Equality in parenting

My sister-in-law sent this article around our family a few days ago. I have many thoughts about it, but haven’t had a chance to share them. I’ll do so here.

This article may be true for many couples. But I’m not sure it can be accurately said of mine. I think my husband’s job very likely meets if not rivals mine in stress and intensity. Interestingly, we are both in service occupations, and caring for people is difficult. Both of us have been thrown into jobs with little direction, and on site teaching. Both are required to do tasks we’ve never done before. Both of our actions poise potentially life threatening consequences.  Okay, maybe my job doesn’t qualify for that statement, but I’ll admit to constant worry about the long term consequences of my actions. Both of us deal with sleep deprivation- he, more so these days. Both are forced to multitask. So, as Ms. Senior says, “Its about the perception of equality.” At least when comparing careers, for me, we are equal- if not, he wins out on the more stressful, less-desirable front. Granted, I have only two children, and they are both perhaps on the “easy” side. And Tom is in the most intense year of what is already a grueling residency. I may have to revisit this article in, ahem, six years.

That being said the article did confirm that I am not alone on two fronts:

I loved this description of an emotion I feel often:

“Being compelled to divide and subdivide your time doesn’t just compromise your productivity and lead to garden-variety discombobulation. It also creates a feeling of urgency—a sense that no matter how tranquil the moment, no matter how unpressured the circumstances, there’s always a pot somewhere that’s about to boil over.”

And to go along with it, the final kicker:

“They found that while leisure time went a long way toward relaxing fathers, it did far less to subdue anxiety in mothers. So what, you may ask, did calm the mothers?

Simple: Seeing their husbands make a bigger effort to reduce the pandemonium in the house.”

I’ll admit to feeling both comforted and annoyed by the realization that I’m not alone in wishing my hubs would assert himself more in the maintenance of the house. (He’s fabulous about caring for the kids! He always puts the boys to bed if he’s home.) When I let my negative brain kick in I started to feel the “Uh! Men!” slur arise. Which I quickly released, because I believe polarization is damaging. (Did you read the Pope’s speech?) But I was reminded of the many times when I’ve tried to suppress (usually unsuccessfully) frustration when Tom requested his day off be a “fun family day.” His desire for relaxation is always justified, and his intent to connect meaningfully with our boys is admirable. But more often than not I feel overwhelmed by the mounting list of tasks that our home requires. And the thought of once again tackling them all single handedly, almost brings me to tears. Wait, who am I kidding, I always have six hands tackling these tasks. Oh, that’s the problem! Somehow research proving that I am not alone in finding “relaxation” less than relaxing made me feel less like an uptight nag, and more of a normal woman. (Though logically I can appreciate this strength of men. Letting things go, relaxing.)

All this being said, there was a day or two there where these thoughts simmered and made me a little angsty. And then this happened, because, well, I married a saint: Tom called to say he was going to come home early. He could listen to his lecture at the library. I suggested he watch it from home, while the boys were doing their quiet time so I could run errands, etc. He watched his lecture, took the boys to Tae Kwan Do, and to my greatest delight made sure that Scotland attended to his chore of picking up the basement, and then made dinner. You better believe that that night as we watched “Cinderella” as a family (fabulous movie, if you haven’t seen the new one.) I was as relaxed and as present as could be. It was one of those idealic family evenings. The love was plentiful, and I did my best to etch it in my memory forever.

What made for the success? Two things. First, I was clear about my needs and expectations. “How about you come home so I can run out alone.” and “Scotland has to complete three things before he can watch a movie: 1, 2, 3.” And second, Tom was sensitive enough to catch my sincerity when I said “I’m feeling overwhelmed;” and willing enough to respond- not only by caring for the boys for the rest of the afternoon, but also by taking care of of the pressing household tasks. I’ll say it again, I married a saint.

Sunday thoughts

Oh agency, how we all wished for you, how God planned for you, but how hard it is to give you, use you. I work with the girls 12-18 years old at our church. Focusing mostly on the girls aged 14 and 15. It’s a tricky age group. They’re suddenly experiencing life through more questioning eyes. The safe black and white of their youth is no longer acceptable, and they’re trying to find their way through the gray. I love working with this group. I’m negotiating my way through the gray too, while also feeling secure in more black and white understandings of some very vital things. It’s those vital things that I most want to help the girls grasp, accept, and find peace with. Funny, but I just realized that there is a lot of parallel with an experience I just shared with my son. I helped him put up his play tent. (I’ve been preparing a lesson on muscles, bones, blood- the body for preschool this week.) So, thinking of that, I said as I fed in the poles- these are like the “bones” of the tent. Life is a lot like a tent without poles when you don’t have any concrete understanding, or knowledge of spiritual things. Sleeping in, and most certainly living in a tent without poles would be frustrating, annoying, and uncomfortable. But add a few poles and suddenly it becomes a livable space. We could extend the metaphor by suggesting that while a tent is a suitable dwelling place for a few days, it would make for a difficult dwelling place year round, harsher weather and real life necessities- nutrition beyond granola bars, a way efficient way to clean one’s self, etc, would eventually lead us to seek a home with a foundation, insulation, walls and conveniences like a kitchen, bathroom, etc. Similarly a few poles of gospel truth might get us through a short while. But if we are to weather the storms and necessities of life we need to be continually adding to our “home” until eventually we have built our “mansion”- in heaven.

