Monday, December 31, 2012

And this was December's Creation

Olliblocks-- something I saw on Pinterest and figured I could make. 
I don't know though... it worked and everything, and both kids were super excited when they saw them on Christmas, but now there are three or four blocks out of commission...I  need to fix them. 
But it's such a cute idea! HERE is where you find them.

This was November's Creation

The original source is found here. The site's in Chinese, but the picture tutorial is beautiful. It's so easy.

Anti-Resolutionary New Year

Okay, guess what. I think I'm a tad depressed (don't be alarmed, though, haha!). And I think it's a mom thing. And a vacation thing.
I don't work outside the home, so I'm already with the kids a lot. Then vacation time hits, and...I'm with the kids a lot! Haha... so why is it vacation? Oh, just kidding. But the difference for me, no matter where we are, is that vacation means I get more time with Michael. That's it. That is pretty much the only real change.
I'm not ungrateful for the other changes, like when we're visiting family and we're away from our own home. There are other ways that vacation is nice, of course! I ADORE being with family, and it does give me some freedom from my kids.
Anyway, look at it like this. I love my kids. I love my home. But I am at home with my kids so much that I need some change.
That's all.

I realized this month that I seriously miss running. Who would have thought! It happened somewhere along the way in my marathon training. Running now equals freedom to me. A very wonderfully private time for me.
And now there's snow on the ground. I wouldn't mind running in rain (in fact, I hoped so many times that it would rain during my months of marathon training...and it never once happened). But running in the snow is just not smart. Plus, my shoes couldn't handle it (and to be honest, I need new running shoes because a marathon can kill even the best sneakers).

It has all made me do some thinking, because depression is just stupid. And I know I'm not a sad person. How convenient that I'm taking action just when it's time to make some New Year's Resolutions, right?

Here's the deal, though. I'm sick of calling this stuff Resolutions. I'm looking at it a new way, finally. My aim this year is to create some good habits that I really need to have. Things that will help me to be a happy woman, a happy mom, and a happy wife.

I know making art restores my emotional health incredibly well.
I know exercising gives me really important time to myself.
I know I feel really good about myself when I cook and bake for the family.
I know I stress less when I'm organized with my budget and home.
I know I am happier when I take care of myself.
I know waking up early makes everything easier.
I know I love my church calling more when I prepare for each Sunday.

Therefore, these are the personal habits I would like to enforce:

  • WAKE UP EARLY. And I mean early. Not just early enough to get a headstart. Early enough that I can have time for myself, blogging and reading scriptures and escaping to the gym before having to worry about getting breakfast started. 
  • DRAW/CREATE EVERY WEEK. Seriously! I still love trying to create something every month, but I'm "upgrading" this so that I will make myself draw (or make artwork--not a craft) every week. 
  • CREATE A WEEKLY MENU. Not a monthly or bimonthly one...that intimidates me a little too much still when I sit down to put it together. I'm not going to think about breakfasts except for all the Sunday mornings. A weekly menu of dinners. That's all. 
  • BUDGET MONTHLY. And keep up with the budget during the month. 
  • AIM TO WEAR MAKEUP EVERY DAY. That's a really big deal for me. By aiming that high, I'm more likely to get the other stuff done (shower, hair, etc.). Phew...this really is a big one. But I think it will be really, really good for me. 
  • TAKE SUNDAYS SERIOUSLY. I will use my Sundays to prepare for my calling, and I will make sure things are taken care of for visiting teaching. 
  • GO TO THE TEMPLE MONTHLY. Even if our schedule makes me have to go by myself. That would be better than not going! 
  • TALK TO A FAMILY MEMBER EVERY DAY. Not just text or email. Real talking-- a quick little phone call is good enough. I think that I really need this. 

I'm tempted to make myself choose certain days for certain things. Monday=art, Thursday=temple, etc. But I actually think that's a bad idea. Because I've tried to do that before, and it drove me crazy. I'm kind of a booger about having "freedom" in my schedule-- and to be honest, I think that's a good thing! Not just because I have a couple kids who have no qualms about being cranky on busy days (know what I mean?). If I try and stick myself to rigid calendar, I'll feel overwhelmed, and I will rebel. 

