Monday, September 28, 2009

10 Conversations You Need to Have With Your Children

I went to a fireside last night with my boys, and the speaker talked about this book. I am anxious to read it. You can read about what I learned from the speaker here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I'm feeling better now...

First of all, I want to apologize about my craziness I leashed out on you all in my last post. I don't like using this blog as a place where I vomit all my inner struggles in your laps (was that analogy too icky?). I know you have your own to deal with. Heaven knows you don't need mine too. But I appreciated the chance just the same. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. In my defense, however, I went to bed late that night and woke up at 4:30 in the morning to the lovely call of heartburn. I had to do something to pass the time, and venting felt like a good idea.

You know what the interesting thing is, though? Not long after I hit "publish post," I stopped by another blog by another mother. Someone must have whispered in my ear to go on over there because her post was exactly the thing I needed to see. All of you who understood my feelings and were having some of them yourself, you need to take a look see as well. If you've never been to Diapers and Divinity, you're in for a treat. Go there now and see what I mean. I'm so glad I discovered her. (P.S.- She also gave me great advice in her comment to my last post.)

I've been thinking a lot about my last post, and I remembered something my sister-in-law said to me that at the time was an answer to prayer. It's something that will always apply to my life, but unfortunately, like most things, I too often forget it and need reminding. By the time I hear her thoughts in my head I've already let myself get down, and it's her thoughts that pull me back up.

She said those comforting words one day when a few of her sisters and I were gathered together one afternoon. We were talking about motherhood, as all mothers do when they get together. I don't remember the exact question I asked her (something to do with comparing ourselves with other moms), but I remember her answer (in my own words, anyway). She said:

I stopped comparing myself with other moms because I realized that they're probably comparing themselves with me. We compare ourselves with women who have talents in an area we are lacking, and because of that, we tend to put them on a pedestal and say, "They're good at everything." When in reality, they probably look at us and see something we're good at but they aren't and then put us on the pedestal. We're all good at different things. I realized there is a handful of things I am good at, so I focus on those things, and I'm not going to beat myself up for the things I'm not good at.

I loved that! And I get so mad at myself for forgetting it (have you noticed I'm rather hard on myself?). I think it's something we all can learn from. We all have talents that are different from each other, and while it's okay to want to improve ourselves in certain areas and to try to learn new skills, it's not okay to beat ourselves for things that come difficult to us. It's much more productive and beneficial to all to focus on what we are good at.

My sister-in-law's thought relates to my thoughts on my last, crazy post about struggling with what to do at home for preschool. I realized I have a silly idea that I should be the one teaching my kids everything. Whatever they learn in life should be learned at home first. Not only is that impossible, it's not healthy. Much of their knowledge in life is going to come from their own experience in the world. It's my job to prepare them for that experience. That does not mean I have to literally teach them everything before they experience it.

So, here's what I decided. I am going to make a list of the things I for sure want to teach my kids. I think this idea goes along with my sister's-in-law because I think that things I want to teach my kids will naturally coincide with things I'm good at. For example, I love books and reading and am good at teaching my kids to love them as well. So, a love of reading is something I for sure want to teach my kids.

I haven't made my full list yet, so I'll post that on another day. I would encourage you to look at yourself and make your list of things your good at/things you want to teach your kids. What are you good at? Some of you may be good cooks. Or you may be good at being physically fit. Or you might be good at being cheerful. You might be artistic and creative. You might have a strong testimony. Or you might be good at making new friends.

Try not to make your list too long, maybe only about five things. I'm not saying you can't be good at more than five things, but just focus on five things you are good at and want to teach to your kids. Any more than that will just get overwhelming, and we don't want that, do we!

Does this idea make sense? It makes sense in my head, but it's very probable that I'm not communicating it very well. I hope you get what I'm saying, and I hope it helps someone like it has me. Although, it would help me a lot more if I'd just remember it and stop needing to be reminded all the time! I honestly sometimes don't know how the Lord stays so patient with me.

I would love to hear what all your talents are! Don't be shy about it either. I give you permission to brag about yourself!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A realy long rant about my home preschooling woes

A while back I posted about preschool. I don't think I explained me feelings very well, so here it goes again.