But I digress, so what do you do when your student, child, friend, continues to “choose” to live in a tent without poles? Any loving mother/father/friend would offer poles, would encourage movement into a more permanent home. A parent might even force it. Sticking their own poles into the sleeves, or pulling the child out of their sloppy tent and into their own comfortable house, but that’s where the metaphor falls short. With testimony this is impossible. You can’t offer poles. You can gush about how much more wonderful life is in a tent with structure or even in a home with heating and plumbing. But they have to build them themselves. They have to be willing to “try them on” and slip them into the sleeves. They have to be willing to maintain them. This is the law of agency. This was the great gift that Heavenly Father gave us, required on earth. Agency is the plan Christ supported, the lack of agency- the Devil’s. But where is the line? Where as a parent is it still your responsibility to require/force your child to live in accordance with what you believe is best? On one extreme some parents offer little advice, letting their children navigate the world entirely on their own. On the other, parents strictly enforce their set of rules/beliefs and children who deviate are punished or disowned. I believe, as with most things, the ideal falls in the middle. But I certainly haven’t figured out where that middle is. I would say in my brief experience, it’s easier and quicker to force- but much less desirable to all parties. I always feel a peace when together Scotland and I are able to work out an arrangement that is equally respectful, understanding, and fulfilling. Like this morning, after being asked five or six times, Scotland still hadn’t dressed for church, and we soon needed to leave. I knelt down and petitioned “Scotland, I don’t know what to do. You aren’t listening, and I’ve committed to not get mad at you today. But what am I supposed to do?” He responded curtly. I stopped, thought, considered the situation, and said “Perhaps we need to go back to what we did a few months ago: where all those that happily and readily prepare for church will get to have dessert with the family after dinner.” He loved the idea and quickly went up to dress. Contention had been avoided, we both left respected and a clear plan had been set. (Now I just need to make a checklist so he knows what all needs to be done to be “ready” for church.)

It’s easier when you can supply earthly rewards, but what about when the only real rewards are spiritual? Testimony can’t be attained through bribery, punishment, or any other means. We try as leaders and parents to provide as many opportunities as we can for our children/students to feel the spirit. But in the end it’s a personal, spiritual endeavor. It doesn’t relate well to our temporal physical realities. We had a lesson today about the sabbath day. The same topic had been taught by another teacher two weeks earlier while I was out of town. Which provide me with a perfect opportunity to say, “Great, so how have you changed since two weeks ago? What are you doing different now?” The response, absolutely nothing. Did the teacher a few weeks ago fail? No. She did her part, they didn’t do theirs. Joseph Smith said “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” How often do we receive great insight from the spirit, and then do nothing with it? It’s good to turn the attention to ourselves, because suddenly we sense how universal this issue of agency is. We suddenly see that the Father is working with this same law with each of us. I can’t imagine His frustration when time after time he sees me ignore/ not act on something He’s taught me, knowing full well that I am missing blessings, and perhaps facing undue stress, anxiety, and sadness- and still, He doesn’t force me. Next time, I go to Him and say “I’m struggling with this, what do I do?” He’ll lovingly tell me again “XYZ.” And more likely than not, he’s told me that “a hundred times!” 

Writing this all out, I realize I need to be more patient. My YW might not turn into spiritual giants before they graduate. They may not grasp the beautify of the personal progress program for decades. They may never realize the spiritual edification of various spiritual acts, I can’t force them. I can only love them, teach them, and continue to build and display my own beautiful “home” full of comfort, peace, and joy.

So I wish I could have worked through and organized, and edited this a bit. . . but I’m lucky I found the time to write what I did- so it is what it is! 


Anders: 18 months

First “official” day in nursery. (He’s been attending for a month. Shhh. Don’t tell!)

