Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pass, Fail, Complete.

Our oven is at least 15 years old. Just last year, the timer started randomly going off in the middle of the night, beeping continuously for hours. My painfully keen ear would hear it around 3 or 4 in the morning and I'd have to get out of bed, go downstairs, and angrily punch the "Clear" button. This went on for weeks, until it started happening even more frequently. It seemed to get worse right after we used the oven, going off two or three times during dinner. Then one day, when the timer had gone off for the third time during our meal, my husband reached back behind the oven, and unplugged it. We couldn't believe it had taken us this long to figure this out. Our cabinets had a gap just barely big enough for us to reach back and plug it in when we needed it. Now here we are one year later, doing just fine with our old lady oven.

I think my life as a mother is, sometimes, like my oven. I make a lot of mistakes, daily. No matter how many times I make a goal to stop yelling, I will succeed for a time, but inevitably I mess up. And I yell and act irrationally. And then I am flooded with guilt. I apologize. I repent. I journal and ask myself the same question: Why do I keep coming back to this point? That beeper keeps going off; sometimes it seems justified and I get why I feel angry or frustrated. Sometimes it seems to come out of nowhere. But the beeping always returns, no matter how many times I reach out and push the "Clear/Restart" button.

Sometimes I think I'm just plain crazy and that I should just fill a prescription of some kind to numb my emotions. Sometimes I think I'm depressed, or have anxiety, or a severe hormonal imbalance (pretty sure all of those come with motherhood anyway...). But what to do? Where's my plug to STOP the blaring beeping mistakes I make on a daily basis?

When I was a missionary, I heard a quote that has stuck in my mind ever since: "Time will pass, will you?" Just writing it down tends to give me anxiety. But at the time, it was a good reminder that every day in the mission field was an opportunity to "pass"--to do my best and work hard to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. But now as a mom, I automatically sift my actions into a "pass" or "fail" column and believe that they somehow cancel each other out. Every time I fail, it cancels a previous success. (Timer goes off again).

I've been at war with a little emotion called "anger." I read in Five Love Languages for Children that "The greatest enemy towards encouraging our children is anger" and "Parents who have not learned to control their own anger can't teach their own children how to do so." [BEEP BEEP BEEP!]

How can I be a good mother to my children when I still have so much to learn? This morning I happened to read Matthew 5, the very end of which says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Of course I leaned in on the word, "perfect" (faint BEEP BEEP) and found that the word itself was translated from the Greek teleios, which means, "complete." The infinitive form of the verb is teleiono, which means "to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or to finish."

After speaking with some trusted friends about this, I started to see how both my mistakes AND my successes ADD to my progression. They don't cancel each other out at all! I have to "unplug" my natural tendency to feel shame when I "lose it" and to fall into the destructive cycle of beating myself up. I am human and I will always feel anger, because it is an emotion. And when I don't handle it well, it becomes an opportunity to learn how to handle it better NEXT TIME. My failures give weight and understanding to my successes.

"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so...righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one." (2 Nephi 2:11)

Life is not a pass or fail. It is a process of falling, standing and waving out an apology, tuning out the beeps of shame and hopelessness, and trying again, knowing we'll fall, but we'll be stronger for it. Scraped knees never were anything to be ashamed of.

I've seen signs that say, "Sorry for the mess, but we live here." I want to put a sign on my forehead, and my kids' foreheads, that say, "Sorry for the mistakes, but I'm human." Every time I pause before reacting, think before judging, and hug before blaming, or talk softly instead of blowing up, I am gaining an ounce of trust from my children. And thus, our challenges and head-butts, failures and awful tear-filled "we're late for school and why on earth are your shoes in the backyard and your coat is missing and you never got socks on like I asked and what do you mean you don't want to eat your eggs??" kind of mornings are drops in the bucket. They mean something. They don't cancel out the good, they just make it mean so much more.

And. When my children see me apologize sincerely and try harder next time, hopefully, just hopefully, I am showing them that they too do not need to be perfect, just on the path to "complete."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Family Home Evening on Service and Loving One Another

I do all I can to remind my kids the real reason we're celebrating Christmas. This year, I tried something new in an attempt to keep our focus on the Savior and His example of love and service. We did this on a Monday night, for our Family Night activity. We started out by watching this video on the Mormon Channel:

Then I read them the story of Jesus washing His disciples feet in John 13. I explained what He meant when he said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt 25:40). We talked a little bit about how doing kind things for others makes us feel happy, and how that's the kind of gift the Savior wants us to give to Him for Christmas.

