Mothering philosophies in conflict

Scotland loves to collect “stuff” from around the house and collect it into a common place. Sometimes the container is an emptied ziplock bag,  a backpack,  a cardboard box, or yesterday, a tent. He tends to continue to find things to add to his container until it is full. So you can imagine what sort of mess we had on our hands when we put away the tent last night. I awoke this morning to this pile of random stuff and felt my anxiety building and my frustration rising. I knew there was no way that my three year old child could responsibly put all of this stuff away. But because he made the mess, it only made sense that he did. I wanted to trash it all. In my frustration I started calling all of it “junk” and making exclamations like: “This just isn’t okay. Things go in certain places and when things get disconnected from their intended spots then they aren’t fun any more.” My chest tightened. How can I curb this behavior? Immediately, I looked at myself.

I need to be more of a stickler. I need to consistently demand that things be put away, in the right place. There needs to be a right place, with a pictorial label.  I must stop allowing Scotland to take anything anywhere. Some strict ground rules need to be established. Then my flip-side chipped in:

But free play and imaginative play are the building blocks of a child’s learning. The stricture and structure of the adult world can stifle a child’s imagination, creativity, and joy. Who cares if your toys aren’t organized. They’re not for you! 

And so goes the debate in my head. One day I’ll side with the structured one, the next day I’ll give in to the creative one. It’s the architect and the artist fighting inside of my head. One wants order, the other wants freedom. You can’t have one with out the other. So where is the balance? Should I say, Scotland you can only choose a container this size or smaller to keep your treasure. Or, you can only dump your treasures out in this bin.

Tom and I are working to raise children who can find joy in the mundane, thrill in the ordinary. So while I crave order and cleanliness, even more I want creativity and life. Now I just need to figure out how to have both at the same time! Ideas?

Faith

Tom and I spoke in church today. Our church is unique, I think, in that there are no paid clergy and it is run entirely by volunteers. As a result the sermons are given by people from the congregation. The bishop gives a topic, perhaps a talk to reference, and the rest is up to the person. I was given this talk, and Tom this one. I really appreciated the opportunity to study the topic of faith this month, and to evaluate my prayer, scripture reading, FHE, and temple attendance.  I tried a new style and used MindNode to write a mind map that I referenced for my talk. I liked that it allowed me to have all the quotes and information I wanted without constraining me to some linear order. I also loved that it allowed me to see all of my information at the same time. (I taped four pieces of paper together to create a large map.) It was a spiritually heightening experience for me. I’m always amazed at how strengthening the bearing of one’s testimony is. One of the thoughts that occurred to me while studying the topic was that we can’t see a tree grow. Faith is compared to a seed by Alma and I love that imagery. I thought a lot about the beauty of trees and how they start out as something so small and yet grow to be something so grand. And yet- that growth is imperceptible in its occurrence. Sure you can see it via time lapse photography, but with the bare eye the growth of a tree is imperceptible. I was touched by the thought that the same is true with us. We often only see growth in ourselves, our children, after the fact- when we look back and compare ourselves with a previous version of ourselves. Because of this, it is easy to undercut certain commandments or practices as being worthless because we don’t “see” their benefit. Science shows that one good meal can change the health of the body for good, and similarly one bad meal will damage the body. We don’t notice how our arteries become clogged as it’s happening, nor do we sense the scrapping and cleaning that a hearty salad produces within us. While I have had  many scripture study sessions and prayers where I immediately feel fed, lifted, improved; I’ve had many others that felt blasé, repetitive. (The fault, my own, of course.) But I’d like to suggest that even if I hadn’t notice the change, it was there.