Sheesh, am I really only just learning this the day before I'm 25? 
(And yes, for some reason that feels a bit old to me...mostly because I feel like 25 is happening sooner than I'm ready for it, not because the age itself is old). 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tender Mercies

This is two posts in one.

I wrote (for myself) about how things are going lately with Ender. We have a hard time sometimes...and I wish I could say it's just a stage or that it's directly tied to his age, but I don't think that's really true. I think a lot of it has to do with who my brilliant son is. Ender is extremely smart, and he is also a bit high-strung emotionally. I know this isn't obvious to everyone...for example, his grandparents generally see his softer side when he's delightfully inquisitive and patient and ponderous. He is, after all, a wonderful boy. What they don't usually see is how he acts on a normal, boring day.
I love my son. I seek to understand him, and I am trying to be humble and teachable as I learn how to be a better mom. But that just doesn't mean that things go smoothly all the time. Honestly, I hog the blame to myself because I believe Ender is innocent even when he seems not to be. I tend to believe that if I could just do things right, problems would get ironed out a lot faster.
Whether or not that's true--I keep telling myself it is even though I know that parenting is not a perfect recipe and not every mistake is my fault--we have hard times here.

So I wrote about it. Writing helps me sort out my thoughts. It helps me be honest with myself. It helps me to think deeper even if I don't end with a solution. Writing has always been a sort of therapy for me. This post will include what I wrote (which is about something that is current and ongoing; for example, today Ender told me he wished he had a different mom...he asked a question, and he didn't like my answer because it meant he wasn't know, that kind of thing). This post will also include something I found today that I consider an answer to prayers. A tender mercy.
It was a simple comment in a post I happened to read nearly a year ago. I happened to be browsing my facebook page today (something I rarely do, in all solemn honesty). I happened to open the post again. And then I happened to read through a few comments. There it was! A sweet old woman shared her feelings. And it touched me, comforted me.

Here is what I wrote for myself followed by that comment that is uplifting me today (along with a link to its source).

And God bless the mommies who are deep in their hard work.

When we stayed with the family in Rexburg, Ender had a terrible tantrum one evening. He had decided we were enemies in the bedtime routine, and he screamed and slammed doors and tried to hit me. One of the things he screamed was that he hated me.
I know better than to be completely hurt by that, even though it's always sad when he says that. I simply told him that I loved him, and I sat by the door while he stormed back and forth from his bed to beating the closed door with alarming fury.
Michael brought Ender a drink of water, and the fight was over. Ender went to sleep, exhausted. 
I remember just a few specific tantrums I've had; one at the age of about 7 where I threw my bedroom furniture around, wanting to destroy everything; one at the age of about 10 when I told my mother I hated her, and I wanted to hurt her when she calmly picked me up and toted me to my bedroom; and one perhaps two years ago when I was babysitting a little baby girl before Scarlett was born (I don't remember if I was pregnant-- that would be a nice excuse, but I honestly don't know if I was), and both the girl and Ender were screaming at me at full capacity, and I went kind of crazy and ran to my bedroom to pound the floor with my fists and scream and roar into a pillow and bawl my eyes out.
I know how it feels. I know how sometimes the anger just takes over (when you coax it on), and suddenly the anger will take any channel for expression. The screaming and the physical lashing out is almost a side effect, something that feels good as a release but awful in the lack of control. It's horrible. Ender and I have talked about that feeling, of how it is so hard to stop.
He gets mad a lot. I bought myself a book, sort of for Christmas, "Dreamers, Discoverers, and Dynamos." Something like that. I'm just hoping that I'll be able to reach Ender better, that we'll have a stronger connection.

