Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fire Swamp Parenting

The other day I was in my bathroom, madly brushing teeth, racing between appointments. I had precariously thrown my large hand bag on the counter.  It was perched awkwardly atop random odd shaped items, such as a bulky make up bag and bottles of whatever.  

From the corner of my eye, I glimpsed the heavy bag slightly dangling.  Then, even with water blasting full bore, I heard a faint creaking noise. Ever so faint. And ever so slow.  Suddenly I turned to face the bag, just in time to see it falling off it's rocky foundation.  I instinctively leaped to catch the bag, toothpaste dribbling down my chin.  Feeling a little proud of myself for recognizing the quiet creaking sound, I was immediately humbled by a thought about parenting.

Have you seen the movie, "Princess Bride?"  If not, stop whatever you're doing right now and GO WATCH IT.  (One of the greatest,  most quoted movies of all time!) 

However, since I'm assuming most of you have seen it, I'll refer to it now.  Remember the fire swamp? Remember, "It's not that bad really...Well, I'm not saying that I'd want to build a summer home here, but..." Yes, THAT fire swamp.  

Three things made the fire swamp a treacherous place.  You'll recall there were R.O.U.S.s (rodents of unusual size), quicksand, and fire blasts out of the ground.  These fire blasts, though daunting at first, eventually were no problem to handle because they were preceded by a distinct crackling/popping sound.  These sounds allowed enough warning time to get out of harm's way before damage was done.

In that moment of just barely catching the heavy bag with spit involuntarily spewing out of my mouth, I realized how close I'd come to a downfall (it's a really big bag with my whole life in it: planner, phone, keys, money, ID, diapers, wipes, socks, everything). Such a simple moment, but it taught me an important principle.

If we listen, truly listen, our children will send us quiet messages when they need our help.  We will be warned, sometimes, just in the nick of time, when one of them needs us to turn around and "catch" them before they fall.  Maybe it's a tiny feeling about checking on them once more before bed, or of checking a Facebook post, or leaving a note on a pillow.  Maybe you hear a slight change in their voice about coming for family prayers or scripture study.  Perhaps the phone rings less, friends aren't calling as often.  There are a million examples which occur every day in family life.

When my children were very small and we were living on the East Coast with no family close by, I had one dear friend with many young children of her own. She lived an hour away from me and it was a real treat to go to her home. But whenever I did, I came home with nuggets of truth that she shared.  One time, a young boy was acting up (can't remember if it was mine or hers), she just smiled and said, "It's time for him to learn a new skill!" She explained that she had learned that when her children became crabby, she knew they had outgrown their current knowledge and were ready for a new challenge in life. She'd teach how to tie a shoe, scrub a toilet, or sew a button, etc; something to make them think, use their coordination, and fill them with the pride of accomplishment. What brilliance!

If we listen to the ever so faint warning sounds our children make, we will know that they are in need. As we pray, listen to the spirit and our heart, we will soon become experts at predicting needs and preventing damage before it's too late. 

The problem arises when we as parents are not "tuned in" to those quiet precursors. Sometimes we fill our lives with too much busyness.  Sometimes our world is too loud with constant media streaming.  Sometimes we fear the future so much, we ignore the present.  There are many reasons to miss the warning sounds. 

The moment I caught my bag, I suddenly thought of my family.  Was I listening to the warning sounds? Was I facing them? Was I "catching" them in time? 

Each one is so precious. Each one is growing at their own pace, each one has different needs. But I have learned that when I have my eye single to the glorious calling of Mother, I am better able to hear those quiet warning sounds and sense those needs. 

Then it takes humble prayer, and time set aside for the precise purpose of just, listening. Just being still long enough to discern the best way to "catch" them. Sometimes, the answer is to let them "fall" on their own, sometimes the answer is to swoop in with a net! Sometimes the answer is to cushion their fall with a big fat pillow. But whatever the answer, it requires time, attention and intentional parenting to discern.

Sometimes the answer is as simple as FEEDING THEM! Or getting them to bed on time! Or changing a diaper!  I learned that great lesson once while reading Mosiah chapter 4.  Since then, I have tried to at least cover the basic needs, even on busy days.  If I don't at least cover the basics, contention abounds! and no wonder! 

But when laundry is clean, meals are predictable and sleep schedules are respected, other issues might be to blame for the warnings we hear and feel.

I'm so grateful I had this "fire swamp" lesson.  It helped me make a very big and very painful decision this week.  I will write more about that later when I have more time and strength!

