  Exciting, no?

I told the kids, after the initial eye-roll, that they could pick out any fruit they wanted.  After looking around the produce section, they got into it.  Alec wanted a big grapefruit, Ben a large, tart Granny Smith apple.  Chris wanted to see what a mango was like, David snagged a bag of grapes, and Eddie was thrilled that he could get a pineapple.  A whole pineapple?  Yes, dear, and we can share.  Angel, having her daddy's genes, made a beeline for Golden Delicious apples; Freddy would not leave the banana display; and Georgie pointed emphatically at a plastic box of red, juicy "drawbwees".  We spent $25 on fruit, considerably more than I would spend on an ordinary FHE treat.  But it was fun and good for us!

We got home and cut everything up.  The boys were all super at sharing, and everyone got a taste of the different fruits.  It really did turn out to be fun.  And we bought enough fruit to have some left over for the next couple of days, too.

As I've been thinking of fruit (while munching on a juicy pineapple spear), I realized that I have been putting fresh fruit in the luxury category.  It's a treat that we have only occasionally.  Why?  I guess it's because fresh fruit is expensive, and we've been living very frugally for the past few years.  But I think I'll be buying more fruit now.  Probably not that much out-of-season fruit, but more than we have been.  And pass the pineapple.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hoarders and Children

This made me laugh!  And laugh and laugh.  My kids are masters at this art.  I quickly sobered up when I examined the bottom picture more closely.  If the mom just cleaned this room and put everything into a bin, she thought it was clean.  When this happens at our house, we say the bins and drawers are throwing up.  You can't keep things in perpetual neatness when there is this much stuff!

You can't clean clutter, Mom.  Organizing this much stuff is only thoughtful hoarding.  And supporting the container store.  Reduce, reduce, reduce, and then clean.  Only then will it stay clean.

Hoarder Makeover

Hafta give a little bit of back story to yesterday's "finding a new home for baby clothes" post.

Years ago, I got sucked into the Extreme Home Makeover show.  Oh yeah.  We watched it from its opening episode, and then we were regular viewers.  You have to understand that this was the. only. television. we. watched.  Ever.  Our family of seven owned ONE TV, and it was a portable little thing with a 12 inch screen and it weighed half a ton.  It had a built-in VCR, and we stored it in the closet.  We only pulled it out when we had a thousand-mile road trip to go visit family... or to watch Extreme Home Makeover.

But every Sunday night, we'd haul the little gray box out of the closet, hook up the bunny ear antenna, and gather 'round.  We didn't seem to mind crowding all of us in front of that little screen.  It was a bonding experience, I'm sure.

We loved the show.  We loved the happy endings and feeling like we were helping to help people.  We may have even made a cheesy video to send in and have our house redone, but if we did I won't admit it.  

After a while, the feel-good didn't feel so good.  It seemed like the show became more about how wild and extravagant the new house could become and less about the helping.  And after I watched it, I'd look at my own house and feel discouraged.  No matter how hard I cleaned or organized our little 2,000 square foot house, it was somehow never as glitzy as what I had just seen on the TV.  My house seemed to get smaller and dingier and more dated.  I wasn't happy with my own home when it was in constant comparison with Hollywood.  I needed a show spotlighting homes in third-world countries.  Really.

So I quit watching.  It took some time, but my house got a little bit bigger.  Then Jay died and it was bigger still, and sometimes a bit too empty in places.  I moved out of the master bedroom and into the smallest room in the basement because I didn't want the blank spaces.

Years later, I married Trent and his stuff.  (Funny, I don't remember committing to his stuff during the wedding ceremony, but everyone comes with stuff.)  He needed an office (An entire room for yourself?  Why?), and the littlest bedroom was now too small for the two of us. Soon, the Angel appeared, and now the house really was too small.

We moved into a bigger house, and brought all of our combined stuff.  We may have even added to it some. Hey, we have a big family to support.

Recently, I decided (much to the embarrassment of a few of the big boys) to watch my first episode of Hoarders.  I thought that if the home makeover show made me feel bad about my home, then the pack rat show ought to make my house look amazing!
After the show, I looked around my house with anxious expectation... and I saw... junk!  I was so disappointed that I didn't look at my lovely home and feel good in how clean and inviting it felt.  Instead, I saw the little stack of books that live on the piano even though they aren't music books.  I saw the basket of laundry in front of the twin's dresser that seems to always be there.  I saw the picture frames I stuck in the bookshelf when I decided they didn't look right on that wall.  I saw the boxes of random building supplies in the corner of my bedroom even though our closet remodeling job was finished two years ago!

Sometimes these over-full corners and piles of things seem to disappear, and you don't see them anymore.  Although I was chagrined to not see better about my house, I am glad that I see places where I can do some work.  So now I'm decluttering.  And it feels good.  And it looks good.  Gotta go take another load to the thrift store!

Maybe some other time I'll write about the difficulties a minimalist (me) runs into when living with a collector (um... someone else).  But not today.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Anyone Having Twins?

I'm decluttering.  Feels great!

For some reason, I've held on to boxes and boxes of twin baby boy clothing.  Maybe it's because I'm done having babies and the having the clothes are a security blanket or something.  Maybe it's because they are just too darn cute to get rid of.  Maybe I don't know what to do with them.  Maybe I'm really a <gasp> hoarder!