My baby turned a year and a half this week. And boy is he a proud to be a “big boy.” He struts around after his brother, everyone like he’s one of them. He’s talking up a storm and mimics constantly. (Every time Scotland comes over and shows me his latest LEGO creation and tells me about it, Anders will immediately bring over the DUPLO he’s working on and chatter on about it.) He continues to be a total ham, bringing smiles and often laughter by most who see him. He’s officially a runner, watching him run down a hill the other day, his belly jiggling and his cheeks flapping with the movement is a sight I hope to never forget. He and Scotland like to “do their exercise” racing each other back and forth down the hall. Anders has started saying his version of “Ready, Set, Go!” The inflection is dead on, but only the “go” is clear.

Anders sees absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t be able to do exactly what his brother is allowed to do. And he gets VERY frustrated angry when I tell him he’s not old enough yet.  He was thrilled to be included in this painting project, and was very intent and focused. Unfortunately, this experience taught me that tempera paints don’t wash out. I guess he has a permanent painting outfit now!

This is a terrible picture but it captures Anders sleeping position of choice. He always goes to sleep like this. Feet crossed, bum in the air, arms to the side. I guess he needs to make room for his belly!

The house we rented in NH had this little play house, and Anders made singular claim on it. (Adrienne has a hilarious video of him closing the door, and shuttering the windows when she came over to visit!) He spent hours and hours in here. He created this little routine that he would repeat over and over: open the door, walk around and grab leaves, open the shutters, place leaves in the sink. Walk in the house. Close the door. Sit down next to the sink. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It’s Tom you can see sitting in the house above, and he said Anders performed this little pattern some ten times.

Where’s Anders?

His thinking face.

Anders is like Scotland in that he has this distinct thinking face. (Maybe all kids are that way, I wouldn’t know better!) More and more you see him examining things trying to make sense of them: the button that closes the garage door, the wheels on the stroller, the hook and eye of his duplo train.

He’s recently figured out how to assemble DUPLO and he’s beyond thrilled about it. He primarily loves building trains, often applauding himself when he gets a guy to stand up on the train, or finally gets a piece to adhere after a few tries. Other time he’ll raise both hands above his head and cheer. He’s always very proud of his creations, and as I mentioned early, typically finds me to show me what he’s build. He has a distinct train sound that he makes as he moves them around.

He continues to be an outdoor boy, often requesting to go outside as soon as he wakes up. He can now open the back door himself, and will often go out and play in the sandbox for a bit, or ride his bike. Scotland and he have figured out how to communicate when Anders needs a boost and they can now navigate our entire yard together, despite the rock walls. He loves harvesting in the garden. I’m hoping a few more green tomatoes will convince him that picking the red ones is a better idea! He’s learned about the native huckleberries that grow by the fort and will request I pick some for him when we’re up there together.

He continues to love balls and cars. He loves to play pass, and identifies “Ball” in all circular shapes, wherever we go.

His eating habits have improved. I’ve learned that he’ll gobble down stir fried and steamed veggies if they’re pureed. He now understands the concept- you can not have more X, unless you finish your Y. (Though he acts like he doesn’t every time!) He does NOT like to be fed, and will throw a fit when I suggest I want to feed him (to prevent mess). He’s a very messy eater and has a bad habit of throwing his plate when he’s done, though this is improving. (Drives me bonkers!)

He says: go, hi, bye, car, ball, where’d it go? (his most common phrase), Her’dis!, ma (first thing he says when he wakes up), Dada, blankie, thank you, Jesus, shoes, NO! (I used to think this was his automated response to anything asked of him, but it turns out he must genuinely NOT want to do most of the thinks I ask him, because when I say something like “Would you like a cookie” he quickly nods his head (so deeply his chin hits his chest) and says “ya.”  Don’t, WOW!, okay, oh! let’s go!

We often play the game “Where’d it go?” whether it be picaboo, or looking for his shoes. He’ll always say in a really high pitched voice with his hands out “Wher’dit go?” and when he finds it, or uncovers his eyes, he’ll say in a lower pitched voice “Her ‘dis!”

The other day in the car, Scotland asked: “Mom when did Anders get a lower voice than me?” “What do you mean, bud?” I asked. “He just said (in a low voice) Where’dit go?”

Hangin’ out with Poppa, and wearing his hat

He’s rather particular. In the morning he’ll cry for me to come, but as soon as I enter his room he’ll flop back down into child pose, and close his eyes. But if I say “Oh, are you not ready to get up yet” and walk towards the door, he’ll sit up and start crying again. He likes me to kneel there next to his crib and wait until he’s ready. We play games where he’ll stick his arm through the crib and I”ll kiss his hand. It’s our sweet time together.

His Victory pose.

He has four teeth up top. He just cut his fourth tooth on the bottom, and he has all four molars.