In the meanwhile, I'd love to hear your experiences! Anyone willing to share a "fire swamp" experience they've had? What warnings did you hear? How did you respond? We can all learn from shared experiences! I know I do!

Thanks in advance for anyone willing to share.  It's time for me to put some little ones to bed ON TIME for once this week! :)

  And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
  But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.
Mosiah 4:14-15

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Red Light, Green Light

(In honor of Mother's Day, and my daughter Michealah, who just left on her mission this week, I am reposting this lesson she taught me a couple years ago)

Anyone with kids and a minivan knows how torturous red lights can be. Generally speaking, if you are in your van during the hours of 8 am to 7 pm (sometimes later!) you are likely the "taxi driver" and likely late for something.

I have been known to pray for lights to change when particularly strapped for time. My children get into the action by chanting "green, green, green, green!" as we approach each intersection.

This is not to say that I speed, exactly. Although I have "pushed the limit" in the past, I try not to do so anymore. Still, I often wish I could drive with no pesky pauses!

My tendency to despise interruption has been tested repeatedly as a parent. Any mother knows that it is nearly impossible to do anything from reading to visiting the restroom without a little friend or helper appearing. Forget trying to paint something.

Recently, however, I have begun to appreciate the "red lights" in my life. Let me explain.

I first pondered this while nursing a baby. I am ashamed to say that in the beginning, I was frustrated at having to sit down and do nothing else but feed the baby. Some women are blessed to be able to read, etc. while nursing, but I am not physically capable of doing so. Let's just say that my situation requires two hands and total attention. At first I felt annoyed. However, I gradually learned to love and then to anticipate my alone time with each child. We shared quiet moments of gazing at one another. It was as if the whole world stopped spinning for just that sweet time. Of course, it never lasted long as the toddlers always found just the right contraband activity while mom was occupied. But I wouldn't trade that time. I learned the value of a "red light."

Generally speaking, moms are multi-taskers (I help with homework while cooking, I mediate fights while scrubbing toilets). However, when it comes to really meaningful stuff, I have to be focused.

So, last week my oldest daughter, a thoughtful, poetic girl, told me she needed a monologue for her advanced drama class audition. I threw out some ideas that I thought would fit her personality, she googled them. When she found one she liked, she asked me to come watch it with her. I was running around, making dinner, driving people here and there, putting out fires, as is my daily routine. I avoided watching it for a long time, but finally, with rag in hand, STOPPED and watched it (I didn't even sit down, but at least I stood still).

The one she chose was "Emily" from Our Town by Thornton Wilder. Those of you who are familiar are likely nodding just now. I had forgotten the full message, I just remembered that my daughter reminded me of Emily in some way. As I took the time to really watch it (a great performance by Penelope Ann Miller from 1989), I felt haunted. As if Emily could see right through me. A busy fake. But even more, I felt exposed to my beautiful daughter. She knows me better than anyone I think. One of her spiritual gifts is discernment. She can read people, people like me.

There I was, standing with dripping rag in hand, my eyes unwittingly filled with tears. I felt frozen as if I couldn't go back to where I had been before the "red light." I couldn't just "get back to work" because it suddenly seemed so hypocritical or even pointless.

Still, someone had to make dinner. Eleven people ain't gonna feed themselves every day. But I learned something. I realized that sometimes, gazing into each other's eyes really is important. Sometimes those pesky red lights are very, very special. Maybe one day, we'll come to realize that the "red light" moments in our life are actually the ONLY thing that really matters. It is during those pauses in our general pursuit that we find ourselves really "living," perhaps because when we pause, we are actually "loving."

About four years ago I had just had baby number eight. I was still in the newborn stage (baby was 4 weeks old) and I had no desire to go out anywhere much. My wonderful, spontaneous husband came home from work one day and announced that we were going camping. All of us. Even me and the newborn. Hmmm. Talk about a "red light." I couldn't imagine anything more time consuming, difficult and crazy with a baby. However, he had been to southern Utah with his work and wanted to share the beauty of that place with us. I really really really didn't want to go. Camping in tents, outside with a nursing newborn did not sound appealing. In any any way. He assured me that he would take care of all the food. This was the ONLY reason I agreed.

I watched as he single-handedly bought, prepared and packed all the gear and food. We loaded everyone up and headed south.

I don't need to go into any more detail, but let me just say that that experience has proven to be the single most memorable/successful family trip we've ever had. For years afterwords it was all the little children talked about. They loved it, they adored it. They drew pictures of us in the "desert" and shared it with teachers, friends, strangers. When asked about favorite destinations, they never say "Disneyland, New York, Washington D. C., Mexico" (the other places we've been), instead they always answer, "camping in the desert!"