But... onward they go.  And I'm looking for someone who is expecting boy twins.  I have a bunch of good things to pass along:  clothes, baby backpacks, blankets, baby car seat covers, double strollers...  It's an awful lot of gear for such tiny creatures, isn't it?

You know anyone who is "out to here" expecting double trouble of the boy variety?

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Atonement

I teach Relief Society, the women's organization at my church, and I love it.  It is the first time in a very, very long time that I haven't had a church calling as a music person.  Not that I don't also enjoy doing music, and I feel needed there (playing the organ is just not a skill on most people's resumes, and not many folks like to teach the children how to sing.).  But it has been nice to do something else for a change.  I love teaching the women in my ward, and I just love teaching.  But the main benefit of it is that I get to study - really study - principles of Christ's gospel.  These are the principles I use to base my life, to steady my course.  I so enjoy being able to immerse myself in the learning and examining and thinking and questioning that we all should be doing about the things we believe in - religious or not.

The lesson I've been working on is a talk given by Linda Burton at last fall's Women's Conference:  Is Faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ Written in Our Hearts?  Wonderful, wonderful.  She is the general president of the whole Relief Society, which actually is the largest women's organization in the world.  He job is, to me, un-envy-able.  But she pulls it off so well!

So I've been studying the Atonement as I've gone over (and over and over) her talk.  Here are the main ideas:

I am so grateful that I've been knee-deep in the edifying principles of the Atonement this week, because I was blind-sided by some really, really difficult situations.  I've been hurt in a spot that was already wounded, and caught off-guard by something I never wanted to see.  But I've made it through, by relying on these principles.

I worked and organized and wrote and planned and spent a lot of time preparing this lesson.  And then, literally moments before I was to stand up and start talking, I found out that I prepared from the wrong Conference address.  The wrong one!  Noooooooo!

Life happens that way sometimes.  And with His help, we can still make it through (and even laugh about it later).

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Roles of a Mother

This morning, I woke up as a princess, as David and Eddie brought me breakfast in bed!  It wasn't Mother's Day or my birthday or anything.  What sweeties they are (can I say that about boys?  I just did.).

The royal feeling didn't last long, as I found myself in the kitchen as a combination short-order cook and waitress, trying to make a suitable breakfast for the little ones.  I don't make different breakfasts to accommodate differing tastes.  I just don't.  But breakfast with two two-and-a-half-year-olds and a four-year old has an awful lot of "more toast, please," and can I have some honey?" and "I want a straw!" and "No, I get the pink cup," and "Oh, I spilled!" that keeps a mom hopping.  Then I was the bus boy, clearing the dishes off the bar (and not finding any tips, I might add.).

Then I became an anger management coach, working with Freddie who had a sour face.  "Are you sad?" I prodded.  "No!" he growled, "I mad!"  We had to work through that with him before he threw something.  He's into throwing things.

I got a wild spell (maybe it was an onslaught of PMS?) and decided to move the red rug from the living room into the family room.  Interior decorators do that all the time.

But before I could actually move the rug, I had to call in the maid to give it a good vacuuming (don't want to carry dust from one end of the house to the other.  Tremendously unsanitary.).  And then the moving guy had to come and actually roll up said rug and heft it into the other room.  Real interior decorators can't get their fingernails chipped, you know.

Georgie came into the room, and I morphed into a linguistics expert as he excitedly yelled, "Mommy so nuddah wup?"  Turns out that he wanted to show me "another rug" that he had found in front of the kitchen sink.  I guess he is following in my <ahem> interior decorator footsteps.

I wasn't being a very good child care worker while the interior decorator was working, so I had to become a grief counselor to deal with the aftermath of the twins getting into Angel's no-longer-hidden stash of Valentine conversation hearts.  He hearts were stolen and eaten, and her real hear was just about broken.  At least that's the story I got.

I was a sanitation engineer and took out the garbage.  Then the recreation manager in me helped three little ones to find warm weather gear, encouraged outdoor play, and suggested snowman-building.  Success!  And momentary quiet.

It didn't last, long, as they came rushing back in with cold toes and frosty fingers.  I was a mediator, trying to settle the warm dispute about who got to sit where in front of the fireplace.

I became an alarm clock, waking all three of the teenagers up.  I know, I used to sleep in on Saturdays when I was a teenager, too.  But that doesn't mean that, as the parent, I have to let them sleep all day.  So there. (sticking out tongue)

I tuned into my motivational speaker wavelength to encourage David and Eddie to get their bedroom clean and finished.  They are almost there - it has been quite a job and they have something to be proud of.

I even operated as a home health aid, offering dressing and toileting assistance.  There may have been some runny noses in there, too, but I can't discuss details due to HIPAA privacy policies.

All before 11 o'clock in the morning.  And if you'll excuse me, now I need a nap.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Eddie!

My boy is 10.  Ten!

I love his thick, wavy hair that somehow never seems to go just the way he wants it to.  It looks awesome, and it keeps your head warm in the winter, buddy.  I waited a long time for a child to look even remotely like me and not just like his dad (though I love the way he looked, too!).  When Eddie was born, I could stop having to tell people that I was Jay's second wife because one of the children actually looked like he came from Mom's gene pool.

