Thursday, July 19, 2018

In The Trenches

I am starting a regular feature on the blog and Instagram.  I will be sharing a spotlight on Moms I admire who are "in the trenches of Motherhood.  I will share about real, amazing, women I know personally, some who are dear friends and family and some whom I admire via Instagram.  This feature will happen weekly and I am asking them to share real feelings, experiences, stories and advice.  I know as I get to know these women better through reading their answers I am amazed at their depth, strength, humor and resilience.  They are super women!

I hope this doesn't appear to be self serving, but the first spotlight I am doing is about my motherhood journey.   I figure I should be willing to answer the same questions I am asking these women and you can get to know me a bit better.

Tell us about your motherhood journey:

I have 5 children ages 8-19, 4 boys and a girl.  My Motherhood journey started over 40 years ago.  I have wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember.  I played with dolls until I was 12, I became an aunt at age 8 and absolutely loved my nieces and nephews. I loved babysitting and playing with young children.  I majored in early childhood education because I loved children and found I was really good with them. I married my husband David at age 25 and after a year of marriage we wanted to try for a baby.  We were able to get pregnant fairly quickly, but ended up losing that baby at 7 weeks.  I was surprised at the grief I felt over that loss, I had only known for 2 weeks that I was pregnant but I did grieve.  After the miscarriage it  took us about a year to get pregnant with my oldest son.  We were able to have our older two boys close together and I thought we would have our kids 2 years apart and be good.  However between our 2nd and 3rd sons we dealt with some secondary infertility due to some uterine firbroids that threw our plan for a loop, so we have a 4 year gap.  I was able to have my 3 youngest children fairly close together (with actually another miscarriage thrown in between #4 and 5), and those 5 completed our family.  There are lots of stories with all of those pregnancies, my last three pregnancies were difficult,  but that is for another post.

What has surprised you most about motherhood?

How hard it is!  I thought with my love of children and all of my experience and education that it would be easier for me. The saying, "I was the perfect mother before I had children," certainly applies to me haha.  Motherhood has humbled me and driven me to my knees many many times.  It has exposed my weaknesses (many of which I thought were strengths previously) and has made me realize how much I DON'T know about children. I also think the mental load we as moms carry is exhausting.   I have days I want to run a way for a bit and not deal with it, however that mental load NEVER goes away.  Even when I was on a cruise with my husband for a week away from my kids, that worry and responsibility of being the mom was constant.  Also the letting go of them as they get older is hard for me.

What do you love about motherhood? What brings you joy?

I love really looking into my children's faces.  I love the sparkle and joy in their eyes.  I love to laugh with them, teach them, and experience the world with them through new eyes. I love to read to them.   I love watching them grow into the people they are supposed to become. I LOVE to travel with them.  I love to be in nature and to share my love of the outdoors with them makes me so happy.  When my son texts me a picture of the sunset or my missionary son takes pictures of the beauty around him and emails it to me because he knows I would love it, it brings me great joy.

What is the best advice you have received as a mom?

My mom has always said, "This too shall pass."  I have found that to be mostly true.  Potty training has passed,  zombie mom from newborns has passed, tantrums from toddlers has passed.  However other things have also passed by like sweet baby smiles, chubby toddler bellies and kids learning how to read.  It is good advice to live by, don't let the good pass you by focusing on the challenges.

But there are other things in life and motherhood that may never pass.  There are circumstances that might be difficult that may not pass and we may have to live with for life.  I won't go into detail, but just know that advice doesn't work for everyone and everything.

What is advice you could give a new mom?

Make yourself a priority!  It is not selfish to care for yourself because nobody else will be.  Have daily self care habits that are non-negotiable.  Soak this whole experience in, write things down, take photos, but not too many that you miss the moments because you're always behind the phone.  Put the phone down and laugh and play and read with your babies.  It's hard and it's okay to admit that and acknowledge it.  ASK FOR HELP! Find your tribe. I know the end of the night you are exhausted and want to just be DONE.  But take an extra two minutes with your kids at night and lay by them and talk to them.  Connect with them at all ages and stages.  When your kids invite you into their world, TAKE THE INVITATION!

How do you feed your soul?  What do you do for self care?

Reading scriptures and other inspirational books, podcasts, prayer, temple attendance.  Going to lunch with dear friends (preferable no more than 3-4 at a time so we can REALLY talk).  Getting into nature regularly, walking, belly laughing, good music and good food.

