Thursday, November 29, 2007

What a Year It's Been! (Family Christmas Letter)

Note: If you received our Christmas Letter in the mail and are looking for the “real” answers, keep scrolling down on this blog entry. They’re listed under “Real Answers.” If you’ve yet to read our Christmas Letter, DON’T CHEAT. Follow the instructions for maximum enjoyment.


This year we’ve turned our Christmas letter into a fun game to play with family and friends, or you can play it by yourself. To begin with, fill in the blanks in the following column with the words called for. (You might want to write them down on a separate piece of paper.) Then, using the words you’ve chosen, fill in the blanks in our Christmas letter.

You can decide just how crazy 2007 was for us!


What a Year It’s Been!

1) verb, past tense
2) number
3) musical instrument
4) body part
5) construction job
6) color
7) color
8) color
9) baby animal
10) dog breed
11) dog breed
12) verb
13) verb +s
14) unusual vegetable
15) verb
16) verb +ing
17) bird
18) plant
19) adjective
20) adjective


What a Year It’s Been!

Our family has 1. verb, past tense another year in Northern Utah. All 2. number children have continued taking 3. musical instrument lessons. Quite frankly, they consider it a chore. But hearing them practice is music to our 4. body part !

In February we finished the basement. My husband did all the 5. construction job , and I did most of the painting. Bean’s room is 6. color . Loula Belle’s is 7. color , and Bug decided to have his walls the same color as the rest of the basement — 8. color . Everyone enjoys having the extra space.

For my birthday, I asked for a 9. baby animal . Lou Belle found a liter advertised on-line in Salt Lake City. In late February we brought home a cute, black puppy and named her Annie. She’s 1/2 10. dog breed and 1/2 11. dog breed . Pretty much she’s a bundle of energy that loves to 12. verb you. I spend at least an hour a day caring for, exercising and training Annie. Our neighbor loaned us some DVDs of The Dog Whisperer. Everyone is now working to be good pack leaders. (Note: Annie’s best trait is that she rarely, if ever, 13. verb +s .)

This year’s garden overflowed with produce! A few of the things Safety Man planted include: peas, onions, tomatoes, beets, lettuce, sweet corn, more raspberries and even 14. unusual vegetable . Last year’s raspberries came on nicely, and we even had enough to 15. verb . Safety Man lined up customers at work, and we all helped with the 16. verb +ing (some more than others). We’re loving living on Belly Acre Farm. (And the kids love bellyaching!)

Bug earned his 17. bird Scout Award (while he was still 13). Way to go Bug! His project was installing a set of horseshoe pits at our local park. Loula Belle, our platinum blonde, is growing like a 18. plant ! She just might pass up Bug. Beans continues to be sweet and 19. adjective . She kept us all in stitches on our vacation to Yellowstone by telling gross jokes. (Q: Why did Piglet look in the toilet? A: He was looking for Pooh.)

We hope this letter finds you in good health and 20. adjective holiday spirits. Merry Christmas!
--------------------


The Real Answers to What a Year It’s Been!

1) survived
2) 3
3) piano
4) ears
5) finish work
6) pink
7) light blue
8) natural almond (tan)
9) puppy
10) Golden Retriever
11) German Shorthair
12) lick
13) barks
14) popcorn
15) sell
16) picking
17) Eagle
18) weed
19) funny
20) high

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Patience Report #6: Endless Weight Loss Plateau

Last night before I fell asleep I thought about my plan to learn patience this year. By and large I’ve been doing well. In fact, I’ve discovered that once you choose something to work on, to focus on, all sorts of solutions, ideas and lessons present themselves.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned from trying to be more patient is that it helps not to focus entirely on the here and now. When I try to view life with the end in mind, the little day to day annoyances don’t seem to niggle at me quite so much. Maybe that’s what Scarlett O’Hara meant when she so famously said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

I’m finding that I don’t lose my cool with my kids quite as much as I used to. I don’t obsess about what I can’t wait to purchase, and I’ve reduced the amount of expectations I have for almost everyone. (On really good days, that includes me.)

But I haven’t fully conquered impatience yet. Especially as it pertains to my weight loss goals. I’ve been on a plateau – meaning my weight has hovered right around the same weight (or gone up) -- for a full year. Plus a few months. I’m finding it difficult to stay motivated. Part of me wants to throw up my hands and say, “See. I told you my body couldn’t do it.” But then I’ll attend a Weight Watchers meeting and listen to others share how they’ve dealt with their struggles, and I decide to persevere.

A thought that seems to help me stick it out is, “Weight Watchers is like church for my body.” And since I’m getting a bit tired of paying $7.00 per week for the last 14 months, I’ve added a new clause: “I’ll never even come close to paying as much for Weight Watchers as I pay in tithing.” (Don’t analyze that last phrase. It just works for me.)

Part of patience, I’m discovering, is doing what you can do and living with, even accepting, what’s not in your power to change. I have a body that doesn’t function perfectly. It affects my weight loss efforts. It does not good for me to dwell on my health problems. Instead, I’ve come up with a list of “can do” phrases that I’ve written on a stack of cards. I try to review them once a day. Here’s what they say . . .
I can do this . . .

Take my dog for a walk instead of snacking.

Take the time to prepare healthy meals.

Be stronger than my carbohydrate cravings.

Forgive myself.

Make healthy choices a part of who I am.

Ask the Lord to help me transform my weaknesses into my strengths.

Pray for strength.

Eat less to feel better.

Write what I bite.

Enjoy being active in the great outdoors!

Play!

Be happy now. (Don’t put if off until I reach my goal weight.)

Ask for what I need.

Believe other when they say I look great.

Call a friend when I’m bored instead of snacking.

Look for ways to burn more calories.

Push myself further – especially at aerobics.

Become a fit woman!

Keep at it until I become a Lifetime Member at Weight Watchers.

Ask for support from family and friends.

Stay for weekly W.W. meetings.

Play with my husband and kids. (Basketball with Bug)

Plan out my day’s menu (what/quantity/points values) in the morning

Think positively and then listen and follow the voice inside my head.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

100 Things I'm Grateful For

Because the holidays are no longer creeping up on me but are launching themselves at me instead, this may be the last blog entry from me for a while. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal off and on since November of 1996. Seeing as how Thanksgiving is practically mauling me, I’m going to share some of the things I’ve been grateful for this year. Here they are in reverse chronological order.

1. My dad – we’re a lot alike in our love for the outdoors, dogs and quality.

2. My sister. She went to the Warren Miller ski movie with me this year (2007).

3. Empire apples .

4. The smell of fallen leaves.

5. The long-billed snipe I saw at the canal.

6. Six mallards swimming (sound like a chorus from the “Twelve Days of Christmas”).

7. Loula Belle – She’s bright and sunny, has such a cute smile that can really transforms her whole face.

8. Bug – his singlemindedness. Be it basketball, golf, school or church responsibilities.

9. Beans and her friend, Mallory – cute friends who balance each other out.

10. Annie – my beautiful, cheerful, playful, smart, obedient dog and friend.

11. A loving ward family.

12. The HUGE yellow-orange moon over the West mountains on my way to morning aerobics.

13. Walking to school with Beans – getting to hold her hand, noting the sun’s rays as they just started to peek over the East mountains.

14. The beautiful roses Safety Man gave me – what a thoughtful man!

15. The song of red-wing blackbirds.

16. Sunshine on morning frost.

17. An egg over-easy.

18. Bug’s sense of humor.

19. Working with Lou on the student council.

20. Playing the piano for Helen Peterson’s funeral.

21. For piano lessons – so glad I didn’t fight taking them (not too much, anyway).

22. Heavenly Blue Morning Glory blossoms on our front porch pillars.

23. Homemade oatmeal granola.

24. Zucchini and straight-neck squash.

25. Reading and marking my Book of Mormon with my new multi-colored, all-in-one marking pencil.

26. My friendship with K’leis.

27. Samuel Wood – he’s a kick!

28. For garbage day.

29. Sun reflecting off irrigation sprinklers.

30. Swallows swooping and flying over the lawn in the evening.

31. Bean’s sunflower’s nodding.

32. Our cat resting in the grass.

33. For time, forgiveness and hope.

34. For modern conveniences such as: computers, high-speed internet, electricity, central cooling, cars, hot water heaters. All amazing!

35. For my sister, again. I’m grateful that she was adopted into our family. Without her, I wouldn’t have a sister.

36. Linda’s son’s response to the possibility of getting a baby sister . . . “If you have a baby girl, let’s name her ‘stupid head.’”

37. Linda’s own brother’s response at her birth . . . “I’d rather have a puppy than a baby sister.”

38. Thank goodness Linda’s brother decided to transform his little sister into a tomboy. It’s just one of the joys of our friendship.

39. A bi-plane flying in the morning sky.

40. Shooting shotguns and shooting really well!

41. The feel of wind in my hair as I ride my bike with my dog.

42. Seeing the beautiful old barns in the Bear Lake valley.

43. My blowdryer.

44. The scent of Russian Olive trees in bloom.

45. Getting to see snow in the mountains in June.

46. The smell of wet earth.

47. The whinny of a horse.

48. The beauty green mountains with the shadows of clouds scudding across their ridges and canyons.

49. A cool spring breeze.

50. Sun and shadow. Light and air.

51. Eyes, ears, mouth and nose.

52. Kitchen conveniences: crockpot, rice cooker, bread machine, toaster, dishwasher, running water.

53. Sweat.

54. My sweetheart – our Friday date this week was spent out in the garden weeding the raspberries. I enjoyed working together and having un-rushed time to talk and catch up.

