Thursday, January 30, 2014

1000 little pinches can really put you over the edge . . .

This afternoon, I sort of snapped.

Really, it was one of our less crazy days - no lessons or outside commitments to spread us thin.

I guess it all started with me not sleeping very well last night. I had a lot on my mind.

Then I worked like crazy the whole time the kids were at school, my back aching, my rear end going numb from sitting there at the computer so many hours straight. But I accomplished far far less than I'd hoped. I had a LONG list of stuff to do as we get ready to go out of town for a few days and I plowed through a bunch of stuff for Primary, paid bills, replied to lots of emails and kept working down my list. But then things kept going wrong. I found out the email we sent out yesterday inexplicitly had some messed-up links in it so I spent a good chunk of time putting together and sending out a new email (while things kept glitching - so frustrating!). In the midst of trying to do that, I stopped to get on a broadcasted Google Hangout interview we were supposed to do for our Power of Moms publisher but after 20 minutes of trying, their staff couldn't make things work right so we'll have to reschedule. I did my hair and put on make up and everything for the thing - which is a somewhat big deal in my life! But I was glad to have more time to work on my list even though the time trying to get going with the Hangout was wasted.

Then I worked on editing a bunch of podcast pages for our exciting new Power of Moms Radio feed that is really going big (exciting!) but somehow, images kept going weird so April and I had to go back in and re-embed a bunch of podcasts which is just tedious. We finally figured out what was going wrong and fixed the problem. But stuff that should have taken a few minutes took hours. I have to say I know WAY more than I ever wanted to know about stuff like HTML and embedding code and formatting and tricks to make the back end of a website do what you want it to do (tricks learned the hard way).

After all that, I was a bit late to pick up the kids at school and they were out in the slushy-sleet, pushing each other around on icy patches for fun and playing king of the hill on a pile of crusty old snow while they waited. Of course, one kid pushed another kid too hard and there were muddy pants and tears when I pulled up.

I tried to be cheerful and ask everyone about their days. The child who just brought home a much-less-than-stellar report card yesterday and promised to start writing down all their assignments every day and share that information with me said "nothing" when I asked them what they'd written down in their planner for today. So we had yet another unpleasant conversation about how important it is to stay on task and write down assignments so you don't forget while the other kids squabbled in the back and kept interrupting.

At home, one kid tracked muddy slush across my freshly cleaned kitchen floor even though I expressly asked everyone to take off their shoes at the door. Then this child was very put out when I asked them to clean up the floor. And while I tried to get that kid to clean the floor, Eliza started playing the violin loudly, getting ready for the lesson I'd promised to give her this afternoon, while Oliver and Silas gleefully flew these mini remote-control helicopters that they got with their birthday money into walls, ceilings and people. The violin combined with the helicopter sounds and the twins shouts of excitement and some bickering between Ashton and Isaac made for some overwhelming caucaphony.

I took a deep breath, sent Eliza to practice upstairs, promised to be up for her lesson soon, then had to play mean mom and put the helicopters up as they really had to get going on finishing their book reports that are due tomorrow (they take FOREVER on these things!). I helped Isaac get going on homework, found the twin's half-completed book reports (for a bit, we were all pretty worried that they might be lost, but they showed up in a random pile luckily), and asked Ashton to work with the twins on their book reports so I could work with Eliza on violin. As I went over what still needed to be done on the book reports with Ashton and the twins, neighbors came over twice to ask to play (had to say a firm but kind "no"). Then once I got kids sitting down and focused again, I saw that Oliver was simply copying a passage out of his book and he had a melt-down when I told him we'd have to do some erasing while Ashton told him he could get sent to jail for plagerizing which really didn't help matters and Oliver stormed off. I went to get Oliver and Eliza politely asked how much longer I was going to be since I'd said I'd be up to do her lesson a long time ago. I told her I was doing the best I could.