Then I shared this poem, written by a dear friend, Debra Peterson:

I believe that God sends angels
to ease the burdens we must bare
and we rarely face affliction
without an angel there

but all angels aren't in Heaven
nor do they all have wings
and they seldom sound their trumpets
and not every angels sings

and they often remain anonymous
in the service that they give
and we rarely recognize them
or realize where they live

but if you'll pause for just a moment
when your neighbor's laundry is hung
you might just see a pair of wings
drying in the sun

© debra darrington peterson

We talked about how God sends angels to help others, and how often those angels are US! I referred back to The Coat and how that little boy was an angel to the boy who was cold, without a coat. I invited my kids to "PUT ON THEIR WINGS" this month, and be an angel for someone. The challenge was to ask this question, every day:
"Who needs me today?"
I told them about this famous movie quote, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." We decided that every time we "put on our angel wings" and did service for someone, we would get to hang a bell on our tree.
So far we have five bells on our tree. They are sweet reminders of how good it feels to do something kind for someone else. I love that there's no way to write our name on them either. We talked a bit about what "anonymous" means.
I look forward to the rest of this month as we continue to ask ourselves, "Who needs me today?" and I can ask my kids, "Did you put on your angel wings today?" 

How do you incorporate service into your Christmas traditions?

And lastly, here's a nice little reality shot for you, just in case you imagined this Family Night activity going smooth as buttuh.....


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Giving Thanks

Gratitude Door

This year, I wanted to set up some ways to remind us of all that we have to be grateful for, and how we can share what we have with others. We are trying to center our family "mission statement" around one of my favorite hymns:

"Because I have been given much, I too must give."

(I love the print of this quote by the Caravan Shoppe HERE).

That said, I decided to pick up some pictures from Deseret Book of the Savior, the prophet, the temple, etc. I developed some recent family photos and put out some magazines where they could cut out pictures of things they're grateful for. We set everything out on the floor and started choosing our favorites and taped them to our front door, where we could see it every time we come and go.

 I had the "G-I-V-E" letters from last year. I was pretty sure we had "Give Thanks" but turns out I actually just had TWO "Gives." It works.
 This picture may not show it, but we had a lot of fun looking through the family photos. Edison got so excited when he saw a picture of himself on his bike. And Charlotte wanted to keep a picture of Jane for her room. (We had to keep all the photos up high so Jane couldn't reach.)

Turkey Tablecloth
 We're starting a new tradition. I bought a white canvas tablecloth at Target and a pack of fabric markers...
 We're calling it our "Turkey Tablecloth." Charlotte had this idea that we could trace our hands to make turkeys and Hazel said we could write what we're grateful for inside the turkey.
I love it when my kids have ideas. Especially when they involve their little hands.
 The idea is that we will add a hand each year with five things we're most grateful for that year.
 Some of us are still brainstorming.

 I really love the legs on Ellie's turkey.
 I like the idea of writing down what we're grateful for every year, but I also like the idea of being able to keep it and look back at it every year that follows. I hope this works and one day I'll have a tablecloth FILLED with growing hands and words of gratitude.

Here is Hazel's completed list for this year.  I love that she's grateful for food.
And Charlotte's list: Water, house, world, food, and family.

Also, check out my other Thanksgiving ideas here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Letter B

B is for Boo!
This is my favorite book for the Halloween season, ever. I love it and every one of my kids has loved it. I've done this activity once before, but we did it again and it was a hit.

 I like acting out each part as we read this book together and your kids can help with the sounds that each part of the (spoiler-alert!) scarecrow makes. My two year old was so nervous by the time that jack-o-lantern said, "BOO!" I knew that was the word that we needed to run with for the letter B.
 Every Fall, I add a bit to my collection of Halloween crafts and I happened to have a bunch of foam pumpkins left over with sticker faces that make them into jack-o-lanterns. You could use construction paper, felt, or even have your child paint faces onto a paper plate pumpkin to make their own jack-o-lantern. The possibilities are overwhelming.

 I let my little ones decorate as many pumpkins as they wanted and we traced some hands because someday I will burst into tears when I open my Halloween bin and see those tiny fingers.