We had some of his friends come over for a birthday breakfast.  Trent made an amazing pizza stromboli (eggs and cheese and pepperoni and peppers rolled up in a log of bread dough), and then we let the kids have ice cream and toppings over waffles.  They had a great time with the chocolate syrup and sprinkles and whipped cream.  Do not watch a bunch of ten-yer-old boys with a bottle of spray whipped cream.  Just don't watch.

We let them loose in the family room with a box of old matchbox cars and several rolls of masking tape.  They had a great time making roads that went around the room, to parking garages, up and over the furniture, and around in circles.  There was even a jump off a banana chair, and a long bridge constructed of a few upside-down chairs.  So fun and creative!

And then we took them home.  That is my secret to a good party - offer to take all the kids home at the end.  That way, their parents don't have to come back, and I can take them home when I'm done having them.  And it's a fun party bus all the way around town, dropping off kids.

I think they all had fun.  Eddie did, and I did too.  Win.

Happy birthday, my double-digit pile of smiles.  So glad the Lord sent you to our home!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Name That Vitamin

Just because inquiring minds want to know...

The big clear-ish pill that looks like fish oil is omega-3 (to help my moods stabilize), the big dark metallic pill is magnesium (for anxiety), the light tan pill is ginkgo (to improve circulation), the little pill that looks like a drop of light is vitamin D (sunshine therapy), and the big happy yellow pill is a B-100 complex vitamin (for energy and to help me cope).

I don't rely on pills to make me happy.  I've been working really hard on getting rid of some of the negative thoughts I've been harboring, and remembering some of the better coping strategies I've learned.  Also, I read my scriptures and pray more.  I get my best help from the Lord.  That said, I'll make sure my body has what it needs, too.

So far, my feet aren't always cold, I'm not sitting on the couch all day, I love my sweet husband again, I'm not falling into bed at way-past-exhausted, Eddie caught me humming (he said he likes it because that means I'm happy - and I haven't been humming for a while), I've cleaned up my house, I don't feel like I'm dragging, and I smile more often than not.  After a while, I'll quit some of the vitamins and see which ones work best.  For now, I've found my happy again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cleaning the Boys' Room

I've been helping David and Eddie clean out their room.  This is like saying that Alaska is a bit chilly.  The room has been needing lots of help. We emptied their closet by throwing everything into a big pile in their room.  Can we really throw everything?  Fun!  But then we had an an enormous disaster.  And messes really aren't fun.  They did actually learn this good lesson.  Messes aren't fun.

Next came the sorting.  What???  Complaints all around.  How can we possibly sort all of this?  It's too much.  We can't do it!  A big job does feel overwhelming, doesn't it?  Enter a discrete Mom job.

I snuck into their room during the day and started picking up trash.  I filled three (THREE!) garbage bags full of broken pieces and parts to toys we don't have any more and smashed up Valentine's boxes and dry markers and crumpled school papers from years ago and candy wrappers and crumbly play-dough and wrapping paper and used tissues and...  It was impressive.  I was careful not to take anything that looked like a treasure, but boy there was a lot of garbage!

Then I collected all their clothing from the floor.  I hunted through piles and in boxes.  And when the boys got home, I asked them to bring me all of the clothes from their dressers.  All of it.  I washed it all - nine loads worth!  These boys definitely had too many clothes.  They had their winter clothes that fit, plus summer clothes and winter clothes to grow into.  I found boots and half a dozen pairs of snowpants and assorted sizes of coats.  Piles of scarves and hats and gloves don't belong in their room!  Neither do clothes that are too small.  And they had lots of hand-me-downs that their older brothers had just tossed into their room.

After all the laundry was done, the boys and I went "shopping" through the clean clothes.  They picked out enough clothes to cover them, but not so many that they wouldn't fit into their drawers.  I threw away an entire garbage bag full of stained undershirts, unders that had lots their elastic, and hole-full socks.  Out of the good clothes left over, I pulled enough to rotate back into their wardrobes when they wreck the next shirt, and we bagged up the rest to give to a family in need.

 I found some things that tugged at my heartstrings.

The sweater on the left was a hand-me-down when Alec was a small fry.  It was too big for him, but he rolled up the sleeves and wore it anyway.  Every time I see it, it reminds me of his pluck and determination.  The other boys have all had a turn with the sweater, but none of them have really wanted to wear it.  Time for a new family.

The striped sweater on the right was made by my first mother-in-law.  She spent hours of love-time knitting it for her oldest son, Jay.  I have the sweetest pictures of him in the sweater, decades go.  I'm sure his two younger brothers must have worn it as well.  I'm not sure how we ended up with the sweater after Jay and I married, but each of our first five boys has worn and loved it.  I'm amazed at the quality construction that makes it still look new after so long and so many boys.  I love having boys.  This one is going into my cedar chest to wait for the twins to get a little bit bigger.  I don't think I could part with it just yet.

