17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Our Little Wonder Child

As in, I wonder WHERE exactly he came from.

He doesn’t really look much like DH or myself. He certainly doesn’t act like either one of us. I KNOW this child came out of me. DH confirms that fact as well. It’s as though he hijacked someone else’s genes through the birth canal.

Not our autistic child, the other one. We understand Noe perfectly. He is just like us. He is quiet, doesn’t like to wake up early in the mornings, and gets anxious in social gatherings.

And then there is…the Other One. Asher bolts out of his crib every morning at 6am. He runs straight to his CD player and demands that we play his favorite CD. This week it is “Dora’s Disco Hits” where he gets DOWN and DIRTY to songs like “Celebration” and “La Bamba” sung in high-pitched annoyity by Dora and Boots. I’m talking head bobbing, deep-knee bends, clapping and shaking that 17-month-old boot-i-licous bum at 6AM!!! After breakfast, he bangs on the front door until I take him outside. Once we are out the door, he shouts at everthing and everyone....the mailman, the birds in the trees, our deaf Vietnamese neighbor, “HELLO????” “HELLO!!!!” Meanwhile, I am still peeling my eyes open and talking myself out of curling up on the sidewalk and going back to sleep. His latest thing is to find our digital camera, hand it to me, and start posing until we take his picture. Not a picture or two....but a whole photo shoot worth of film.

The worst part of it is that because he is such a social little guy, other people assume that I am equally as social, and that I enjoy talking with complete strangers....which I don't. I have even started wearing sunglasses and a bandana or baseball cap to the grocery store...ala fake celebrity...to give the message that, yes, my child will talk to you, but I won't. I miss New York. Nobody ever wanted to "strike up a conversation" in the checkout line or "shoot the breeze" at the gas station. Just give me my damn change and get out of my way, thank you. Customer service is overrated.

Despite the sleep deprivation and small talk with strangers, I have to say that I love (almost) every minute with Asher. As children do, he makes me look at life through his wonder and joy. He softens me. When I am with Asher, I don't worry adult worries, I live in his moments.

I am terrified of raising both of my boys, for different reasons that are also the same. With Noe, I fear that I won't succeed in helping him fully connect with the outside world. That his autism will never loosen its grip, and that he will never achieve his full potential. I see glimpses of this potential from time to time and it is awesome and limitless.

With Asher, I am terrified that he will disconnect himself from the world as his understanding of it increases. Yesterday I took him to a neighborhood playground and he excitedly ran up to a boy (about 5-years old) who was playing cars in the sandbox. He wanted to share in the fun. The boy, however, wanted nothing to do with him and shouted for him to go away. Poor Asher. He cried and cried. The beginning of his lost innocence.

How will my little boy change as he discovers that the world can be an ugly place? That not everyone wants to be his friend, that people (even grown-ups) do bad things. That bad things happen to good people, like his brother's autism and his grandfather's untimely death. And most importantly, how can I, as his mother, help him face the bad and find the good in the world?

My cynical self is pretty ill-equipped for this job. Thinking about Asher and what he needs from his mother has caused me to make some changes in my life. I am actively trying to have a more positive outlook. If I catch myself in negative thoughts, I am learning to replace them or busy myself with something productive. I am trying to keep my voice soft and a smile on my face, especially in front of my boys. I am reading my scriptures and praying more consistently than I have in a long time. Praying for faith and for wisdom to raise these little guys well. But even if I succeed beautifully at all of this, will it be enough?

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Never Say Never

This is the year I turned the big 3-0. I always figured that by the time I turned 30, I would know pretty much everything, have my life running smoothly and be close to perfection. But if I’ve learned anything in my ripe old age, it’s that I don’t know much. As I reflect back on life, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is to never say never. Here are a few of the things I said I would never do:

1. Saying no to sex. Let’s face it, getting married in the temple is a difficult endeavor. When you’re engaged, sexual temptation is exciting. It is inconceivable to think that as a married person you might not be as excited about sex. Then you’re married and one day it happens. You don’t have a headache as an excuse, but you wish that you did. And you wonder, “What happened to that frisky girl of my pre-married life?”

2. Regret quitting piano lessons. My mom quit taking piano lessons when she was 11. I quit at 12. She told me I would regret it someday. I knew everything as a teenager and I knew I would never regret it. I would forever love the boy who stole my attention. And now I can’t even remember his name.

3. Breastfeed in public locations. I served a mission in Guatemala. My first Sunday, a woman stood to share her testimony while breastfeeding her 4 year old son. He was huge and her boob was pulled out over the top of her dress, fully exposed. The whole picture was appalling. I swore that even discreetly I would never breastfeed in public. 2 months after having my first child, I indiscreetly nursed him at the top of the Empire State Building.

4. Spanking the child. Can anyone really say they’ve never swatted their child on the behind? My son is still in diapers, so it’s not painful to him and I can count on one hand the times I’ve done it. But I swear it’s instinctive for me because I was spanked by my parents. I was not traumatized by it and it may actually have worked.

5. Losing your child in public. How easy is it “pre-children” to think parents who lose their children in public places are completely irresponsible? We celebrated my son’s second birthday party at a public park in NY. My husband and I were both there. Just when I realized I couldn’t see him anywhere, a nice lady comes walking my sobbing son over to our table and asks if we know this little boy. She reminds us that the week before there had been an attempted kidnapping at that exact park. Great. I still have nightmares.