As I pondered this lesson this week, I was reminded that so often in the gospel there are ironies. When we "lose" ourself, we "find" ourself, the "greatest" is the "least," etc. I have realized that often what I perceive to be "red lights" are actually "green lights."

Instead of waiting impatiently for the lights in my life to turn ("We got the loan!,""I graduated!,""I've lost 20 pounds!"), I have realized that I am missing it. I am missing all the beauty and joy of life, tapping my foot, engine revving in the fast lane.

I resolve this week to do some gazing. I want to ponder. I want to appreciate. I want to enjoy. I want to savor. I want to stop, sit, listen. I am grateful once again to my priceless children who teach me everyday to be a better person.

As I have been driving this week, whenever I come to a red light, it is an opportunity. I turn, I look at them, we smile, we giggle, we sing, I tickle toes. I tell stories. I ask questions. I listen. I love. I live.

Our Town
written by Thornton Wilder
Emily: Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I'm dead. You're a grandmother, Mama! Wally's dead, too. His appendix burst on a camping trip to North Conway. We felt just terrible about it - don't you remember? But, just for a moment now we're all together. Mama, just for a moment we're happy. Let's really look at one another!...I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back -- up the hill -- to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover's Corners....Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking....and Mama's sunflowers. And food... And new ironed dresses and hot baths....and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?

38 ¶ Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.



Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Stop the Pain

I went to the dentist's today. Yeah. A moment of silence please while each of you takes time to squirm uncomfortably. 

For the first time in many years I required 2 hours worth of "work" (euphemism for TORTURE).  So, the dentist kindly attempted to numb the appropriate areas.  He talked to me for a few minutes, asked how it was feeling, was it numb yet? tingling? feeling "fat?" It wasn't feeling any of those things. It was just feeling...normal. Hm...he raised his eyebrows.  Ok, he says, I'll give you one more shot.  That should totally do it (we are on a tight schedule here because I've got a preschooler coming home in 1.5 hours). That didn't do it. So he tried again. and again.  Finally after 4 times the regular amount he admitted that he was out of anestetic.  We waited for it to take affect.  He asked me if I were normally resistant to pain medication or sedation.

I thought back a couple of weeks.  I had been experiencing some weird / disturbing symptoms.  The doctor ordered an MRI to rule out anything crazy.  When I arrived for the test, the technician offered me valium, in case of claustrophobia.  I am mildly claustrophobic so I figured it couldn't hurt.  He asked if I'd eaten anything, I admitted I'd had a piece of cheese, not knowing otherwise. He said no problem, but that I should "chew up" the valium instead of just swallowing. I chewed it up.  He asked if I were resistant to sleep aids.  I said "yes!" (getting me to sleep is nearly impossible).  So, he gave me two valium and had me chew them up!

Then he said to take hold of his arm (we had to walk into another room) as I might feel the affect soon. But I felt...normal.  We got to the right place. I sat and talked with him for awhile. He asked if I were getting sleepy? I said, "no." Finally we just had to do it. He let me put a cloth over my eyes and that helped a lot.  He slid me in. It was very noisy!  But he talked with me and I felt fine.  Afterwards I stood up and walked out unassisted. He just shook his head.  He told me, most people are drowsy after just one valium.  With two, he said, you should have been asleep on the table. 

So back to the dentist.  It finally got numb and he finally did the work, though I'll have to go back because we ran out of time.  

This got me thinking. For me, being a mother has been a lot like these medical situations.  I am more aware, more sensitive to pain than before I had children. Everything affects me. Everything they feel affects me.  It's like that quote that says "motherhood is like wearing your heart on the outside of your clothes for the rest of your life" or something like that.  

Because I am less resistant to pain medication than the average person anyway, being a mother has only increased my resistance. And it has lessened my ability to sleep.  This hyper-vigilence, or constant alertness is exhausting and not healthy for anyone.  

I love my children so much, it hurts. Literally. 

My new goal in life for parenting is this: Stop the pain. Somehow, someway, I need to just stop the pain. Stop the pain of perfectionism. Stop the pain of no sleep. Stop the pain of self-doubt. Stop the pain of over scheduling, the pain of regret. 

No, I don't want to become numb. I don't want to become "past-feeling." I just want to find that healthy balance called JOY. The one that includes pain and suffering, but also includes play and fun. It has some routine, but also flexibility. It has healthy basics, and some dessert too. 