With the garbage out and the clothing under control, David and Eddie (with more Mom help) could sort the rest of their belongings.  The four bins were Legos, things I want, things I don't want, and (more!) garbage.  We did it!  And no wonder they couldn't keep their room clean with that much stuff in it.  Way too much.

Now the things in their room are back down to a manageable number, just waiting for us to buy some good bins (they've just had an assortment of old, falling-apart moving boxes), and sort the things they do want.  Success!  And may we never again let it get that bad!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bluntly, Please

My good friend came over the other day.  After some conversation, she nervously admitted that she had an ulterior motive for visiting with me.  She wondered how she should proceed.  With bluntness, please.  It's nice to have a friend who loves you enough to tell you when you are being stupid.  And then still loves you.

She has been worried about my health.  "Your depression has been getting worse," she explained.  "You need to do something about it."  Has it?  No, I'm sure I've been fine.  I've been sick...  But you don't normally get sick.  And never for so long.  And I've been a bit down from the winter blues... Since before the winter started?  And I've been so tired, but it's because I haven't been exercising...  Is that really why?  I've been so cold - it's been a hard winter...  Not that much different than usual.  I have been crying a lot...  Don't think it's depression yet?  OK, ok.  I concede.

I'll make an appointment with my doctor to get my thyroid levels checked.  That would explain the tired, the cold, and the dry.  And my friend brought me over a smattering of vitamins to see if that would help bring up the cheer quotient.  It has been helping.  And thanks for noticing.  And thanks for being brave enough to say it bluntly.  (Yeah, I swallowed that in one gulp.  Yum.)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Red Carnations

Twenty-one years ago, on Valentine's Day, I woke up to a single red carnation taped to my front door.  The card was addressed to the "Smiler" and signed by "an admirer."  I lived at home at the time, and I assumed the flower came from one of my younger brother's numerous female followers.  Totally unsuspecting, I left for my college classes dressed in black and spent the day passing out anti-Valentine's Day stickers and black armbands.  True story.

After talking with some friends (who happened to be male) who were surprised at my Grinch-like attitude, I had to explain my motives.  I wasn't against love, of course.  I was all for relationships and even lovey-dovey mushy stuff.  I just didn't want to support the commercialization of a holiday intended to force people to show niceties.  They should do it by themselves.

After my speech, one of the friends sheepishly admitted to having taped the carnation to my front door in the middle of the night.  I went home and put the flower in my room.  Mine.  And then I married the guy.

Every Valentine's Day, Jay and I would race to see who could get the carnation first.  It was a fun tradition that I still continue.  I place a flower on his grave, and I smile.

This year a few days before Valentine's Day, I was having an especially down time.  I finally let up on the people around me, acknowledging that no one is responsible for my happiness but me.  I can't expect them to read my mind and know exactly what I need.  Only the Lord can do that, and I need to rely on him more. I asked forgiveness from my long-suffering husband, and petitioned the heavens for help.

Shortly after this epiphany and my prayer, a neighbor came over with these flowers.  I had red carnations for Valentine's Day.  Thanks, Lord.  And forgive me for being so self-centered.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day?

Trent brought me a dozen red roses for Valentine's Day.  And he made hamburgers for dinner.  It was nice to have a break from cooking - even if dinner was much later than I'd intended.  I've never had a dozen roses before!  They are so velvety gorgeous- and smell lovely.

So why did I end the day in tears, not feeling loved?  That's a stupid way to end the day.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Heats Day

I've been helping my dad go through the boxes in my mother's office.  Right now, we are sorting out boxes of random family memorabilia.  I found a love letter my Opa wrote to my Oma when they had been married for 40 years.  My dad's dad, a native of Rostock Germany, was on an LDS mission in another area in Germany when he met his future wife.  Per mission standards, missionaries aren't allowed to date or cavort (what a great word!) with members of the opposite sex, but that didn't stop him from falling head over heels in love with this pretty girl.

Before he was finished with his mission, she left for America, and he followed after her as quickly as he could.  They were married in New York as soon as he arrived.  To honor their German heritage, we called them Opa and Oma.  I love how in love he was, and the tender way he tells their story.  (All spelling and punctuation is in the original)

Fourty Years Ago

I could not say: "I love You,"
   I could not ask: "Do You?"
   Nor place my arms around her
   Or touch her lips - Would You?
I could not nest her head close,
   or softly stroke her hair
   I could not say sweet nothings
   Or snuggle close to her
I only could do dreaming,
   Could only look afar.
   I only could Keep hoping
   To hold what I but saw
I only could be looking
   And squeeze her hand awhile
   I only could be near her
   To share her girlish smile

Mine was a higher calling
   To serve the Lord of Old
   Mine was to love God's children
   And lead them to the fold.
My life was secondary
   My mission was at hand
   My calling was to wander
   Wherever I was sent.

I longed for just the moment
   A chance for which I'd prayed.
   I longed to vent my passion
   But not from right be swayed.
I longed to know her feelings - 
   But at the proper place.
   I longed to plan my future
   But not my life efface.
My prayers, I'm sure were answered,
   The day arrived at last
   My prayers walked right beside me
   When I her hand held fast.

