Friday, June 26, 2009


Sometimes I look at my kids and think "What happened to my babies? I miss my babies." But yesterday I watched two one-year-olds for two friends. Neither baby is accustomed to being with anyone other that his/her mother. I assured the mothers I would be just fine - after twins, I can handle two babies for an hour or so, no problem, right? And actually there wasn't much crying. It turned out to be a good chance to teach Liza about what babies like - peek-a-boo, pointing to pictures of animals and books and making animal noises to go with each, stacking blocks and making them fall down, it all started coming back to me as Liza and I put on a fairly constant three-ring-circus-like show for these two little people whose eyes dripped with tears and wails ramped up if we didn't keep things going just right. Everything worked out great and Liza and I felt quite triumphant when we could report to the moms that the babies were happy pretty much the whole time. But the experience reminded me how much work one-year-olds are. You have to watch them all the time. You have to entertain them a lot. You can't explain things to them. They are easily upset. They like everything done a certain way but can't tell you what that way would be. They are so cute and funny and entertaining - especially when they're your own, of course. But overall, after yesterday's experience, I'm feeling extra grateful for the stage of life I'm in right now. Babies in occasional doses are just fine with me.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


We had a great family adventure day yesterday. We headed up to Zion and pretty much a perfect day. Most people seemed to have stayed away since it was a little cooler and rainy so it was much less crowded than it usually is in the summer. It was perfectly cool and overcast with some nice sun here and there and a couple cloudbursts that popped up perfectly in between hikes. We drove through the tunnel (which the kids LOVED -it's such a long, cool tunnel) and hiked the 2 mile Zion Overlook and were awed once again by the majestic beauty. Then we rode the shuttle bus (always the twins' favorite part about going to Zion - what is it about little kids and public transportation?) and headed up the canyon to do the Emerald Pools hike. The green everywhere was brighter and fresher than I've ever seen it and all the colors were saturated by the rain and overcast skies. It was gorgeous!
Under one of the waterfalls at Emerald Pools
As usual, the kids hiked their little hearts out without complaining once - and we were headed really straight uphill a lot of the time. Ashton found a big old rattle snake right by the path and we were all so interested watching that guy slither along - he didn't seem to mind us or the many other people who stopped to watch him. We got this great little Junior Ranger book at the visitor's center that helped us look for animal footprints and scat and all different shaped leaves and animals and really listened to the driver on the bus so we could learn about the different rock formations and how the whole place was formed by the Virgin River. We've been going to Zion for years but now the kids are old enough to really get interested in some of the things that make the Park so incredible. Oliver was sufficiently impressed by the bus ride that he solemnly informed me that he was going to be a bus driver when he grows up.
I know I keep saying this, but we really live in an incredible place! And we've had this amazingly pleasant summer weather lately. The kids and I went for a run to the park on Tuesday - it was sooo cool and nice and I offered the kids extra points if they'd run all the way to the park with me so I could get in a good work out. They did it! The twins used their scooters to keep up and we all ran all the way there - a little more than a mile each way. It was the most beautiful day - the run felt so good and we all played on the play equipment. I found out I can use the bars on the play structure to do some great strengthening exercises and the kids loved that I was actually playing with them and we had the whole park to ourselves. We found pine cones in the trees and some little bird eggs and wondered and explored together and it was so much fun. I've never really been able to play with my kids at the park before because I've always had a baby to take care of or a wayward toddler (or two) to follow around. The park is becoming much more fun these days!

Did I Accomplish Anything This Week?

Do you ever have days where you are totally busy all day long but at the end of the day, it seems like you've accomplished pretty much nothing? I just had a whole week that felt pretty un-fulfilling in the realm of accomplishments. That used to be the norm when the kids were all really little. But in the last year or so, I've been able to organize my time pretty well - with three kids in school and the twins pleased as punch to play on their own and have a little TV time for "quiet time" in the afternoon while I sit at the computer and get things done, I've had an hour or two each day to accomplish a few things off my "to do" list. Plus I've had built-in time all by myself - miracle of miracles - to do the grocery shopping and errands while the twins were at preschool. I guess I've gotten a bit spoiled.