The other day I spent more time in the scriptures than I had in a long while.  I felt so much...peace. I felt wrapped up in the Savior's arms.  By all accounts, I "wasted" a lot of time, because it was more than an hour, just ... reading. But it felt so good. And it soothed my pains, my little sufferings, without numbing me. In fact, I felt crystal clear for the first time in months about some answers to major questions! And yet, with all that clarity, I still felt peace and happiness! Perhaps the scriptures are the perfect remedy for me.  It was a good day. 

Have you ever seen the show "Touch?" It's about an autistic boy who sees connections in the world and orchestrates extraordinary encounters with magical outcomes for everyone involved.  You might think it's a bit forced, unbelievable. 

But I love it. It illustrates how I feel daily.  I see connections, I see and feel others' pain everyday.  Especially my children's.  I see what I could do to change or help their pain and I make myself crazy too often, trying to fix it for them. 

In one episode of "Touch," another autistic man helps the dad understand his son. The dad asks the man, "What does he want? Why does he run around and do all these things?" The man replies, "He wants to stop the pain." The dad doesn't really get it. Not sure he ever gets it. But I get it. The boy wants to stop everyone's pain. Because he sees. Because he knows HOW to stop their pain. Problem is, he's just a little autistic boy and he can't stop the pain without help. So he has his dad and a bunch of other people who help him in every episode.  The bottom line is, he wants also to stop his OWN pain. His overwhelming, constant pain. The pain of knowing, seeing and of never resting but always trying to stop the pain.  

It's ironic.  I want to stop all the pain my children feel and all the pain I see in the world. But truthfully, when I do so, or attempt to do so, I only make myself more crazy, more resistant to help, more resistant to sleep, more overwhelmed and undernourished, body and soul.  So it ends up causing more suffering... for everyone.  Even my most faithful "helpers."

I am very grateful to have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life.  I am so grateful for the "healing balm," and the peace and comfort I always feel when I take time to let the Savior into my life. I'm so grateful that I can lay my burden at His feet. That at the end of the day, I can turn the management of the universe back over to His capable care.  He never fails to stop the pain. 

This Easter, as we remember Him who suffered all pain for us, let us also remember that He rose again on the third day to forever "stop the pain" for every one of us. For me, for you. 

I love Him and I testify that He lives. I wish you joy this season.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Mosiah 14:3-5 

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Hydrogen Peroxide Principle

We have a unique moniker for hydrogen peroxide in our home.  Around here we call it, "brown juice." If you're familiar, you know that hydrogen peroxide is neither "brown" nor is it "juice" (definitely don't drink it please).  So, you may be wondering how it came to be called such.

I suppose it had something to do with the fact that we once had 7 children under the age of 8.  Because of this, I became so adept at "translating" English into "Barneyese" (that is to say, "something else that young children will more likely comprehend") that I would change words spontaneously sometimes without even realizing it.  Once while reading the Narnia books to the children, I realized I was changing every other word because it was either too sophisticated or too British and they wouldn't understand the usage.  It was years before I realized that I was "dumbing" them down.  Consequently, my children got sort of the "street" version of Narnia, LOTR, and the Little House series (to name a few).  I got so natural at it, that I should have worked on the New Translation of the KJV Bible.  I'm sure they could have used my finely honed skilz.  Now I realize how valuable it is to read the actual words to children, as they glean so much in context.  But that's another post.

So, around here we have "brown juice." It's simple really: Hydrogen Peroxide usually comes in an unmistakeable brown jug, and it is a liquid.  Hence, to a four year old, it makes sense to call it "brown juice." And even though most of the children are quite a bit older now, no one ever takes the trouble to say "H-Y-D-R-O-G-E-N  P-E-R-O-X-I-D-E." Why would they when it's so much simpler to say, "brown juice?" Dumbed down. Sad.

I've created other linguistic road blocks for them as well.  For example, the sideboard or lowboy in the foyer is merely the "big brown thing in the front hall."  This travesty is certainly not my sweet mother's fault.  She has a flair for language. When I was a child, I remember her taking Greek and Hebrew classes at night at a local college in Maryland.  (My siblings are quite good too.  My sister Sara holds a master's degree in Russian linguistics and now writes texts books and teaches at BYU-I).  Mother was always careful to call things by their right and proper names, giving credit also to the etymology of each word by carefully emphasizing correct pronunciation.  The foyer was always the "FOY-ay" for instance.  We sometimes had dinner "BOO-fay" (buffet) style.  On Mexican night, we enjoyed, "fa- HEE-tas" (fajitas).  She never accidentally slipped into "American," even when saying things really fast.  Yep, she's a blue blood.  A lingua purist.  