When I was first given the topic my first thought was. Yikes, I don’t have much faith. When I considered the faith to move mountains, raise people from the dead, I wasn’t sure I matched up. But as I prayed about it I realized that my faith manifests itself in confidence, peace, optimism. I have complete faith that Christ is at the helm of His church. I have faith that he communicates with living prophets and apostles to lead His church on earth. I have faith that whatever happens to me on this earth will be for my eternal good. I have faith that motherhood is an excellent way to progress towards divinity. I have faith in an afterlife. I have faith that my ancestors are alive and active in my life. My faith also manifests itself in a lack of fear. I imagine everyone’s faith shows itself in different ways, but this is where mine shines through. How grateful I am for a God who loves me enough to reassure me and communicate with me continually. He is truly a Loving Father. I have complete faith in Him.

Open ‘er up!

Doing home renovation can be scary. We had a builder install a cantilevered beam to support our roof, so that we no longer needed the wall between our kitchen and living room… So after work today, I took our new sawzall and took out all the supports. We are so happy with the result!

The Christmas season

We had a long Christmas season this year. Typically Christmas feels so rushed, and I don’t feel like I have enough time to do all the things I want to do. This year was different. We decorated for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, and we started daily Christmas advent activities soon after. Then we celebrated a week late, on January 1st. It made for a LONG Christmas season. It had its challenges but looking back I’m amazed at the beautiful experiences we had as a result:

-I hosted a garland making night with a bunch of friends. (And made the wreath below.)

-Attended the Nutcracker with Scotland (Mommy- Scotter date)

-Attended a dramatized production of the Messiah with Tom.

-Made our first Gingerbread house.

-Threaded popcorn and decorated a tree outside for the birds. (It dissolved in the rain soon after!)

-Visited a rest home twice and sang and visited with the residents.

-Went to Sky’s Nursery to see the model train village, reindeer, camel, and coy with friends. (Shared a HUGE mug of hot chocolate while we were there.)

-took treats to our neighbors.

-Lots of nativity play.

“Mom, I’ll be the Angel and you be Mary!”

-sent Christmas cards for the first time.

-Attended the Bellevue Nativity Display. (A tradition we’ll keep.)

-Had a surprise Christmas party for the young women I work with.

-hosted a baby shower for a friend.

-Spent the day downtown as a family- rode the merry-go-round, saw the Teddy bear suite, and gingerbread display. saw the falling snow at Pacific place, experienced the “mall Christmas shopping frenzy” and enjoyed all the lights.

-slept “under” the Christmas tree.

-placed a “straw” in the “manger” when we saw others perform Christlike acts. (A personal favorite.)

-Visited Tom at the hospital on Christmas day December 25, and took the other residents treats.

Ran into Santa. (He de-scrubbed right before chatting with us, after visiting a sick child.)

-made candy- Peanut butter fudge for Dad, and peanut pretzel brittle.

-Filled our days with silliness

-Visited the Temple.

-visited a few toy stores.

-various secret services.

-sang carols around the piano.

-watched the First Presidency Christmas Devotional as a family.

-watched a few Christmas movies.

-Facetimed with family

-Candlelit Christmas eve dinner.

-Nativity reenactment.

-Daily advent activity. (Scotland has suggested several times since that we do another advent calendar.)

It was hard to not go and celebrate Christmas with family this year. But I’m really grateful for the opportunity we had to establish some beautiful Christmas traditions. Scotland and I had so many beautiful moments where we were able to really discuss the true meaning of Christmas. The daily act of talking about Christlike deeds changed the way we each went about our day. It reminded me of the quote by Elder Packer.  “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” Our simple Nativity reenactment was followed by a tender testimony meeting, where even Scotland participated. The spirit was strong in our home, and discussions of Christ more frequent. I felt a deep abiding appreciation for my Savior, and a true rejoicing in His life. We really welcomed Christ into our Christmas this year, and I’m so grateful for the peace and joy He gave us in return.

Quote

“Do you really need permission and a hall-pass to go there? Do you need someone to make you a paper badge with the word writer on it before you can believe you are one? I hope not.”

“America has never much revered her creative people.”

-Stephen King, “On Writing”

Happy 11 month Birthday Anders

Latest milestones:

Yesterday, we removed the stairs gate. It’s official- he’s on his own. Seeing him spin around and back up to go down the stairs is the cutest thing. It’s a newly acquired skill and he’s very proud of it, grinning proudly and grunting to get my attention every time he does it. Determined to master it, he practiced all day, spinning around going down two steps and then climbing back up then repeating.