When I got Oliver back downstairs and was explaining to Ashton that I needed him to help Oliver read this confusing passage about how Alexander Graham Bell invented the first crude telephone and help him write about it in his own words, Eliza interrupted to ask how much longer I'd be and I could tell she was fighting back tears but trying to be patient. I told her I just needed a minute to get Ashton going on helping Oliver and to play her song one more time on her own. Then Isaac told me he really needed help with his math and that there was no homework he could do without my help while I was helping other people. I told Ashton to get going with Oliver and Silas to start writing the part I'd already talked to him about while I quickly looked at Isaac's math homework. It was algebra that I really really can't remember how to do but I found him a page of his homework that looked easier and he got going on that.

Then I turned back to Silas and low and behold, he'd pulled out the laptop and seemed to be playing a game. So not cool. "Silas, what in the world are you doing with that laptop? You've got a book report to be working on!" Silas snapped back in a very sassy and sarcastic voice, "Well, you see, I have to look something up for my book report." I swallowed down some serious anger and said, firmly but calmly, "Silas, you cannot talk like that. I already helped you a ton and you have the information you need for your report. You just need to get writing and stay focused." Silas responded with another sassy comment and added a mean-looking sneer for good measure.

Really, Silas wasn't being all that bad. But something about that tone of voice and sneer drove me over the edge and I gave him a little smack before even realizing what I was doing. I don't generally believe in spanking. Silas was shocked. I was shocked. Everything got silent. Then Silas stormed off to his room and I followed behind him. I felt just plain awful.

This from a mom who recorded this podcast just two days ago about controlling our tempers. I guess I'm better at explaining how to do something than actually doing it.

When I got up to Silas's room I pulled him on my lap and hugged him, his initially stiffness quickly melting into a returned hug. We sat like that for a while, hugging each other hard. Then I told him how sorry I was and told him about all the things that had been frustrating for me that that day. I told him to imagine that each of those things was a sharp pinch and that after you get pinched tons of times (often in the same, sore place), there's sometimes one last pinch that just makes you extra mad. His comment and sneer was that last pinch for me. And while all those pinches don't make it right for me to have lost my temper, I wanted him to understand that it wasn't just him that set me off. He seemed to really get it and hugged me tight. He said he was sorry too. We asked each other for forgiveness and it was freely given and after another long, tight hug (Silas is the greatest hugger!), we headed back downstairs and I had a talk with the other boys who'd witnessed my outburst and explained and apologized to them as well.

And the rest of the afternoon wasn't exactly peaches and cream. I was super patient and kind with Eliza at her violin lesson but she was tearful since she's such a perfectionist and some parts of her songs are just plain tricky. My praise is just never enough when she knows she didn't quite do something right. After the lesson with Eliza, I came downstairs and found that the boys had made cookies and actually the kitchen wasn't too much of a mess. I'd told them they could make cookies when they finished their book reports. And their book reports were mostly done, albeit not done particularly beautifully. We fixed some spelling and punctuation and called it good and everyone was quite pleasantly quiet while I made dinner. Then we had a really pleasant evening since, for once, no one had to go anywhere. I can't even remember the last time we had an evening without several places different people had to be! We sat at the dinner table for a long time and just talked. It was nice.

While Jared and the kids worked on dishes, I sat down to start typing this. Writing things out always makes  me feel better.

Now Eliza and the twins are dancing around to some cranked-up music in the living room and Isaac just showed me that he can do the moon walk - he's been working on it for a while and was so proud to show me how good he is at it now. Oops. Ashton just made fun of the way Silas dances and threatened to turn off the music if he didn't dance in a more "normal" way (he was doing a sort of tap dance thing). So I stopped typing to let Ashton know that everyone can dance their own way and that I think Silas's dancing is great.

I guess I'd better take a break and put kids to bed now.

OK. Kids are in bed and I'm back.

I'm so very far from perfect when it comes to being the ever-patient and soft-spoken mom I want to be. But looking back, I see that I have learned to let a lot more things roll off my back and have learned to swallow down my anger much better thanks to tons of trial and error.