55. Squeaky duck wings in flight. (Why do they sound like they need a little WD-40?)

56. A bold meadow lard with a bright yellow breast.

57. Dew on the tips of long pasture grass.

58. Red toenail polish.

59. My Croc-style flip flops.

60. Hearing a mourning dove as I was planting my herb barrel.

61. Semi-sweet chocolate chips.

62. My first issue of Martha Stewart magazine.

63. The opportunity of share the gospel with Jose Franco.

64. Forsythia bushes, crocus and budding daffodils.

65. The temperamentality of spring!

66. For fun neighbors who host game nights.

67. Flying the shark kite with the girls.

68. Playing a little basketball with Bug.

69. Getting to watch the YM’s basketball team play our women’s basketball team (Orange Crush).

70. Living in an amazing age when information is so readily available.

71. The words of past and present prophets are right at my fingertips.

72. Getting my mending caught up.

73. Blowing bubbles and bouncing on the hippity-hops with the Activity Day girls.

74. Getting to play in the dirt (weeding).

75. Opening windows and having the inside smell clean and fresh like the outdoors.

76. Getting counseling that’s helping me communicate better and teaching me how to be content.

77. Boy, I love a good pen!

78. It’s ugly outside, but my puppy is cute.

79. I love it when the kids laugh out loud while reading the newspaper comics.

80. Laughing out loud myself.

81. For easy access to wonderful building supplies: cultured marble, latex paints, wall-to-wall carpet, electrical systems, central heating.

82. For Patt – the effort and preparation she went to in making my birthday dinner.

83. Play four!

84. A home that is 100% finished – it’s so nice to be able to use the basement to play ping-pong and darts, and to have two televisions.

85. Snow!

86. I can (could) wear a size 12 jeans. (It was the first time in 13 years!)

87. Good books.

88. Subway sandwiches.

89. My brother’s cute little kids.

90. My own cute big kids who are growing up way too fast.

91. My local library.

92. My pick-up truck. (Doesn’t get much better than driving it while listening to country music with my puppy on the front seat.)

93. Toothpaste and a nice toothbrush.

94. Lipstick! Putting on makeup is almost like creating a work of art each morning.

95. Weight Watcher meetings.

96. Children’s endless enthusiasm and energy.

97. Fast and Testimony meeting at church.

98. The story of Esther . . . “And who knows but what thou are called to the kingdom for such a time as this.”

99. My new short hair cut.

100. Quote of the year (our son after we discovered he’s crossed his eyes in the extended family picture): “I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never do it again. Now can we quit talking about it?”

Monday, November 05, 2007

Overweight Housewife on Wheels . . .


Don’t look now, but I dug out my pair of Rollerblades. I haven’t been on them since August of 2001. I wish I could say that it’s like riding a bike, you never forget. I didn’t forget, exactly. Instead, I tried something new. Added a challenging element. My dog. (That’s us in the photo to the left. Note my hand in the “stay” position. Yet dog is somewhat blurry due to movement.)

After a couple spins around the driveway, we were off to visit my parents – an uphill climb all the way. (I took a pair of shoes in a plastic bag so that I could walk home. It’s hard enough to stop just going downhill without adding a dog to the mix.)

What a rush!

I got a little giddy. Even found myself humming a few bars of, “I’m Alive” from Xanadu. (Xanadu is a cheesy movie from my childhood. Anyone else know the song I’m talking about?) Anyway, once wasn’t enough. Later this afternoon I strapped on my blades again. The second time was even better.

I’m seriously considering getting Annie a halter to wear instead of a collar so I can train her to pull me. (Mush, Annie. Mush!) Hey, I could get a used pair of cross-country skis at the ski swap and Annie and I could mush on the fields behind our house this winter. Or up Green Canyon. (I’ve found that running is a great way for her to burn off some of her puppy exuberance prior to obedience training sessions.) I wonder if she’ll be able to pull me in one of the kid’s snow sleds?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sappiest Writing Takes Place After Midnight

It’s a proven fact that the sappiest writing takes place after midnight. And my watch says 12:22 A.M. Plus I just finished watching a romantic movie (The Holiday). Plus my hormones are all out of whack (have been for years) so here it comes . . .

Here are just a few things that make my hubby the greatest man on earth . . . (And don’t worry Dear, I’ll try really hard not to say too many things that will embarrass you.)

When we were dating Safety Man wore contacts. The first time I saw him in glasses was after we were engaged and on a family trip up in Yellowstone. His lenses were HUGE! When his glasses slid down his nose, he could push them back up again by winking and using his cheek muscles. (So much for not sharing embarrassing information.) I wondered who, exactly, I had agreed to marry. Since then I’ve yet to meet anyone who can push their glasses up without using their hands. If you’re single and meet someone who can perform this feat, marry them. It’ll be worth it.

Safety Man can wiggle his ears. Nothing else moves, just his ears. It makes me laugh.

Growing up I wanted to find someone who was a hard worker like my dad. (What girl doesn’t idolize her father?) I especially admired my dad for his callused and hard-working hands. I was a little surprised to find that Safety Man (who grew up as Farm Boy) didn’t have calluses on his hands? The reason . . . He always wears gloves. Which makes perfect sense now that I’ve known him for 15 years. He’s cautious and careful. And it’s made all the difference.

He uses Cherry Ice lip balm. Makes for nice, soft lips.

We once took a literary honeymoon. All day. In bed. Reading books.

He’s righteous.

Honest.

True.

Chaste. (Once you consummate a marriage, are you still considered chaste?)

Benevolent.

He gets a little moody when the Jazz lose. (Translation – he’s even more quiet than usual.)

He wrestles and tickles the kids.

In the days before ceramic cook tops on stoves, he cleaned the drip pans. More than once. Without being asked.

He’ll always be a farmer at heart.

He once referred to me as a “low maintenance model,” and he meant it as a compliment.

We both breathe loudly when we sleep. (It’s not snoring. Despite what his sister might say after this summer’s family trip to the cabin.)

Even when I’m mad at him, I have never once lost my respect for him.

He tried my mother’s gravy at my dad’s urging.

He still wears the sweats that I bought him for Christmas in 1998. And although Linda once took a pair of scissors to the crotch of the old sweats her hubby used to wear, I have yet to follow her lead. They’re just not worn enough yet. Only a little hole in the knee. Maybe one of these days I’ll surprise him.

He’s very understanding when I have a hormone headache and take two Excedrins at 8 o’clock at night and don’t come to bed until after 1 A.M. (I promise, it won’t be much after one.)

In addition to being near-perfect, he also has enough odd-ball habits to keep him balanced: picking his toenails, not being able to find things he’s looking for, driving the speed limit, being prone to lecture.

He loves me.

Note: To my regular blog readers. (Hi, Nan!) You may not leave a comment unless you share at least one quirky reason that you love your spouse, or betrothed, or whatever.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Goofball Idea for Women's Ski Hat

Last night it took me forever to fall asleep. Just before nodding off I came up with a goofball idea for a women’s ski hat. Keep in mind that last night was Halloween. And I’m way psyched to go skiing this year. And my hair is short, short. And I only take off my current ski hat in the privacy of my car with deeply tinted windows. (Okay, my car’s windows aren’t deeply tinted. But when I take off my ski hat I wish they were.)

So here’s the idea – ski hats with cute hair peeking out from under the edges. The hat itself is pretty traditional, but I’d like to have curly strawberry blonde locks coming from under the hat and falling over my coat collar.

Know anyone with a really good looking, long, curly strawberry blond wig they’re willing to part with? I’m also in the market for a ski helmet this year. As the wife of Safety Man, it’s the least I can do to help him feel better about my ski habit. Maybe some long auburn hair cascading from under my new helmet would look hot on the slopes.

What do you think? I figure it beats those fleece hats with the mock-dreadlocks flying all over the place. At least I wouldn’t look like a court jester.

Inexpensive Care for Sensitive Skin

Last year when I was working at the university’s bookstore during rush, a student with flawless skin came through my check-out. Being the shy, backward person that I am, I asked what she used on her face to enjoy such radiant skin. (Okay, I may not have used the word ‘radiant.’ But then again, maybe I did.)

Fair maiden was more than happy to divulge her beauty secrets. And although I’ve been using her regimen for over a year now, I feel ready to share it with you. Yes, I still have freckles and occasional breakouts (mostly due to hormonal imbalances), but for the most part my skin feels younger. And my wallet feels fatter.

To remove mascara and eye make-up: baby oil gel. It doesn’t run like regular baby oil and wipes off great with those circular cotton pads. Put a small amount (less than pea size) on your left ring finger pad. Touch right and left ring finger pads together to share gel and then rub over eyes using a light, circular motion. Once eyes are good and raccoon-y, wipe off with cotton pads.

Twice daily facial cleanser: baby wash. (I use Johnson’s.) Best part of this is that even if I open my eyes while my face is good and sudsy (Yes Dear, that tie patched those pants), it doesn’t hurt my eyes!

Evening astringent: Equate-brand (Wal-Mart) astringent for sensitive skin.

Moisturizer: Cetaphil Cream

When I switched to the above products, the redness across my cheeks that I’d been fighting for a couple years went away. (Unless I’m experiencing a hot flash. Nothing works to rid the face of redness during one of those. Urh!) And these new skin care products are much less expensive than the Mary Kay regimen that I was using. Also, my skin is hyper-sensitive. Even Clinique’s eye make-up remover bothered my eyes. So if these products work for me, they’ll probably work for you. And best of all, there’s no multi-level marketing involved!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Be Ye Therefore Perfect . . .

I’ve been thinking a lot about perfection lately. Mostly because I have a son who is a perfectionist. In everything. To his outside observers it would seem that he’s the whole package – just what every mother wants in a son. But I’ve got the inside scoop, and I’m worried.

He has fits when everything doesn’t go just right. He grunts and grumbles and has angry outbursts when he can’t work a math problem. A couple of errant golf shots sometimes lead to a minor melt-down. He likes his room neat and tidy and every hair on his head in its proper place.