 We talked about the story and decided that we needed to go find a pumpkin head for our own scarecrow we had made out of Edison's clothes, pronto. He currently looked like a lifeless toddler-sized body laying on our front stairs. 
We went on a field trip for Joy School that same day to an elk farm in the valley, which happened to have a self-serve pumpkin farm close by. That's when I realized that I had no cash and had to take all of my children into a local grocery store, by myself. Then back to the pumpkin farm. Then back to the grocery store where they actually had better prices on pumpkins.
But that's another story.
 Gosh, I'm lucky.

 But we did find just the right sized-head for our own scare-crow and Charlotte drew on a face that seemed to shout, 

"B is for Bats"
The next day, my older girls didn't have school so we kept the ball rolling with our Letter of the Week and did "B is for Bats."
 This idea came from a cute blog I recently found called Crafty Morning.
I like it because it's an activity that can work for a variety of ages.

First, I printed off a few of the templates provided by Crafty Morning, HERE.
Then I had the able-scissor-handed kids (did I say that right?), cut them out. 
As modeled so brightly by Charlotte here.

Tape the bats onto white or black paper, depending on the color of paints you want to use.
I gave each kid a paper plate with paint on it and a pencil with an eraser for the dots.

Dip the end of your pencil into the paint and outline the bat first, then move outward, keeping the dots heavy around the bats so they show up when you remove them after the paint dries.

Knowing my personality, I would have never guessed that making a big crafty mess on my table with a bunch of kids (we had a few extras) would be my thing. 
But this picture makes me so happy.
 Even my two year old enjoyed this activity for about 30 minutes. I gave him a paintbrush and he later added some of his sister's discarded bat stencils.

I always try to drive it home with one last refresher before we move on. Today we read some more "B" books from the library and practiced writing the letter B on paper.
I had some bug stickers that we used to cover the B, reiterating it's shape.


Here are some more books that help teach this letter:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Letter A

Here we go! Here are some Letter A activities that we've been working on. First, we did "A is for Ants." I went to our library and found some books on ants and ant colonies. Our librarians are incredible, people. Do you know your local librarians? I think they are such fantastic resources and so willing to help out. Mine even printed out information from the internet on how to make your own ant farm! I haven't attempted that yet, but I'd like to try something like this.

I found this idea to make ants with your fingerprints in black paint, crawling over a hill that is the letter A. And for some reason, I only took this one, very unhelpful picture. I had some extra kids over that day:

But they ended up looking something like this:

While they crafted, I read the books about ants and we talked about it a bit. I also played the video clip on YouTube for the Letter A from Sesame Street. We love these videos. 
And that was all we did that week.

Then we went to Kauai. Without our children.
A different kind of activity time.

It was incredible. Need I say more?

Then we came home. 

And we started back in with A is for Alligators! My kids have LOVED talking about alligators. I don't know why. Edison might really believe there is one living under his bed. 
Thanks to this great book:

I cut out giant letter A's out of green paper and lots of teeth out of white paper.

 Then I cut out the shape of the eyes (bottom of above pic) where we glued googly eyes. Nice and simple people; do you see a theme here? (Source for this idea found here.)
 Ed glued the teeth all over the A and I was just happy he was participating!
And not eating the glue stick.

 The next day, it was raining so I decided to do some more activities with our alligators. I hid the two that they made in different spots and we played this game I threw together using things I had around the house.
 My kids love the song "Five Little Monkeys" where they tease Mr. Alligator. I had this tree my oldest daughter made for a family night activity, so I put five pom-pons in the tree, representing monkeys. This activity is not meant to impress anyone.
Had I prepared a little more, I could have printed out five pictures of actual monkeys and colored them, or laminated them.
I like the pom-poms.

 I colored a clothes-pin with a green marker and we sang our song and they got to SNATCH that monkey right out of that tree! They loved it.
Then I got really quiet and told them that there were two REAL alligators hiding in our house.
And they believed me.
'Cause I'm the mom and I hold that much power.
They searched around until they found their alligators from the day before. Then they made those alligators eat the pom-pom monkeys out of the tree and we sang the song a few more times.
(Do you like the mixed-matched half-gone pajamas we have on here??)

That afternoon, my Eloise was bored and STILL wanted more alligators in our house, so we made a very simple craft using a paper plate, green paint, white paper teeth, and googly eyes. She did most of it on her own ("More teeth please mom!).

Run with it! Email me your crafts. I'll share them and praise you for your hard work.
Know you're doing a good job, whatever you're doing with your kids.
These are just ideas if you need them.
Don't stress.
You're amazing.
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