With everyone out of school, that nice orderly schedule has gone on the window and while we're all doing great things and having fun and learning, I feel like my own personal list of things to do is getting longer and longer because I never get around to doing hardly anything on it! And if I do get around to doing something on my list, I only get 1/2 of it done before I get interrupted. So I've got to figure out a little "me" time somehow in the midst of the great stuff that we have going on around here this summer.

I'm trying to just let go of some of the stuff on my list and accept that I need to go at a slower pace on other things. Enjoying this time when I have the kids all to myself is my first priority. So I'm trying not to be too frustrated when days go by without getting to my "list" - and without quite squeezing in time for laundry or returning phone calls. I'm trying to keep this little poem in mind - it was cross-stitched in a frame at a home where I frequently babysat and I memorized it as a teenager:

Cleaning and scrubbing (or emails and phone calls)
Can wait 'til tomorrow
For babies grow up
We've learned to our sorrow
So quiet down cobwebs
Dust, go to sleep
I'm rocking my baby (or doing fun stuff with my kids)
And babies don't keep

These kids are growing up right before my eyes! They are such fun and amazing people. They drive me crazy still, sometimes. And they all have things that they really need to work on - whining (Isaac), getting things done (Ashton), getting overly emotional (Eliza), defiance (Silas), pouting (Oliver).... And I have tons of things I really need to work on as their mom (patience, being "in the moment" more with them rather than thinking about the next thing I need to do, really listening to them more...). But now that I'm past some of the things about motherhood that really bogged me down (diaper changes, feeding and nap schedules, lots of crying and sleep deprivation), motherhood is more enjoyable than it's ever been for me right now. I get to spend my days with such fun, interesting little people and I so enjoy having real conversations with them and teaching them things and reading with them and learning from them. And I know I've got to cherish this period where my kids still think I'm cool and want to be with me and want to tell me things and do things with me all day long!

But I'll be a better, nicer mom and I'll be able to better enjoy time with the kids if I don't have so many things I need to do hanging around in my mind if I do get to accomplish a few of my own things here and there. So this week I think I'm re-instituting "quiet time" for at least an hour most afternoons where the kids can read or play quietly in their rooms without me. And I'm going to face up to getting up earlier so I can get some things done in the morning.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Exploring my Purpose and Impact

I spent a good chunk of time last week (in between ER visits - see last post), writing a post for an intriguing website called Dare to Dream. I haven't taken the time to stop and really think about what I'm doing and why for a LONG time. It seems that my life is so full of things that need to be done, right here, right now, that I don't often stop and think about the big picture, the WHY of what I'm doing. After working on this guest post and having Whitney Johnson who runs Dare to Dream ask me some great probing questions, I think I've come to understand my "purpose" at this time in my life on a deeper level - and I feel better about my life than I have in a long time. (If you want to read my post on Dare to Dream, click here.)

I think that it's so important for all of us to somehow carve out time in our busy lives to ponder the question - "Why am I doing what I do?" And to take things a step further, we can think about "Who cares about what I do?" Having a strong sense of PURPOSE and searching out our IMPACT here and there can really add to our satisfaction with our lives - and spur us forward on the things that we really care about - while helping us marginalize or drop some of the things we realize aren't really central to our purpose and don't seem to be having much of an impact.

My education and career path has been somewhat schizophrenic - I've dashed off in different directions towards lofty and seemingly very altruistic desires to change the the world in a variety of ways. In looking back, at first glance, all my efforts seem to have amounted to very little. I haven't done anything that made a big spash. But small drops of good things can result in ripple effects that do change the world - one kid, one mom, one family, one classroom at a time.

Sometimes it's hard to see where we're making a difference. But if we look for evidence of our impact, we'll find it.

I know I've made a big difference to my husband and children and eight younger siblings - the things they say, the choices they make, their hugs, the whisperings in my heart confirm this for me.

I know I've made at least a little difference to the kids in my kids' classes who hug me whenever they see me and to the girls my young women's class at church who told me they wanted me to be at their weddings some day.

I made a difference to quite a few women who touched my lives as I touched theirs when I was Relief Society President back in San Jose and to some moms who've written great comments on my blog or on The Power of Moms.