As I’ve been contemplating his latest blow-up, I’ve been wondering what I could tell him that might help. What can I do as his mother to help him get over his unrealistic expectations of himself? In the process of my morning musings, the phrase, “the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree” hit close to home.

I have my own problems with perfectionism. With unrealistic expectations of myself. With getting discouraged when my well laid plans don’t go like I’d like. With not allowing myself to feel happiness amid my own imperfections. Sigh. What have I found helpful in my own journey toward balance? What gives me encouragement and perspective?

For starters, it’s helpful to remind myself who gave the injunction to be perfect – the Lord. And I believe that he was talking about the BIG PICTURE – exaltation. We’re not ever going to be perfectly perfect in this life. That’s not an excuse to give up, to settle for mediocrity, to roll our eyes and attempt to endure to the end. I look at it this way. When the Lord asks me to do something, I’d better do it His way.

I’ll use food storage as an example. Ten years ago when we bought our first home, we could no longer use the excuse of “no space” to put off accumulating a year’s supply of food. Now remember, I’m an over-achiever. I did lots of research on food storage – how much to have, how to rotate it, the best ways to store it, ad infinitum. Everyone had a different opinion. County extention agents said to buy what you already eat. Other sources advocated freeze-dried goods. I was left in a quandary. Until I considered the source of the mandate to accumulate food storage. If the Lord wanted me to store food, then I’d better do it according to what His leaders said. (Note: The church had come out with modified food storage counsel. Check it out at ProvidentLiving.org -- http://www.providentliving.org/channel/0,11677,1706-1,00.html

I thought the myriad sources with advice on storing food were overwhelming. But what about all the various outlets that offer advice and counsel on living a perfect life? We get magazines full of tips on perfecting all sorts of things . . . golf games, home life, decorating, having fun as a family. Add in newspapers, television, music and movies. Podcasts and self-help books. Not to mention family members. It’s a wonder that we’re not all crippled with perfection paranoia.

But back to doing things that the Lord asks in the Lord’s way. I love Mosiah 4:27. It says, “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that man should run faster than he has strength. And again, is it expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.”

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s usually because I’m trying to run faster than I’m capable of, possibly doing things according to some worldly order instead of the Lord’s. Last week I had an opportunity to drive a friend to her doctor appointment in Salt Lake City. She suffers from firbromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome. And I mean suffers. During our some four plus hours together, she taught me a lot about pursuing perfection in the Lord’s way.

She told of wanting to see herself as the Lord sees her, wanting to know what his expectations were for her. After hours on her knees and more hours in quiet contemplation, she learned that the Lord wants her to be happy -- to experience gladness despite her health limitations. Nothing dramatic, but something definitely worth pursuing.

I guess it’s all about perspective. When I’ve got the BIG PICTURE in view, I feel encouraged and capable of accomplishing whatever the Lord requires of me. But when I remove the spiritual lens, I’m back to feeling inadequate. Is it any wonder that we’re counseled to read our scriptures daily? They help keep life in proper perspective. Ditto the temple. And church meetings. And family home evening. And especially prayer.

I guess that answers my question about how I can help my son. I can teach him that staying spiritually focused is the key to happiness, the only way to properly pursue perfection. Most importantly, I can show by example that like Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thoughts of Disney during spin class

First of all, let me just say that I warned the women at aerobics class this morning that I was on one. Actually, I just told them that I’d taken an Excedrin for a headache at 4:30 A.M. I figured that some sort of warning was in order. Something that would say, “Caution, Christie will be smiling more than usual. Talking more than usual. And may begin bouncing off the walls.”

Tuesdays are ½ step class and ½ spin. Basically we’re all die-hard step fans, but our instructor knows spinning is a great workout. It’s just that the ½ class of spin seems like at least an hour all by itself. So I’ve taken it upon myself to provide a little distraction during our workouts. In the past I’ve thrown out amusing scenarios along the lines of . . . Pretend we’re contestants on the Biggest Loser, and the camera is doing a close up on you. . . Or . . . Look! It’s Matt Damon ahead of us on a bike. Let’s catch up. . . Or. . . We’re only a few feet away from the Summit of Everest. Keep pedaling!

Today’s caffeine fueled spin distraction started off in Switzerland. “Velcome to our climb up zeh Matterhorn. Vee vill be seeing zeh men in zoze nice leather breeches -- zeh Lederhosen.” But that was about all I could think of to say about Switzerland. Probably because the mention of the Matterhorn took me to Disneyland. So we stayed at Disneyland.

Ladies, welcome to behind the scenes at Disneyland. You’re the little squirrels on the wheels that provide the electricity that drives everything here at the Magical Kingdom. We’re depending on you to keep the rides running. . .

We did the Tower of Terror. Thunder Mountain. It’s a Small World (during our cool down). We almost caught up with George Clooney at Tarzan’s treehouse. Orlando Bloom also offered to ride Pirates of the Caribbean with the spinner who won the sprint contest. (I was winning. Orlando took off. He looked scared.) We talked about Soaring Over California but didn’t end up fueling it. I was, however, distracted by the memory of the orange-scented flight over the orange groves. And that’s when I became aware of a marketing niche that Disney has overlooked.

Disney could sell Soaring Over California air fresheners. I’d love to buy some spray that would smell like the orange groves from the ride. Or some pine-scented spray just like the breeze wafting through the evergreens beside that beautiful California river. And maybe, just maybe, a little puff of air that smells just like Disneyland will bring some residual magic from the Magical Kingdom right into my home. (Glade home fragrance commercials are ubiquitous. Just think what the Disney marketing team could do!)

So if you’ve got a Disneyland Marketing connection, pass along my suggestion.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Free Business Ideas -- Take One!

My friend that's a patent attorney would probably advise me not to give my ideas away for free, but I just can't help myself. I don't really want to be an entrepreneur, but if that's your dream and you're just looking for the right idea, read on. Use whatever sounds interesting or plausibe. Just let me know how it turns out. (And remember, you just may get what you pay for.)

Buns on the Run -- a bakery delivery service. I've noticed that local bakeries in my area deliver to restaurants and grocery stores, but why not deliver bakery goods right to the consumer? Kind of like the milk that gets delivered right to your door. In its simplest form, this business would be a bakery sales and delivery service. Product would be from exhisting local bakeries, and Buns on the Run would then set up delivery contracts with households. The pie in the sky version of this business plan is a free-standing bakery with a range of goods that can be franchised across the country -- all under the Buns on the Run trademark.

U-pick fruit farm marketing . . . Ever wanted to run a U-pick fruit farm? Need a marketing idea? Try this one: (radio spot) "You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose . . . And you can pick our fruit! (details follow). Our ads may be tasteless, but our fruit is delicious!"

Bike Helmet Skins. While I was out weeding this week I watched the local kids heading to school. One girl's helmet was tan on top and looked fuzzy. It wasn't actually fuzzy, but my mental wheels were already spinning. Why not have more fun with bike helmets? I've always dreamed of entering a demolition derby with a pink car, and I'd wear a helmet on which I'd glued long, curly blonde hair. But why not have wigs for bike helmets? (Talk about big hair.) Safety has been serious for too long! I'd like to see lycra helmet skins that look like Viking helmets. You know, with horns. And maybe all those sport-a-holics would buy lycra skins that make their kids' helmets look like their favorite football team's helmets. I'm also seeing great kid's movie spin offs . . . Pocohantas braids, Ratatouille baker hat bike helmets, Mickey mouse ears for helmets, bug antenae, a tri-corner Jack Sparrow pirate hat... You get the picture.

Fisher Price Play Prison. You might be arrested if you seriously suggested this as a children's product. But there were times when I could have used one. One day, years ago, when my son was in time out in his room, he stripped the bedding from his bed, pulled out all the drawers from his dresser and emptied them all onto the floor. It would have been nice to have some big plastic kid furniture item he couldn't escape from.

When you dream, dream big.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Nuts and Bolts of Nagging

Okay, so I was going to write a long, detailed piece about nagging. But who wants to read something long and detailed about nagging? No one.

Instead, I’ll give it to you straight. I’m making peace with nagging. I’ve taken a poll, and all wives nag. All mothers nag. Some more successfully than others. But no one wants to be a nag. I often catch myself doing something that’s really the duty of another member of our household simply because I’m tired of asking them to do it. But the thing is, if I continue repeating that action pattern, pretty soon EVERYTHING is mine to do.

So here’s the deal. Nagging is a good thing. But the key to successful nagging is all in the presentation – how you go about it. Timing is important. If you ask your child to do a job while they’re in the middle of an engrossing activity, they’re not going to want to do it. (This is a good reason to limit TV watching, video games, and other such distractions.) Keep your voice low when making your request. High-pitched requests are going to sound whiney and will be less effective. If your child (or husband) gives you flack, ask them when it would be a better time to do the job. Then set a timer. When it goes off, remind them of their commitment and be firm. Be cheerful. If you can make your request into a game, go for it!

A little organization goes a long way. A job chart is nothing more than nagging in writing. It communicates what’s expected without you having to say it. You’ll also have less verbal nagging to do if you make jobs a part of your family’s daily routine. At my friend Linda’s house, having their bed made is a prerequisite for getting breakfast. In our home the kids don’t get to play with friends or watch TV until their chores are done. There are times when they get sloppy in their duties or need reminding, but for the most part my kids complete all sorts of tasks every day without any reminders from me. (Having well-trained children is even better than having a well-trained dog.)