How do you avoid the comparison trap?

Gratitude.  Gratitude is my key to contentment in my life.  A daily practice of gratitude is a game changer for me.  Writing it down, but also saying out loud what I'm grateful for puts my life into perspective.

this is my hilarious 3rd child...I promise I'm not rolling my eyes at him in this photo...but it has been known to happen a few times in his 13 years of life.  He's awesome!

Share a humorous story about motherhood.

My third son is hilarious.  He is probably the most observant child I've ever met.  He is extremely smart and was talking VERY well before age 3.  He also has no filter whatsoever.  He was right around 3 and I took him to the grocery store, just he and I to have some one on one time.  We rounded the corner and he saw a woman who was on our aisle and said very loudly, "MOM WHY DOES SHE HAVE THE BIGGEST BUM IN THE WORLD?"  I mean there was no way she didn't hear it.  I wanted to crawl in a hole!  We quickly left that aisle and I went to the opposite end of the store to shop.  Unfortunately we saw her several more times in the store and he would say, "THERE SHE IS MOM!"  She gave me lots of dirty looks and I just didn't know what to do about it!  It was embarrassing for me, but he was just stating what he observed.  I tried to explain that it wasn't very nice to say that, but he was three and he was just stating a fact that he found to be true in his little mind.  Oh man!  There have been many other stories with this child that are pretty entertaining.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I have no idea....

There are just some days that I throw up my hands and have no idea what to do.  Today is one of those.   I can't go into much detail because I have teenagers and have to respect their privacy.  The issues with kids get more complicated as they get older and they deserve their privacy and not having it blasted all over social media.

Honestly though, I do know what to do.  I know I need to just love them, stay calm, be their soft place and consistent rock in their ever changing world of hormones, friends etc.  There are just days that drain me and make me wish I had toddlers again!

Don't get me wrong, teens can be so much fun.  My teens are good and respectful and helpful most of the time.  But sometimes we have days where it's rough.  Today I think our rough day was because this week has been very stressful and I am completely drained.  So really it's more about me than it is about them.  They weren't acting any differently....they were being normal teenagers.  I was the one who was sort of acting like.....a toddler/teenager!  LOL!

This link leads you to  of my favorite videos about teens.  Testing our limits is exactly what they are supposed to do!  We have to be that steady bar that sets boundaries and limits.   Just writing this blog post helped me process my day!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The mountains are calling....

One of our favorite activities to do in the summer time is to head up to the mountains.  We live in a beautiful state with plenty of options to get into nature.  We are fortunate to have a family cabin we can go to a few times a summer where there is ample fishing, playing in the river and brook and lots of exploring, throwing rocks in the water and getting muddy. 

In my opinion getting outdoors into nature is one of the very best activities families can do to create memories and build relationships.  There is nothing better than soaking up vitamin D, hearing the running water of the river and occasionally seeing deer, moose and bunnies.  Hiking is a great way to set a goal and achieve it and to help our kids do something hard maybe they never imagined they could.  Here is a link to an article about the benefits of nature.  A quote from the article:

"Being outside feels good. Children are free to explore, move about, and make noise; all delightful forms of self-expression that are often restricted indoors. Being in nature enables children to run, jump, hop, skip, climb, roll, and shout, which relaxes, and reduces tension, anxiety, and restlessness.
Researchers have found that outdoor play calms children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Furthermore, nature enhances a sense of peace and often brings out nurturing qualities in children. Many energetic children slow down to dig a hole in sand, watch a ladybug crawl, or spend focused time playing with a stick in a mud puddle."

Even if you don't have a family cabin or live near the mountains there are opportunities to get into nature everywhere.  Exploring new and different places is one of our favorite things to do.  We have done geocaching which is kind of like treasure hunting, that is a fun way to explore and go different places. 

Letting your children explore, take risks, climb, get dirty, learn new motor skills by climbing trees, jumping over streams, building dams in rivers etc is a great way for them to learn and not even realize they are learning new things!

Teaching our kids to enjoy the slow and simple pace of nature and to be present with them is a wonderful way to combat the ever increasing fast paced society we live in.  Learning to enjoy the simplicity that comes when we are in God's creations is a beautiful lesson to teach our children.

"If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive."
Eleonora Duse

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Summertime and the living ain't easy.....