6. Getting a boob job. Who in their worldly, materialistic mind would want one of these? Maybe me. SO many of my friends and family, especially in Utah, have them and I used to have mixed feelings about it. Until I had 2 children. Now I think that I might feel better spiritually if I’m happy physically. A friend recently told me “Every good husband owes his wife a boob job and tummy tuck after they’re done having babies.” I couldn’t agree more.

7. Be fat. I swore I’d have my baby fat gone by 2 or 3 months. Never lost all of it after the first and I don’t feel that guilty after the second either. I know I’ll get around to losing it eventually.

8. Digress spiritually. We’ve all heard it. If you aren’t progressing, you’re digressing. It’s harder than I ever thought it would be to keep up with the basics-daily scriptures, FHE, fervent prayers…I’m lucky to keep myself stagnant.

9. Let my kid watch too much TV. I do try to limit, but there are days when he watches way too much. Especially with the Tivo. Now I can record programs I think are educational and play 45 of them back to back so I can actually accomplish something and not feel SOO guilty about it.

10. Be a working mom. My mom was a working mom and I swore that I would never do it. She had to support the family for much of my childhood and I never really saw her. When I did she was tired and irritable. I strive to be a good stay at home mom and I’m grateful I don’t have the burden of supporting the family. But it’s a tough and often thankless job. I, like many of my friends and neighbors, look for ways outside of the home to use my talents, find a little self-worth and maybe even make some extra cash while doing it.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

City of Extremes, City of Contradictions

New York City: There’s something about living there that tugs at your soul and makes you feel like you’re really living in the world rather than just driving by it on a suburban street. When I taught high school there, my walk from home to school consisted of a treacherous crossing under the subway line at Queensboro Plaza and then walking along Queens Blvd (known as the Blvd of Death because of all the accidents that occur there), across a bridge, and down Thomson Ave--it was a miserable, gray, industrial, filthy, smelly walk, always accompanied by wind, traffic, and a few sketchy looking characters. I hated that walk, especially on rainy, snowy, or just cold days. But I remember it now with a sense of having really lived it, having braved the elements, having really connected with the city and the people around me. I don’t think I will remember my trips to Target that way.

Some of the contradictory extremes I see in New York:

It’s distinctly American: I think of all the flags that sprang up on doors, balconies, banisters, car antennas after September 11th as the rest of the country rallied around the city. Yet it’s also very un-American and international: I believe Flushing, Queens claims to be the most ethnically diverse zip code in the world; the subway line that connects the Asian neighborhoods in Flushing with Manhattan has been called "the International Express"; and my high school students literally could not get their minds around the idea that I am American and nothing else, that my family came from somewhere else but it was over a hundred years ago, and I’ve never known a member of my family who wasn’t born in the States—these things aren’t real to most of the students who attend the schools of New York City. It’s also the best place in the world to find cheap, authentic cuisine from anywhere in the world, and I mean anywhere: Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, China, Japan, Thailand, India, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Hungary, Egypt, Lebanon, even Bulgaria, Bosnia, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Armenia, Indonesia, and the Carribean.

It’s a metropolis but also an intimate neighborhood, where we knew our butcher, baker, and green grocer, and the old Ukrainian woman on the bottom floor of the next-door building, who held our hands, kissed us, and insisted on babysitting our children ("when you have a baby") every time we walked out on the street.

It’s chic, fashionable, and classy; people live in brownstones in Brooklyn or doorman-attended apartment buildings on the upper west side; young singles and newly marrieds eat in trendy cafés and restaurants after buying flowers at the corner grocer on the way home from their corporate jobs; people shop at small boutiques in the Village or the large stores at Harold Square; people meet at Starbucks to pretend they’re European . . . oh, I mean, to talk art or literature over coffee sipped at small, indoor café tables. But it’s also down to earth, earthly, and down-right filthy, grimy, and full of ugliness—the ugliness of miles and miles of stone and cement, redeemed only by manicured flowerbeds and unspontaneous trees; the ugliness of homelessness made faceless by newspapers used as blankets and bodies turned to the wall; the ugliness of underpaid, overworked immigrants who man hotdog stands instead of teaching philosophy like they did in their home countries.

For me personally, New York equals Queens. Although native residents of Queens consider "the city" to be Manhattan and (some of them) rarely go there, "the city" for me and dh consisted mostly of the streets and avenues of Queens, the Italian salumeria on 30th Ave, the Greek imports store on 32nd Street, the Mexican restaurants on Broadway . . . Joey in Astoria and Floozgirl highlight all of it best. Our favorite part about living in Queens was being members of the church there, getting to know people that we otherwise wouldn’t have known if the church didn’t force us to serve and love those around us regardless of their background.

And, for me, the contradictory extremes of the city consisted of this place where I took on enormous Church responsibility and made good gay and lesbian friends. A place where I worked in the sexy halls of high-end publishing and taught remedial reading classes in a hallway with students sitting on file cabinets because there was no classroom available. A place where I sat at the feet of professors from one of the country’s best universities but did most of my learning wading into the lives of the city’s young people as they attended some of the country’s most failing schools. A place where my marriage flourished in its first three years but where my much-hoped-for first child wasn’t born.

Now that she has been born, I (and my dh, of course) have paid the city the highest tribute we possibly can: we’ve named our daughter after the New York neighborhood we came to love while we lived there: Astoria.
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See ya Suckers.