Think outside the box, or the chest of drawers, as the case may be. For a while I had a hard time getting Loula Belle to change her underwear every day. Each laundry day I’d tell her, “You only had three pairs of panties in the wash this week. That’s gross.” She didn’t seem to care. Eventually I left a note taped to her dresser that said, “Help! We’re suffocating in here! We’re your underwear, and we like to get out of this cramped drawer. Please wear a different one of us each day. We’d be so much happier. How about it? Help us get out and about!” It made Lou laugh and got my point across in a totally new way.

Gimmicks are good. Young kids like stickers. Older kids often go for cold, hard cash. Only you know what motivates your husband. If it works, do it.

I don’t have any studies to back me up, but I believe that mothers who are successful at nagging are happier than mothers who don’t nag at all. The non-naggers are the ones doing everything themselves, and that makes for lots of resentment.

Don’t become the grumpy cleaning lady. Embrace nagging. If you need to call it something else, borrow a term from my own mother. She calls it “spaced repetition.” I call it good communication.

Blanket for a new baby boy



I whipped this quilt up in less than a week from conception to finish. Most of my projects take much longer than that, but I put a rush on this one as my sister-in-law and her husband just barely adopted a newborn baby boy.

Welcome to the family little baby G!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You're at Belly Acre Farm if . . .

You’re at Belly Acre Farm if . . .

You look in the dog run and instead of rawhide chews, the dog is gnawing on overgrown cucumbers.

You’ve spotted a house with green vines and blue flowers overtaking the front porch pillars.

Mom’s favorite song comes on the radio and she turns it WAY up and dances along.

Safety Man brings his noise dosimeter home and announces that Mom’s music is over 90 decibels.

There’s a practice net set up for your hubby and son to practice hitting golf balls into.

There are two different dents in the soffit of the back porch from errant Birdie Balls – golfesque practice orbs that your son mis-hit.

There’s a deep dent in the metal framing of the front door. It has golf ball dimples, courtesy of your son. (Note: He did receive the lecture entitled, “What if that had hit a window?”)

Two eight-year-old girls are out on the front lawn bouncing on giant soccer-style hippity-hops.

There are no more yellow summer squash in the garden. They’ve been ripped out and added to the compost pile. (At last!)

You see a white Buick pulling out of the driveway to deliver the latest round of raspberries to Hubby’s work – where they’ll be sold to his co-workers.

A dog looking like a Black Lab streaks across the back lawn towards the neighbor’s escaped chickens and you hear a frantic woman growling, “No! Annie come! Come!”

If the kids have their friends over for milk and cookies and Mother proceeds to try to teach them how to burp on demand. (This is after she’s made them promise not to tell their mothers where they learned their new-found skill.)

Fall is in the air and you hear a blood-curdling witch’s cackle. Never fear, it’s just me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Blackened Chicken (inedible)

I confess. I burned dinner on the grill. Thing is, it took days to actually ruin a meal like this.

First, I had to defrost the chicken in the fridge for 2 days. (I'm married to Safety Man. We don't ever defrost meat on the counter.) Next I marinated the meat for 24 hours in soy sauce, Sprite and a little canola oil. (It was supposed to be similar to the marinade they use on the turkey at the Manti Pageant feeds.) And last, but not least, the chicken needed to be grilled to perfection on the grill outside.

That's where I ran into trouble. My husband is the grillmeister at our house, but I thought I'd surpise him by having it cooked and ready to eat the moment he walked in the door from work. Instead, these are my instructions to duplicate my original recipe for Blackened Chicken:

Preheat grill on low.

Carefully arrange chicken tenderloins across grill being extra careful that they don't fall though and land directly on the flames. (Note: using 1/2 breasts would be better than chicken tenders -- it greatly reduces the chicken that falls through the grill.)

Next, set a timer for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken tenders after five minutes being careful to position faster cooking meat away from hot spots and replacing it with slower cooking meat. Return inside.

Forget to set timer for another 5 minutes. Get distracted by children wanting to download photos from your digital camera onto the new computer. Grit your teeth when the learning curve on downloading pictures seems overwhelming. Try not to get upset at kids who seem to know more about computers than you do. Finally, download pictures successfully. (This will take about 30 minutes.)

Enjoy a moment of computer bliss at finally having a computer that is compatible with the digital camera you've owned for 3+ years. Think about supper. Inhale sharply as you realize that the chicken has been out on the grill for over 30 minutes. Rush out and try to save it.

Give up all hopes of eating the Blackend Chicken as most pieces are burnt so badly that they're crispy and black all the way through.

Laugh at yourself. Encourage kids to laugh too. Carefully arrange Blackened Chicken on dinner plate with freshly cut parsley and slices of lemon. Take a photo to post to your blog so that everyone can enjoy a laugh at your Blackened Chicken recipe.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

What do I think about Weight Watchers?

In the last week I've had two different friends ask me what I think about Weight Watchers. Seeing as how I've lost 36 lbs. on their program and have been an active member for 18 months, I think I'm qualified to give my opinion.

I have loved weight watchers! I always told myself that whenever I got desperate enough to pay money to lose weight I'd go to Weight Watchers first. After joining I wish I hadn't waited so long. Their program is wonderful! After joining I felt like I was living the Word of Wisdom for real. More fruits and vegetable than I'd ever eaten. Oh, and whole grains too.

I think the two biggest things Weight Watchers has going for it is accountability and support. When you have to fork over funds, it really makes you committed. (WW has done experiments in the past and offered "scholarships" for qualifying dieters. But they found that people who didn't have to pay their own fees weren't successful at losing the weight.)

Weight watcher meetings are fabulous! It's good to hear that other people have my same struggles but are still committed to better health. When someone hits a big weight loss milestone (25 lbs., 50 lbs., etc.) it's fun to celebrate with them, and it motivates me to hang in there.

If you're a person who is burned out on keeping a food journal, you'd probably like the Core plan at WW. Instead of tracking, you eat from a list of core foods: fruits, veggies, whole grains (but not bread), non-fat dairy, and lean meats. Then you just listen to your hunger signals. That's the way my sister-in-law lost 30 lbs. and reached her goal weight.

About fixing family fare that's healthy . . . I'm afraid I don't have a magic bullet. My family doesn't always like the ultra-healthy stuff I fix, but they still try it. I like to serve something that I can eat, but also round out the meal with a couple things that I know my kids will eat -- like bread and fruit. Also, I try not to keep tempting sweets in the house, but sometimes I break down and buy cookies for the kids. Or my daughter makes homemade cookies. I've found that if I don't make the cookies I don't eat the dough and do better at resisting the baked product too.

I wish I could say that my weight loss journey has been smooth sailing, but it hasn't. I've been stuck at a plateau since this time last year. (I joined a gym in October of '06 and think that I've gained muscle mass. But the scale bounces up and down and averages the same old number.) My original goal weight with WW is at the top of their scale (150 lbs.). It's what I weighed when I got married and wore a size 7/8 -- it's about 18 lbs. less than what I've been stuck at. Because I'm also a walking hormone problem, just yesterday I had my doctor sign a new goal weight for me -- 168 lbs. Now I'm optimistic that I can FINALLY reach Lifetime status at WW. (Once you reach lifetime status you can go to meetings for free as long as you weigh in at least once a month are are within 2 lbs. of your goal weight.)

Lifetime members are successful 75% of the time at maintaining their weightloss. I want to be a part of that 75% statistic.

Another friend asked me if I have lots of new healthy recipes. I have a few new recipes, but for the most part I eat the same stuff, just less of it. (I've done the Flex point system at WW.) I often wonder if I could reach the WW goal weight of 150 lbs. by being more strict with my eating habits. But after trying to eat like that for less than a week I always come back to sane, simple, moderation. I don't want to lose weight by becoming a member of the food police or joining over-exercisers anonymous. Like everything else in life good health is a balancing act.

If ever I'm feeling a little frumpy, I like to really do my hair and make-up well, put on some loud earrings and give people a nice big, distracting smile. I figure that if I can keep them looking at my head, maybe they won't notice my hips! :) It seems to be working.

Quote of the day: "Never eat more than you can lift." -- Miss Piggy's Guide to Life



Wednesday, August 29, 2007

She's living my dream life . . .

A friend sent me an e-mail entitled, "Perspective: The invisible woman." It spoke directly to what I've been feeling lately. Wanting to know who wrote it, I googled the title. Turns out that it's an excerpt from the novel, "The Invisible Woman" by Nicole Johnson.

I checked out Nicole Johnson's website -- http://www.freshbrewedlife.com/ -- where I discovered that she's living my dream life. (She even had an article about how to deal with dreams that die.) Weird.

Just yesterday I jotted down what I'd like to have on my dream website:

Frugal not Frazzled -- a place to share money saving ideas, budgeting advice, and lots and lots of encouragement.

The Modern Prude's Book Reviews -- the thinking woman's guide to good, clean literature.

Family Friendly Fare -- recipes most kids will eat made from ingredients found in most family kitchens.

Before and After -- a place to post any before/after shots. i.e. the shower before you cleaned it and after, the child with gum in their hair before you removed it and after, your toddler before they cut their own hair . . . you get the idea.

Bed-head Hall of Fame -- from the fuzzy nest toddlers wake up with to the cockatoo 'do that my own short style imitates most mornings -- the good, the bad and the ugly hair families wake up with.

Annie Investigates -- a column written by my dog, Annie. Where she researches and answers the important questions of life such as, "In what country is it considered polite to burp after dinner?" "How do cyclists in the Tour de France relieve themselves?" "Why are sunsets more colorful than sunrises?" "Where do batteries go when they die?" (These questions can come from kids or adults. I'll never tell which is which.)

Brain Cramps -- a place to read about real women doing really dumb things. My own brain cramps include letting my 10-year-old daughter cut my hair, running the washing machine with soap and softener, but no clothes (repeated at least once every other month), grilling blackened chicken (will include photo) that is so black it's inedible. Oops!