It was a small Branch outing
   For all, the young and old
   We wandered through the mountains
   And soon we found our mold.
My heart beat loud and heaving,
   My thoughts could not be hid.
   At last a burst of sighing
   Gave voice to feelings deep.
I asked: "Will you be willing
   To wait a year or two
   When I complete my mission
   And can return to you?"
My heart stood still, if wondering:
   "Was this the proper place?
   'mid pines and rocks and sunshine
   To start such noble race?"
But now my part was over.
   'twas now her turn to say.
   I'm sure she too was thinking:
   "Is there no other way?"
And true to girlish candor
   Her choice must yet be free - 
   She hedged - she squirmed - she halted
   But quietly lisped: "Maybe."
I did not then Knew women,
   I do not Know them now,
   But in my heart the answer
   Was clearly a loud "JA."

A tender bridge was a-building
   Between two different souls.
   But time has added firmness,
   Part by the furnace coal.
This little tale was simple,
   But out of it grew a tree
   The fruits of which are pleasant
   As anyone can see
In time we knelt together
   Around the altar free
   To be as one, united
   For all eternity
As children came to linger
   In our home awhile,
   They shared with us the blessings
   Which we felt in our soul.
Then one by one they entered
   One life's eternal way.
   They too found mates to cherish
   And tales they like to say.

We started out a two-some
   Were blessed with six souls more.
   They multiplied to twenty -
   Who knows the final score?
All this had it's beginning
   On the 26th of May,
   When two youths walked together
   Some fourty years ago.

To my eternal sweetheart
May 26, 1967

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

About Temper Tantrums

Being a mother is not easy.  Let me say that again.  Being a mother.  Is. Not. Easy. But I get better at it as I go along.  Some of the things which troubled me as a young mother have become easier.  There are an awful lot of things I wish I'd known when I started.  I can't count the number of times I've kicked myself and shouted, "Why did it take me five (or six, or seven, or even eight) babies to figure this out?"  But I do wish I'd known then some of the things I know now.  Here is another post in a What I Wish I'd Known (or WIWIK) series.

When I was a young newlywed, we lived in a very quiet apartment building.  Lots of college students, lots of single professionals, lots of newlywed couples, but very few babies and no children at all.  By the time my first was born, we had moved into an simple trailer park with a similar demographic.  When he cried in a group setting, most everyone thought it was adorable, as I hushed his wails and scurried out of the room as quickly as possible.  I was never quite sure where his crying or whimpering or babbling was allowed, and where it was frowned upon.

Through the years and more babies, I've learned that, most of the time, quiet child noise is fine, (we don't go anywhere that children are severely frowned upon) but anything boisterous or angry is not.  And please, no temper tantrums.  Ever.

So what does a good mother do with a child in the throes of a tantrum?  Simple.  A good mother's children just don't have tantrums.

('scuse me while I fall over laughing)

All children have tantrums.  Most teens have tantrums.  Quite a few adults have tantrums.  Just watch TV if you don't believe me.  Hopefully, we are learning to not throw fits ourselves.  At least not in front of other people, and especially not in front of the kids.  Once you have that one mastered, you are ready to tackle a childish temper tantrum from an actual child.

The first thing I wish I'd known when my first children started having tantrums is that it's not about me.  I don't have to get upset or angry or yell at or shake the child.  He's not doing it to make me mad or to get even with me or because he hates me.  And even if he's old enough and sophisticated enough to try a tantrum just to rattle me, I don't have to let the child or the tantrum mess with me!  Stay calm.  Take a deep breath.  Laugh at how ridiculous he looks.  Then love him all the more (you can when you're not mad).

The next thing that I learned about temper tantrums is that they are often caused by a lapse in communication.  I think one reason that the "terrible twos" can be so terrible is that the little lass can't tell you what is on her mind.  She doesn't have the verbal skills to let you know what it is she wants, and it's terribly frustrating.  Hello, meltdown.  I find that when a frustrating moment is starting, if I stop, get on the child's level, and patiently help her work through the situation, we end up with fewer tantrums.  Not none, but fewer.  (And I've taught most of my kids sign language when they were just little.  They could sign before they could talk - signing is easier!  The communication goes way up, and the tantrums go way down.  I could really see a difference between the tots who signed and those who didn't.)

Another little tidbit that is helpful to know is that more tantrums happen when the little sweetheart is tired or hungry  Umm... this is true for me, too.  Tired = not thinking straight, more emotional, less able to articulate.  Hungry = less energy to function, more moody, more quick to snap.  Hence, I don't hash out financial details with my husband late at night.  Not a good idea.  And I don't take my toddlers shopping during naptime.  Or when they are hungry.  I might be able to push on for "just a few more minutes," but their little bodies are less forgiving.  It works much better if we just have a meal and rest schedule and stick to it.  Not always possible, but as a general rule.

So I'm calm, I'm helping my little guy communicate, we're well-fed and well-rested (both of us!) and we still have a meltdown on aisle 9.  He's screaming, everyone is staring, and you're at your wit's end.  What now?

Some experts say that you should ignore the child during a tantrum so he doesn't get the idea that if he wants to be the center of attention, he can just start screaming.  Makes sense.  Other experts will say that your upset child needs more attention during a meltdown so that he doesn't feel abandoned during his most emotional moments.  Also makes sense.  Love it when the "experts" don't agree.  They hardly ever do.   