Does the word summer break elicit joy and excitement for you or dread and despair?  😉.   I must say for me, it's a little of both.  I love the slower pace, the lack of homework and the warmer temperatures so we can be outside more. However,  I am by nature an introvert and need my solitary time to stay sane.  So summertime with my kids around ALL.THE.TIME.  makes me a bit crazy honestly.  Even though my kids are getting older, they still are around and want to be fed every second and utter the dreaded words "I'm bored" about every 5 minutes.  In past summers I have had "I'm bored jars" where they draw a paper or popsicle stick out of the jar if they absolutely couldn't find something to do.  It might have a fun idea on what they draw out, or it might have a job.  They didn't know beforehand.  It often curbed their boredom quickly...haha.

I'm not of the opinion that being bored is a bad thing for kids, but my children absolutely think it's a death sentence.   And their whining about it can drive this mama batty.  I feel strongly that I am not their entertainment coordinator and I don't buy into the thought that a memorable summer can only be created by checking things off an elaborate bucket list or paying a lot of money for classes, camps or amusement parks.   My summers growing up consisted of playing in our cul de sac, getting filthy dirty,  riding my purple sparkly banana seat bike to the local swimming club to hang out with friends (no mom in sight) and drinking from hoses when we got thirsty. We had a family vacation, trip to the close by family cabin and maybe one trip to the zoo to round things out.   I think that kind of simple summer is healthy and memorable in it's own right.

Don't get me wrong, I love love playing with my kids.  We love going swimming, on hikes, to the library, cookouts and making s'mores in the backyard.  We love having friends in and out of the house, eating otter pops and neighborhood bikes in the front yard. We have a  few fun adventures planned  like a family reunion, trip to the family cabin, camping,  the zoo, water park and aquarium throughout the summer, but summer is as much time for me to slow down and relax as it is for my kids so if I am feeling the pressure to plan their daily activities that is not relaxing for me.  Believe me they would much rather have YOU playing with them and being present  than any elaborately planned activity.

We have some structure as well.  In our house screens don't go on until after lunch, some summers I have been better an enforcing that than others.  However as I've been reading, doing research and listening to Collin Kartchner (follow him on Instagram, what he is saying is so very important), this summer we absolutely will be having less screen time at our house.

 Here is what our mornings look like. We really like to sleep in, (including me) so we do! Then when we get up and going they will have a couple of household jobs, piano practice, at least 30 minutes of physical activity and 45 minutes of reading must happen before any screens can ever go on.They each will have a summer job list with these things listed that they check off.  Here is a link to a ready made job list you can print out.  I will laminate these and hang them on the wall.  I'm not big on doing worksheets or schoolwork during the summer, their job is playing and being kids.

Another thing we work on during the summer is "life skills".  It looks different for different ages.  For my 8 and 10 year old they will learn to make simple meals by helping to fix lunch regularly.  My 13 year old will learn to do his laundry independently.  My 17 year old will learn about money and a budget and how to change a tire and oil and anything else I feel like I frantically need to shove into this summer because next summer he graduates  from high school and is an adult!  😳.

There are a  few of my thoughts and ideas for summer.  Each family is different so yours will look different from mine.   Don't feel the pressure from Instagram and other social media that you have to plan out every second or do elaborate crafts every day or spend a ton of money.  Go play, have fun, simplify, get out in nature, be present, play play play with your kids, don't forget self care and taking care of yourself, go out and make simple, fun memories!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Get in the pool!

A few summers ago my husband and 5 children were making plans to go to the local water park for a few hours.  I was hemming and hawing over whether to go.  My excuse was that I had so much to do and could really use a few hours of a quiet house to get them done in.  However, my real reason was I did NOT want to put on a swimming suit.  The last few years have played havoc on my body with various health issues, and let's be honest here, a few too many carbs and chocolate indulgences and. not enough working out.   I just didn't want to deal with my own insecurities of going out in public in a swimsuit.   I had decided I wouldn't go with them and said so.  My  6 year old daughter had an obvious look of disappointment on her face about my choice and said to me, "Mom you just have to come, it's so much more fun when you are there.  We love playing with you!"  

I had a change in perspective right there in my kitchen.  My insecurities were petty and minor.  I wasn't going to let them hold me back from making memories and having fun with my kids!  I went with them and we had the best time.  The joy on my kids faces when they watched me scream down the waterslide was something I'll never forget.  Since then I have made a conscious choice each summer to put that swimming suit on and get in the pool!  My kids don't care one bit what I look like in my suit, but they do care that I am in the water playing, laughing and having the best time.