My Dad is a dentist. Every morning and every night he would ask/advise: "Brush your teeth say your prayers!?" It was always a question and a command rolled into one; Two times a day without fail. Luckily he was not a nazi about flossing. Though my teeth are far from perfect, I have some dental habits that are ingrained in me: I floss my teeth everyday, I wear my bightplate and retainer every night, and I don't let my children suck their thumb.

Now that I have two kids, I realize that not all children are created equal. One daughter cuddles, sleeps on her back and is a picky eater, the other arches her back, sleeps on her stomach, and eats anything. One thing both of my kids have in common though (besides being the most precious of angels), is that neither of them suck their thumbs. If it was in their nature to never suck, fabulous. However, I have made an overly-conscious effort to raise NON-thumbsuckers.

From night 1 my babies were given a binky. My philosophy is that you can destroy a binky, but you cannot cut off a thumb. Baby #1 loved it. Baby #2 was not AS into it, but I never threw it out, I always offered it as a means of comfort. As a side note, I think the best brand of binky (for a baby's palate development) is the NUK. From Gerber's website: "NUK® pacifiers help baby's tongue, palate and jaw develop naturally. The #1 orthodontic pacifier." I am not a professional, but there is another brand of binky I gave my daughter, and I swear over time, her teeth started jutting out a bit. I stopped giving it to her, and they went back in. I swear.

I realize that not all moms agree with my NO THUMBS ALLOWED philosophy (which extends to binkies past 2 years old, mainly for speech development reasons). I was with one of my tales friends (who will remain nameless unless she chooses to come forward) a few months ago and her small baby started sucking her thumb and she thought it was so cute and sweet. The way I was raised, the site of a sweet little baby with a thumb in her mouth made me want to run for a fire extinguisher or call poison control. It's like my fatal allergy to shellfish: LOBSTER=POISON, similary THUMB=MURDER OF THE PALATE....AAAAAAAAAAH...run for your lives!

This mom thought it was no big deal b/c her older child had sucked the thumb, and weaned of it, and had no obvious dental issues or dependency issues or whatever. She found that she could cure it easily. I am just terrified to even go there. If I have a third, I am hoping that my techniques work, and that I will not have to "deal" with a thumb-sucker.

But what if my kids thumbsucking was just never in their nature, and I really had nothing to do with it? What will I do if baby 3# loves his thumb? I think my Dad will disown me.
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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Visiting Teaching: No Greater Failure

Theoretically, I think Visiting Teaching is an awesome program of the Relief Society. When I have explained it (in theory) to non-members, it has always been received with amazingly positive results. A usual response is something like “How wonderful it is to have something as organized as that--where everyone takes care of one another!” I think so too if it actually worked as beautifully as it sounds. The reality is there are major issues with the implementation of the program. I think every ward struggles with "getting their numbers up." This is not at all helped by the fact that I am a horrible Visiting Teacher (Katie can vouch for that).

I have always found excuses for my failure. I have mostly blamed logistics. I could be a better Visiing Teacher if:

I wasn’t working
I wasn’t taking care of kids all day
I was married
I was single
I could visit my friends
I wasn’t assigned to visit my friends
my visiting teachees were more active in the church
my visit teachees were less active in the church
I had transportation
I didn’t have to visit so many people
my companion’s schedule matched mine.

Each time I move into a new ward, I try to recommit to the program. They usually handle VT a little bit differently and my latest excuse becomes void which gives me hope that this time it will be different, I will do better, but I always proceed to come up with a new excuse (or two).

So, here I am once again, a new ward, a new chance. I want to do better, because I believe in the grand vision (not in numbers). I have two active sisters to visit, (as opposed to 2 active and 3 inactive in NYC). I also have a car (instead of a 15 minute walk + a bus or subway ride) to get to their houses. I feel like my future as a Visiting Teacher is looking bright! And finally, I have NO COMPANION.

At first I thought that I must be the odd woman out and when somebody else moved in, I’d get a companion. But that’s not the case. When I inquired further, I found out there are no companionships. In my new ward VT is one on one. Now I don’t think this method is by the book, which might make some people uncomfortable, but I think not having companionships gets rids of some of the major obstacles of VT (and not just logistical ones).

Pros of not having VT companionships:
-One less schedule to coordinate
-Real friendships are usually made one on one – not 2 on one1.
-Seems less formal, not so intimidating-especially for less active/inactive sisters
-I am in complete control of my success and failure – no companion to blame it on.

But I also think there are cons. There must be a reason for companionships. Right? I haven’t really thought of any yet, because I am just too excited by the prospect that this might actually be my recipe for success.

What are the cons to abolishing companionships in VT (you may also add the to my pros list)? And what is your recipe for VT success ?
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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mommy, I peepeed in my underwear and pants

Calling all mothers of boys...who wet the bed! I need help. (And I need it now, so I'm cheating on the wait-a-week rule--sorry!) I have a 5 year old boy. He potty trained quickly at 3 1/2 and through the night almost immediately afterward. A 3-4 months after being trained all night he started regressing. Now at night we hear the thud of him getting out of bed and fear the dreaded statement: "Mommy, I peepeed in my underwear and pants."