Ramblings on art, ancestors and recognition

There was a new columnist in my local paper this morning. And he was good. Really good. I actually laughed right out loud. I didn’t want to like his column, but I just couldn’t help myself.

Now, you may wonder why I didn’t want to like his column. Only because I’ve been turned down twice now as a columnist for that newspaper. Apparently they don’t like my style. Or my subject matter. Or just me.

As I was reading today’s new columnist I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps it’s best if I just give up my dream of ever becoming a paid writer. Because, here’s the thing -- for every genre that I aspire to write, there’s already someone else writing it. And often writing it better than I could.

I spent a little time today in Park City strolling along old Main Street. I stopped in at a handful of art galleries and oogled the art. Beautiful paintings, quirky sculptures, dazzling detail – some of it beyond words of description. I examined a few pieces up close. My mind whirled thinking about the time behind each brushstroke, each color. A part of me even wanted to be an artist, wanted to capture beauty to share with an appreciative audience.

Back at home, I picked raspberries. While wading through green prickly branches for perfectly ripe fruit, my mind wandered. I thought about the art I’d seen and wondered what I’d buy if money weren’t a consideration. Then I began thinking about the people who could afford to purchase art. Actually, I had to use my imagination, as I don’t actually know many people who own or collect fine art.

That little nugget of noodling led me to contemplate people I do know. Family. As the berries in my bucket began accumulating, I acknowledged my roots. Teachers. Farmers. Quilters. Homemakers. I come from what I like to call Pioneer Stock.

I thought about my grandmas, great and great-great, and the berries they must have picked, the garden produce they must have canned. They didn’t have the means to purchase fine art or the time to create it. Instead, they spent their time working to care for their families. The artifacts they left behind run along utilitarian lines: a worn and faded double wedding ring quilt, an old potato masher with a well-used wooden handle, a mason jar lifter with calcium deposits on the metal from years of removing canned produce from hard water.

And now, back to how all this relates to my dreams for recognition. Yipes. That is exactly the word that describes what I seem always to be looking for . . . RECOGNITION.

I guess I used to get it through good grades, through academic achievement. And that’s probably why writing a self-syndicated column from 1997 to 2000 helped to keep my emotional boat afloat. I was getting a little recognition in the form of reader feedback and small but concrete paychecks.

There is something in my personality that craves, maybe even needs recognition. Is that weird?

I’m left wondering if I’ll forever be part of an appreciative audience and never the performer. Are other performers driven to seek the limelight?

Switching gears now, stay with me.

Ways that I currently get recognition:
Being a witch at the Pumpkin Walk and cackling. (Bless the Burt kids. They never tire of hearing me cackle. )

Teaching Sunday school.

Hosting parties.

Hmmmm. I guess that’s about it. But are there other ways I can “perform” and get my recognition fix?

Yeah. I’m volunteering to help the student council at Loula Belle’s middle school. When I’m goofy with the kids and they respond, that feels good. And writing the skits they’ll do for “Character Counts” might fit the bill too. And maybe I could tell my hubby and kids that I have unfulfilled performance yearnings. Maybe they’d consent to being an appreciative audience. Hey, even just being an attentive audience would be fine. (Better than the eye rolls that I currently get.)

And what about the retirement home where my grandma lives? Maybe I could play the piano for them to sing along with. I probably can’t commit to doing it every week, but how about once a month? Or every-other month?

We'll see.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ever feel like you've prepped your whole life for something else?

I was reading a comment my friend left on another blog where she wrote, "Sometime I feel like I've prepped my whole life for something else." I've had those same feelings. Still have then, in fact.

I grew up as a fairly typical over-achiever. Valedictorian in high school. One of the top three English graduates at USU in 1994. And I bought into the whole notion that a woman could be anything. Do anything. Really have it all. And what have I become? An at-home mom. (I don't like the term "Stay-at-home" Mom. It sounds like a command for a dog.)

For three years I wrote a self-syndicated parenting column. It kept my emotional boat afloat while my kids were tiny. But eventually it began to pull me away from them. Plus I had un-diagnosed depression. Talk about miserable.

Even this past year, with my kids all in school, I've wondered what I should be doing. (Why is it that we as LDS women give ourselves so many "shoulds?") Anyway, I made it a matter of prayer, fasting and study. And I found out that humble as it is, the Lord needs me right here in the home. Not only that, I learned that I need to be content too. (Big sigh. I'm still working on that.)

When some girlfriends and I got together for lunch a few weeks ago, I asked them if their lives are what they expected them to be. All three said, "Yes. Why, what did you expect?"

I guess I expected to be famous. Important. A best-selling author. And I expected parenting to be easier. After all, wasn't I easy to raise? (Don't answer that, Mom.)

My question for my friends was, "How did you know not to have out-of-control expectations for yourselves?" Their answer: we always planned on staying home with our kids.

Now that I've had a bit more time to noodle over their responses, I've noticed that they have one big thing in common -- their mothers stayed at home.

Mine, on the other hand, was a working mom. Something that I think really is a calling for her. She's done an excellent job raising us and teaching many other kids as well. I guess I always planned on following in her footsteps. (She's famous at the Middle School where she teaches, gives motivational talks to women's groups, and turns anything and everything into an excuse to have fun.) I never stopped to think that what's been good for her might not be right for me.

So, here I am at the homefront. As the days and weeks go by I'm getting better at being a content at-home mom. I'm even learning to stop pestering the Lord to see if the time is right to alter my occupation.

In preparing a Sunday school lesson I came across an excerpt from Lucy Mack Smith's History of Joseph Smith. She had recorded the whole experience of Martin Harris losing the first 116 pages of manuscript for the Book of Mormon. She quoted Joseph as saying, "I should have been satisfied with the first answer which I received from the Lord." It really struck home for me. Ever since then I've been trying to be satisfied with what I've been called to do.

Just lately I've developed a new way to look at the lumps and bumps of life. The way I see it husbands, children, in-laws, housework even -- all help to knock off the rough edges of our emerging character. Not an easy process, and one that won't be done in this lifetime, but every little bit that's knocked off gets us closer and closer to being a beautiful, carefully crafted diamond.

So, just think, we're no longer the black little bit of coal that we were when we came into this world. Look at your wedding ring and envision your own bright future!

I figure that the Lord's not done with me yet. I've yet to put my big mouth to some serious work for Him. I just gotta remember to keep my expectations in check. But is that like telling someone not to dream? 'Cause I don't ever want to stop dreaming. Stop creating possibilities that might someday involve me.

What do you think?

For the Strength of Mothers . . .

Don’t look now, but yesterday I emptied our truck of 36 bags of sand. They weighed 50 pounds each. And, because I wanted to really challenge myself, I started my stopwatch. Are you ready for this? I moved 1800 lbs. of sand in 9 minutes 26 seconds! (If there had been just four more bags, I would’ve moved a ton of sand. Whew!)

You might be asking yourself why I was moving sand in the first place. Because it’s crunch time for my son’s Eagle Scout project. He’s putting in a set of horseshoe pits at our local park, and we kind of jumped the gun when we purchased the sand. (We should have waited until later today.) As it was, my husband didn’t figure that leaving 1800 lbs. of sand in the back of our truck for 30 hours would be a very good idea. And since Bug was up at the park staking out where the rest of his troop would help him dig the pits, the sand emptying fell to me.

You’d better believe that I got good and sweaty toting all that sand. I even wondered if I’d regret it today, but I’m happy to report that I’m feeling great! In fact, this morning at aerobics I only felt a little bit of tightness in my lower back. Nothing too bad. I guess that all these months of aerobics and weight training has really paid off. It just goes to show that fitness can’t always be measured with a scale. ‘Cause the scale still says what it did at the end of October of 2006, but I definitely feel a whole lot more fit.

On a different note, I must gush about my favorite watch. It’s a Timex Ironman Triathlon slim design. Although I don’t use it much for exercise, and I’d never dream of trying to train for a triathlon, I use it all the time in my motherly activities. It has three different alarms. I set one to go off on Tuesdays at 2:50 P.M. to help me remember to pick up Bug from piano lessons. (Prior to setting the alarm I’d forget half the time.) The others I use for similar purposes. They’re great as reminders.

I also use the timer feature a lot when cooking. The self-frosting chocolate zucchini cake my family likes takes 40 minutes to bake. I simply set my watch timer and then wander. That way I don’t have to be in the kitchen listening for the oven timer. If you have small children who sometimes have a hard time sharing their toys with siblings or friends, you could set the timer on your watch for 5 minutes and at the end of the time have your child swap toys with the other child. (I’ve found that after both kids have had a chance to play with the toy they seldom need a trading timer again.)

Last of all I use the stopwatch as a motivational tool. Like yesterday’s sand moving. Only sometimes I use it with the kids. I say something like, “We need to clean this bathroom. Let’s time it and see how fast we can get it done.” Nothing like a time incentive to get them moving.

Well, that’s it for today. Tomorrow the kids head back to school, and I hope to be a more diligent blogger. Ta-ta for now.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Just what is a "graphic novel"?

I just got finished reading Shannon Hale's novel, "Austenland." Before I wax eloquent about how much I enjoyed it . . . (Got it from the library 9 hours ago. Took a total of 4 hours to read it. Stayed up after midnight to finish it.) I must side track to an exploration of the definition of a graphic novel.

Here's the text of what I was originally going to post on this entry:

I just finished reading Shannon Hale’s “Austenland.” Loved it. But I’m insatiably curious about the next project she’s working on. The note about the author at the back of the book says, “She and her husband are working together on a graphic novel.”

Huh?

This is the sweet Mormon writer from Salt Lake City, right? Is a graphic novel what I think it is? If it is, I can’t mention what I think it is. Can Shannon Hale really be thinking about publishing a graphic novel? If so, I feel to plead with her, “Don’t!”