As we left Mom and Dad's, Ender said in a matter-of-fact voice "I wish I had a nicer mom, different than you." We hadn't had any significant struggles that morning, and I had been kind to him. Again, it seemed like something I shouldn't let myself be hurt by, but I have to admit it has made me wonder why. On one hand, I could say it's just something kids say. And even though kids can be badly honest about how they feel, their feelings can change back and forth like a chameleon's color. It was pretty obvious to me that he was noticing the juxtaposition of Mommy and Grandma's house, everyone loves to meet his demands and come to his aid the moment he's distressed. Me, I'm a little more willing to tell him to just deal with it and move on.
His little comment has made me wonder if I ought to be gentler, quieter, softer, more flexible. I guess he just feels like I always have the upper hand, always the control and power. And he fights that very naturally. It's exhausting for both of us.

I'm well aware that my son is a wonderful boy. In many ways, I feel like I really do understand him. I remember being like him as a kid in the way I thought about things or the way I wanted to be included all the time. I thought my parents believed they knew everything, and I didn't like that, so I wanted to prove otherwise.
It's kind of the way a lot of kids are, isn't it. Or I should say people, since some go through those feelings later instead of during childhood. I'm not trying to paint my case Unusual. I know it happens like this in other homes. The fact is, it is hard.

There's some guilt in it all, too. Whether rightly or not, I often blame myself for the difficulties Ender and I have. I figure that it's my duty as his mother to learn how to handle rough situations with him, and it leaves me feeling like those rough situations could have been avoided had I only known how to approach it all.
I also feel guilty imagining that someday Ender will read this and feel hurt that I found our relationship...unsmooth.

The bare bones of it all are that I love my son so extremely much, and in all the nearly-five years of his life, I have wanted him to know it. Sometimes I am not very good at being a mom. It is certain my humanness will be very obvious to him as he grows up. I just hope it's also obvious that I love him and have tried to be a good mom. Sometimes I think I am, and sometimes I think I've got it all wrong.

Here is the quote I found today at the end of the post "Don't Carpe Diem" (worth a read):
As one of the older women out there, trying hard to bite my tongue and NOT say those things to the newer moms I see.....I honor you for being so truthful. Not many women admit to their own feelings about motherhood (and there are many conflicting feelings involved in caring for somebody else 24/7). And I'd like to remind other older women that today's moms have MORE work to do than we did - they also work jobs outside their homes when most of us were stay-at-home moms. That makes a huge difference in the amount of stress and lack of time for yourself. My advice to any mom today - take some time for yourself. Give yourself a manicure, take a long bath, do anything that makes YOU happy for at least 20 min. a day (or more if possible). Call it whatever makes it work for you - Mommy's time or Mommy's time-out, whatever. Just give to yourself as well. Keep it up, good soldier. You ARE doing a great job and being honest in the details of what it means to be a mom....the good AND the bad AND the ugly. Your children will grow up to be wonderful people that appreciate their mom's hard work. You'll see! -DianneU 

Update: One last "tender mercy." I saw a book at the family's house called "What Husbands Expect of Wives," and because I was amused that there was such a book, I opened it. I just happened to read a certain phrase... Some women are better wives than mothers. And some women are better mothers than wives. I believe that is true! And while I also believe that things can become a little more balanced over time, I'm pretty sure I make a better wife than a mom (Michael says I am a good wife, which is just one of the ways he is such a good husband). I am not a BAD mom, usually, but I definitely have to work harder on that role of mine. But that phrase has really helped me be a little softer on myself, a little more humble and willing to learn, and I understand myself a little better. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Merry Christmas