He currently is getting up at least once to go to the bathroom every night. Glad he made it to the bathroom, right? Well, he wets his underwear (finishing in the potty) about...1/2 of the time. Then, often that "in the underwear" wetting spills over into the sheets. Ug. When he's in a loft bed with little sister underneath, it's a pain to strip (and somewhat re-make) the bed! Only once in a great while does he wet all the way--which is a relief, cuz those are really messy! And, he goes through phases of wetting or not. Once in a while we get a week where we don't have to change any sheets (just underwear/jammies once or twice) BUT, then we get a string of nights like this week where we've changed underwear every night for 4 nights and sheets twice (or has it been three times..). Yikes. And we though the new baby would be the one waking us up at night!

So, what to do! We've tried eliminating water before bed and there doesn't seem to be a correlation. He also goes to the bathroom right before bed and that too doesn't make a clear difference.

I know not to stress because this is normal for boys...but I just want to make it more bearable.

(See, we have to use the laundromat and it's tough to do it so often cuz I can't reasonably haul laundry there unless dh is home with the 3 kids or hauls it himself--and that means getting home from work a little early...yadda yadda yadda.)

Should he go backwards to "training underwear" (with the thick fabric crotch) to catch more urine so we're not changing sheets so much? Should he just go into pull-ups (which I've so happily avoided with all kids so far). Or nothing... just grin and bear it.

Anyone been through it? Any advice? Dh and I have reached our limit and decided something must change! We just don't know what.
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Monday, May 22, 2006

Artist Mother

I didn't want to have another baby. I was scared of losing my life. I had adjusted well to baby #1 and had a good balance of mothering, wifing, churching, friending, and careering. I was growing my business and nurturing my family. I was so happy with the way life was, and with my one child. I didn't see my life as broken, so why fix it with another child?

I had a personal revelation one day that made it clear that I needed to have a baby. So I did. In order to quell the initial fears I had about bringing another child into the mix, I had a plan. The summer I had a newborn I was going to focus on my creativity by participating in a program called The Artist's Way. It was a 12-week program that had me writing pages every morning, taking myself on artist's dates, and setting goals for my creative self. Though it did take discipline, (I had to go for a week without reading the day after the Harry Potter Book came out...ouch), it was just what I needed to remain focused on the non-mother part of myself.

It has been a year since I did the program, and I feel that everything is clicking. I see the art in the everyday. I have stripped away the many layers of life that have gotten in the way of the raw, rooted talents I was blessed with. I have begun to nurture my inner-artist-self. I know this is God's plan for two reasons: I am experiencing a great deal of adversity: The specifics are not important, just the fact that I am having a DIFFICULT time in many areas of my life that are so unimportant, but just get in the way. The second reason I know it is exactly what I am meant to be doing right now is because I am inspired and energized. All of a sudden I want to take ballet classes, bake, sing, cook, buy organic, make a home-made gift for my daughter's friend, read, and write.

As mothers, the literal and figurative dirty diapers of life start piling up and piling on top of our souls. It takes a great deal of work and effort to climb out from under the stench, but once it is done, the air is so fresh and the perspective so bright. It is worth the work to hold onto that part of you. And the most beautiful thing is when your mothering (which is the ultimate CREATIVE power) can coincide with your artist self, and make your life that much more alive.

For more on my journey, click here.
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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Not so Fulltime Mom

My description for the blog says I've added fulltime motherhood to a fulltime career, but six months later, I can tell you that's bunk! I don't know if there is a way to be a "fulltime" mother while working outside the home even 30 hours a week, but I certainly haven't figured it out. Thank goodness for the love and work of a good man.

I had originally planned to title this post "50/50" and talk about the joy of sharing parenthood, but it didn't take too much pondering to figure out that there is nothing 50/50 about the breakdown of the parenting in our family. I really, really hope that I'm doing 40%, but I suspect even that may not be true. JD is a graduate student, so he's not totally fulltime either, but because of our schedules, he simply takes care of the girl more than I do.

And I'm fine with it. In fact, I'm very grateful that JD is willing to provide quality childcare for now and remove the stress of worrying about who is caring for my child. The advantages are many, but I'm most grateful for the overall feeling that I don't have to have all the answers. My friends and their husbands expect the mom to take care of any grouchiness, any fussing, any misbehaving on the part of their children. The father tends to serve in this auxillary role. That is simply not the case for us, which is what works for us. (My friends are at different levels of comfort with their husbands' participation.)

There is one disadvantage to this system: economics. Living on only one salary in NYC is slowly killing us, especially on my salary!

So, I'm not a fulltime mom. There, I said it. Feel free to adjust the description of "newmom."
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Friday, May 19, 2006

The Reality of Birth

Now that all the other expectant Tales moms have given birth, I feel like I can admit that I am not looking forward to the labor and delivery of my third child. I feel very nervous this time around about the birth. You would think that having done this twice before it would be easy, but I am more reluctant about this one then the first two.

I didn’t know what to expect with my first child, so I didn’t know what to fear. His birth was with a midwife in a birth center in Manhattan. It was very fast, very intense and all natural. Everything went well, but I felt out of control because it was so fast, I wasn’t effective at pushing, totally forgot Lamaze and hyperventilated.

When my daughter was born, I was looking forward to the birth. I had a better plan and was excited to try it out. I practiced hypno-birthing techniques to stay relaxed, used a breathing technique that really worked, utilized gravity to help push, and was much more in control and effective. This second birth was also with a midwife in a birth center in Manhattan. It was all natural, fast, I only pushed for half and hour and I was happy with how it went. Both were amazing and wonderful and natural.