Where is her mother at a time like this?

I must go out on the web and see if she’s really going to publish what I think she’s going to publish. Be back in a minute.

Anyway, I went to Shannon Hale's website (http://www.shannonhale.com/) and, whew! found out that a graphic novel is similar to a book-length illustrated comic book. No wonder I've never heard of one before. (FYI their book is entitled, "Rapunzel's Revenge" and will be out in 2008.)

I suppose that the unfulfilled writer part of me was wondering if Ms. Hale had somehow been seduced by the siren call of real-world publication to branch out into new and experimental genres outside her conservative upbringing. Is that what happens to Mormon writers who make it big? Duh! Obviously I'm not up to snuff on my publishing lingo and definitions.

Good thing I didn't send Ms. Hale an urgent letter pleading with her not to compromise her principles for fame and fortune. Boy would I have looked stupid.

As it is, only those of who read this blog (Hi, Nan) will ever know that I'm hopelessly dumb and will probably forever be on the outside of the publishing world looking longingly in.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Some of the best childhood moments aren't caught on film

Earlier this week we watched some 8mm video family footage from almost eight years ago. Beans was a baby. Loula Belle was a preschooler, and Bug was starting elementary school. I’ve been surprised that my kids have referenced the night’s film footage throughout this week. Bug mentioned it as he had a snack of animal crackers. “Look,” he said, “I’m reverting to my childhood tendencies.” Loula Belle reminded Bug that his teasing tendencies started years ago, and Beans wondered if we could take some more footage of her, as she’s not in the earliest videos.

Then, today in Relief Society we were talking about teaching reverence at home. Some of the discussion referenced the sometimes irreverent behavior of small children in Sacrament meeting. I thought back to some memorable moments in my own children’s lives, and that’s when a new realization dawned on me. The best childhood moments aren’t captured on film.

There was no camcorder handy to capture three-year-old Bug listening to the closing prayer in Sacrament meeting, quietly mumbling the words after the prayer-giver. (I was feeling so proud.) Then, as the long prayer began winding down, Jared just couldn’t wait any longer. Just as the man began . . . “we say these things in the name of . . .” Jared VERY LOUDLY said, “AMEN!” I could see the shoulders of congregation members seated around us silently shaking with inner laughter.

Children’s prayers, in fact, are an area almost totally missing from our family film footage. Here are some prayers captured only in my memory:

Bug, age 2 ½, saying his nightly prayer: “And please bless Barney [the purple dinosaur].”

Loula Belle, age 3: “. . . Thankful we could watch a video today, and thankful we can watch a video tomorrow.”

Bug, age 4ish, before our corn dog lunch: “. . . Please bless Lou that she’ll learn to like mustard.” (And, amazingly, she has learned to love it!)

Loula Belle, age 4: “. . . Thankful we could have a good, good, good, good, good, good day!”

I’ve kept a Steno-type notebook for each of my kids where I write down the funny things they’ve said – the moments and magic that didn’t make it onto film. Here are a few of my favorites that are gospel related.

September 1999: At Bug’s first parent teacher conference Miss Liza shared a little story that helped us know our efforts to read the Book of Mormon as a family have actually been sinking in. She told us they’d been reading a book called, “The Rainbow Fish.” It talked about having pride. “Does anyone know what it means to have pride?” she asked the class. Bug raised his hand, and she called on him. “It means that you are stiff-necked,” he said. That’s when she knew that he’d been reading from the Book of Mormon.

May 2001: I was resting on my bed due to recent back pain. Loula Belle (age 4) came in to talk with me. Somehow we got on the subject of what it will be like in heaven. “We’ll be floating around in the clouds,” was her take on the after-life.

“Actually,” I explained, “we’ll be with other family members and friends who died before us.”

“But how can we see them?” she wanted to know. “Will we just have our eyes?” (She knew that our bodies didn’t go with us when we die, and wondered if just our eyes did.)

I explained that spirits can see spirits and that eventually we’d be resurrected – our bodies and spirits would come back together.

“Oh,” she said. “Like Grandma?”

“Which Grandma?”

“Grandma Glenna,” she replied.

“But Grandma Glenna hasn’t died,” I said.

“Well, her name is on a stone in the cemetery,” said Lou.

Dear Lou had thought that since Grandma’s name and birth date were already on the headstone with Grandpa’s that meant that Grandma had died. Only Grandma Glenna was here with us – we could see her. To Loula Belle that meant one thing – Grandma must be resurrected.

And finally, August 2002: We were reading the Book of Mormon the other night as a family. It was Loula Belle’s turn to read a few verses. Although she’s very good at reading, sometimes she’ll read the first of a word and guess at the rest. So she’s reading along and says, “. . . thus sayeth the Lord of Hostess. . .” and then again she read, “. . . Lord of Hostess. . .” I guess to a little girl that loves sweets , Lord of Hostess would truly be a mighty important being.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

More Canning (under duress)

Nothing like writing a chipper, up-beat piece about canning to ensure a less-than-pleasant canning experience will follow.

This morning while I was out watering the front plants my husband came out and asked me if I knew what was in the plastic bags on the floor of the food storage room. My heart sank. I knew what was in them. Chicken. Chicken that started out frozen. Chicken that my son was supposed to put in the freezer in that room, not on the floor. Fifteen pounds of boneless-skinless chicken that was on sale and that now needed immediate attention.

What do you do with fifteen pounds of chicken that needs to be cooked? Well, I decided to can it. So today I canned 12 pints of chicken in my pressure cooker.

You could say that I'm a task-oriented kind of person. I like to plan out what I'm going to do during a day . . . sometimes weeks in advance. Having to can chicken on a day that I was going to use for something else really made me grumpy. And because my son was gone golfing with his grandpa, I couldn't even vent at him.

By the time he got home I'd decided that instead of yelling at him, I'd have him buy about ten dollars worth of chicken that will end up in the freezer. He wasn't too happy, but neither was I. I bet he'll listen a little more carefully when I'm asking him to put things away.

Grrrr!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Life Lessons Learned from Canning . . .

It's that time of year again. Time to dust off the canner and wash up the Kerr jars. The garden is in overdrive, and we can't eat it all fresh.

First of all, let me just say that I do not look forward to canning. I even wrote myself a note in my cooking/garden journal. It's dated February 2007 and says, "In the winter you never wish that you had canned less produce." I guess that I was enjoying the bounty that we'd bottled and wanted to pre-empt my natural tendency toward giving produce away instead of canning it. It's too early to be sure, but I think my note just may help this year.

I guess you could say that when it comes to canning, I make mountains out of mole hills. I build the job of food preservation up to be monumental -- heavy on the mental. In early spring gardening and canning sound great. In March when my hubby was thumbing through seed catalogs, I specifically requested that he buy cucumber seeds that would be good for eating and pickling. When it came time for planting, I told him to plant three hills so that I’d have plenty to pickle, but by the time the first few cukes were ready to eat, my desire to can them had evaporated.

My hubby made the mistake of asking me when I was going to actually start making pickles. I gave him "the look", a lecture about him having too many expectations for me, and the romance in our marriage went right out the window. Canning and cuddling don't mix.

But that was weeks ago, and as I write this I'm happy to report that we have 21 pints of dill pickles down on the basement shelves. And strangely, it wasn't that hard. Nothing like I'd imagined it to be.

As the last pints were processing in the hot water bath, I found myself ruminating about the possible parallels between canning and life. Here's what my recent bit of canning has taught me:

1. Most things aren't as difficult as you think they're going to be.

2. Many hands make light work. Instead of canning pickles alone (and feeling sorry for myself), I asked my husband to help. It went great! We enjoyed quality time canning. Never thought I’d say that, but there you have it. When my husband isn’t handy, I’m going to include my kids. But for the really involved canning, only a good canning buddy will do. (Look out Linda, I’ve got out the canner!)

3. Don’t leave out the sugar! Last year Linda and I tried something new. We made applesauce without any added sugar. I like it, my kids tolerate it, but it doesn’t store well. I bet a third of the bottles I bring up from the basement have started growing mold right at the top. And the bottles are perfectly sealed. I’ve begun to think that families, like applesauce need a little sugar (laughter, fun, goofiness) to keep them properly preserved. Take the sweet stuff away, and just like applesauce, family life goes South.

4. Sugar goes with salt. I did fresh-packed cucumber pickles, and the main ingredients for the hot liquid you pour over them are water, vinegar, sugar and salt. I guess I was a little surprised by the ratio of sugar to salt. I mean, you expect pickles to be salty, but my recipe called for more sugar than salt. That got me thinking. I figure that salt could be a metaphor for tears/sadness and sweat/work. The hard facts of life. And what I learned from making pickles is that you don’t have to take the lumps and bumps of life straight. A little bit of sugar does help the medicine go down. Work is important, but you can mix in a little fun with it too. Pain and sadness are inevitable, but nowhere is it written that you can’t try to laugh. (Side note: My neighbor is fighting cancer and has taken some low blows. At one point she was on oxygen and a feeding tube. On the day they were able to take off the oxygen she exclaimed, “Look! I’ve got one nostril with nothing to do.”)

5. You can’t rush time. Because we’re at a high altitude I had to add 10 minutes onto my pickle processing time. And according to the experts at the county extention office, time is important. You have to keep the water boiling for all of the allotted minutes. Life is no different. There’s no need to rush. Bad situations will soon end. Good times come and go too. So enjoy the present!



There you have it. Life lessons I learned from canning.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Taken Over By Technical Difficulitites

Don't look now, but we have no internet service provider. So, I'm writing this blog entry from a computer at our local library. Sigh.

I'm trying to convince my husband that as long as we're going to be updating to highspeed internet, we might as well bite the bullet and update our whole computer. (I've got more memory in my 60 gig ipod than in our home computer. And until that changes, I can't burn any more songs from my personal CD collection onto my ipod. Double sigh.)

