Friday, May 17, 2013

Guest Posting about Motherhood (Friday Favorites)

I was thrilled to be asked to guest-post with several other wonderful women on Kathryn Skagg's blog last week in honor of Mother's Day.

Check it out here: Mothering with Strength, Power, and Personal Conviction

Or, if you're too lazy to go read through all of it, here's my short portion:

This week, we celebrate what some of my younger children refer to as "Smother's Day." After the way some of them behaved at Church recently, jostling for the prime position on my lap, breaking my necklace, refusing to attend nursery without me there and then writhing on my lap refusing to engage with the other children for the next hour and a half, I felt just a bit smothered.

My great-grandmother was fond of saying, "Your children are your priceless possessions." She said it often throughout her life. In her later years, as her mind got more and more confused and scattered, this one phrase would stay constant. She said it to everyone multiple times a day, and one day when she said it to me, I heard her daughter and primary care-giver mutter under her breathe in exasperation, "I feel possessed."

Smothered and Possessed. That's the way of life when you're the primary care-taker and nurturer full-time. Tied down. Letting your talents lie dormant and losing yourself and your intellect in the stifling stagnant atmosphere of your own home.

Or so many teach in the world today. Success is measured in wealth, power, and prominence, and choosing to stay at home nurturing children brings none of those things. It is a quiet road with few honors and recognitions.

But it has much to offer, this road. The Savior has taught that the worth of one individual soul is great and His ministry was so often to the one. He has taught that when we minister and help the “least of these” we are really serving him. The truth is, my children are not objects to be possessed, they are souls to be nurtured.

As a mother of nine precious souls, I’ve learned what it is to minister. Each child I have is unique and wonderful and it is a privilege to work in partnership with God to create a home that helps them to reach their very best potential. I am a gardener growing the most precious of plants. It’s not an easy job. The work is tiring, the weeds never-ending, the sun and storms unrelenting at times. Sometimes (ok – often) the call of the work comes in the middle of the night. Hardest of all is that my plants take time to cultivate and on a day-to-day basis, it’s hard to see the progress I’m making. Being a mother is not convenient, it’s not easy, and the call of more prominence or prestige could cause me to neglect these tender plants. But the satisfaction of knowing that God’s hand is in my life, directing my labors and helping me meet the needs of his precious children, is the greatest reward of all.

So I’m happy to accept being smothered and possessed at times. It’s part of the package of being given the greatest job in the world, that of Mother.
  (yep, definitely smothered!)

Also, a few weeks ago, I was privileged to spend one day at BYU Women's Conference.  My good friend Cheryl Savage presented on Jesus Christ as a champion of Womanhood and Motherhood.  Her presentation was WONDERFUL and the best part is, you can read it for yourself here.  She begins by saying,
As you can see by the ages of my children, I am in the midst of what has been dubbed as "the trenches." I am in the midst of the messy, physically demanding years. From dawn to dusk, and even through the night, I am on call. I am nurturing and teaching. I am fighting off evil that would capture and harm my children. I am a soldier of epic proportions! I am in a war against Satan and the world. This is my stage and my season. I am a warrior!
And it just gets better from there!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A Day in the Life

I've had a lot on my mind and so much I want to write about and capture, yet the demands of my life, my health (sure wish I didn't still need a nap every day!), and my family prevent me from writing everything.

I read this yesterday and it resonated with how I feel about my kids growing up:

Even now, time is clearly not our natural dimension. Thus it is that we are never really at home in time. Alternately, we find ourselves impatiently wishing to hasten the passage of time or to hold back the dawn. We can do neither, of course. Whereas the bird is at home in the air, we are clearly not at home in time—because we belong to eternity. Time, as much as any one thing, whispers to us that we are strangers here. If time were natural to us, why is it that we have so many clocks and wear wristwatches?  (Neal A. Maxwell, Patience)

So much of my life feels the same from day to day and yet the years are short and I let too much slip me by without really appreciating it.  One of the best parts about being a mother is creating relationships with unique and precious individuals.  Just yesterday, I had these simple, fun, instructive, and wonderful moments:

* Cami laughs at me when I do yoga, contorts herself to imitate me, and climbs on me when I'm trying to do some poses.