We had a really lovely Christmas. :)
The gifts were not all handmade, not even mostly handmade (with all my project goals, we ended up with one handmade-by-me gift under the tree. It was well-received, but it is now out of commission because it is in need of repair. Of course). Michael's mom made a super-soft fluffy blanket for Scarlett, and she adores it.
We had planned for a "humble" Christmas, and somehow we ended up with a very "prosperous" Christmas. Gifts from family were added to the collection we had for the kids, and in the end, we all had a lot of presents. That was very fun. It was a little baffling, to be honest.
More than anything, I hoped that it would be a day that we could really feel the Spirit and stay happy and get along well. We read stories of Jesus all month in preparation, and we shared bits and pieces of testimony with Ender throughout the days leading up to Christmas. I believe he understood enough to see why it's a celebrated day! We even talked about how giving gifts feels at least as good as getting gifts.
So I am most thankful that on Christmas day, we were all cheerful. We smiled at each other all day, and the kids were patient about whose turn it was to open a present. They didn't get cranky if their pile of toys got invaded, and they were excited to play when the present-opening was over.
That was a gift for me.
Michael and I enjoyed seeing the glee on our kids' faces as they gasped over their presents. We loved the feeling of giving our children things that we knew they would enjoy! And it was so wonderful to have a calm and peaceful day like that.

I hope your Christmas was as lovely and beautiful! Merry Christmas!

And since it's around the corner, Happy New Year! :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Santa Issue

Dear Santa,
I never believed in you.
Michael and I have known from the beginning that we wouldn't be playing the Santa game with our kids. I'll tell you why...and I'll be very honest. Don't get your panties in a bunch, this is just the way we do things.

Santa is not real, and we won't try to teach our kids that he is, because it is pointless. It really is. You know who is real and should be the focus of Christmas? Jesus Christ. No wonder so many Christian parents wonder how they can help their kids understand the true meaning of Christmas, and they're busy looking for ways to remind their kids...but it's harder because they're also holding onto the tradition of Santa.

My parents would play around with the Santa thing with us kids. If they had to keep something secret, they'd give us a teasing look and say that it was up to Santa or something like that. And we felt like we were in on the joke. There was no stress about Santa for me. I knew he was a fun tradition, and I knew that people liked to pretend that gifts were from him. It was just fun.
I also understood that some kids really thought he was real. My parents tried to help us be sensitive to that fact.

This is where things get frustrating for me now-- why won't other people be sensitive to the way we teach our children that Santa is not real? Do they not realize that it's just not funny to tell my son that he should write a letter to Santa and tell him what presents he'd like? Because guess what...we had to have a bit of the "Santa talk" this morning. He thought that he had to write to Santa, and he felt concerned about it.
I was there when someone was telling Ender he had to do that, but there were other children around, so I couldn't just say "Sorry, we don't play the Santa game!" I wanted to be careful about that since I know there are families who make it a big deal. So it's a little frustrating that things don't work the other way around.
I had to remind Ender this morning that it's only fun to pretend that Santa is the one giving everybody presents, but he knows who is really giving him presents. I had to re-explain that Santa doesn't matter. I reminded him about the scriptures stories we've been reading about Jesus this month and that Christmas is all about Jesus.

Look, I get it...I get that it's fun for the parents to tease their kids into believing something like that. I get how the tricks are just delightfully sneaky as you watch how gullible your kids are. The way I'm putting it might even sound mean, but I understand that it's fun. So don't get mad at me when I say that it's just the wrong thing to tease about. It confuses kids about the focus of Christmas (not just "the spirit of giving" but the life of our Savior). Michael and I personally feel that it's a little too manipulative of children's willingness to believe whatever we tell them, especially when it concerns something so important.

Go ahead and do your Santa thing if you really feel so strongly about it. If you think it's "cute" or whatever. But please, please, please don't try and make my son believe in Santa! That is not how we do things here. I'm not trying to make you feel like we are better than you, I just want to make it clear that in our effort to embrace Christmas, we don't mess around. We center our Christmas around Christ.

Please read update!
UPDATE: Okay, now I feel like the Grinch. PLEASE don't think I'm bitter! I'm worried my writing looks mean and nasty when I don't mean for it to be that way. Santa is fun, and I have lots of fond memories of reading about Santa stories and learning more about the history of how "Santa" came about. Our family had a hilarious "biography" of Santa that we loved reading (even during non-Christmas months!). Mostly, I wanted to express how I feel about making kids believe Santa's real. Because he's not. The magic of Christmas is fun and wonderful, but faking the magic just...doesn't appeal to us.