He is super social and says “Hi” and “Bye” to everyone. He’s gotten such a positive response to his friendliness that Scotland has started to join him in the act. I can assuredly say that Anders has single handedly increased the number of smiles in our house by a large margin. And we were already a pretty smiley family before he was born.

He will do anything for a laugh, and once you laugh he will do it over and over and over. Like the other night, I was fixing dinner, and he started doing a three legged down ward dog. Scotter and I chuckled, so he started spinning in circles on his feet and hands lifting up his leg every quarter turn or so. We laughed and laughed- and he loved it!

He’s never been one to watch any TV, but Scotland has recently taken an affection for Wild Kratts, and Anders quite enjoys it too. (He particularly likes the parts with footage of live animals.) It’s darling seeing him sitting there, a little couch potato watching TV. It rarely lasts over ten minutes.

His friendliness and flirtiness make him much loved. His Aunt Dantzel particularly adores him, and he her. The young women in the ward always gush when I’ll ask if they’ll hold him, and he’s always sure to ham it up and get a laugh out of them.

He says sweet prayers. He’ll put each hand on his chest, bow his head, and mumble quietly to himself!

Toothed grin

I love these last few pictures because they really capture the effect that Anders has on people. You just can’t help it! I can’t tell you how many people laugh out loud at his tilted head, squinty eyed, dimpled grins. (He’s apparently learned that his more exaggerated ones get better laughs, so he usually goes there first!)

We’re all absolutely in love with Anders. He has brought such an added measure of light heartedness and jovialty to our home. He’s strong willed and opinionated, hilarious and silly, sweet and affectionate, rebellious and naughty, obedient and attentive, social and friendly. But most of all, smiley. Happy half birthday Anderoo! We love you.

A post.

Oh, how I’ve pined to blog lately. I compose fragmented posts in my mind until I’m called away to more pressing matters. It’s already 10:00, and my head cold is urging me to bed, but I must write at least something. Clear my head a bit.

Here’s what’s on my mind- in no order:

Countertop choices- a most laborious decision.  I’d always barred myself from ever considering marble. Too pish-posh, high class, sophisticated. But when the woman at the slab yard suggested it as a more economical means to the earthy light look I was going for. . . I got excited. Really, marble, economical? The more I read about it and looked a pictures of it, the more my heart started to pitter patter. Something it has NOT done with any other countertop. The question is, can I live with the etching, staining, patina? Some say Marble is like your favorite pair of jeans- they only get better with time, the wearing increases their appeal. We’ll see, I’m still deep in the process of estimates, slap yard visitations, and contractor visits. Ugh!

Our “have fun” lifestyle, and it’s potential consequences- I read a blog post by a woman who spoke of her concern of the emphasis on having fun. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it.) We drop our kids off and say “have fun.” My son prays daily, “Help us to have a fun day.” We ask: “Did you have fun?” She pondered whether it might be more fruitful to ask “What did you learn? Did you get to try something new. Who did you meet? That we pray for opportunities to learn, to grow to be challenged. I’ve been pondering the idea a lot, and the lesson on “work” in RS two weeks ago only added to it. Historians refer to our era as one focused on leisure and experience. Do we undermine our growth and the growth of our children by measuring the success of a day/activity by how much fun it was, as opposed to how much was overcome, how much was tried, how much was learned? I’m stewing on it.

FHE can be powerful. It’s intended to be powerful. Scotter and I did a 1 minute puppet show of the wise man and the foolish man, using cut outs from the Friend. Scotland was thrilled to be behind the chair performing with his Mom. Anders was tickled to be watching and clapping with his Dad. In preparation Scotland and I had a good chat about how doing hard things (Building a home on a hard foundation) is often better in the long wrong, than taking the easier, shorter route. I think he got it. Foutzes to hard things, I like to chant.

While I sat and painted stones with my two boys in our backyard this afternoon I thought, this is motherhood. Here, with my boys, engaged, learning, experimenting, together. There was much mess and the clean up lasted longer than the activity. But it was worth it.

I really want to irrigate my yard. What’s the best way to do it?

My hydrangeas are stunning. They bring me such happiness.

Blackberry season is nearly upon us. I’m so excited.

I listened to this Podcast about the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It stirred me. I’m wondering- how can I build more community amongst the young women in our ward. They spoke the euphoria that can come by totally immersing yourself in an activity, loosing yourself, is what they said. They spoke of artists, and athletes who were when they have completely given themselves to their performance have experienced this sort of high, even though it doing so they actually loose much of their consciousness of themselves. I’ve felt it before- “How did your performance go?” – “I have no idea!” It gave a different meaning to the scripture Matthew 10:39-“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” It is when we completely immerse ourself in our present moment- in painting with our children, talking with our mother, greeting the cashier that we find a higher level of happiness? Now how to achieve that.