* Harmony learned a fun song called "Four Hugs a Day" at preschool and she loves to sing it, but insists that it's "my song!" if anyone else tries to sing it.  So I've told her that if I don't get my four hugs a day, then I get to sing the song all I want.  Yesterday, as I was loading the car with four little girls, there was a bit of contention between Harmony and Katie, so I started singing the song to distract them.  Harmony jumped out of the car and grabbed me in four tight quick hugs, "One, two, three, four, there!" she announced.

* here's a video of Harmony singing the song with her class.  Check out her fancy dancing moves at the 1:00 mark:

*  Harmony started singing "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes" yesterday and Katie threw a fit, insisting "That's MY song!"

*  I took the four girls to the grocery store and Costco.  We enjoyed banana smoothie samples and I told them we weren't buying cereal or the adorable poofy dresses they saw because they weren't at a good price.  Eliza asked me questions like, "Is pumpkin pie healthy for you?" and "What about eating just sugar?"  Katie insistently proclaimed to the others that churros "were SO!" healthy as they devoured them on the ride home.  I asked them to share pieces with Cami.  By the time we got home, her carseat was covered in small smushed bits of churro the others had overwhelmed her with.  She's only got two hands, you know?

* Lillian watched the littlest girls after school while I ran six miles in 64 minutes, my fastest at that distance yet.  Oh, and it was raining.

* I got out our Halloween costumes and helped Allison and Sarah find costumes for Rome day at school today.
* I lost my temper with a child who was complaining his/her punishment was unjust and that I loved everyone else more than them.  We made up later.

* I taught Michael how to cut up pineapple and watermelon for a fruit salad to go with the simple crockpot chicken and rice I'd made.

* I got fed up with the messes in the family office and barked at three kids to clean up the books on the floor, the papers and art supplies.  Of course, I got the "why do *I* have to do it?" in response.  (See, my kids don't complain about their regularly assigned jobs, just the ones they view as "extra").

* Allison and Sarah decided to have a "wacky contest" with weird dress-ups.  We decided Allison won.

*  After the contest, Allison wrapped Allison's arm in toilet paper to make a fake cast and sling and then had everyone write their name on it.

* I got to read three little girls bedtime stories while an older girl listened from behind the couch.

* I had to call Michael back to the kitchen several times to make sure he followed through on REALLY cleaning the sink as part of his dish duties.

* Harmony and Katie threw a party in their room and played with ponies they'd snuck in instead of going to sleep.  Katie threw a fit when I made her sleep on my bed instead of getting to sleep in her room with Harmony.

*  Lillian came home from her violin lesson to announce that her teacher (a senior in high school) had gotten his mission call and was going to open it that night.  Later, he announced on Facebook he's heading to Taiwan in August and will be in the same mission as his brother for some months.  We're so happy for him and his family.

So there you go.  Nothing especially profound to say about it all, except that I am privileged to be a mother and I'm grateful for my life.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Cute little girls (Wordless Wednesday)

I have the cutest and the best little girls in the world. I love having six little ones in a row (though Allison and Sarah insist they aren't "little girls" anymore). A few pictures from the last few months:

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Q&A Thursday: Surviving and Thriving with all little ones

Today's questions are from Liz Wheeler:
Okay, here's what I'm looking for: what did your routine look like when your oldest was 7  and you still needed a nap everyday?  Here's another question: How long do your kids "train" like Eliza is doing - until what age?
To be honest, when you first asked the question, I drew a blank when I tried to think about what my schedule was back when I had all "littles" -- it feels like a long time ago and the years are blurry because I was so darn tired all the time!  But a lot of the things I do now I started then: 

(my kids -- ages 5, 3.5, 2, and newborn)
 *  We had Family Work Day once a week to clean the entire house.  It would have been faster to just do it ourselves, but we used the time each week to teach the kids how to work and do the tasks.  With both my husband and I there to help teach and work, it was manageable to divide the kids up and conquer.