The problem is, I feel like that is the best it can get, and while she was crowning I said to myself “I feel like I am going to die.” While time has softened my memory about what it felt like, that phrase has stuck with me. And this time I don’t have any better techniques to try out. I am faced with the reality that giving birth hurts.

I decided that this time I would try technology to see how it compares. I considered getting an epidural but I have heard too many friends tell me of complications and side effects that I am not willing to chance it. I don’t want to change a good thing and add unnecessary intervention that will make this labor and delivery not go as smoothly. My midwife told me that I could get a local anesthesia just to numb the perineum that would help with the delivery part, and I am considering it, but I am still nervous to try something that could lead to a series of chain reactions.

I feel like I should stick with what has worked before. I know and hope that this birth—with a midwife in a beautiful birth center in Vail, will be as great as my first two. I just know what to expect this time and know that when it comes down to it, it will hurt and frankly I am not looking forward to that.
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Busy = Happy

I've realized in my 5 years as a mother that the busier my kids are, the happier they are. And, naturally, the happier I am. Too much downtime leads to boredome, bickering, bothering, complianing, and the thing that bugs me most--begging to "watch a little show". This spring break taught me a valuable lesson. I need to step up and remember those fun things I used to do with my kids before pre-k started (and before 1 kid became 2 and 2 became 3). Then I need to muster up the energy and organization to do them! I have a whole summer ahead with 3 kids home all day--only one of whom naps. That's a lot of time to fill--and potentially a lot of fun to be had--if I do it right. So, I wanted to share some of my favorite (and favorites tend to be simple) ideas of what to do with little munchkins. So, try these at home! And please share your favorites!

Before I start--I suggest anyone with kids 5 and under to go buy "The Toddler's (or The Preschooler's) BUSY BOOK" (by Trish Kuffner) They are full of great ideas--don't go another day with out them. Some of my ideas come from these books, some come from my Mommy brain, and some from years I spent teaching 3 and 4 year olds at a creative arts camp back in the day. So, here goes--

1. Mailbox: Take shoeboxes or Costco size cereal boxes and cut holes in the tops. Decorate them by gluing construction paper around them if you want (and decorating the paper). SAVE your junk mail! Pop the "mailboxes" around the house and show Junior how to drop mail in them. Do it over and over--it's so fun!

2. Water Painting: A great one for hot summer days. Grab a plastic cup of water and a paint brush. Go outside and paint the sidewalk, trees, fences, whatever! Watch the water disappear. Simple, yet so loved.

3. Long Distance Puzzles: My kids love to do this. Get a wooden puzzle with those separate pieces with knobby things on each one. Put all the pieces in a bowl at one end of the hall or room (or the house if you're in NY) and put the puzzle board on the other end. Start together at the puzzle board and run to the pieces, grab one each and run back and put it in. Keep going until you're done. This was invented in our place to get energy out--it sure works. We don't do it as a race. We usually wait for the person to finish their piece and then go together for the next. Do whatever your kids like. Also, try with matching color squares or any "memory game" type cards. Grab one and find the match at the other end. And so on.

4. Office: Get your hands on an old keyboard, clean it up, cut off the wires. That alone can be good office fun. For more, get a shoebox and glue a paper on the bottom. Prop it up and decorate it to look like a computer screen. Or, just tape a paper on the wall to be a screen and set the keyboard up next to it. Better if you have less storage space for the shoebox. When they get bored of "office" stash the keyboard under the couch and bring it out later for refreshed fun.

5. Drop it in: For littler ones. Save an oatmeal can, hot cocoa can, whatever. Clean it out and cut a hole in the lid. Save juice can lids and wash 'em up. It's just plain fun (and this variation is cheep) for kids to drop things in a container. Juice can lids are noisy too--all the better! Also, try coins in a piggy bank (unless your kid is like my toddler and still puts money in her mouth!), or notecards to drop in your oatmeal can.

6. Rice box: With close supervision--who cares about safety, I'm talking about clean up! Lay a sheet out on your living room floor. Get a nice big shoebox. Fill it about in inch or two with rice and/or beans. Let Junior play in it with hands, small toy animals, and/or cars. This is such a nice indoor tactile experience if you can't make it to a sandbox. I definitely keep my box of rice up high and out of sight. I love it when we play it but I don't like the intensity of the supervision too often. Use the sheet as a means of keeping it off your carpet--just cleans up easier-- you don't have to be too neurotic about it getting on the floor since it'll land on the sheet instead.

7. Forts!: You all know how much kids love forts. Just make one! Look at books in it, play bears, lions, snuggle, whatever. Everything is more fun in a fort.

8. I spy: You probably all know how to play--so play it in the car. It's dd's new favorite. We never know what she's spying because I still don't think she gets it when it's her turn.

9. Around the House: Sing to the tune of "Here we go 'round the Mulberry Bush". The words go "Let's take a walk around the house, around the house, around the house. Let's take a walk around the house and see what we can see." Walk around the house together singing the song, stop at the end, everyone in line says something they see. Then do it again! I'll bet you get sick of it before your little one does!

10. Nature Walk: Get some contact paper. Go on a nature walk and collect small, flat(ish) treasures. When you get home (or to a fun nook in a yard/park) whip out your contact paper. Place your leaves, small sticks, dirt, feather, etc. on the contact paper and cover the top. You could do a small one or large--hang it with yarn around your neck or over a window. If you live in NY, just get creative! But try not to make your neighbors mad as thier "gardens" become your wilderness.