I've got a long way to go. And some days I feel like I just can't win for losing. But I'm really trying. And those forgiving hugs are worth their weight in gold.

Off to bed myself! I love that we get a fresh new day every day, clean and wide with no mistakes in it. Tomorrow I'll be better.

Friday, January 24, 2014


(I just found this draft from ages ago and figured I might as well post it...Especially in light of our recent dog adventure...)

Growing up, we had a lot of pets. A REALLY lot of pets. My parents thought that pets would be a great way to teach us responsibility. For a while all NINE of us had our own pets. And it was a bit of a zoo (literally).

We started off with a cat named Meow Meow (an aloof Siamese who didn't love me and Shawni as much as we loved her) and a dog named Barney who seemed to like us about as much as we liked her - a lot.

Here's me and Barney:

Here's a random puppy we took in one summer until we found its owners:

When I was eight, my family visited Geneva, Switzerland on a quick European whirlwind tour at the end of the three years we lived in England. I fell in love with the name Geneva and decided that if I ever got the cat I dreamed of, I'd name it Geneva. So when I received a cute little grey tiger fluff-ball of a cat for my 9th birthday, I named it Geneva - even though it was a male cat. Poor Geneva got called a "she" his whole life. But he didn't seem to mind. 

Geneva was my best friend and constant companion for years - put up with all the times we dressed him up in doll clothes, always came around to comfort me when I was sad, always ran to the kitchen when anyone shook the catfood container (or a cereal box or whatever sounded like that). He died of old age after I got home from my mission to Bulgaria when I was 22. I still miss that cat.

Here's me and Geneva and Shawni: 

When I was 10, Geneva was joined by Caine, the sweetest little Beagle-mix mutt ever. My 4th grade teacher, Mr Waldhouse, found Caine lost and scared between a bunch of cars in a traffic jam, picked her up and brought her home. The next day he asked the class whether anyone wanted a dog. I raised my hand because my parents had promised Shawni a dog since I had Geneva. He had me go down to the office and call my parents to ask their permission to get a dog. Amazingly, they said sure. And Shawni and I walked home from school that day with an exciting new dog. Somehow we came up with the name Caine, thinking it was unusual and cute, and Shawni decided her middle name would be "White Socks" since she had white feet. Oddly, no one mentioned right away that we were picking a name of a villain in the Bible for this cute little dog. Later on, when the name was firmly attached, that we learned our name choice maybe wasn't the best. And Caine got called "he" most of her life. Somehow we ended up with a girl name for a boy cat and a boy name for a girl dog. Oh well!

Caine and Geneva were best friends. They'd always jump over each other and chase each other around playfully and sometimes even curled up together. Caine was a seriously great dog, so loving and obedient, short haired, clean, and cute as can be.

Here's Caine and Geneva with me and Jonah:

Caine had a litter of puppies one time and that was SO exciting and fun. She had some very interesting-looking pups. We never figured out what sort of dog the father was. But we were able to find good homes for all of them.

Here's Talmadge with one of Caine's puppies:

After about 5 years, Caine disappeared one day. We never found out what happened to her. We thought maybe she was stolen because she was so cute. We never saw her again. And we're still sad about that.

Saydi got her own cat when she was about 8. This cat was named "Windy." Windy sadly didn't last long. We were at Bear Lake and left Windy with some food while we went somewhere overnight. When we got back, Josh found Windy all stiff and dead. Apparently an animal got poor Windy. Saydi remembers Josh walking in with the stiff dead cat and saying, "Hey, Saydi, look. Windy died."

For years, Josh had tons of gerbils and named them all things like Fasty and Slowy and Browny and Blacky based on their various characteristics. His longest-lasting gerbil was one with a very short tale because someone accidentally shut his tale in a drawer and cut it off. But he led a long life with that short tale and was a favorite. I think he was called Shorty. Sorry, no pics of the gerbils could be found.