FOR ME, I feel that kids should be kids for as long as possible. They're going to be in school for the rest of their young adult lives, why rush things? There is so much pressure to get your kids in preschool, and I think many moms think it's what they HAVE to do. If they don't, they are guilt stricken by societal pressures and feel like horrible mothers. Sound familiar?

Now, here's my problem. I feel guilty. I feel overwhelmed. I feel pressure. And where's all this coming from? From ME! ALL me! Although I have no problem not taking Noah to someone else to teach him letters and numbers and seasons and whatever, I feel a responsibility to be doing that at home. But every time I think about doing it, I get anxious and my stomach ties up in a jumble of unconquerable knots.

You see, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I say "a bit" because I don't consider myself a true perfectionist. My house is not always perfect. I like organization, but I do let things get untidy. My hair and makeup and fashion are not always immaculate (mostly not). Sometimes I let things go a little. But, I LOVE it when all the stars align, and my own little universe flows smoothly and flawlessly. It makes me feel happy and right with the world. So, I'm sort of an oxymoron. I have spurts of laziness and spurts of organizational genius. I'm a cyclical perfectionist.

I guess you could say there are certain areas of my life that lean more heavily to my perfectionist side. Thinking about at home preschool is one of them. I feel like if I can't do it perfectly than I can't do it at all. But I also feel that I have no hope of doing it perfectly because I don't really know how to do it! I've never been trained to be a child educator. I didn't go to school for elementary education. I was a music major!

I end up feeling anxious and overwhelmed, so I try to avoid the whole thing. But then I feel guilty for avoiding it, so I go back. And the cycle goes on and on...

It's not just that I feel I should do something at home, it's that I also want to. This is my last year with Noah, and I want to make it count. I want to teach him about the exciting world we live and have fun doing it. I should also mention that he wants to learn stuff. He always says he has to do his "homework." My final resolve is that I will do something, but I want to keep it simple, so as to avoid all overwhelming, send-me-to-a-loony-bin feelings.

Simple. Repeat it to yourself. Simple.

My next step is to go online and search preschool websites for parents and teachers. I've found a few that I like, but what is inevitable as I peruse through their buttload of resources? I feel overwhelmed. All hopes of "keeping it simple" are thrown out the window and whack a bird off it's perch on the tree next to my house. In place of them my mind whirls over thoughts of "lesson plan ideas," "theme days," "arts and crafts," "songs and rhymes," "circle time," "books to read," "printables," "shapes," "letters," "numbers"...Aaaaagh! I do this until my mind is a jumble of really-good-but-way-more-than-I-wanted ideas and I feel like I'll explode! Not to mention the giant, gnarling and twisting mess that once was my stomach.

Breath. Just breath. Turn off the computer. Walk away from the computer. Think happy thoughts. Remind yourself that it doesn't matter what you do with your kids, just as long as you're with your kids. Whatever you do with them doesn't have to be perfect. Just do something. Even if it's getting on the floor with them and becoming a human train, taking trips from the living room to the kitchen. Whatever. Just be with them.

Well, that's all good and fine, but there's still that annoying nudge from "Miss Perfect" that I should at least have one day a week where we practice letters and stuff or do an art activity because if I don't plan it than it probably won't happen, which leads me to my next beast to be conquered: scheduling. He's a tough one, but that's another rant for another day. For now, back to the rant at hand.

If I can just get over this idea of it having to be perfect, I'll be okay. That's going to take some time and probably some tears. The annoying thing is, I need to be a little bit perfectionistic with it or else I won't really get much accomplished. That means I need to somehow organize my thoughts and goals and out them construct a SIMPLE plan of attack.

Whew! I think I've said my piece, although I don't really feel much better. Just writing about being overwhelmed makes me overwhelmed. What a basket case I am! Will there ever be a time when I don't question my abilities as a mother and feel like I'm doing okay? (Actually, that's another favorite cycle of mine. Sometimes I feel like I'm a great Mom, other times not so much. Do you do that too? Or am I crazy?)