That's all for now. I hope you got some ideas that work for your family. Or perhaps these are reminders of things you love to do too.

I'm feeling guilty as I glance through my books again. There are so many fun other project ideas too--things that made my kid's days. Things that made them wake up and ask me "Are we doing a project today!?" It makes home fun, it does. Good to remember these ideas. Get busy, leave the dishes for later, and have fun with your child today!
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Please Help Us Find Sugar

We have been really trying to increase the quality of Princess' prayers as of late. When she first learned to pray almost two years ago, we started off like most parents, teaching her to mimic what we said. Now she is older and I think she is ready to grasp more of the actual concept of prayer. So we talked to her about what she would like to say in her prayers, who she could bless, what she is thankful for and what she could use help with. I told her that Heavenly Father would help her with whatever she prayed for. My adult brain tells me it's really not that simple, but I figure it's an okay place to start with a 3 year old.

I remember a time when it really was that simple for me. When I was a child, I had unwavering faith in prayer. Anytime I lost anything, my glasses, my jacket, mom's car keys, I knew all I had to do was pray and they would be found. I just knew it. And why did I know it, because of faith + experience. I had tested it and it had worked. As an adult, I sometimes feel a little scared to "test" it. The stakes are usually higher than lost glasses or keys and the desired outcomes more complex. I admit my faith in prayer had wavered with age. So, how was I supposed to teach my daughter to have faith in prayer?

A couple of days after my prayer conversation with Princess and the journey down memory lane (which left me feeling a little like a hypocrite) we had some friends over to play. As they were leaving, somehow our dog escaped out of the open front door. I didn't even notice she was gone for almost two hours. She'd done this before (Kage has had the pleasure of scouring our NYC neighborhood for her a few times). Now, a new neighborhood, her old tag, her cluelessness about the danger of cars and the fact that it had never taken me this long to realize she was gone, left me completely sick to my stomach. I was sure this time I would not be lucky enough to find her, at least not alive.

I got the baby out of bed and loaded her and Princess into the car to begin the search. As I jumped in the car, I felt like I needed to say a prayer.

Heavenly Father, please help us find Sugar. We really love her a lot. Amen.

Princess added her confident Amen and I started the car, ready for a long night of searching, poster making and worrying. I looked up in my rear view mirror to back out of the driveway and there she was--Sugar, alive and well, running right to us, not more than 20 ft away. I tried hard to fight back the tears because Princess still doesn't quite understand why people cry if they are not sad.

Thank you Heavenly Father. Thank you for helping us find Sugar. Thank you for reminding me, and teaching my daughter, that sometimes prayer really can be that simple.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A little inspiration please!

Okay ladies, since four of us Tales girls have now had our babies it would be nice to get some inspiration about getting our bodies “back”. Now I won’t speak for them, but I’m ready to be inspired because a) I had my baby almost three months ago and it’s time to work hard for this body of mine, b) Tales girls ALL have great, healthy looking figures post-baby so maybe you have some secrets to share, and c) it is summer (and swimsuit season – ugh!) and I plan on spending tons of time on the beach with my little one. I’m ready for your best advice. And I’m not simply talking about losing weight. I’m also talking about getting my energy back and just feeling all around healthy! Here are some ways I’ve lost my baby weight so far, and maybe you can add to the list:

1) The obvious BREASTFEEDING
2) Not having time to eat (this is not a recommended way to lose weight! Any advice on QUICK, healthy meals and snacks to have on hand is greatly appreciated).
3) Bouncing and rocking my baby to sleep ALL NIGHT and ALL DAY LONG! This must burn a bunch of calories. At church last Sunday I think I bounced him almost the entire three hours! Little booger won’t let me sit down sometimes.
4) After this endless bouncing DS finally falls asleep on me (forget the crib, he’s not having it for this nap) and I realize that I’m STARVING… but it’s just not worth waking this sleeping baby to eat (also not a recommended way to lose weight).

What can you add to this list? What worked best for you? And how long did it take you to get your body back? Inspire me please!

****Please no “You’ll never get your body back”, “It’s gone forever”, “Just get used to those 5-10 extra pounds” or even "All my baby weight just slid right off. I didn't even have to work at it", etc. We’re looking for inspiration here people!
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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Unlocking the Secret to a Great Mother's Day

I spent my Mother's Day (at least the early morning hours of it), trying to unlock Noe's bedroom door, with him asleep on the other side.

It all went down last night. DH and I had just spent a really amazing evening at the ballet, and came home to two peacefully sleeping children. I drove the sitter home and went to bed, exhausted and content after a very full Saturday. DH puttered around the house, as he is prone to do late at night. At 1:30am, he woke me out of my happy sleep.

DH: "Jen, I went to check on the boys and when I closed Noe's door, it locked."

Me: "Oh....that's a problem."

We just recently moved into our townhouse. I hadn't realized that the boys' bedroom doors could lock. After a couple of seconds to absorb DH's words, I jumped out of bed and found our tool box. Then, we locked our own bedroom door and realized quickly that Noe wasn't going to be able to figure out how to unlock it on his own. Noe's room is on the second floor and we had no idea where we were going to find a long ladder in the middle of the night to reach his window. Nor were we too keen on calling the fire department. At least not yet. So we spent the next two hours trying to find the right tool that would unlock the door without waking the child from his sleep....a situation in which true chaos would ensue.