We had a few different bunnies over the years. Noah had our longest-lasting bunny named "Cosette." Cosette would wander the backyard and was a great playmate. But one day Cosette disappeared and Noah was pretty distraught. He felt much better when we convinced him that Cosette had gone off to join the wild bunnies - sort of like in the Velveteen Rabbit.

For a while, we had chickens. Josh was in charge of them. Dad built them a chicken coop using some old doors and windows and it worked pretty well. They provided great eggs and they were very stinky. That's all I really remember about them.

When I was about 12, my dad got us a horse named Banner then a couple years later, another horse named King. We kept the horses up at our cabin and loved riding them up the canyon there. Banner was a really awesome horse - great with kids, totally obedient, fun to ride. When I was 16 though, he took me on a really really wild ride down a very sharp incline and jumped over a stream at the end. I still wonder how in the world I stayed on that horse!

Here's Shawni and Ann (our Nanny from England who lived with us for a while) on Banner (the black and white apolusa) and some other horse we must have borrowed from someone.

We had a turtle named Bubba, another cat named Pearl who had a bunch of kittens we kept for a while. We had numerous snakes, gerbils, hampsters and lizards. One snake (the snakes were usually Josh's) escaped from his cage and I found him in my bed. That was freaky. One time Bubba the turtle crawled away when the kids were playing with him out of his cage and got lost and we found him 2 weeks later, seemingly perfectly fine. Poor Bubba lived for years in the sink in what we called the "pink bathroom." There were two pink porcelain sinks in there and one seemed sufficient for our needs so we gave Bubba the other one. It was super easy to put in fresh water and clean his "cage" that way!

Our last pet was Able (yes, she was a female and yes, we had to have an Able to make up for naming our other dog Caine). When Jonah was 9, he was attacked by a dog and had to have surgery to repair his arm and leg from the wounds he received. To help him not be scared of dogs after this sad incident, my parents decided to get him a puppy. Jonah picked out a cute little chocolate labrador retriever and Able became our longest-lasting and dearly beloved dog.

My kids got to know and love Able. The twins were especially enamoured with Able. And she was fabulous about putting up with all the kids who adored her at Bear Lake.

Here are Oliver and Eliza with Able at Bear Lake:

Able finally had to be put down as her arthritis took over and she had some tumors. We all miss her.

Able was the last Eyrealm pet.

Somehow, after a rich history of growing up with pets, none of my parents' children have opted to have dogs or cats. A few of us have had various gerbils, fish, lizzards, hampsters and snakes. But not one of us have dogs, cats, bunnies, horses or the like. 

My dad thinks we're a bit mean to deprive our children of the rich experiences we had with pets growing up. But perhaps we all saw the mess and stress that pets can add and didn't feel right about adding to the already messy and stressful lives we lead. I don't feel like I can take care of one more living thing in my life right now. 

Plus I think expectations have changed when it comes to having pets. It used to be that you could just bring a dog that your teacher found in a traffic jam home from school with you and it wasn't a big deal. You'd buy a collar and feed the dog scraps and a little dog food. The dog would run around when the kids were running around and didn't need to be taken on walks. No one cared much about leashes. No one picked up their dog's poop. Our animals never went to a trainer to be trained or a groomer to be cared for or to the vet for check-ups or shots. When we went out of town, we'd bring the dog with us or there was always someone in the neighborhood willing to take the dog in for a few days. And the cats could just be outside while we were gone with a neighbor putting out food and water for them. There was no "doggie day care" or pet hotels or anything like that. Pets were beloved animals and we were always taught to treat them kindly and respectfully, but they weren't a big deal to care for.

In today's world, I'm sure the normal and generally kind treatment our pets received would be viewed as sadly insufficient. Nowadays, there are a lot more restrictions and expectations when it comes to pets. So it's a bigger deal to have a pet than it used to be.