After all this complaining and venting, you're probably thinking what a pathetic person I am and wanting to tell me to get a grip already! But before you do so, I end my post with a little ray of sunshine. Yesterday I may have had a little break through. I'll let you know for sure after a few more days of experimenting.

If you've suffered through this whole post, first of all- I'm sorry. Second of all, if you should comment, I would feel much better if you could say something on the lines of "I understand how you feel." I'd feel so reassured, even if you're just pretending. Also, if I made absolutely no sense, I'm sorry for that too. It made sense to me, although when I see it all written out I can see how crazy sounding it is. The sad thing is, I really haven't even said the half of it. Oh dear...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rained Out

Today the rain ruined our plans, but it turned out to be a very fun night. We were supposed to go camping, but, like I said, the weather had plans of its own. Noah was so excited to go camping, and I didn't want to disappoint him, so we had a campout in the kids' room.

We fashioned a tent by attaching a blanket to the crib and the dresser. I layed out blankets and pillows and Noah's sleeping bag for a little bed. But I didn't want to stop there. I didn't want Noah to miss out on the things he was so looking forward to doing.

While Dad distracted them, I taped pictures of animals to the wall that I'd printed off the Internet or drawn myself. Then I told Noah that even though we didn't get to go see the animals in the mountains, they came to our house! I turned off all the lights and had him bring his flashlight on our animal hunt. He had so much fun searching for the animals I'd hidden throughout the upstairs. Once he found them all, he wanted to find them again and again. Clara loved it too, especially the owl (she loves owls!). I was a huge hit, and I think I will laminate the pictures so we can have those pictures around for another rainy day.

After the animal hunt, I hurried and drew a picture of a campfire and cut it out. Then, I made s'mores in the microwave (recipe at the bottom). I took the fire and s'mores to our campground, taped the fire to Noah's dresser and we ate s'mores around the campfire. Noah said, "I love rain." I think what he meant by that was, "I'm glad it rained so we could have a campout in my room." I am too!

After that we got ready for bed and gathered again "around" the campfire and sang songs like, "If Your Happy," "Popcorn," and "Itsy Bitsy Spider." Then we read a whole stack of books by the firelight (flashlight). Then we had prayers and said goodnight.

In theory, they were supposed to go to sleep, but the excitement was too much for Clara. She was quite silly, but it was fun. I let them be silly and play for awhile, until a little while later I had to take down the tent just for tonight so that Clara could sleep without fun distractions.

This ended up being so much fun! We would not have had this much fun in the mountains. Or, maybe we would have, but it would have been a different kind of fun. There's something about sleeping under a homemade tent at home when you're a kid. Seeing Noah experience that was pure bliss. We wouldn't have had this experience if the weather had cooperated the way we thought we wanted it to. I hope we have more campouts that get rained out.

Microwave S'mores

Large marshmallows
fudge striped shortbread cookies

Place one marshmallow on a cookie. Put in microwave for about 15 seconds. Immediately place other cookie on top to make the sandwich; press hard. Eat! (Don't stop at one, either!)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Reasons why Noah acts out, whines, disobeys, or back talks (or in other words, drives me crazy):
  1. He's hungry
  2. He's tired
  3. He's overstimulated
  4. He's been ignored most of the day (cry for attention)
  5. I haven't shown a lot of love (little things like smiles, a kind touch, kind words, etc.)
  6. I'm ornery
  7. He doesn't feel well
  8. I get mad at each offense, which only fans the flame

I wanted to make this list because I think I've been losing sight of the reasons behind his outbursts. I've been more focused on how annoying they are and how they're driving me bananas, which means I've been thinking all about Me! Me! Me! I think I need to focus more on him and why he's upset and what I need to do to help him be happier. Sometimes that means he'll need some good discipline, but discipline is almost 100% more affective when done with love. Lets just say I haven't felt a whole lot of love when I've disciplined him the last few days.

This morning, for instance, he was sooooo grumpy and whiny that I finally lost it. As I was cooling off in my room, I realized he hadn't had any breakfast. I'd forgotten to feed him (I know, you all wish you were as good a mom as me)! So, he's eating now and probably feels a lot better and hopefully will be much happier and agreeable. If I had stopped and tried to understand him, I wouldn't have lost my temper nor harbored ill feelings about him. He was hungry, so of course he would have been grumpy- I would have too!