A few coat hangers, bobbi pins and prayers later....we unlocked the door. And I fell back asleep until ten o'clock the next morning(thank you very much DH!)

Incidently, I learned a few lessons from our "close call" last night:

1. If DH and I work together, we can accomplish ANYTHING for our children. Yeah, maybe a locksmith or a fireman could have done it faster, but we got the job done. This was a great lesson for us to learn, especially as we help Noe overcome his autism.

2. I CAN be a calm presence in a potentially dangerous situation. Usually DH is the calmest one in the room and I am hysterical. Last night, he panicked and I reasoned out the situation and ultimately came up with the winning MacGyveresque tool that unlocked the door. Maybe it was because I was half-asleep, but we'll say otherwise, ok?

3. Sometimes I want to kill my boys, but more often I want to save them. During those two frightful hours, I was entirely focused...with an intensity that I've rarely known....on getting that door unlocked so it would no longer separate me from my son.

4. Mothers don't hold the monopoly on loving their kids. When DH woke me up....I'll never forget the tone and panic in his voice. I thought for sure he was going to tell me something really horrific, like one of them wasn't breathing. I have an equally ferocious papa bear to my mama bear.

5. It is a good idea to have keys to all of the doors with locks in your house.

Not bad lessons to learn on Mother's Day, don't you think?
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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Another Great Poem About Moms

I've shared this with my mother, sisters, grandmothers, and a few others already, but I thought you all would be an appreciative audience. Although a lot of us probably aren't old enough to be on the "mother" end of this situation, I think most of us can appreciate the humor. It's by Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate, and it's hysterical and moving at the same time. Enjoy!

The Lanyard

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past--
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift--not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Billy Collins, The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems, New York: Random House, 2005, p. 45-6.
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Every Mother a Missionary

Pukey likes to stand in the middle of the subway, holding onto the pole that goes from ceiling to floor and sing out at the top of her lungs: "We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are first faith in the Lord Jesus Christ...second...." Thankfully she is somewhat sensitive to her audience and tends to refrain during rush hour (when MANY eyes are close).

My first reaction to this is almost always embarrassment. This is so surprising for me b/c I would basically do the same thing on a dare (or not), I have no problem calling attention to myself for really any reason, I am proud of my daughter and her singing, and come on, it's NYC. So I have to ask myself...why do I initially feel this way? And the answer is because she is singing about the gospel.

I want to share the gospel with others (I even read the missionary version of the BOM on the subway for Brand/Product Placement purposes), but after examining my reaction to her "performance" I have discovered a few things.

A. Part of living the gospel for me is to be accepting and (though I hate this word) tolerant of almost anyone. I of course draw the line at certain behaviors, but I do try to be like Christ, and often walking down the street or when in conflict I repeat: "God loves them, God loves them...I can too". I would not want anyone from another culture or religion to try to tell me that their way was right and mine wrong. I have done a lot of work and had many experiences in my life to bring me to knowing the Gospel is true, and I imagine many other folks have had similar journeys. Obviously if someone is actively searching, then I am happy to tell them what works for me, but I don't want to assume that everyone is searching.

B. The gospel for me is really personal. Some of the testimony-builders in my life I am not interested in sharing with people. I have tried to share the gospel with a few people close to me in the past, and when it is not accepted and in some cases turned around on me as being blasphemous, it hurts. Being the human being that I am, I am not going to return only to get hurt again. Sharing the gospel for me means going to a vulnerable place and it means risk.

C. I had an experience to teach a woman in her home one of the discussions with the missionaries. I felt that we really clicked and I tried to befriend her. After a few phone calls she just started saying rude things and hanging up on me. Here I am a human being still, and missionaries and mission leaders are asking why I stopped calling. Ummm...well she sort of hates me, and I am human and so is she and we really should be respecting each other especially if this is all over the gospel.

D. The way I like to do missionary work is to not socially lie. This usually involves people I don't know very well or have just met.
Lady: (picks up newspaper and refers to an article) How about that Sex and the City show? (in a way that implied it was cool to talk about or cool to watch)
Here I have a choice, I can say: Yeah, I heard it's good (a social lie) or what I really said:
ME: Actually I don't watch that show, I think it's innappropriate and I don't even subscribe to HBO for that reason.
Lady: Oh I totally agree.

So was she socially lying to me or did she really think that and was relieved/surprised to meet someone who agreed with her?

Eg. The other moms at ballet class helped me stuff all the Mother's Day Lindt chocolates after I made them listen to the entire story from Carnations with DH to chocolate with me in charge.
Lady: Next year it will be Eggs (I think that's what she said) and Beer.
I smiled and nodded.

This was a social lie. I first was thrown off b/c I didn't know if she said eggs or not, but I should have said, oh well Mormons don't drink. I did NOT do my missionary work that day.