Until we get our technical difficulities solved, there won't be any additional "Trenches" postings. Additional blog postings will be sporadic at best.

Until then, enjoy your summer!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

21 Benefits I Hope to Gain By Losing Weight

Now that I’m 36 pounds into my weight loss journey, sometimes I skip the diet and exercise articles when I’m thumbing through magazines. But not yesterday. I think it was the title that grabbed my attention – "What’s My Motivation: Identifying Why Weight Loss Matters," by Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D. in the May/June 2007 issue of LDS Living.

You could say that my motivation to lose more pounds has evaporated. I guess I’ve been telling myself that 36 pounds is enough. My goal weight at Weight Watchers is 150 pounds, but four or so years ago when I was doing T.O.P.S. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) my family doctor and I arrived at 168 pounds as a reasonable weight for me to shoot for. And I’ve been stuck right there at 168 pounds since October. (I have dipped down as low as 163, but went right back up.)

I can’t honestly say that I’ve been strictly following the Weight Watchers guidelines. I’ve been fudging a bit. But after reading that article yesterday, I’m reviving my motivation.

I followed Cederquist’s advice to take a pile of index cards, think about what benefits I hope to gain from losing weight and reaching my Weight Watcher’s goal, and then write as many benefits as I can think of on the cards – one benefit per card. I came up with 21 benefits. Next, Cederquist advised organizing the cards in order from most motivating to least. Then once they’re in order, write the top five reasons on another set of cards to keep in your wallet or purse, on the fridge, at work, in the kitchen, etc.

Here is my list of what I hope to gain by losing weight and reaching my Weight Watcher’s goal (in reverse order).

21. I will have eliminated my risks for diabetes and heart disease.

20. When I hear about the obesity epidemic on the news or in the paper, I’ll know that they’re not talking about me.

19. My clothes will take up less space in the suitcase when I travel. (More room for souvenirs.)

18. Just imagine how I’ll look shwooshing down the ski slopes this winter. (Hot! Hot! Hot!)

17. I’ll get to buy a "wonder bra" at Victoria’s Secret. (As in, I wonder where my bust went.)

16. My rear end will look really great while I’m sitting on my bicycle seat.

15. I’ll have legs that look great in heels.

14. I can get a new driver’s license with a cute photo and an honest weight.

13. I’ll get to buy a cute, new swimming suit from Land’s End.

12. I’ll need to acquire a stylish new wardrobe.

11. My knees and hips will thank me, and toned legs will help prevent future knee injuries.

10. I’ll buy cute square-neck shirts to show off my clavicles.

9. I’ll live a loooooong, happy and healthy life!

8. I will have firm, fit, tones and muscular arms, legs, abs, and . . . well . . . buns.

7. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to generate a story or two and some publicity for my blog and future website.

6. I won’t have rolls on my stomach when I sit down.

5. I’ll have a great reason to smile, laugh and encourage others to follow my lead.

4. I’ll be qualified to work for Weight Watchers. (Not a possibility with a doctor prescribed weight goal.)

3. I will have set a good example for my family of determination and commitment.

2. I’ll look like I did when I got married . . . maybe even better!

1. I’ll have gained an iron will and the knowledge that I can do ANYTHING!

Now, here comes the beautiful part – what I think will really help me stay motivated. Cederquist counsels readers to review the large deck of personal motivators daily, perhaps starting your day by flipping through the cards or even reading them aloud sometimes.

I took her advice a step further. Yesterday I glued old buttons to the tops of empty Altoid mint containers. (It’s a multi-layered, kitchy sort of look.) Anyway, I selected my favorite button box and cut my cards to fit inside it. Now I have a cute container to keep my cards in to boot!

I’ll keep you posted regarding my efforts. I have high hopes that they’ll succeed!

Trenches / Chapter 2 / 23 Summer Sanity Savers

Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your kids.

Whether it’s scribbling with black permanent marker on your cream-colored bedspread, teasing and tormenting a younger sibling just to hear them squawk, bringing a "pet" preying mantis into the house, or asking for a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast, lunch and dinner – kids have a knack for driving parents crazy.

If you’ve come to the end of your rope, try some of these tips to regain your sanity.

1. Just say no. Practice saying no to extra activities and projects that you don’t have time for.

2. Let go of things beyond your control.

3. Keep a gratitude journal. Before going to bed at night, write down five things that you’re grateful for from the day. ("I’m grateful for Band-aids.")

4. Occasionally eat cold cereal for supper.

5. Give yourself more time when you have to do anything with kids.

6. Connect with your kids. Studies show that the more you distance yourself from your kids, the easier it is to get angry at them.

7. Read to your kids or have them read to you.

8. Do the unexpected. Every so often Jared delights in playing copy-cat. It drives me nuts. One day, instead of letting it get my goat, I said, "I think I’d like to clean toilets today." He repeated it, and we both ended up laughing.

9. Don’t forget to pray. Try this one: "Dear Lord, so far today I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or overindulgent. I’m really glad about that. But in a few minutes, Lord, I’m going to be getting out of bed. And from then on, I’m going to need a lot more help. Amen."

10. Feed children before taking them grocery shopping, and avoid going when it’s close to nap time.

11. Enjoy present pleasures. Savor holding your little boy’s hand while he’ll still let you. Sing "The eensy-weensy spider" with your daughter. Kiss a face covered in cookie crumbs.

12. Exercise.

13. Keep romance alive. Establish a ‘date night’ – or at least set aside money each month for dating. Also, play board games together as a couple once the kids have gone to bed.

14. Read one of Erma Bombeck’s books.

15. Occasionally put yourself in time-out. Explain to the kids that you need some time to cool off. Then go to your room and shut the door.

16. Whisper. Sing. Yodel. Do something creative to get your child’s attention.

17. Get more sleep. If your kids take naps, join them. Otherwise, try to hit the sack early.

18. Capture childhood’s Kodak moments – faces after a spaghetti dinner, kids playing in fall leaves.

19. Make friends with your neighbors.

20. Ask spouse and other family members for help. (Note: If you want continuing cooperation from your spouse and others, give them a job and let them do it. Don’t insist that it be done your way, or it may not get done at all.)

21. Build some quiet time into every day for thinking and relaxing.

22. Establish an early bedtime for the kids and stick to it.

23. Work on demanding tasks when you have the most energy.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Moments of Bliss

Don’t look now, but this is a "real" blog entry. By "real" I mean one that is fresh, not a re-run from the parenting columns I wrote seven to ten years ago. (Can it really have been up to 10 years ago that I wrote them? Wow.)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about bliss lately. Sometimes when I’m writing a card for a newly wed couple I like to say something like, "Best wishes on the road to wedded bliss." But what I’m really thinking is, Hold on! Keep one eye closed, and the other half shut. And other encouraging and realistic thoughts.

But just lately, I’ve found myself acknowledging that I really have found bliss. The paperback Webster’s dictionary that we use when playing boggle defines bliss as a noun meaning great happiness or spiritual joy. That sounds about right. But what it doesn’t say, and what it’s taken me so long to figure out is that bliss is not a destination. Got that? Bliss is not a destination.

You don’t wake up one morning to discover that your home is perfectly decorated, your children are near-perfect, your husband has overcome all his little quirks that have been niggling at you for the past 14 years. No, bliss isn’t any of that. Instead, bliss is found in perfect moments.

What, you ask, is a perfect moment? I’d like to share a few I’ve experienced lately.

Bliss is being in the kitchen and hearing Beans and her friend out in the backyard through the open window. They’re giggling in the pink princess tent that Beans has set up out there, and apparently something is so funny that Beans snorts while she laughs. Listening to happy children, that is bliss.

I know it’s going to sound hokey, but I’ve had moments of bliss while walking the dog. I’m not sure how much of it is because I’m walking Annie, and how much of it is being out in the wonders of creation. I think it has to be a bit of both. This morning, for instance, I was walking home from a quick visit at my mom and dad’s with the dog. As we got to the bottom of their street and were crossing the road, a shiny blue Mustang passed us. Although I have a fondness for fast cars, I found myself thinking, "If I had to choose between Annie and a new Mustang, I’d choose Annie." And remember, I love muscle cars. But apparently I love my dog more. I finished out the rest of my walk in bliss – realizing that I possess one of life’s great pleasures – a beloved dog.

Now back to the wonders of creation. Walking, even short walks around the block, give me a lift if only because of the beauty that’s right outside my door. Today it was a pair of Orioles streaking past. Although they’re done blooming now, the smell of Russian Olive trees in June always lifts my spirits. Ditto colorful sunsets. And drops of dew hanging from overgrown grass.

This past Friday our family attended a dinner at my husband’s work. All the tables in the shade were taken, so we sat in the sun. I noticed that my kids didn’t take much of the main dishes (Mexican fare), and that made me happy. It was gratifying to know that it’s not just my Mexican cooking that they don’t like. Oh, and dessert was individual-sized containers of Aggie ice cream. Eating Aggie ice cream is bliss. Watching your kids eat it is bliss. Sharing bites with your family, that’s bliss too.

As the capstone of the evening, my husband’s employer gave out passes for either mini-golf, bowling, swimming or a movie. We chose the movie and all went to Fantastic 4 – Rise of the Silver Surfer. And, you guessed it, bliss again. Not that the movie was ultra-great, but watching it together as a family was great. Sharing a common experience with kids and parents, one that we all enjoyed, that’s bliss. Kids not complaining that they’re bored – that’s bliss.

I guess you could say that bliss has caught me by surprise. I expected something with a little more fanfare. Maybe something more along the lines of winning the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. You know, Big Stuff. But that’s not bliss. And if it were, how many people would ever get to experience bliss? Only a few.