*  I used "quiet time" in the afternoon.  This was and is the time TV is allowed for my little ones.

* I had a weekly routine of days for the various activities and chores I did.  I did laundry once a week (now it's twice), we went to the library once a week, and we'd go to the park several days a week in good weather.  I'd switch off with other moms to do co-op preschools and playgroups and things like that as well.

* I fit in exercise however I could.  One year, a group of us met at the local Church building to do aerobics together and we switched off watching the kids.  I also did a lot of videos and went walking a lot, often in the evenings when my husband could be home.

* I am a lot more relaxed about my younger kids helping with the work than I was when I didn't have older kids.  But I still ask for their help at various times and the 4-7 age groups work alongside us during family work day.  I expect Harmony (age 4.5) to clean her room several times a week and she's capable of doing it without help.  Eliza (6) empties a dishwasher every day, runs little errands for me, and helps clean the room she shares with Allison and Sarah.  I have noticed with each of my kids that there is a transition that happens with them around age 6 or 7.  With each one, there's a noticeable change that occurs in just a few months.  They go from whining and complaining about work to realizing that they are capable and enjoy being helpful.  They become proud of being able to empty a dishwasher or straighten the mudroom and seem to enjoy the responsibility.  The new-found confidence is wonderful to watch and while I don't push it by asking for too much, they usually do their daily zone without much complaint from then on.

*  As a sidenote, I've realized in my years of parenting that kids don't usually complain about the regular work they are used to; they complain about anything "extra."  My kids don't have a problem with working for several hours every Saturday, but if I try to throw in some cleaning or a project mid-week, I hear about it.  They don't complain about their regular daily zones (though they still need reminders), but if I ask them to do even simple additional jobs like taking out the trash, I'm more likely to get complaints.

There is no doubt, however, that having older kids definitely helps lighten the load on a family.  When they are young, everything depends on you -- even their regular chores require a lot of work from you in teaching, reminding, and following through.  It can be tough.  My friend Montserrat, a mother of ten who blogs at Chocolate on my Cranium, recently answered a similar question about surviving the young mother years on her blog: 

Surviving When All You Have are Young Ones

She asked a group of moms to contribute.  There's a lot of good advice shared in the post and the comments.  I encourage you to read the whole thing.  My portion was the following:

My first five were born in five years, and we now have 9 kids born in 13 years, so I remember those days when everything was on my shoulders with little helpers well. My top three tips are:
1. Despite how difficult it might be, find quiet time for yourself to reflect every day. Read scriptures, pray, and gain the strength to face the rest of the day.

2. Develop daily and weekly habits and schedules for your family. Consistent nap time or quiet time every day were essential. Once a week, we'd head to the library for storytime. Another day, we'd head out to the park or a museum for an adventure. On Saturdays, we started family work day when the kids were small. We'd all work together (including dad) until the house was clean. Having another adult around to train the kids to work and to help with the cleaning was a huge help to me. Routines help kids feel grounded and secure. Our daily routines included reading, play time, and an evening devotional.

3. Prioritize your own health and sleep. It can be easy to skip a nap yourself when you're tired, thinking that there is just too much to do to lie down. But if you take the time to sleep when you need to, you'll reap the benefits of a more peaceful mom and family. Take time to exercise in whatever way you can, whether it's getting up before the kids or going out in the evening when your husband can be home.
Finally, to quote all those old ladies you meet everywhere, try to enjoy the journey.  These are tough years, but they are rewarding.  The work you are doing in your home is important and is laying the foundation for happier years ahead.

What advice do you have for those with just little ones at home?


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