So, I'm somewhat of a disappointment I guess. Because I'm all about understanding.  I just really really want people to understand.  I often simplify. or use object lessons.  or pictures.  or sign language.  You won't come away with the French pronunciation, but by golly you will NOT mistake the lowboy for the sideboard.  

Enter Brown Juice.  The other day (or rather the other WEEK because it took so long) I was painting/staining my kitchen cupboards.  They used to be a lovely, warm, golden oak color.  But I craved more light in our kitchen, so I painted them "Quilter's White," then glazed them (ever so slightly), with a dark brown stain.

The prep and painting alone took several coats and several days.  When I was finally ready to apply the stain, I was excited!  I couldn't wait to see the final result after so much hard work!  I did not anticipate, however, the affect it would have on my hands.  Of course I completely ignored the warning to wear gloves while using the stain (as any self respecting DIY housewife would).  I assumed I could seamlessly jump from staining cupboards to making dinner, to driving the carpool and back to the cupboards as my time would permit.  Hmmm. How wrong that was.

By the end of my first staining session, my hands were completely covered with dark brown sludge.  every crevice of my skin had been infiltrated.  My fingernails resembled the hands of an Orc.  I looked positively ghoulish.  Needing to dash out and drive someone somewhere, I hurriedly bounded up the stairs to wash my hands.  I washed and washed, with soap too, mind you.  Futile.  Getting more desperate, I spied the familiar brown container of hydrogen peroxide on the counter (we use it for all little scrapes).  

I grabbed the bottle and generously poured the "juice" all over my hands, hoping for a miracle.  What happened was unexpected and unwelcome at that moment.  Instead of the cleansing I anticipated, I received instead, a deeper healing.

Unbeknownst to me, all of the work on the cupboards (the scrubbing, the sanding, deglossing, filling holes, taping, painting, etc.) had put my hands through some trauma.  They were now rough, a little chapped, with small abrasions all over my skin, not to mention my unkempt cuticles.  As I applied the brown juice to my stained hands, hoping to merely cleanse, I was surprised to experience instead, a baptism of fire!

My previously imperceivable skin flaws, hidden under layers of stain, suddenly became painfully apparent!  Some of the stain came off, but not much.  I would learn that it would take me several days and several showers to undo the mistake of just not putting gloves on in the first place.  But more importantly, the cleaning agent I had employed (the Brown Juice) gave me more than I had bargained for.  I was eventually cleaned, yes.  But more poignantly, I was healed.

Perhaps you can guess my metaphor here.  So often in life, whenever I attempt to get closer to my Savior, I spend more time in the scriptures, more time in the temple, more time fasting, praying, pondering, more time repenting.  As I generously apply the Atonement in these moments, I eagerly anticipate the cleansing power to wash over me and help me feel hopeful and clean again.

Many times, I find, however, that true repentance takes a little time.  It is a process as we go from mere recognition of our mistakes, to the deeper understanding needed to have a true change of heart or to rectify wrongs in our lives.  It may come more slowly than we would wish, but it will come.  And the cleansing is no less a miracle for the time it takes to carefully change.

And then there is the unexpected bonus of coming to realize even MORE of our flaws.  It is inevitable as we come closer to our Savior, as we strive to become more like Him, or to serve Him more, that we will begin to see, or perceive, more imperfections is ourselves.  This is not a cruel joke or a punishment, though at times you will feel the BURN!

Rather, this is the most beautiful part of the process.  It isn't a threat, it's a promise.  The Lord instructs us that as we begin to draw nearer to Him, we will naturally come to understand  how we might change to become even more and more like Him.  This is how he teaches us, how He cleanses us, how He heals us: line upon line, precept upon precept.  We needn't go any faster than we can, no faster than we have strength.  Just line upon line, here a little and there a little, until we are totally cleansed and totally healed through his infinite Grace.

This no longer seems overwhelming to me.  It now feels like the gift that it is.  This Christmas season, I am so grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ; for His infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice for me.  And I appreciate the WAY that He teaches, cleanses and heals me.  It is always the perfect way, the perfect timing, and exactly the right language needed for me to understand, completely.

Next time you accidentally pour brown juice all over an unseen wound and get slapped in the face with a mighty burn, you can think of the hydrogen peroxide principle and be glad you did.