Guess what?  YOU are the expert on your child.  Learn up on what the experts say (the child behaviorists and the child psychologists and (especially) the veteran mothers).  Then you are armed.  Try the approach that feels best to you.  If it doesn't work after a while, then try another.  As long as you parent with love and common sense, you are not going to seriously mess up your child.  Really.

Today at a friend's house, I made a toddler stay in the bathroom while he screamed out a temper tantrum (there was no quiet place to go, so we did the best we could).  He screamed while I held the doorknob and muttered apologies to our sweet hostess.  When he drew a breath, I would reassure him that I was there and he could come out when he finished screaming.  He did stop after a bit, and I held him tightly for a long while while he sniffled and settled down.  Later, I held a kicking tot, rocking him until he calmed.  Another time, I smiled in the face of danger (the little guy was swinging his fists at me!), and caught each blow, shook his little hand and asked "How do you do?" in a funny voice until his anger melted and he laughed.  We're in a tantrummy way right now, and the twins feed off each other, so I'm getting plenty of practice.

A tantrum in a public place is so much better avoided than dealt with.  It's worth the extra bit of inconvenience and planning.  And yes, it's ok to just leave your cart there - or take it to a store worker to hold for you - and hustle the screamer right back out into the car.  Or leave the restaurant before you can even order.  Or rush out to the lobby.  Or stick his little kicking legs in a snowbank for a moment.  Been there, done that.  

You're not a horrible mom.  I'd even take your child and distract her by drawing on the ice in the frozen food department while you check out, if you wouldn't think weird kidnapper thoughts about me.  You're doing great during this tumultuous time.  Go mom!  And when it's all over, you can lock yourself in the bathroom and cry a little if it makes you feel better.  Just don't throw a tantrum.

That's all.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Today I

Today I started a nice breakfast, but rushed through the last of the cooking and the kids only got to eat half of it because I started too late.  I buckled three youngsters into frozen car seats with fingers stiff from scraping the windows.  I drove the carpool to school and got the boys there on time.  Hurrah!  I didn't clean up the breakfast dishes until lunchtime because I didn't feel like it.

I tackled the laundry pile, huge and Mount Washmore sized, due to all the clothing I pulled out of David and Eddie's room.  We're cleaning out their closet.  It's no wonder they can't keep their room clean if they have so many clothes!  Most of it is old stuff that doesn't fit and has been stuffed in the back of the closet, or to-be-grown-into hand-me-downs that have fallen off the top closet shelf.  I think I'll have them empty their dressers too, wash everything, and start over by picking out a manageable number of clean clothes that fit.  It will be like shopping!  But not.

I put my three youngun's down for a nap, then I snuggled with them until they all fell asleep.  I may have dozed a little bit, too.  It's the only way I can get them to sleep instead of play - when I lay down and pull the "big bankie" over all of us -  but I really don't mind.  It's a slower, peaceful break from the rest of the day.

I went to two parent-teacher conferences.  David and Eddie are smart and friendly.  They read a lot (even when they aren't supposed to).  They are getting better at turning in the homework, but they still need to work on being "finishers."  The message from each teacher was basically a repeat.  I could have just gone to the first one, and listened to it a few times while changing out the names.  BUT, due to the things I have been learning in counseling this past year, I had a different outlook to parent-teacher conferences this time.  I love my children, but I don't control them.  Love and control do not have to be connected.  They have their agency to do whatever, and I have my agency to not have to react, to assign consequences without anger, and to love them anyway. In short, I could listen to a critique of my son - my own flesh and blood! - without feeling defensive or offended.  Because his actions are not mine.  It was satisfying, and so much easier to go home and have that little "Here's what your teacher said and here's what we need to work on" chat with the boys when I got home.  I'm learning!

I went to a band concert and enjoyed it.  I was present, and didn't take pictures or film or anything.  I just enjoyed it.  Of course I got a kick out of seeing Chris on stage (first time I've seen him play since he switched from tenor saxophone to the baritone - it's big!).  But I also liked listening to the other bands - odd rhythms, random squeaks, and all.  One of my favorite parts of a junior high band concert was the time when the trombonist over-greased his slide and it fell out with a clatter.  I remember mortifying moments like that in my awkward years, too.

Knowing that it would be an odd evening, I cooked up a roast in the crockpot.  A big bowl of slightly-too-soft mashed potatoes, a pan of rolls, and a bowl of buttery cooked corn stayed warm in the oven for much of the evening.  We almost always have dinner together, and I love it that way, but tonight, of the ten of us, I don't think more than three ate at the same time.  I put a note on the counter about what was where, and everyone helped themselves when they had time.  Crazy, but it worked.

Today was a busier day than normal, but I managed to get a bunch done anyway.  Go figure.  If I know it's going to be hectic, then I can plan for it, and things still run mostly smoothly.  Some days are just like that.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Love Mind Map

I think I need to get out my magnifying glass to see this better.  My eyes are dimming, I know.  But there is a whole lotta good stuff here.  I especially like the "to do" area (top left corner, in green).