I made a difference to some neighbors who've told me how grateful they are to feel connected now thanks to the pool party I put together last month and an older lady I helped across the parking lot the other day.... And I'm sure there are many more lives I've touched that I don't know about.

Just writing these things fills my heart with joy. It's the individuals you help and learn from that really make you feel you're fulfilling a purpose that matters. And sometimes it's important to go ahead and list out evidence of where you've made a difference - we all need to feel validated and to see ourselves fulfilling our purpose - even if it's just in drips here and there - they all add up.

What is your purpose in this particular season of your life? Maybe you know your overall purpose - but how does what you're doing now fit into your overall purpose? Are there things you can uniquely do now in your life that you won't be able to do later? Are there things you're trying to do now that maybe don't make sense for this season of your life? Are there things that feel pointless that can be dropped? I answered some of these questions in my post on Dare to Dream and it was a good journey for me to really think about this stuff. I wanted to offer you the same sort of journey through these questions - and I challenge you to find a few minutes to start this journey - it's hard but it's worth it. And if you answer some of these questions and end up writing something you'd like to share - please submit it to The Power of Moms!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Crazy Stuff

As explained in my last post, we're really having a good summer. But we have one big problem. My kids seem to have quite suddenly become quite seriously accident prone.

Last week, Silas split his chin open on the floor at a sandwich place (the kids suggested he do a little dance and the concrete was a little wet - we were outside - somehow he didn't catch himself at all - landed right on his chin). We took him to the new little Instacare nearby and they have this great numbing gel that they use now instead of shots before doing the stitches. Silas didn't even flinch as he got his 6 stitches. All the kids were so cute to him and so encouraging and they made him cookies afterwards. We counted our blessings that things turned out so well.

Then a week later (2 days ago - Friday night), Isaac was carrying Liza around on his back (upside down with her knees over his shoulders - not his greatest idea ever) and as he ran past the bar downstairs, she caught her forehead on one of the sharp edges on the stools and really got a good gash. She looked like something out of a horror movie - blood everywhere. We had to take her across town to get someone with facial lacerations expertise to stitch her up with 14 careful little stitches so she hopefully won't have a huge scar. Unfortunately, numbing gel wasn't enough for the deep down stitches they had to do on her, so they had to give her a bunch of little shots right in the wound and it was really painful for her (and me - I almost fainted!). But she was so good about it and ate up the chance to have me and Jared all to herself. Jared and I were signed up to run this "midnight 5K" so we already had babysitting arranged for the other kids - we just ended at the ER for the evening instead of running the race.

Eliza with her nice little row of stitches. Her new nickname is Frankenstein. We took a picture before they stitched her up but it's pretty gross and I don't want to turn anyone's stomach!

The next morning, I was telling my friend about how crazy it was that these two stitching incidents happened so close together - especially when we've really been so fortunate to have so few ER needs with all these crazy kids (we've just had Isaac brake his arm when he was a toddler and cut his finger open a couple years ago - no other big accidents or major sicknesses at all). She said "watch out, things always come in threes." I assured her there was no way anything else was going to happen. But sure enough, a couple hours later as we were gathering things up to head out to Zion for a hike, Ollie and Si were on the exercise machine downstairs (that they KNOW they're not supposed to play on and haven't even been interested in forever) and Si got mad that Ollie wasn't giving him a turn and gave him a shove. Oliver fell off and whacked his chin on the way down on a sharp edge and we were back at the Instacare. We seriously couldn't believe it.
They'll have matching scars!

The really nice staff at the Instacare were pretty surprised to see us again - we'd just been there the afternoon before to get Silas' stitches out and the evening before to have Liza checked out (they sent us to the main ER because they weren't sure they could do a great job with it). They said we must have set a record.

We spent a nice family afternoon in the Instacare waiting room, talking about safety and contemplating having the kids wear football helmets or bubble wrap 24 hours a day. They numbed Ollie up and gave him 4 stitches and he was so brave and good and Silas and Eliza cheered him on (they felt like quite the experts).

So now, we'd really better be done with all this! We're so grateful all these little things were quite easily fixable and count our blessing that we so seldom have problems. The kids are all reminding each other to be careful all the time and everyone's being extra nice to each other today.