Merry Christmas, 2012!

  • "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

Ether 12:27

  • "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

    Isaiah 1: 18

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Rhythm of Life

Last night I had the opportunity to participate in a little neighborhood dance class. No, this wasn't your typical 4 year-old ballet class, but there were a lot of "soccer" moms there.

This dance class started at 8:30 pm, after toddlers were in bed.  This dance class was held in a smallish room turned "studio" in one of the class member's homes.  This class had one teacher and six students.  This class had introductions where we shared our names, family info. and dance history. This class started with a spiritual thought from the last LDS General Conference which reminded us to remember our worth in the sight of God and not to compare ourselves with anyone else (tears flowed freely).  This class had an opening prayer circle where we all held hands.  And then, this class....danced.

These ladies, these moms, are... GOOD!  I think we have at least 20 kids between us, and although it's been DECADES for some of us, these moms rocked it.  It was soooo fun!

Okay, I'm not much of a dancer.  But I LOVE dance.  I took so many dance classes in college, I could have minored in dance. So, I am a dancer at heart (turns out that doesn't translate into actual MOVES on the floor).  And espite my lack of natural rhythm,  I am just excited to be stretching in a meaningful way again).  It's also fun that my daughter is in the class with me (the only non-mom :)).  She is a very good dancer and I love being inspired by her.

I should mention that this class is not in MY neighborhood.  It takes place in Provo, a student town.  I don't know any of the other women, except the one who invited me.  So I only know what I've observed. But what struck me about this sweet little class was the heart felt effort by the teacher (a mother of four under four) and the genuine desire of the students.  Each of these ladies is at a very difficult moment in their lives (the "throes" of parenthood, as one friend liked to say).  They deal with toddlers all week long.  In addition, most of them are also in Primary (children's classes) at church.  I'd venture to guess that they don't have a lot adult conversation during the week.  It was clear that this class was as much about connecting to other human beings, other moms, as it was about dancing.

We warmed up, then danced, together.  I watched and listened.  They quipped about their kids, the changes to their bodies in the last ten years (just wait til your 40!! I thought), their husbands, their lives.  Sprinkled in were comments about Stake Conference, our spirits, the Lord, not hiding our light, etc.  Truly these are women of faith.  

At one point during our little class, my eyes filled with tears as I witnessed these women, these mothers, banding together to learn a little choreography.  I saw them emote and stretch, reach and float.  They each have a story to tell.  They each have different reasons for being there.

I may not be in the same boat anymore (though I do have a 4 year old!) since my children are much older nowdays.  But as they talked, I loved them.  I loved them for what I KNEW they were doing all day: Diapers, Bottles, Nursing, Cooking, Cleaning, Teaching, Loving, etc. And I also knew that after the class, they wouldn't get to fall into bed all night.  I knew that most would be up in the night with potty training toddlers or nursing newborns.  And most of their husbands have leadership positions in the ward as well, which requires hours away from home on weekends and evenings.  It's just the way of it for them, right now, at this place and time in their lives.

It was stunning to be able to "peek" backwards in time at myself a decade ago.  To remember those days with a little joy and a lot of heartache.  I loved these moms for the sacrifices they were making to raise children on this earth, and for the support they were giving their hard working husbands as well.  Each one is a beloved daughter of God.  Each one is the center of the universe for one man and several little people.  Each one is uplifted by her night to dance.  Each one is a better wife, a better mother, a better person, because she dances in that little class.

I also felt the Lord's great love for them; for the row they are hoeing.  He is grateful and pleased with the work they are doing for His sake, day in and day out.

And I was thankful just to be there; to drink it in, and to realize that I too am important in my role.  I am essential, even.  I am loved and needed, despite my lack of actual DANCING ability! And someday, when the "dance" of life is over, I'll be able to reflect upon my leading part in the most exquisite piece of all: the Rhythm of Life

"Let Israel rejoice in him that made him; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise his name in the dance" (Psalms 149:2-3). 

(thanks for the scripture reference honey! :))

Thursday, April 19, 2012


*With all the talk about Ann Romney staying home with her boys, I wanted to repost this.

What Mom Is Worth: Dollars and Sense

(First written for the podcast Babies and Moms: Birth and Beyond 2007 available on iTunes)

Every mother has had a day where she throws up her hands and says, “It’s just not worth it!” Well, she probably isn’t talking about the monetary compensation plan, but today we actually are going to address just what a mom is worth in dollars and cents. And we ask the question: Does it make sense (CENTS) to be a mom? We believe the answer is “YES!” but you don’t have to take our word for it. Let’s talk about it.