Pointing. I love how this milestone opens up our pathways of communication. Now I know what he’s looking at, what he’s interested in. He points at pictures in books, at faces in pictures, at dogs out the window.

 

Hard to see, but he has six teeth now. Four on top.

Books. He’s loving book right now, especially his Touch and Feel Farm book. He flips back and forth through the pages feeling each animal. He’ll often crawl over to the bookcase and pull a bunch of his board books off the shelf and look at them throughout the day.

Cruising. He’s getting more and more daring with his walking. He can walk with us holding one finger. He’ll push chairs across the floor walking behind them. We really need to get him a walking toy. He’d love it.

Kicking. So it’s the funniest thing, and I’ve never noticed another baby doing it, but Anders is very interested in kicking. His coordination with his right leg and foot have developed quite a bit in the last few weeks, and he no longer needs to use his hand to pull up his pants to swing his leg. He likes to kick balls. He loves it when we play footsie- with him sitting on the floor and I on a chair. He’ll lift his little foot and I’ll nuzzle it with my toys. He thinks its hilarious. He also tries to step up on things- while sitting down.

Climbing. I had the ladder out (painting our picture window’s trim) and he tried to climb up. He likes to climb up on the first step of Scotland’s step stool. He loves the stairs, and Scotland has taught him how to slide down. (Thank goodness Scotland hasn’t learned how to slide down head first yet!)

Grunting. Anders will let you know if he’s displeased. Loudly. He often turns heads.

Eating. He continues to have a ginormous appetite. Though he is a bit picky and throws the most dramatic fits when I give him something he doesn’t like- sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas. He throws his head back, arches his back and yells out with his face tight in a pout.

It’s amazing how fun old beans can be!

Laughing. I had him repeatedly belly laughing the other day when we were playing blocks. I’d build a tower and he’d knock it down- and laugh and laugh when I’d squeal and say “Ah! Don’t knock down my tower!”

Balls. He loves them. He gets them out everyday. He loves to throw them, and try to kick them. He’s actually really fun to play pass with because, though his form looks ineffective he successfully throw it to you every time. He’s also taken to chucking his passy, especially at church. He must pick up on the fact that I keep giving him his passy not to soothe and comfort him, as I do at home, but to keep him quiet. And he’s not into quiet.

Obedient. He can be mischievous- intentionally- looking at me with sparkly eyes and taking off after I see him, but if I lay my foot down on something he obeys. We had two days of “training” with the pellet stoves, and we’ve never had a problem since. We two episodes with the toilet paper, and again no repeats. For this, I am VERY grateful. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

Smiles. Still full of them. Still constant. Still melt my heart.

 

 

Christmas photo shoot

I dragged out my “big camera” today. It’s been far too long since I used it and I was surprised at how comforting and rewarding it was. Dipping back into aperture and shutter speed was surprisingly fulfilling. Perhaps its time to pick up photography again!

Because we’re waiting for Tom to be off work, we’re not celebrating Christmas until January 1st this year. I figured I’d take advantage of the extra time to do a Christmas photo shoot today. It’s been a long time since I got any quality shots of Scotland, and I need an updated on for my new gallery wall. It turned out to be more successful than I thought. Though, my standard for success, you will see, has lowered.

It started out like this, blurry, blurry blurry. Anders is at such a difficult age to photograph because he’s in constant motion. This is Scotland’s favorite brother poise. As you can tell, Anders’ isn’t as big of a fan.

A day in the life. . .

This is about as good as it got for a brothers shot. It’s too bad that Anders is always super smiley when I take shots of just him, but as soon  as Scotland enters the picture he gets grumpy. (I wonder why.) Regardless, I love how this captures Anders’ beautiful eyes, and his full lips, and Scotland’s sweetness.

By the end of the shoot the boys were having a blast bonking heads. Figures. They were both laughing, so. . .