One of my favorite phrases to remember in parenting is to "begin with the end in mind."  In the end I want my children to remember a mom who loved to be with them, who loves laughing and having fun and making the best memories.  They won't remember the number size on my swimming suit or the fact that I don't have a thigh gap, they will remember much more important things.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Parenting...does it get easier??

 This post has been on my mind a very long time, obviously since I haven't blogged in two years: Wow time flies! 

As my kids get older and are in school I have moms of young kids longingly ask how it is to have some quiet time during the day, and how I spend my "free time" etc.  I remember feeling that exact way when I was swimming/drowning in toddler tantrums, sippy cups, breastfeeding babies, no sleep and running after little ones all day. I was absolutely 100% physically exhausted every single day. I had to rush getting a shower if I got one at all and I longed for a nap nearly every day.  I often cried from sheer exhaustion. 

These days I do get to have a shower every day, I can take a fairly long one (well that is if the teens have left me any hot water), I can shave my legs!, I can have a nap occasionally and I do have some quiet time during the day. However I still have the same tasks I had to do before my kids were in school, I just don't have little helpers around!    

I work 8 hours a week as a preschool teacher which isn't much but honestly by the time I get home from work I only have a couple of hours until the teens get home from high school. That  "down time" is quickly taken up by laundry, dishes, errands etc. When the kids do start getting home from school that is when my "real job" begins.  It is running from one thing to another, keeping schedules straight, attending sporting and choir events, finding  time for family dinner, fixing dinner, helping with homework etc. I'm a big believer in not over scheduling my kids but with 5 kids even if they are only doing one extra activity plus church activities it is a lot! 

I've been asked several times if it's easier being a mom now than when I had little ones. That is one loaded question!  I am really good with small children, I know it's a gift I've been given from God. I love little kids and often enjoy their company more than many adults. I am confident about disciplining them and teaching them. I honestly  have struggled more with them as they get older, but it is nice to be able to leave one of the older kids in charge while I run to the bank or Costco. They get themselves ready for school (if I can get them to pull themselves out of bed!).  The are more independent and that can  be very helpful! 

However my answer to motherhood being easier is no...and I'll explain why.  Definitely not easier, not necessarily harder, just different. Instead of not sleeping due to a newborn up every hour, I wait up late at night for teens to get home from being with friends.  They don't go to bed early and are often up late doing homework. I lie awake at night worrying about their choices and the impact it will have on their future. Instead of worrying about potty training I'm teaching them to drive and hoping beyond hope they have the judgement and protection to not hurt themselves or others. Instead of dealing with toddler tantrums I deal with teenage and tween tantrums (which are eerily similar) except I can't carry them to time out or solve it with a hug and kiss.  Instead of worrying about them not sharing with others at the park, I pray desperately they will find good friends who will be kind and inclusive and help them become their best selves because I can no longer set up play dates with the kids I want them to play with.  I can honestly say I always have a prayer in my heart for their well being and their choices. At the end of every day I am 100% mentally and emotionally exhausted! 

You give up a lot of control as kids grow up and that is hard. You have to let them make mistakes and deal with hard consequences and that is hard on a mommy heart.  Now being a parent of a teen isn't all hardship and doom and gloom. I really enjoy my teenagers honestly, they are great kids and we have a very good relationship. They open up and talk to me often  and we have good discussions about the good and difficult things in their lives.  They share their music and YouTube videos and they have great senses of humor.  I quite like these kids of mine. 


My advice is don't wait for things to get "easier". It just doesn't happen. Going grocery shopping is definitely easier but shopping for clothes with teens is   I hear that parenting adult children has its own unique challenges, I'm getting to that stage now! Enjoy the ages and stages your kids are at. Every age and stage has wonderful things and definite challenges. Every child does things their own way so even when you figure out one child, the next one will do things differently. I have 5 kids, I parent them differently due to their unique personalities. It's a lot of prayer, meditation and honestly trial and error. I make mistakes daily. Motherhood wasn't meant to be easy, it's meant to refine us and help us grow into the women God needs us to be. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

If you are struggling, you're not alone

I am writing this post on the 10th birthday  of my 3rd child.  We have a 4 year gap between child 2 and this boy. We waited and hoped for him, we were told we may only have 2 children due to some health problems of mine.  He is a miracle boy and came out beautiful and perfect. 

He turned out to be a hard baby, he had reflux and ear infections. He was hard to soothe and didn't sleep well. He wore me out day after day. I was so grateful that we were blessed with him and yet I felt guilty for struggling to find joy with him. 