I had the scariest moment of my parenting career this morning. That’s for another day. . .

I’m going to bed. Buona Notte!






The prayer system

I’m reading a book right now, and the author talks quite a bit about her habit of writing. I find myself feeling a bit jealous every time she speaks of it. Oh, how I’d love to have more time to write, I think. Then I realize, I have all the time I need to write, I just have to take it, to make it.

I had a real turning point sort of week. I hope it’s a permanent turn. I’ve been studying prayer and revelation in preparation for the class I teach on Sundays. As I studied this talk, I was really inspired to make my prayers more connected, to set a goal in the morning and report back in the evening. It fit perfectly with my recent realization that I am an obliger (again from Better Than Before). I’m quite reliable if others ask me to do something, but I tend to slack when it’s just me asking myself to do things. Accepting this was key. Then I knew I had to do something about it, I needed to find accountability for those things I want to change or do, that no one else was aware of. (Think virtues like charity, patience.) Prayer, I realized, was the ideal practice. I have covenanted with my Father in Heaven, and thereby obliged myself to Him. Through prayer I am able to work with Him to set the course of my day and then follow through with Him. I made a simple chart so that I could write down my goals and daily reports (writing is powerful for me.) And it worked wonders. I had a really transformative week. I curbed my angry outbreaks. My adoration of Scotland returned as I sought to understand and respect him more. As a result, his angelic behavior returned. The spirit was in our home, love abounded, and I LOVED motherhood. I felt supported. I was working with someone, I felt the aid of God. Each night as I reported back I repented for my short comings and sought suggestions and guidance on how to prevent them the following day. And together We rejoiced at my successes. The next morning, reflecting on the previous days struggles I set a clear goal, prayed for inspiration and help to carry it out. And got on my feet and went for it.

Tom recently posted this article on FB. It talks about how Residency programs’ emphasis on education has been radically reduced and as a result residents level of satisfaction has dropped. Where residents of the past were content to work long hard hours, empowered by their sense of purpose established by intimate mentorships and learning opportunities. Today, stripped of time to learn from mentors, and read and study, residents feel like slave laborers working alone to do more than seems possible. Education and learning is key. I’ve known that, but I wasn’t sure how to put it in practice in regards to motherhood. How could I create a system of assignments, projects, and evaluations so that, like those residents, I could continue to learn and be inspired to high levels of care. I don’t want to become a jaded mother, unable to see past the monotony of my career path.

Happiness comes from seeking a higher way of living, from personal progress. This new prayer system has given me new found purpose. In my ability to track small successes and figure out solutions to daily failures I feel renewed and rededicated to upward movement, to a higher path of mothering. Now, with assignments, projects, and evaluations, motherhood feels more like a career. My aspirations feel more legitimate, more possible.

Anders 16 month milestones

This post is long overdue, and many of these “milestones” have been in place for months. But in hopes of never forgetting the many darling things he does:

Penguin hugs- When Anders gives hugs he puts his arms down flat against his side, or against his chest and presses his body and head into you.

Child’s pose-bum in the air, head on his blankie,

Adores his “Chip chip” (stuffed monkey), “Lovey” (bunny/blanket) and blankies (gets giddy when he sees them in his crib and pulls them out, and nuzzles them- often laying his blankie on the ground then doing child’s pose on top of it, his head resting on it a content smile on his face.

First Haircut

Hates diaper changes.

Shoes- he LOVES shoes. He prefers to be wearing shoes, and wants to put them on as soon as he wakes up. He gets so excited when he sees a pair of his shoes and will bring them over to me, even if he is already wearing a pair. He said “Shoez” for the first time last week.

Signing- Anders seems to really appreciate the sign language we have taught him. He beams with delight when he signs “water” or “drink” and I say “Are you thirsty? Would you like a drink?” Or when I open the door for him to go out after he’s looked me in the eye and signed “outside.” He regularly uses, “hungry,” “outside,” “dog,” “drink,” “night night,” “bird,” “bread” and “hot” but he also knows “Please” “thank you” “more” and “all done.” It’s so darling when he’s sitting there eating breakfast and he sees a little bird at the birdfeeder, he’ll say “cheep cheep” and sign bird. He’s also lately started signing dog whenever he hears a dog barking.

Just this last week he’s started to attempt speaking more. He’s said shoes, car, rock, Jesus, that, Momma, Dadda.