Scotland’s cheesy grin

Scotland was surprisingly accommodating. Perhaps it was my begging: “Please. This is all I want for Christmas!”

But of course it wasn’t long until it turned into this. He’d poise, make a face, then run back and want to see it in the camera.

But this here is the keeper. This is Scotland through and through. How I adore this darling little boy. I hope I never forget his morning routine of climbing up on the piano bench. Taking off that day’s advent baggy. Then counting the remaining bags, turning and announcing: “Eight days until Christmas!”

Christmas thoughts

Be prepared for random, though hopefully not intelligible, spewing.

We decided to do Christmas cards this year. It’s the first time we’ve actually sent them out traditional style. Last year we e-mailed an update. I’ve always gawked at the price and in my self-centeredness, figured that if people wanted an update on us they’d check our blog. But this year I felt differently. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’re spending Christmas alone. That my “old friends” feel especially far this year, but I wanted to let all those people in my life know that I still think of them, that I still love them. I was surprised at how heart warming it was to write out each name and address thinking of the recipients and how they’d blessed our lives. I”m not sure how to articulate it, I was just overwhelmed by how many wonderful people have crossed our lives over the years. My list grew longer and longer as I thought of all the people right here in Seattle, then in Cleveland, then from college, then high school. It was really heartwarming, and a beautiful experience for me.

In response to my last post, I have taken a new tactic with Scotland, instead of preaching the merits of Christlike charity. I’ve made a point of expressing how excited I am for him to open the gifts I got him for Christmas. And you know what- his response has been precisely what I hoped for: “Mom, I’m excited for you to open the gift I got you for Christmas!” Entirely of his own accord he has now gotten gifts for Tom and I- toys that he has placed in boxes and put under the tree. (Tom didn’t get his gift until he used the same tactic- “Scotter, I can’t wait to see how you like the presents I got for you!”) It reminds me of two things. First, Steven Covey’s book about how kids can’t truly give something away until they first feel it is theirs to give. (Scotter doesn’t feel like he can give presents until he’s sure he’s getting some.) And second, a talk from General Conference when the speaker told the story of a horse that couldn’t be broke despite hours of training, until finally the cowboy walked alongside the horse, walked with the horse, instead of pulling the horse along. Sometimes I’m successful, usually I’m not. Like the other day when I’d made rolls for the neighbors. They were hot out of the oven and it timed out such that Anders was down for a nap- Tom was home asleep, and I thought Scotter and I could sneak out quick and take them to the neighbors on either side of us while they both slept. Despite my cheerful encouraging Scotland didn’t want to go. But I wanted him to have the experience of giving to his neighbors- spreading the Christmas cheer. In the end I forced him. I’m always battling between forcing your kids to do things that will benefit them, and turning down experiences and opportunities for growth in order to keep the peace. (It’s especially difficult when want to do something, like go caroling, and the boys don’t want to. But they can’t stay home alone. So I have no choice.)

I was reminded from the joy school curriculum about something my mom did growing up, and decided to follow suit. I made a simple “manger” out of a cardboard box and some TP rolls and cut strips of yellow paper for straw. Whenever we see someone do something like Christ we put a piece of straw in the manger. We keep it on the dining room table, and each meal we share things we saw others do that was Christlike. Usually I mention some things I saw Scotland do, and he mentions something he saw his imaginary friends do. “I saw Bambi help this lady carry a heavy load!” Though now that we’re on our third week of it Scotland’s ability to recognize service has increased. I have been amazed by how this simple daily act has improved his behavior. He was down right angelic the first week we did it, and his behavior has only waned as our attention to the manger has waned. It’s been a powerful study in positive reinforcement. It’s also been an excellent learning experience for me- in learning to focus on all the wonderful things Scotland is doing, instead of fixating on the few frustrating things he does.