These are some really tough, sweet kids. We are so blessed. I was about at my wit's end yesterday though! It feels pretty bad to see your kids get hurt and takes a lot out of me to see them just get shots - let alone stitches - and I couldn't help but wonder if I'm not quite being the protective mom I should be. The kids do a lot of somewhat wild things - but that seems to make them more aware of their abilities and limitations and less clumsy and actually safer than a lot of kids. And they didn't get hurt doing anything particularly "wild" - just doing odd and seemingly not-too-dangerous things. So I'm trying not to beat myself up about it too much but this has definitely thrown me for a loop! I know, I know, all kids get hurt sometimes. But three in 9 days! I don't want to become a paranoid and over-protective mom but the reigns have definitely been pulled in a bit around here.

Further Details on Summertime Systems

(Answers to some of your questions at the end of this post)
We're into week three of our summer point system (explained HERE) with the kids and things are still going pretty darn well! The kids certainly have their moments when they complain but mostly they're so excited to be making money and the twins have even started asking me for jobs they can do to make money - they're pretty cute helping their big siblings and getting in on the action. Ashton's really going for it on the guitar - he can already play 3 songs and has learned to find chords for his favorite songs off the internet. He's achieved "seriously cool" status with his siblings and the neighborhood kids as he plays his guitar and it's fun to see that beautiful proud smile of his popping out. Isaac has been really motivated with his reading when he reads to the twins. He still drives me crazy with how slow he reads when I try to read with him but if he's reading to the twins or helping Eliza read, he really shines. Eliza finished reading her 10 books and we're going shopping this week for her reading lamp - she's SO excited.

All the kids were thrilled with our DI excursion last week where they each found books and toys that they loved and got at great prices, barely dipping into what they've earned (they're all saving up for big things but I thought some more instant - and really cheap - gratification wold help keep the motivation up). Ashton bought a tiny pack of Pokemon cards at Walmart for $4 right before going to the DI and then found the water gun of his dreams at the DI for just $1. He had a little "buyer's remorse" when he realized how much more cool stuff he could have bought at the DI for that $4 and resolved not to buy more Pokemon cards for quite a while. Nice to have kids learn about being thrifty through real-life experiences!

We're getting little cleaning jobs done around the house each day so we don't have to take a big chunk of our Saturday to clean and everyone likes that. I'm loving following the kids' interests and learning about random new things most days. We went to the dinosaur museum last week and every kid really enjoyed it and we came home and researched even more about dinosaurs on the internet at home. We did a bunch of cool science experiments and learned about why oil and water don't mix and what cool things we can do with baking soda and vinegar. We've done bike rides to a farmers' market, spash pad and out to lunch at a favorite restaurant and we've been swimming a lot. Having this check list for each kid helps make sure we all stay balanced in doing chores, academic things and fun stuff as well as group things and individual things.

Finally, to get back to where I started with this post: Here are answers to questions I've received about our summer systems - several have emailed with different questions but Allison Chan's questions seemed to encompass everyone's questions so I'll answer her questions here. Allison, I tried to email you directly but couldn't get your email address to work and couldn't find a good address for you anywhere! So please comment back with a way to reach you - I'd love to be in better contact and love getting your comments on my posts.

I'm glad some of you thought some of our summer stuff might work well for your family. Be forewarned that it's taken me a few years to get to the point where I've got a system that works pretty well - there was a lot of trial and error with different systems I've tried and hopefully I can spare you a bit of that but ultimately, what works for your family will probably be somewhat different from what works for mine. I found that I had to keep my systems pretty simple when my kids were younger or it was just frustrating for everyone. With my "big kids" at 9, 7 and 6 now, they finally really "get it" on earning points and money and I've figured out more what motivates them and what doesn't. That said - here are answers to your questions - I'm so flattered that you'd ask!

1. What sort of reading lamp do your kids earn? Is it one they clamp on their bed to stay up a few minutes later using to read? I can see this being very motivating for my oldest!