The struggle extended into toddler and preschool years. He was totally different from my other two children. They were much calmer and more compliant. He was wild and destructive and so smart and demanded my full attention. He was 2 when my daughter was born and I have story after story of the destruction he caused while I was feeding or changing the baby.  Once when he was 4, I was putting my daughter down for a nap and he and his friend climbed the fence in my backyard to the neighborhood park which we backed up to and took off, it took me several minutes to find them. 

I was having a hard time finding  the joy in the journey of parenting this child that some days I honestly had a hard time liking. I loved him to pieces and his adorable face, dimples, smile and amazing eyes softened my heart daily (God knows what he's doing). 

I was praying and pleading daily to have help and patience. I had a degree in early childhood Ed for heaven sake, I knew how to teach and discipline right? Turns out I didn't have any answers for this passionate, intense child. I was humbled and needed help from above. (God knows what he's doing). 

Many times God answers our prayers through others. Five or 6 years ago I went to a church meeting that was just for the women in our area. It was a good meeting and I was enjoying the music and speakers. Our stake president, (leader over several congregations) President Shields got up and started to speak to us. He said he felt prompted to put away his prepared talk and speak from his heart and what God was telling him to say. He started talking about one of his sons.  He talked about how this son challenged him and was wild and crazy. He talked about how the household was calmer and less contentious when this child was away from home. This boy was difficult for him and he struggled to find joy in him. At this point I was crying the ugly cry in the meeting because I knew exactly who he was speaking was me! 

He then went on to tell about an accident that his son experienced at age 5. They didn't know if their son would make it, he was in ICU for an extended stay.  It was during this hospital stay and sitting next to this son's bedside that President Shields saw his son for who he really was. He saw his character and his potential and his heart was changed.  Then he said this, "If you have a child like this who you struggle with, know this...these are the kids who are going to change the world. These are the kids who have the charisma, the determination and the will power to change this world for the better." 

Honestly that one quote changed my life. I knew exactly why he was supposed to put away his prepared talk and speak from his heart. God was answering my prayers and pleadings.  This talk didn't change my changed me. It changed my whole outlook on his personality.  Now that doesn't mean things have been easy or are a walk in the park for us. It's still hard to parent a very intense, passionate, tender hearted perfectionist. But I can see who he is becoming, I can see that his passion and drive and hard working attitide will take him far in life, my job isn't to change him or break that spirit, it's to channel all of that in the right direction.  He's extremely different from me and so many times i don't know what I'm doing but my prayers and pleadings for this child (and my other children of course) are constant,  God hasn't failed me yet. I make mistakes and yell and get frustrated way more than I like. But I also love and snuggle and talk and compliment way more than I yell. My relationship with this son is really good. We laugh and joke and talk about his passion and enthusiasm and energy in positive ways. We talk about how to channel his anger when things don't go his way. We are working on having conversations and not just asking questions (the average child asks 144 a day...I'll bet my son asks 500 a joke). 

Now it a joy to parent him, even though it isn't easy. But it has taken much work on my part to get there. One of the best things I did was to write down all of his character qualities. I wrote those that drove me crazy and turned them into something positive. Loud and obnoxious became enthusiastic and expressing himself, wild became energetic and passionate.  It was another perspective shift. (By the way, I got the idea of the character list from the book "Raising your spirited child" by Mary Kurcinka...a really great book!)

I know I'm not the only one out there who has struggled like this. If you are struggling know you are not alone. Part of the reason that talk by President Shields was so powerful is because I didn't feel alone anymore and my guilt was taken away for struggling.

Here is one of my all time favorite quotes by Lynn Robbins, a leader in the LDS  church:

"A sweet  and obedient child will enroll a father or mother only in Parenting 101. If you are blessed with a child who tests your patience to the nth degree, you will be enrolled in Parenting 505. Rather than wonder what you might have done wrong in the premortal life to be so deserving, you might consider the more challenging child a blessing and opportunity to become more godlike yourself. With which child will your patience, long-suffering, and other Christlike virtues most likely be tested, developed, and refined? Could it be possible that you need this child as much as this child needs you?"

I am grateful for this boy. I am grateful for the Mother I have become because of him. God has whispered to me on more than one occasion that he is exactly how he is supposed to be.  I needed him to become a better, more patient and loving person myself.  I'm forever grateful to God for sending him to me.