I think maybe I'll make one of these.  Maybe as a Valentine's Day card?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Getting Rid of the Minor Details

I wrote last week about how I was working on loving my husband, and getting rid of all the little details that bug me and bog down my love.  So how to throw out all that garbage?

that you want to change the way you feel about your relationship.

because your spouse is worth forgiving, and you are worth more than having to carry around a load of resentment.   And forgive yourself, because we all make a ton of mistakes, too.

on all the good things about your relationship, because there are lots of things you love about this your spouse.  You married him, after all!

how much worth you have - and how much worth your spouse has.  Or maybe just try to.  Because knowing how truly magnificent you are changes everything.  And understanding a little bit of their inherent awesomeness changes everything.  It helps me a great deal when I sing "I Am a Child of God" by replacing "I" with his name:  "Trent is a child of God..."  The whole world shifts.  Here is a snippet from A Blog About Love (a blog I highly recommend!)

You see, if YOU have worth that is inherent and intrinsic to who you are (see Step 1), you know that so does everyone else.  Even if they make mistakes, they still have worth.  Seeing them in that light frees you to to love them as a human being, regardless of whether or not they are capable of returning love to you, regardless of whether or not your love is received.  You are free to seek to build someone else's worth regardless if they receive it or are grateful for it.  Again, if you already own your own worth, you aren't looking for anything from them.  You are simply hoping for someone else to know their own worth, too.  Period.  This is the essence of love.  It is knowing that someone is worth your patience.  Your kindness.  Your forgiveness.  Your compassion.  Not because they are doing anything to deserve it.  But because they inherently have worth, just like you do.  And so your goal is to bring it out in them.  And if you don't succeed, then you will be ok.  You don't "need" to succeed, but you offer what you can out of love, and then you let each person carry out their own life and their own path.

And then
because you can.  Because really, getting rid of the little things that drive you crazy i more about getting rid of your own garbage, and seeing life as good and loving, than it is about changing them.  Your can love.  And I can, and I want to.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Graham Crackers

We love graham crackers around here.  The problem is that the boxes are too small, and we eat them too fast.  Several dollars worth of crackers can implode in a matter of minutes into a small smattering of crumbs.

So occasionally (and not often enough) we make our own.  It's really easy, cheap, and fairly good for you.  And one recipe makes a lot of crackers .  Even more than we can eat in a sitting... although we try.  This recipe comes from my favorite basic cookbook that has great menus and even has recipes for cold cereal (like Wheaties) and crackers (like Wheat Thins) - Deseret Recipes from (not listed right now, sorry!).

Homemade Graham Crackers

mix together:
1/4 cup dry milk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar

beat well in large bowl:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 lightly beaten eggs

Combine curdled milk and brown sugar mixtures, and add:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 cups (more or less) whole wheat flour

Divide in 3 or 4 equal parts (3 for cookie-like crackers, 4 for more crispy crackers).  Place each dough ball on a greased and floured cookie sheet (grease and flour aluminum foil, or use parchment paper to be able to get all the cracker off!) and roll to about 1/8 inch thick.  Prick with fork.

Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until light brown.  Remove from oven and cut in squares immediately (or they get too crispy and you can't cut them or get them off the pans without making a crumbly mess.  But the twins didn't mind licking it up.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

And More Scouting

And Ben isn't the only one doing scouting around here.

Chris just earned his Life rank (which means he can start on his Eagle project... and get it done before the end of the summer, I hope.), and David is now a Second-Class Scout.  So proud of both of them, and the hard work they are doing.  And I am grateful for the wonderful scout leaders they have to help these boys grow into men.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Big Day

The big day that Ben has been waiting for has finally arrived.  We've been waiting for him to get his Eagle Scout project finished before I would take him.

He is thrilled.

Excuse me while I go check on my gray hairs.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Eagle Scout Projects

In our family, the boys have to get their Eagle Scout award before they can drive.  This rule came to be before they could even talk back.  It might have been less of an incentive for them to finish a really worthy ideal than a way to delay the having of teenaged drivers.  And yes, I will put it on the record that I think that achieving the rank of Eagle Scout is really something worth working for.  Regardless of whatever the current media firestorm says.

Alec did his Eagle project a while back.  He helped the city remodel sidewalks at street corners to make them more handicapped-friendly, with a ramp and a bumpy surface for grip.  He did a great job, but slowed down when it was time to do the paperwork and get it all turned in.  He did it, though, and got his driver's license and his Eagle.  

Ben had been working on his project for... a year?  Or has it been two?  He is so bashful around adults that he has a hard time simply making the phone calls to get the project started.  That took the longest time.  Actually doing the project has just been a matter of reminders.  He's made a bunch of magic wands (with a list of Harry Potter spells) and fairy wands (with stars and ribbons) to give to kids who are in the hospital.  It may have been inspired by seeing his little sister in the hospital.

And now he's done with the project.  I'm so happy for him.  Now it's just time to make the delivery to the volunteer coordinator at the hospital, and writing up the paperwork.  Yay!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Family Growth Chart

In our house, the growth chart is called a measuring stick.  It's what we use, instead of the door jamb, to record how tall our kids are growing.  To me, it's a great part of family history, because I grew up with the marks on the door frame.  My brothers were forever competing to see how tall they were and how fast they were growing.  They are all between 6' 2" and 6'8" now, and we still measure off when we all get together.  And we nearly had fits when Mom wanted to paint the kitchen.  Fine.  But not the door jamb.  Not the measuring marks!