There are many aspects of motherhood, and of course we could never cover all the ways in which a mom is valuable or figure out just how much a mother is really worth in a person’s life. But today we do want to focus on the financial worth of MOM. Perhaps there are working mothers who may not realize all the double duty they are doing, or how much they are paying to replace themselves. Or there might be at home moms who may not know just how much the work they do is worth! And maybe there are some dads and kids who need to know this information too so they can better understand and appreciate, or even help the overworked and underpaid mothers in their lives!

The idea for this segment first came to me as I looked around my dirty house one day. Since I have eight children under fourteen, including 5 boys (two of them twins!), and since my husband is still in school (after 16 years of marriage) and works full time, and we just got a puppy, there is an endless array of laundry, dishes and dirt in general. I was tired that day, and even worse, I just didn’t care anymore. I used to love the smell of clean laundry, clean floors, clean beds. On that dismal day, I sat there and stared blankly waiting for some force of nature to push me over.

Running away didn’t seem like the most mature option, although it did occur to me. Instead, I did something I had never done before. I called a cleaning service. Oh yes, they assured me on the phone. This is not a luxury; this is a necessity in today’s lifestyle. Oh yes, they can come today for an estimate, yes, yes, women should never feel guilty, they can’t believe I haven’t called sooner, they’ll be right over. The gal on the phone should have been a bartender. She was so soothing; I knew I had done the right thing. I floated through the rest of the morning, anxiously awaiting my liberation. We can afford this, I told myself. We only need them to come once a month I rationalized. Little did I realize just what it would cost in dollars and cents.

To summarize the rest of the experience, let me say this: they came, they saw, they billed. I couldn’t believe it! The estimate was very explicit. They only “deep clean” 2 rooms each time they come. They don’t do windows, they don’t wash walls, they don’t do closets or pantries or bedrooms. What DO they do I was wondering, but not for too long, because then they handed me the estimate: it was a little more than 400 dollars. That was for just the downstairs! Which they estimated would take three girls about 2-3 hours. Well, I decided against using their services, but it was not a wasted experience because I learned something very important. My work as a “housewife” is very valuable! Suddenly I had a second wind about doing all my mundane chores. As I analyzed each piece of my house the way that the cleaning service did, I could see just how difficult, time consuming and expensive my housework really is! That got me thinking about all the other jobs moms do on a regular basis. We are doctors, chauffeurs, cooks, maids, laundry service, child care, tutors, decorators, psychologists, music teachers, soccer coaches, not to mention companions for husbands, PTA presidents, etc., etc. Each mom’s list is a mile long. In fact, March 2007 claims that a mom today is worth “$ 761,650.00/year . . . if they were paid for all the work they do.” There is no time off, no holidays or sick days. There is no pay, no over-time pay, no bonuses, not even gift baskets! (Unless you count the ones made out of Popsicle sticks that you get from your 1st grader!). “Good thing motherhood is its own reward!” touts Redbook.

So we just want to take a minute and say to moms everywhere, “Good Job! Well done! You’re priceless!” Just take some time to realize all you do and just what you contribute to your family and neighborhood. Not just emotionally, but very realistically, financially!

Now, for those that do work for a pay check, realize that you have double duty. Chances are you do most of what other moms do, plus your outside job. And realize that you may be paying someone else to replace you. Does that make sense? All moms everywhere should analyze what they are paying for childcare, housekeeping, wardrobe, commuting, eating out, etc. and decide if it is all really worth it. Perhaps your pay check is not as valuable as you think. If you are working mostly for the money and wishing you could be home instead, maybe this is your chance. Now that you know just what it is costing, think about your options.

When we had three children under three, my husband had just landed his first real job. We excitedly bought a house. Well, the mortgage was a bigger chunk than we realized it would be each month. Slowly over the first year we were going into debt. We had to make a choice. Should I go to work? I pondered the question a long time. In the end, I decided that childhood is too short and that I wanted to be home with my children fulltime. So, we came up with a creative plan. We moved into a one-bedroom apartment. The children shared the bedroom with a bunk bed and crib. My husband and I slept on a fold out couch bed in the “living room.” Meanwhile, we rented out our house to cover the mortgage, which consequently reduced our monthly housing costs by about 75%. The children were young and they didn’t mind a smaller place. I spent the days with friends, at the park, etc. to keep them busy. After a year of this, we were out of debt and were able to purchase a video camera and a piano! Two items we desperately wanted. Our house appreciated that year and then we were able to sell it and buy our next house with that money. The whole thing was an adventure, perhaps not right for everyone, but I was able to stay home with the children, make lots of new friends, get out of debt, buy stuff we wanted and make money for our next down payment – all in one year because we did some creative thinking instead of just automatically putting mom right into the job market.