Smiles. They’re constant. They’re wide mouthed. They light you up. The other day we were at IKEA waiting to make some returns. One lady near us was taken in by his friendliness and talked and smiled at him, another woman gave very little response. He kept looking at her and beaming, and beaming and them became quite serious, clearly puzzling over why he wasn’t getting his typical response. He just stood there staring at her for a long time. And then looked back at the more joyful woman and gave her another dazzling grin, she burst out laughing.

Hide and seek. He’s the kid that does it with whoever’s sitting in the pew behind us. It’s one of the few ways I can distract him from screaming and spinning when I change his diaper.

Eating. He loves to eat. He seems to have textural issues. A dish that he’ll put his nose up at in the chopped form, he’ll scarf down when blended- mostly vegetables. He still breaks out in minor hives around his mouth when I feed him scrambled eggs or peanut butter. He just doesn’t eat eggs any more, but he loves peanut butter.

Outdoor boy- he loves being outside and requests to go outside several times a day. (Every time I sing praises to our home with it’s fenced, private backyard!) He loves the sandbox (Despite it’s 1/2″ of sand). If I go out with him he likes to have me help him through his routine of toys: 20 seconds on the scooter, 20 seconds on the bike, 10 seconds on the rocking horse, then we play ball, and then he wants me to help him climb the ladder up to the fort, then he wants a few pushes on his swing. It’s the same order everytime, the same short durations. He’s bound and determined to get up to the climbing trees where Scotland loves to play (a bunch of HUGE rhododendron that I pruned up so the kids could climb in them. He has successfully made it to the top a few times on his own, but he’s also gotten stuck enough times to be more cautious now.

The best development of late is his ability and desire to play with Scotland. A month or two ago their interactions were frequent and loud- Anders did a lot of screaming. I’ve worked hard to teach both boys better ways of interacting, and tried to stand back a bit more and let them work it out. It seems to be working because they play together so well now. Scotland loves the company and Anders loves to be included. Anders plays legos with Scotland, they wrestle, they play in the sandbox, they run around and chase each other, and more and more they CRACK EACH OTHER UP! Hearing the two of them bantering back and forth, laughing hysterically at the other’s silly sound or crazy movement always brings a smile to my face. Anders puts up with a lot. Where he used to scream every time Scotland took something from him, now more often then not he just runs with it. He can put up with a fair amount of wrestling, and seems to be learning when to run off, and when he does need to cry for help. (Scotland sometimes forgets that he’s playing with a one year old and not a fellow four year old!)

Running. You probably couldn’t technically call it running, but his arms are swinging and his little feet moving fast and you can tell he thinks he’s running. The movement is clearly a delight because it’s always accompanied with a smile and twinkling eyes.

Taking instruction

Writing. Anders has a natural pencil grip. He scribbles with good control. He loves to sit up to our desk downstairs and color next to Scotland.

Backing up to sit in your lap.

Helper. He loves to help sweep- usually just using his broom to scatter up the pile I swept up. If he sees me carrying something large, he’ll reach his hands out to help. He’s forever joining me with a tool to build a cabinet or work on the kitchen in someway. I nearly always vacuum with him holding on walking along with me.

Looking dapper on Mother’s Day

Just this past week he’s turned into a cuddle bug. He’s never been a super huggy child, but all of a sudden he’s started to just come up to me his arms held high with a little whimper. I’ll pick him up and he’ll turn his head to lay on my shoulder, and move his arms flat against his sides- a penguin hug. I love it!

Social. He loves people and attention. Last week during Sunday school he entertained two of the elderly sisters behind us for the full hour. If they dared look up at the teacher he would do something darling and funny to bring their eyes back to him. He passed his ball back and forth, he tickled them, and more than anything he smiled, then tilted his head and smiled some more. At first I felt bad that he was being so distracting but then looking at their own beaming faces, I figured this was probably as good for them as anything!

He loves being involved in Joy School. And loves to have friends over.

He continues to love his sleep. He goes to bed around 6:30 and wakes up around 7:00 then usually takes a 45min-1 hour morning nap around 10:00 and another one- two hour nap around 12:30.

He likes looking at books, but doesn’t much like being read to. Well, his favorite thing is for you to have a book that you read, and for him to have a book that he looks through next to you. He DOESN”T want to sit on your lap. And he DOESN’T want to look at the same book that you are looking at. He’ll get out books through out the day and sit down and flip through them looking at the pictures.

He loves playing kitchen.

He continues to love balls.

He does this adorable thing during prayers (well rarely during the prayer.) He puts both hands on his chest (like he’s too chubby to fold them across himself or something) and bows his head. It’s darling, and lasts 2 seconds.