So far I've bought a lamp for them that goes with their room - one for their bedside table. The lamp sits there in its package until they've earned it by finishing all their books. Then, once they've earned their lamp they get 15 minutes of reading time each night - after they're in bed, they're allowed to stay up 15 extra minutes to read on their own.

2. Could you send me the link to your free spanish lessons online? I'm always looking for ways to help Dallin keep up on the spanish he's learned all year, and now Ashton will start his Dual language education this Fall!
- Here it is:
The people who do it are Scottish so you have to get used to their accents a bit but my kids like doing this and 15 minute basic lessons are about perfect for us to review what they know and move them forward plus give us all more conversational Spanish phrases to try to use every day with each other.

3. I'm intrigued by your point system! How much money do they earn per/point? Do some things get more points than others? Do you mind sharing your point tracking document?

I'm happy to share the list of things the kids are doing to earn points and you can get some ideas and make your own spreadsheet with the stuff that works for your kids. Let me know if you want it and I'll email you the attachment. Basically, though, this is how it works: There's a list of things for the kids to accomplish each day:
  • they help pick 1-2 group activities for the day (research something off our "wondering list," read a chapter of a book together, play a game together, etc.)
  • they need to complete 4 out of 6 individual activities (journal writing, math, reading, music practice, art or crafts....)
  • they're supposed to do something physical (bike, hike, swim - usually something we do together each day)
  • they do an activity with one of the twins (help them bike ride, read them a book, do a craft with them, teach them to write a letter, etc.)
  • they do 3 household things (a chore I assign to them, clean room/make bed, do their kitchen job)
They get a point for each thing for a total of 10 points a day. At the end of the week, they get 10 cents for each point. If they get up to 50 points, they get a bonus $2.50 for a total of $7.50 for the week. They can earn extra points to make up for points they missed during the week on Saturdays (works great to get them trained on doing different cleaning jobs around the house during Saturday cleaning) then they can get up to the 50 points and get their bonus. They all have to pay 1/2 on movies, museums, other entertainment, presents for friends' birthdays, etc. and they have to pay for toys they want (when it's not their birthday or Christmas) and treats they want plus they're saving up for special things they want. I really like it when they ask for an ice cream or a toy and I can just say, sure - but it's your money but remember, that will take x number of dollars out of your bank account and then you'll be slower saving up for that ____ that you want. So far, my kids seem to be pretty money-savvy - they search out the best deals on things they want and usually want the cheap ice cream cone rather than the banana split when they see the difference in price. It's nice not to have kids begging for stuff very often!

I hope these answers help! I'm sure anyone reading this is doing MANY things that I could learn from so I'd love to hear about what works for you - please comment here and share!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Choosing My Words

The other day I was listening to Ashton reprimand the twins for something they weren't supposed to do. The twins were crying and I told Ashton it makes the twins feel like he doesn't really like them when he talks to them like that. Then I realized that Ashton got his tone of voice and the words he used from ME. I started thinking about how many of the phrases I say most often are accusatory and negative and commanding - how does that make my kids feel? I do tell them I love them all the time - but with all the commands and reprimands I throw their way, do all the "I love yous" hold up? I decided to start writing down some of the phrases I use most often. I quickly came up with a pretty long list of things that I say a LOT! I think most of these things are pretty necessary and decent things to say to kids to help them do what they do need to do. But I think I could adjust the way I say a lot of these things to create a more positive feeling in my communication with my kids - and I really need to add in a lot more positive stuff to balance things out.