I had a friend when we lived in Philadelphia. She was from Austria and worked as an Au Pair for our neighbors. As the children played, we would talk and one day she asked me how much I got paid to stay home with my kids (four at the time). What? I had never heard of such a thing! She explained that in Austria women are paid to stay home with their children! I recently heard that Russia is thinking about adopting that model also (That sounds great, let’s move there!).

In conclusion, we hope this week that we were able to brighten your day a little. Does it make sense to be a mom? You better believe it! As a mom, whether you work outside the home or not, we KNOW you work INSIDE your home and girl! Your work is priceless! You deserve a pat on the back and you also deserve a fat paycheck! But instead you will probably get some peanut butter kisses and some, “love ya mom”s, and that too is worth a million.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fears and Faith

This week I am feeling totally inadequate and unequal to the task of successfully mothering even one child, let alone nine.

Each child has many needs daily: physical, emotional and spiritual. And, with so many, all different ages, it never ends. Early morning, all day, afternoon, evenings, late nights, middle of the night, weekends, holidays...just name a time and I'm usually awake PARENTING or at least plotting or solving problems in my tortured head.

Right now, I'm just feeling...exhausted. How can I manage all of it? There's the busy-ness, yes, the soccer games, the plays, dance class, piano, scouts, orchestra, and on and on. But then there's the more important stuff like, are they having meaningful scripture study each day, do they truly feel valued, do they know where to turn when struggling with personal weaknesses, do they understand that service and gratititude and hard work solves the majority of their problems? Will they feel loved even if they don't agree with their parents politically or religiously? How would I handle that kind of situation?

So much is unknown. Sometimes I feel fear creeping in. It takes all my courage to wrangle my over protective, "helicopter" parent instincts. Luckily, with so many, it's literally impossible for me to be everywhere at once, so the children do have large amounts of time without me hovering. But I am always "hovering" in my heart! Worrying and praying, fasting and scheming, doing all I can from every angle to help them survive, thrive and become confident, happy, well adjusted, KIND, compassionate, faithful, loving and skilled adults.

Last night I walked into the local high school at 9:15 pm, yet another thing I needed to do before bed. I wondered what I was doing there at that time of night. Do these community choir people really need me? Am I ripping off my family even more by investing some time outside of my home? Familiar pangs of guilt set in.

I noticed some people in the lobby, chasing a fussy toddler out of the musical production going on in the auditorium. Another woman was on a cell phone engaged in an animated conversation. I walked down the hall to the choir room where I was going to run a sectional rehearsal for the men. SO many people in just one little corner of the universe. There are so many of us all over the world. We each have so many needs daily! How can our Heavenly Father possibly know us all and love us all? How can He get to every game, be there for every spiritual crisis? I suddenly understood and loved Him in His role as a parent. I loved Him infinitely, in just that one moment. Then, as I entered the room, the whole choir was on their feet, rehearsing an Easter song. It was if they sang it to me, for me. Tears sprang to my eyes. Maybe the community choir doesn't need me, maybe I just need them. I knew that this message was sent to me from a loving Father above. And He sent it in the usual way, through sacred music. I still don't have all the answers to every concern I have as a parent, but I do know that "fear departs when faith endures."

Behold the wounds in Jesus' hands,

The marks upon His side,
Then ponder who He meant to save
When on the cross He died.
We cannot see the love of God
Which saves us from the fall,
Yet know that Christ from wood and nails
Built mansions for us all.

Behold the outstretched hands of Christ
Our God, who came to save,
Whose love and grace redeems ours souls
And lifts us from the grave.
Though bruised and battered as we stray
His guiding hands caress,
He washes and anoints with oil
Then in His arms we rest.

Behold the wounds in Jesus' hands,
Look to your Lord and live
He yearns to bless you with His love
And all your sins forgive.
Oh empty is the heart of man
When it is filled with sin.
Come open wide your broken heart
And let your Savior in.

Behold His wounded hands and feet!
Come touch and see and feel
The wounds and marks that you may know
His love for you is real.
Then as you fall to worship Him
and wash His feet in tears
Your Savior takes you in His arms
And quiets all your fears.

Your Savior takes you in His arms
And quiets all your fears.