He’s very independent. He’s happy to play on his own. He takes commands well “Anders will you go get your jacket/shoes, we need to go.” He gets the goings and comings and goes with the flow well. He walks the halls of the church like he owns the place, and people always comment on what a little man he is. (It’s clear, that he is totally unaware of how much smaller he is than the rest of us.) When we enter the library he immediately wants down so he can beat his brother to the computer station.

He uses a fork well.

By and large, he’s a really easy baby. Just keep him fed and well slept! We love our Anders. He keeps us laughing and smiling.



In response to my last post

My friend sent this video. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

This quote, though directed towards Fathers is also something I’m coming to realize more and more!

“These guys who fear becoming fathers don’t understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child raising is not eh child but the parent.”                 Frank Pittman, MD “Man Enough”

Thoughts on mothering

A bit of background:

As part of our “About Me” unit, Joy school focused on families this week. For our Wednesday lesson I set up a role play activity. Each child drew a family member that they were to dress up as and portray. When one boy drew “mother” he grumped, “but mother’s are BORING!” The Dad was most popular. On Friday we read a book about Mother’s and afterwards I asked the kids “What do you love about your Mother?” A few mumbled a little something, but they quickly started talking about their Dads.

Two weeks ago after pulling Scotland on my lap and saying “Scotland, do you know how much I love you? -SOOOO much!” He responded: “I love you zero. I only love Daddy.” A girlfriend says she has to “close her heart” at dinner time as her two boys argue over who gets to sit by Dad- no one wants to sit by Mom.

I guess I was ignorant in thinking I could be a “fun Mom.” I aspired to be a Mom that my children would adore, while also being a Mom that challenged my kids and pushed them to achieve and be more. But Scotland has made it abundantly clear that I am the lesser loved parent. He’s absolutely head over heals for his Dad, and I’m an after thought. Take today, I invited him chipperly to join me in cutting flowers for a bouquet for our Mother’s Day meal. He refused until I said, “Okay, I can do it myself.” Then he came out. As soon as he was out there he was excited about the prospects of making bouquets for everyone. I quickly clipped a vase full of rhododendrons. He went about for a while after picking wild flowers and clipping a BUNCH more rhododendron blooms. He brought them in, happily, announcing that the large bouquet was for him. He looked at my pretty vase of flowers on the table and pronounced “Those are for Dad,” then looking at a straggling vase of wilting ferns he said, “Those are for you.”

This mother’s day has felt much different than my past few. Before I felt elated with motherhood. I felt honored and blessed to be called Mother. I felt so loved. This year, I feel mostly, unappreciated. In my attempts to honor motherhood and teach my boys the importance of showing gratitude we had a few conversations about what I do for them, and how important mothers are. Scotter didn’t seem to care, and they ended with me feeling embarrassed, like I was begging for appreciation.  He would always just turn the conversation to talk of how wonderful his father is. (Which he is!)

So, naturally for me, I’ve asked myself: Is this how it should be? Am I doing something wrong? Should I change things up so that I’m more likable? The answer I’ve received, is by and large, No. Yes I could be better about really focusing on Scotland, giving him at least 15 minutes a day to totally rule the roost, and being more selective about how often I offer helpful hints and pointers. But as is shown by an incident the other day when I asked him to clean up his room and he yelled back “I’m not going to love you any more if you ask me to do that.” The very core of my role as mother is to nurture, and nurture is by definition “To care for and encourage the growth and development of.” Growth and development don’t come easily, there are growing pains associated. Research shows how integral women are to progress in a multiplicity of ways. I”m reminded of this story:

A salesman walked down a street past a group of boys playing baseball.  No one answered the door at the house where he was to call. Through a side door, he saw a boy the age of those playing in the street, dutifully practicing the piano.  Baseball gear leaned against the wall.  He called, “Excuse me, sonny, is your mother home?”  The boy glanced at his baseball gear and said glumly from the keyboard, “What do you think?”

I think often of this section from Hafen’s article:

Consider now, in summary, a true story from Australian history that illustrates the power of women’s moral influence as mothers of hope, women of fidelity, wives of commitment, and nurturers of human ties.  In its early decades as a British colony, Australia was a vast wilderness designated as a jail for exiled convicts. Until 1850, six of every seven people who went “down under” from Britain were men.  And the few women who went were often convicts or social outcasts themselves.  The men ruthlessly exploited them, sexually and in other ways. With few exceptions, these women without hope were powerless to change their conditions.

In about 1840, a reformer named Caroline Chisholm urged that more women would stabilize the culture.  She told the British government the best way to establish a community of “great and good people” in Australia:  “For all the clergy you can dispatch, all the schoolmasters you can appoint, all the churches you can build, and all the books you can export, will never do much good without . . . ‘God’s police’– wives and little children–good and virtuous women.”