My kids would love love love love a dog or cat. But I just really don't want to deal with the fur, the smell, the walks, the litter boxes, the health issues they might have - let alone the behavior issues the dog or cat might have. Animals can come with difficult behavior issues or hard personalities and traits and if you get a dog or cat that can involve a whole lot of needs you may not be prepared to deal with. And if you get a dog or cat that isn't working out, what do you do? It's hard to give away a dog or cat that just isn't working out.

So we've decided to stick with reptiles. Lizards and snakes are fun, quiet, clean and easy. The kids catch a snake or lizard every so often and we have a nice terrarium we keep it in until we need to go on a trip or the kids loose interest or the animal "seems want to go back to nature." Then we simply let the creature go and say goodbye.

So while I really do love dogs and cats, they just aren't right for our family right now. And my kids have lots of dog and cat friends thanks to our neighbors. I think having friends with pets is really the perfect way to have pets!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Serious Skiing

Ollie and Si with one of their good friends from school

We're a skiing family now. Got the skis for everyone (or a snowboard in Ashton's case). Got the early-bird good deal on season passes. Got the goggles, helmets, snowpants, hats, mittens, and all that (Wow, there's a lot of expensive gear involved! We've found some great deals on everything but it all adds up . . .). Got some kids who are becoming really quite good at this sport they were only introduced to 3 years ago. Got a husband who's great at skiing and snowboarding and has the patience and stamina to teach these kids what they need to know and ski with them for hours on end.

And then we've got me. I don't ski. I did ski a bit when we moved to Salt Lake City from England and I was 9 and 10 years old. But then we moved to Virginia where there weren't any ski resorts and when we moved back to Utah when I was 12, I was so far behind all my friends that skiing was embarrassing. And expensive. Then I lived in places with no ski resorts for a whole lot of years. And now I just really don't feel the inclination to take up skiing. I don't think I'd be very good at it. I don't like feeling out of control. I hate falling. And I'd rather spend the money on other things.

But I do love going with the Jared and the kids up to the ski resort and being their "home base" at the lodge when they're looking for each other or need a snack or lunch. I read and get Power of Moms work done or chat with another non-skiing mom. I watch skiers come down the mountain. I take photos. I enjoy the beautiful scenery and do some good people-watching as well.

Last time we went up, I loved riding up the gondola with everyone, seeing the gorgeous scenery and watching the kids do the terrain park and show me their latest abilities. They're good! I ran down the hill part way with them and got some pictures, then had myself some great exercise hiking back up to catch the gondola down. Some people looked at me funny as I hiked up the side of the hill but I didn't care. I'm fine being a non-skier amongst skiers. I'm fine being the cheerleader and the home base. I love the scenery. I love being right there to hear about their adventures and misadventures on the slopes. And I love being part of it all.

Here we are on the gondola

gorgeous view from the gondola
The twins saw these sleds that ski patrol uses to take injured people down the hill. Silas pointed them out and said, "Hey mom, how about if you ride on one of those sleds and we just pull you along?" Sweet of him to be thinking of more ways to include me!

Am I a wimp? Maybe. But I don't care. I used to feel like I needed to push myself to do every hard thing that was put in my path and never be a wimp about anything. But lately, I've come to terms with myself a bit more and I'm OK saying no to things I really don't want to do, things that have bigger drawbacks that rewards when I think them through. And if I come off as wimpy, so be it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jared's Birthday/New Year's Eve

Jared had to work on his birthday (which also happens to be New Year's Eve) but we made him a special breakfast - his favorite eggs benedict - before he had to leave for work.

This guy is one amazing man. I'm so very very very blessed to be married to the most hard-working, uncomplaining, selfless, smart, capable and handsome guy there is.

We headed to SLC to meet up with Jared and my mom and Charity for a birthday lunch.

When Jared had to go back to work, the rest of us checked out some amazing birds at Tracy Aviary. We learned lots of new stuff. I love how these kids get so very interested in learning about the amazing animals and plants in this world.