My thoughts are taking me again to some things I've been mulling over the last few weeks. I'm reminded of Elder Wirthlin's words:

“But,” you ask, “what if people are rude?” Love them. “If they are obnoxious?” Love them. “But what if they offend? Surely I must do something then?” Love them. “Wayward?” The answer is the same. Be kind. Love them. Why? In the scriptures Jude taught, “And of some have compassion, making a difference.” Who can tell what far-reaching impact we can have if we are only kind?

I have to admit that when Noah has been getting under my skin, it's a lot harder to show love toward him, but I know if I do the reward will be all the greater. If I just try to understand him, have charity toward him, those moments when there is the potential for him to drive me bananas and make me lose my temper will be driven away. In place of those ill feelings will be love, compassion, and peace.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Great Expectations

Do you think you could count how many times your kids haven't behaved the way you expect them to behave? Ha! Good luck with that! Isn't that their job? They're experts at it, especially when you're in front of other people or in a new place that's different from day to day. That's their specialty.

It's one thing to teach your kids to behave at home, but it's a whole other ball of wax when it comes to the library or the park or church or someone else's house. Even the most well-behaved child can throw you for a loop in a moment that really counts. We've all been there, right?

For me, it was the library. Noah was AWFUL at the library. He loved going, but he HATED leaving. Excursions to the library were not fun for us for a while.

Although memories of our first library outings are a little painful, they taught me some important lessons in parenting. One in particular is that kids need to know what you expect of them BEFORE you throw them into the new environment. I've learned from my own experience that pretty much all attempts to teach them in the moment will be completely useless and will only make you more mad and them behave worse. Then you're so mad when you get home that you make all kinds of unreasonable threats like, "WE'RE NEVER GOING THERE AGAIN! YOU'RE GOING TO STAY IN YOUR ROOM UNTIL YOUR 18!" This leads me to the other thing I've learned: if they don't know what you expect of them, how can you justify getting mad at them for not complying? Kids need to be given expectations, and they need to know what they are. I like to call these "Great Expectations."

These are both principles that I'm still working on. There are some things that you just don't think about needing to be addressed. We're so used to living in society and obeying social rules and such that we forget our kids don't know them. But I'm learning not to beat myself up about it. It helps me to not get upset if I ask myself whether I've taught him what I expect. Even if I have, I'm learning too that kids need lots of reminding. When we get home, I pull Noah aside and say, "Next time we do this...." or something along those lines. I know that this correcting needs to be done after we're out of the situation, not during (although, there are exceptions, as with most things). Then the next time we're going to be in that situation, I remind him what we talked about before. Am I making any sense? I wish I had an example of what I mean, but my mind is blank. I'll try to be more broad, and maybe I'll get my point across.

Concerning Church:
Noah is pretty good at church, but we've had to work hard at it. He still has things to get over. Some things we've worked on are: being fidgety, sitting on his teacher's lap, not singing, laying on the floor, and general reverence. To help him, I started talking to him at home what I expect of him and what Heavenly Father expects of him at church. There should also be consequences for their actions. Then I would remind him right before we go to church about these expectations. You can even incorporate agency into this and ask your child how they're going to choose to behave.

Concerning the Library/The Tree House Museum/Any place fun your kids hate to leave
For places Noah hates to leave because they're so fun, I make sure he understands that I expect him to leave like a nice boy and not throw fits. The best is when we leave a place happily and he is so proud of himself for doing what I expect.

Concerning Everything!
Kids need to know what you expect! I've started to try and use that word a lot more in our home because I really believe that everyone needs reasonably high expectations of themselves and of others. Noah is a lot better when he understands what is expected of him, which means I'm a happier Mom! And like I said, he's proud of himself when he lives up to what's expected of him.

I hope this didn't sound too preachy. I do not profess to be an expert in this at all! But I have seen the positive effects of laying out your expectations, so I'm trying to be better at it. I hope my thoughts were coherent. Unfortunately, I'm not as articulate as I'd like to be. Just add that to the "Needs Improvement" list. Oh boy, that list is getting really long...