Chisholm searched for women who would raise “the moral standard of the people.”  She spent twenty years traveling to England, recruiting young women and young couples who believed in the common sense principles of family life.  Over time, these women tamed the men who were taming the wild land; and civil society in Australia gradually emerged. Also, the colonial governments enacted policies that elevated women’s status and reinforced family life.[23]   As one historian said,  “the initial reluctance of the wild colonial boys to marry was eroded fairly quickly.”  Eventually, thousands of new immigrants who shared the vision of these “good and virtuous women” established stable families as the basic unit of Australian society more quickly than had occurred “anywhere else in the Western world.”[24]

This striking story of women’s moral influence grew from a conscious design to replace  “the penal colony’s rough and wild ways” with “a more moral civilization.” The reformers intentionally capitalized on women’s innate “civilizing” capacity. [25]   These women made Australia a promised land that flowed with a healthy ecosystem of milk and honey.  And the milk, literally and figuratively, was mother’s milk–the milk of human kindness.  That milk nurtures those habits of the heart without which no civil society can sustain itself.

Scotland doesn’t appreciate it when I remind him to sit back on his chair and pull his torso off the table while he eats. He gets frustrated when I tell him he needs to clean his room. He grumbles when I remind him to leave the bathroom clean after he’s used it. But if I didn’t teach him these things, I would be doing him a huge disservice. Someone has to do it. Refinement must be learned. And I’m the one home all day, so it falls to me. I’m to be the nag. I didn’t want to be a naggy Mom. But I really see no other way. Children need constant reminders. And while I really work hard to be encouraging, supportive, and creative in my helpful hinting, in the end, I’m telling him what to do, and he doesn’t like it. As a pleaser, the role of motherhood is hard for me. I want so badly to be a loving, caring attentive mother. A mother worthy of admiration. But most of the time, as I look into my sons disgruntled eyes I feel like I’ll never measure up.

Today, as I made my own Mother’s day meal- determined to “celebrate motherhood” I pondered this topic. (Tom worked a 24 hour shift yesterday- so I’m not complaining about him.)  A scripture came to mind “For they loved the praise of men more then the praise of God.” (John 12:43) It took on new meaning today. I’ve always thought of the “praise of men” being the secular world, but today, it was my son, my children. I need to focus on pleasing God, and worry less about pleasing my children.

I was also reminded of how many of God’s children disregard him, disrespect him, even defile him. Even Divine Parenting doesn’t always result in happy obedient children who lovingly worship you. We are all agents unto ourselves.

And finally I asked myself, do I respect, honor and praise my Mother? Not often enough. As I looked around me I started to see her influence in everything I did. The freshly cut flowers adorning my table- a witness to her love of flowers, the time she took teaching me to care for plants, and then the opportunity she gave me to completely take over her flowerbeds (Only after many years of me moaning and fussing about my chore to weed.) The vegetable laden pasta dish- a witness to her dedication to healthy living, her commitment to healthy fresh food, her home cooked meals, (Vegetables I cried and complained about as a kid.) My attendance at church, alone- a shadow of her total commitment to Christ. The list went on and on. And in each case I could remember times, when as a child, I complained and fought her about the very things I now hold so dear. A friend once said she doesn’t think your kids really get what you’re trying to teach them until they grow up and have families of there own. Boy, that seems like a long time to wait, but reflecting on the profound influence my Mother has had in my life. It’s worth it!

I choose life!

Yesterday, I was thinking about our hardwood floors. It makes the most sense to install new floors in the kitchen, and then refinish the upstairs so that it all matches. But then I got worrying that doing so would create a situation where I was uptight about my floors because they are only going to get scratched. And suddenly I felt this overwhelming feeling. Who Cares! That’s what floors are for, to be LIVED on. Why do we all want a home that doesn’t look lived in? Then I realized the same was true with our bodies, people want bodies that don’t look lived in. Wrinkles are a sign of life- of smiling, crying, expression. It struck me what an awfully cunning plan it is to convince mankind that the “ideal life” was one that was only attainable by not living fully. Interestingly, Scotter chose to watch Wall-E for movie night tonight, which only furthered my feelings. Distancing ourselves from reality is stifling. Real life is people, stains, wrinkles, scratches, bruises, broken arms, and vivid memories. Sure we can feed our children crumb-less chicken nuggets and occupy their days with TV so they don’t make messes or scratch our floors. But doesn’t that sound like our priorities are a little messed up? I’ve decided to embrace the patina of life. I want to be among the living. So bring on the stretch marks, the wrinkles, the scuffed up flooring and stained carpet. I choose life!