It did get painted, after we transferred all the marks to a long roll of paper.  But it's not the same.

Years ago, I decided (after seeing it done in a women's Relief Society crafting activity) to make my own record of my kids' growth.  We painted long boards and marked the measuring lines.  We lined up the boys and stuck on star stickers for their height.  They loved it, and we used it all the time to measure them and other tall things.  AND it moved with us.  Good thing too, because we moved (counting...) six times after that.  But we always hung up the measuring stick and marked off their height on their birthdays.  It was an important tradition.

When we moved to our current house, we didn't hang it up (technical difficulties).  And this week, something bad happened to it.

(Gotta love that '90s sponge painting!)

I know the kids aren't yet done growing, so I had to make me another one.  Besides, there really wasn't room on the old one to record all eight kids.  No, I'd rather not have eight boards.  Really.

I wanted it to be big, but pretty enough to hang in the kitchen.  No, not pretty.  Very little we do in a house full of menfolk is ever pretty.  But it needed to look nice.  Enough space for eight kidlets, and able to be used practically for measuring other things.  And portable, just in case we move again.  Me?  Picky?

I found a perfect board in the garage.  It was primed white, so I didn't even paint it.  I cut off the end slightly, so it would fit in my not-quite-eight-foot kitchen.  I measured off the columns and marked them with another long board and a red pencil.  I like red in the kitchen.  This was the longest part of the whole project.  I marked off the inch lines and drew them with a marker.  I printed off the numbers, put where I wanted each one, and traced it with a pen, leaving a dent in the wood.  I traced and filled in the dents with marker.  Then I transferred the information from the old board.

Alec and I spent some time trying to decide on how to mark the heights.  One idea was to give each child their own color, and the board would end up looking like a rainbow (crayons come in an eight-pack, you know!).  We experimented on the back of the board, and it looks very creative.  We settled on black and white, with a little gradient (and room to write the ages).

I like it.  I'm sad we've missed a couple of years of heights, and I'll have to call the doctor's office and see how much information I can squeeze from them.  I'll keep marking the kids' heights as they have their birthdays.  Most of them have a lot of growing to do.  Actually none of us are done growing.  We all have a lot of growth left in us yet.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog Day

Really.  How many of you watched Groundhog Day today?  We do it every year.  Of course!  With some groaning, of course.  This year, (I think it was David) asked how many times we'd watch it today.  Over and over and over again, my dear...

But yeah, most of the kids watched it with me.  I missed the end because I was making dinner, which was a bummer because that's the best part.  It was fun to just sit and laugh together.

Afterwards, we had an interesting conversation.  And here are some things we learned from the movie:

  • It's easy to feel like your actions and your contributions aren't getting you anywhere, or like no one appreciates what you do.  
  • When you don't feel progress, or don't feel like there are any repercussions to what you do, it's easy to act out and do crazy or stupid things.
  • Learning new things and making yourself better is always a good plan.
  • We feel the best sense of accomplishment by helping others.
  • Your actions always have consequences, even if we don't see them.
  • Regardless of how badly you messed up yesterday, the Lord always gives you a new morning and a new day with no mistakes in it yet!
Happy Groundhogs Day!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Love My Husband

I had some ideas about love in smaller, more chewable chunks, but this one fit best for this month.  It is the pink heart month, after all.  This month, I will work on loving my husband, without asterisks.  Without fine print.  Without inserting any "yeah, but..." comments.

When I was younger, I didn't understand why people would say marriage was so hard.  Yes, I do remember listening intently to the low murmur of voices at my parents' closed door after I knew it had been a tense day.  I was always worried that they were fighting.  I'm sure they had their disagreements.  We all do.  Much later, my mom told me about the grooves in her tongue that happened from biting it so hard during difficult moments.  We all have those, don't we?

To me, one of the biggest roadblocks to loving my husband is me getting annoyed.  That's pretty sad, I know.  But when I let his (fill in the blank annoying habit) bug me, then it is my problem, not his.  I had a really hard time with this at first.  After all, it wasn't my annoying habit.  I'm not in the wrong.  Right?

Wrong.  It's my problem when I get annoyed.

His action is still his.  He still gets to be responsible for the things he does.  I don't own that.  I can feel sorrow for bad choices he makes, sure.  But I create a new problem by choosing to get bothered about it.  And that is what I am responsible for.  See, when I am annoyed, or bothered, or angry, then I lose that loving feeling.  I can't come to the discussion table with a sense of love and appreciation and really wanting to solve a difficulty for the best of both of us.

By letting him get under my skin, I add to the problem and become less able to help solve it.  Lose, lose.  And he doesn't want to be around me.  More lose.

My new choice, then, is to not get bothered.  I'm in charge of how I feel, no matter what.  I love him.  He's my man.  I chose him years ago, and I still do.  This month, I'll work on getting rid of the minor details that bug me so I can get on with the big picture of loving him.  Because I can.  And because I want to.

How do I get rid of the minor details?  Stay tuned...