We’re celebrating a week late- because Tom is working straight until New Year’s eve. Because I so often feel the Christmas season is rushed and I don’t have the time to do all the things I want, we started it off before December even started, and while it has certainly made for a less stressful season- and would have been perfect if we were celebrating this Thursday , it’s felt rather long with our week extension. We’re are certainly cultivating some impressive delayed gratification in our children!

Scotland has LOVED the advent calendar this year. Last year I made one that consists of 25 small linen bags. We fill them with slips of paper suggesting a daily Christmas activity. It’s helped the season feel special, and because Scotland can read it hasn’t been stressful because if the activity doesn’t end up fitting our day’s plan I can just switch it up that morning!

I’m always fascinated by the psychological repercussions of allowing oneself to consider one’s “wants.” It’s challenging at first, a slow trickle of ideas, and then, like a firehose, shocking in its abundance. I wonder, is it healthy? Better to never entertain the thought, or let them out- free to fly away?

I feel very torn about how much to give our children at Christmas. Tom won out this year and our tree is flooded with Amazon boxes. But part of me doesn’t approve. Part of me wishes we would have purchased less. Kept things simpler, focused elsewhere. And part of me can’t wait to see their eyes light up with each additional gift.

My entire family is congregating for Christmas, except me. Most of the time I’m okay with it. It was my choice. But then there are those moments when my eyes well with tears and I feel deep regret. How could I have turned down an opportunity to be with those I love best? I guess it’s then that I have to remember why I made my original choice, and be true to my desire to focus on creating beautiful sacred moments with my own little family.

 

 

Parenting contemplation

Be the type of person you want your children to become. 

I might go so far as saying the above thought was revealed to me. I’ve done a lot of praying/thinking/pondering about what divine motherhood entails. The stakes are high for me. I want my boys to reach their full, eternal, potential. So, how do I do that. I think it’s as simple and as difficult as stated above. Accepting that challenge is stifling if not accompanied with the faith that the God who gave me this calling will also give me the power to magnify it.

[pic from here]

I’ve been contemplating Mary this week. What sort of woman would Heavenly Father choose to rear his Beloved Son? What did she do as a mother to support and bring out the characteristics we now attribute to Christ?  What sort of relationship must she have had with Heavenly Father in order to make parenting decisions? It’s been an eye-opening study. If I want to raise my boys to be like Christ, is my calling much different than Mary’s? Do I view it with that sort of importance, that kind of reverence?

I want to.

Teaching giving to a 3-year-old

Some recent conversations in our home:

Me: “Today we’re going to make some cards to take to some lonely grandma’s and grandpa’s at the rest home on Friday.”

Scotland: “Can I make one for me?”

—-

Me: After telling a bedtime story about how three characters pretend to be elfs and do secret service for friends and neighbors. . ..

Scotland: “You could be an elf, and when I’m gone, you could get me presents!”

—-

Me: “What do you think we should make Daddy for Christmas? . . . What if we made him X! Then we could wrap them up and give them to him for Christmas and he would be SO excited. ”

Scotland: “Maybe you could give me some!”

Me: But Scotland, Christmas is a time to think about what we can give to others.

Scotland: “But you could give me some!”

—-

I’m wondering if I need to take another approach. Maybe if I quit talking the talk and started walking the walk, he would take to the idea, and catch the giving fire himself

I’ve had this impression a lot lately- that the best parenting is done silently, through example. I’m a talker, I LOVE to talk about stuff. I’m much better at discussing ideas than I am about actually implementing them. But I’ve felt the impression many times lately that I need to make a change, that if I want my son to be patient, then I need to wait patiently as he puts his seatbelt on, slowly gets out of the car, takes for ever to. . .  If I want my child to be generous, then I need to go the extra mile in being present and attentive to him, I need to give joyfully, not dutifully. If I want my son to be empathetic, then I need to be more sensitive, more willing to try to understand. If I want my child to be more social then he needs to see me reaching out to others, and putting people first. It’s more likely than not that if Tom and I set firm examples of upstanding, loving, joyful, hardworking, faithful people then our sons will follow suit- eventually.

So my goal- shut my trap. Quit talking and start showing.