Here's what I realized my kids are hearing from me the most:
"Wash your hands and face."
"Who forgot to flush this toilet?!"
"Don't touch that!"
"Stop that right now."
"OK, I'm counting to 3 and you'd better be here."
"Jammies, brush teeth, bed – I'll be right down to tuck you in!"
"Be patient. I only have two hands."
"If you do it right the first time it's so much easier for everyone."
"Did you hear anything I just said?"
"Have you got your lunch? Have you got your backpack?"
"Just a minute." "Later." "Not now." "Leave me alone for a minute, PLEASE!"
"Is it ever OK to hit (push, kick...)your brother? Ever?"
"Does it matter what anyone else was doing? You do NOT do that."
"Get the dishes done – get the dishes done – get the dishes done - don't do anything else – don't think about anything else – just focus on those dishes until they're done!"
"Get your shoes on and get in the car – quick! We're late!"
"Nope. We're NOT doing that. You're DONE."
"No begging."
"No whining."
"Who did you think was going to clean up this mess? Clean it up right now."
"If you ask me one more time, we won't do it at all."
"You're best friends. You do not talk to each other like that."
"Nope. No more songs. No more talking. I'm done. Go to sleep."
"That is totally unacceptable."
"I can't listen to you when you talk to me while I'm talking to you."
"Everyone stop – just stop."
"Get OFF the computer!"
"Toys go downstairs. Toys don't come upstairs."
"GO DOWNSTAIRS! (or GO OUTSIDE!) Do we run around and yell upstairs? No wildness upstairs. You can run around and yell but you have to do it downstairs or outside.
"OK guys, this is really NOT working out."
"No paying rough like that. Even though it seems fun at first, someone ALWAYS gets hurt."
"What are you supposed to be doing right now?"
"I'm trying to make this so fun but you guys are really ruining it right now."

Then I tried to think of the positive things my kids hear from me a lot. Sad to say, my list was a lot shorter - and it had some things on it that yes, I do say - but not that often.

"Do you have any idea how much I love you? All the way to Heaven and back."
"You guys, you're not listening to me – I told you to stop growing up and you're getting taller and smarter and cuter every day! Stop it!"
"It's so fun to hang out with you guys."
"You guys are the best kids."
"I'm so lucky I get to be your mom."

I realized that I really need to step it up on the positive things I say to the kids. I do say nice things to them and want to celebrate every little good thing they do - I've found that positive reinforcement works wonders (especially when I positively reinforce one kid in the hearing of another!). Part of my short-list problem is that the positive things I say are often more specific and less repetitive - so they don't come to mind as readily as the things I need to remind the kids about so much. But the quantity of positive things I say to the kids is definitely not even close to being on par with the not-so-positive stuff. I guess the NEED to say something immediately about things the kids need to do or stop doing is a little more "in my face" than my need to say something about them being extra calm or avoiding a fight or getting something done quickly and well when they're asked to do it or just telling them about something good that I've noticed them doing.

Anyway, my new goal is going to be searching out and pointing out and celebrating every good little thing that the kids do so that I can have a prayer of balancing out the necessary and/or habitual instructions and reprimands with compliments and commendations. And I'm going to be a lot more polite with the instructions and requests I make to the kids so they don't feel "commanded" all the time - I'm sure that doesn't feel good to them. I'm always hounding them to say please and thank you - I'd better do it myself more often.

Here are some new phrases I'm going to try to make more commonplace coming from my lips:
"I noticed how you ________. That was great."
"You're such a good example to the other kids with how you _____________."
"I'm so proud of you."
"I'm so grateful for you. What would I ever do without you?"
"Here, I don't think I explained that very well. Let me show you how to do it properly."
"Will you please _____________."
"Oops - I think you forgot to __________. You were probably just about to do it but I thought I'd better remind you so that we can do that fun thing we were going to do next."
"Let's start over with that. I'll ask you again more nicely and you answer me nicely."

And I'm going to work on not "setting myself up for failure" so often. I'm always rushing the kids and getting increasingly frustrated as we try to get out the door in large part because I didn't plan properly and add a little padding of time so that the inevitable glitches could be absorbed into the time schedule. I'm often short with the kids when I'm overtired or stressed out. I need to focus on getting sleep properly when possible and learn to say no to things more so that my mind and schedule don't get so packed that I'm bound to be tapped out. I need to do a better job of "picking my battles" and let go of things that really don't matter (The kids probably really won't stop running their hands along the walls and getting them all grimy. I can remind them forever that there's no real reason they ever need to touch the walls - but that's not going to change anything so I should just give up maybe.) And I need to think more about how much I love these amazing kids of mine WHILE I'm talking to them so that the things I need to tell them to do or not do can come out in a more loving way.

So this week, I'm going to step it up on being calm and polite and positive and loving and push off as many commanding or negative comments as I can, replacing them with more positive stuff. I'll let you know how this new resolution goes!


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