Fortunately bliss is an equal opportunity experience. Everyone can have it. We just have to recognize it as the small, sweet, perfect little moments that we live.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Trenches / Chapter Two / Stop the Whining!

Were I to write my own personal dictionary, under whine it would say: 1) to generate a high-pitched nasal sound that torments, pesters and annoys parents into giving you your own way; 2) to complain over every little thing in an extremely aggravating and childish way.

No one I know needs the definition of whining. We all know what it is. Many of us hear it all too often. What we do need, however, are strategies to reduce the amount of whining we’re exposed to.

Believe it or not, whining is a natural phenomenon. All kids whine–at least until they’re taught other appropriate ways to communicate. In fact, whining is the stepping stone between crying and gaining the ability to verbalize requests. Babies, for instance, cry to get you to feed and change them. Toddlers rely on the same plaintive tones, plus words, to express their wants.

Kids also whine because it works. Just ask my daughter. I often give into Amanda’s whining simply because she’ll stop making that annoying noise. Knowing this, she then resorts to whining because it gets results. Our behaviors reinforce each other, and we’re caught in a classic catch-22.

So what can a parent do? Is it possible to have a whine-free home? I certainly hope so.

First off, there are all sorts of reasons kids whine, and just one strategy won’t work in every situation. For example, if your normally sunny child is unusually whiny, perhaps she’s feeling under the weather. Caring for the aches, in this case, often cures the whine.

Same goes for tired kids. If whine-fests are triggered by morning rushes, missed or late naps, and bedtime, consider ways to help your child get more rest – an earlier bedtime or maybe half an hour of "quiet time" in place of outgrown naps.

When trying to reduce whining in your home, there are a number of responses that don’t work at all. They include:

threats – If you don’t stop whining, you won’t get dessert.

commands – Stop it right now!

giving in – Oh, all right. You can have the toy.

making vague promises – We’ll do it later.

and whining yourself.

Instead, try these strategies that are effective against whining:

labeling the whine -- That’s a whine. It’s not a very good way to ask for
something. Here’s a better way to say it . . .

ignoring – I don’t listen when you whine. Or say nothing at all.

using empathy – You sound unhappy. Sit here for a minute and think about why you’re sad. When you’re calmer, I’ll help you.

and praising – I liked how you asked me that. You’re doing much better at not
whining, and that makes me happy!

My personal favorite is the line my mother-in-law uses with her first graders. When a student asks for something in a whiney voice, she simply says, "Would you please speak in your low voice?"

I’ve tried it with my daughter, and it actually works!

I'd love to hear any success stories and strategies that you have.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Trenches / Chapter 1 / The Lap of Luxury

Lately the realities of motherhood have been wearing on me. I'm getting tired of toting laundry up and down the stairs. I dread trying to figure out what to have for dinner night after night. And if I find another stray toy in my closet, I think I'll scream.

To escape my life of drudgery, I turned to the ever-popular pastime of daydreaming. I imagined that instead of a frumpy housewife I was a wealthy heiress.

With my fabricated fortune, I immediately hired a housekeeper and a cook. No more cleaning toilets or mopping floors for me! Never again would I have to confront the question of what to make for dinner.

I wondered what other staff positions my imaginary wealth would support. A chauffeur for the kids? A personal fitness trainer? The possibilities seemed endless.

"Mom, does this shirt go with these shorts?" My son's question temporarily interrupted my flight of fancy. I replied in the affirmative and added "personal wardrobe consultant" to my mental list of new hires.

Again my thoughts were grounded when my daughter toddled in, a brush and ribbon in hand. I pulled her hair into a ponytail like she wanted, and continued to dream. Yes, having my own hairdresser would also be a nice convenience.
I spent a few more minutes living in my make-believe mansion before it became necessary to return to real-life motherhood. My daughter's nose and diaper both needed immediate attention.

As I wiped my daughter's nose and fastened the tape on her clean diaper, it struck me that here was the girl who lived in the lap of luxury. Both she and her brother breeze through most days, their every need being met. They have a cook, housekeeper, laundress, storyteller and more. Me.

As I contemplated their pampered lifestyle, I thought of my own childhood. My feelings of self-pity instantly vanished. For the first time, I realized that I have had my own cook, housekeeper, and laundry service. I was just too young and self-absorbed to appreciate her.

Today I hope to make amends, to let my mother know that I am beginning to understand what she has done for me. I don't remember crying for a bottle in the middle of the night, but I bet she recalls getting up and soothing me back to sleep.

Family photo albums show me getting all sorts of toys for Christmas. I have vague memories of playing with some of the gifts, but don't ask me where our old toy box was located. I only emptied it. I'm sure Mom, on the other hand, remembers filling it.

And talk about laundry. I've got it easy. Mom raised kids in the days before disposable diapers. Although I don't ever recall wearing a diaper fastened with safety pins, I doubt Mom will ever forget washing, drying and folding enough white flannel squares for diapering two little girls.

It may seem a strange sentiment to declare for Mother's Day, but Mom, I want to tell you thanks for being the best nurse, housekeeper, cook, teacher, maid and chauffeur a little girl could wish for.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Trenches / Chapter 1 / Perfect Mom, My Foot!

For many moms, Mother's Day means facing the love/hate relationship they have with the holiday. They love the extra help they get around the house and the cute kid-made cards, but they hate the guilt trip – feeling like they’re anything but the perfect mom.

Who is this perfect mom everyone seems to venerate on Mothers’ Day? Does she exist? Is she the woman who keeps her cool while reprimanding her kids for leaving a path of destruction in the grocery store? Could she be your child’s friend’s mother – the one he keeps referencing every time he doesn’t agree with how you handle things? Perhaps it’s your neighbor. She is a devoted wife and mother to six children, maintains a spotless house and cooks a homemade meal every night.

Sorry to say, but none of these ladies qualify as the perfect mom. In fact, she’s a myth. She doesn’t exist. Repeat after me, "There is no such thing as a perfect mom."

Part of the reason we cling to the belief that there is a perfect mom out there is because we’re not privy to insider information. In other words, we get only a limited look into other moms’ behavior.

I’ll use my own mother as an example (sorry, Mom). My mom teaches school and gives motivational talks in our community. She’s a dynamic and enthusiastic woman. Growing up friends would say to me, "You’re lucky. It must be fun having her for a mom." Having only limited experience with my mom, they saw only one side of the story.

I, on the other hand, lived day in and day out with the real Mrs. Austin. And she did all the things that regular mothers do. She nagged, told me to do things I didn’t want to do, nagged some more, didn’t always see things like I saw them, and when provoked, lost her cool.

Another reason we feel guilty on Mothers’ Day and believe someone else must be doing things better is because we have a selective memory. When our kids give us cute little cards telling us we’re loving, kind and good – the best mom in the world -- we remember our outburst over yesterday’s muddy trail through the house. And we don’t quite feel worthy of the generous praise and adoration.
Unlike Moms, kids tend to focus on fun. If asked, they might recall the episode of the muddy shoes, but they’ve likely moved on.

For children, Mothers’ Day means thinking about all the good things Mom does for them. Whether it’s reading them a bedtime story, letting them eat ice cream before dinner, or giving them an under-dog on the swings at the park, kids know moms are fun.

On Mothers’ Day, cut yourself some slack. Remind yourself that no one is perfect, that every mom has her bad days. Instead of dwelling on your short-comings and weaknesses, focus on your strengths.

Listen when your kids say, "You’re the best!" They believe it, and you should too!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Trenches / Chapter 1 / Be different -- be great!

One of my mother's favorite phrases is, "Revel in your idiosyncrasies." I think the first time I heard her use the saying, I was about 13. "Revel in your what?" was my reaction. I had no idea what idiosyncrasies were, but they certainly didn't sound like anything I wanted to revel in.

Eventually I learned that idiosyncrasies are the little quirks, mannerisms, and personal peculiarities that make each of us unique. A light bulb came on.
"A-ha," I thought. "No wonder Mom wants to revel in her idiosyncrasies. She has a ton!"

My mother is to earrings what Imelda Marcos is to shoes. She speaks fluent Pig Latin, has her own rubber vomit, delights in collecting Halloween costume accessories, strikes up conversations with strangers standing in line at the grocery store, and is the best pie-maker in northern Utah. And she's proud of it.
You might think my Mom sounds like a nut. She is. You might also wonder how all of this ties into parenting. I'll tell you.

Parents who revel in their idiosyncrasies send their children the message that being different isn't just okay, it's wonderful. This, in turn, can give kids the ability to accept, even celebrate, their own unique traits and abilities.
"All right," you say. "So we each have idiosyncrasies. But when do busy parents who are usually focused on their kids get time to revel?"

Truth is, it takes time, planning, and a little patience.

Just ask Kathryn Stevens, mother of 11 children. As a high schooler she participated in the annual Powder Puff Derby -- an all-girl drag race held at the county fair. This, combined with the influence of older brothers who meticulously cared for their cars, left her with a love for classy automobiles.
The summer before she got married, Kathryn worked in Ann Harbor, Michigan, and before coming home she bought a brand new '67 Pontiac Firebird direct from Detroit. It was her first love.

With marriage and children, however, the car soon spent more and more time parked in the garage. Eventually, the Stevens sold the car and bought a vehicle that would fit their growing family. In spite of this, Kathryn never stopped loving her '67 Firebird.

A few years ago Kathryn tracked down her beloved car, now greatly in need of repair, and she bought it. It has been restored to its original glory, complete with candy apple red paint, black vinyl top and red interior.

Every year Kathryn enters the car in a local cruise-in and enjoys seeing people do double-takes. Perhaps they're asking themselves, "What is a mild-mannered housewife doing with a car like that?"

The answer is simple. She's just reveling in her idiosyncrasies!