After the aviary, we checked out some cool contemporary art at the museum downtown, found all these cool "secret" art installations they'd set up as a scavenger hunt for New Years, then visited Temple Square - got to see all the lights turn on just as darkness started to fall - pretty cool to be there right at that moment. Super cool to be there with Charity who knows how to drink in the best of everything.

We had a lot of fun at a Broadway Tunes Sing-Along there at Temple Square. Fun to belt out some old favorites along with lots of other people. Loved singing "Do you Hear the People Sing" from Les Mis at the top of of our lungs, all the kids getting every word and remembering how I told them the whole story of Les Mis last year as a several-installment bedtime story.

Charity was kind enough to take care of the kids while I took Jared out for his favorite thing - a nice big super rare and juicy steak. He was very pleased.
 Then we picked up the kids and hurried back to Ogden so Ashton could go to his first dance. Since he'd be 14 in just a couple days, the Young Men's leaders said he could go to the big multi-stake New Years Dance and he was pretty darn excited about it. Here he is heading out the door for the dance, his trusty ever-present fedora on his head (sorry about the bad lighting).
 After delivering Ashton to the party, the rest of us had a great party to finish celebrating Jared's birthday and say goodbye to 2013. We played games, ate cake and had a great time until everyone was tired. We watched the New Year kick off in New Orleans at 11pm and called it a night.

Goodbye 2013. Hello to Jared's 40th year of life!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Happy Birthday Oliver and Silas!

 How can it be that my babies are NINE!

What in the world would I do without these sweet, fun, cute boys who fill my days with hugs and kisses and enthusiasm and their great and original thoughts and ideas???!!!

We had a great (and packed) day.

We started with a birthday breakfast with the blueberry pancakes they found a recipe for online and simply had to try. They were good! A friend who sometimes catches a ride to school with us showed up early so he joined us for breakfast.

The twins got their first presents of the day at breakfast - the ski goggles and basketballs they've been dearly wanting!

I picked them up at lunchtime and we went to their favorite place for lunch - Zupas. Then they came home with me so they could have some special time with the puppy and help me make their birthday cake (Chicago chocolate cinnamon cake) and birthday dinner (lasagna). They LOVE helping me cook so we spent some quality time in the kitchen together.

This sweet puppy was so fun to have around for their birthday. But we placed an add online and found her a really great new home the day after their birthday. (We had like 30 people call/email about her within minutes of placing the ad and I let the kids help pick which people should get her. They got to meet the lady we decided would be best and say their goodbyes to the puppy the day after their birthday and everyone felt great about everything in the end - but there were a few tears!)

Then the twins had basketball practice and scouts (where they got to work on their Pinewood Derby cars which they thought was the perfect thing to get to do on their birthday). So we had a late dinner and ice cream and cake and everyone gave their presents and it was a lovely day.

Ashton gave them coupons saying he'd walk them to 7 Eleven to get the treats of their choice - they LOVE going on special "brother dates" with Ashton! (Ashton just got back from sledding with the young men so he has great hat-hair here.)

Eliza set up all the twins' stuffed dogs in the living room with birthday signs and special hats/costumes as her special surprise present for the twins. They were thrilled.

Isaac gave the twins this little remote control car of his that they always want to play with. So nice of him. Didn't get a photo. Oh well.

Here's my dad's birthday poem for these two - he captures them very well!

Oliver and Silas,
Silas and Oliver.
Either way you say it, it is a dynamic duo,
A volcano of enthusiasm,
A deluge of delight!
When we popped in for a surprise the other night
I got tackled by two whooping, hollering banshees,
And it was the highlight of my day!
These two little power packages
are also the motherlodes of love.
They love you with their eyes and with their laughs of delight.
They love you with their muscular hugs,
And they love you with their strong spirits.
Love right back at cha fellers.
The world has been a much better place for these past 9 years
With you guys on it!

Love to the end of the universe from

And here are the posters the twins made to present at school on their birthday. Fun to see what they wanted to write about themselves. And of course they had to include photos with what they labeled on the poster as their "temporary dog."


Related Posts with Thumbnails