E. I also try to reach out to others not of my faith. This is hard in the city. We live so close to our neighbors, and so you would think there would be all sorts of referrals for the missionaries, but city life is so couped up, that we just want everyone to leave us alone already. I have tried to reach out to a few friendly faces with the occasional plate of cookies, and small conversations. Lately it has been easier because my older daughter is involved in more activities, and I have made an effort to get to know the other moms. Talking and becoming friends is an easy way for me to do missionary work, but I only talk about the Gospel if it comes up. A few times recently I have asked someone where they go to church and asked about it, assuming the questions would be reciprocated, and when they weren't, I didn't talk about my religion. I recently invited my friend and her two girls over for an Easter Family Home Evening. This took courage for me, but they came and it was a success, and it was nice to know that we had some Christian commmon ground in the whole Easter thing.

I am sure there is more I could be doing. Ksl and Shaleen have always been great examples to me of reaching out and missionarying others. They can talk about the gospel so openly and they invite people into their homes a whole bunch. I don't know if I could ever be like them, but I am trying in small ways to overcome the challenges I have when it comes to sharing the gospel. And the first step is I always let Pukey finish her song on the subway, and hope that it was just freaky enough for someone to think to themselves: "What the bleep does 'laying on of hands for the gift of the holy ghost' mean?"

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reflections on Being a Mom

My first pregnancy came after 5 years of working in the corporate world. I was used to meetings and deals and conference calls and business lunches and fabulous suits with really pointy high heeled shoes. I figured after so many years of just wanting a child that I would instantly be qualified to be a good mother. I had paid my dues, read my books, listened to my doctors…so of course I would be all ready to go when the little one was born. My desire was simply going to be enough.

Fast forward 9 months. After 25 hours of labor, I was laying on the operating table ready for a c-section. I realized as the doctors were preparing to deliver my son that this was the most important moment of my life thus far. How would I react? How should I react? What would my thoughts be when I saw him for the first time? And this is what I remember: with startling clarity (and I say startling because I was on a lot of drugs, so clarity of any kind was a surprise), when I saw DS over the screen for the first time I felt closer to my Heavenly Father than I ever have in my earthly existence – it was as if for a brief nanosecond I was in Heaven again. And my second impression was that I couldn’t wait to do the whole thing over again. Now perhaps the latter impression was the result of the affore mentioned drugs, but it was a strong impression just the same.

Now I have a 3 year old and a 19 month old. So with two children under my belt, what have I learned in this journey called motherhood? Everything…and nothing. I am an expert and a complete novice on the subject. But although I am a constant contradiction in what I know and what I don’t when it comes to mothering, I am forever a changed woman because I am someone’s mother.

On this particular day, I am especially sensitive to women who are not biological mothers, either by choice or by circumstance, one because I have been that woman and it is very hard, and two because I have been mothered by those same women. I think that many of us are familiar with the now famous talk by Sheri Dew “Are We Not All Mothers?”, written by this remarkable and gifted woman who has not had the opportunity to bear children herself. I drew great strength from this talk when it was published in 2001. In it she states that “ While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve ‘the mother of all living’ – and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature and the unique traits our Father gave us”.

Motherhood is something all women are blessed with, whether or not the opportunity to bear children in this life comes to fruition or not. When I look at my life over the last 31 years, I can’t help but notice that I have been mothered by many women in addition to my own biological mother. Girlfriends who have stepped in and shown wisdom older than their years, professors in college who took a little extra time with me when I was struggling, coworkers in my various jobs, church members, young women leaders, my own grandmother, my mother-in-law, my sisters-in-law – these women have all been a mother to me at one time or another in my life, and because of them I am a better person and will ultimately be a better mother.

Author Martha Beck wrote a beautiful book called “Expecting Adam”, which chronicles her pregnancy and early years with her son Adam, who has Downs Syndrome. It is a sharply emotional narrative of her struggles as a mother, and I enjoyed reading it as a new mother when I had DS. The following is a quote from her regarding mothers: “The word mother is more powerful when it is used as a verb than as a noun. Mothering has little to do with biological reproduction-as another friend once told me, there are women who bear and raise children without ever mothering them, and there are people (both male and female) who mother all their lives without ever giving birth. The bad news is that not all of us have the good fortune to be born to our real mothers, or to stay with them as long as we need them. The good news is that, while mothers are often in short supply, mothering is not".

I have learned that it takes a lot of work to be a good mother, much harder work than I ever did in corporate America. Very little is required of someone who is just maintaining the existence of another person – anyone can feed, clothe, diaper. But it takes all of my intellectual prowess, creative talents, physical strength, and spiritual fortitude to be a good mother to my children every day. I have learned to rely on my gut instincts when it comes to my children because they are always right. I have learned to pray daily, continually, anywhere and at anytime because when I humble myself before the Lord, he always helps me.

I have learned that I can function fairly well for up to 3 days on only 15 hours of sleep. I have learned that my internal mommy alert can send me from 0-60 miles per hour in the middle of the night when my child cries out. I have learned that I now possess catlike reflexes. I have learned that there is no greater reward than the satisfaction of lulling a sick, fussy baby to sleep after hours of crying. I have learned that my son laying in my lap while I read to him or my daughter curled up in my arms are some of the greatest joys I could ever experience. Most importantly, I have learned that my son and daugther are my heart, toddling around the world in little bodies. It is an intensely vulnerable feeling to have your heart running around outside your body, but I guess that is what part of being a mother is all about.

My patriarchal blessing tells me that the most important thing I will ever do in this world will occur within the walls of my home – being a mother to my children and raising them to be strong, righteous individuals capable of fulfilling all the talents that Heavenly Father has blessed them with. It’s a tall order to fill, but I’m working on it.

Elder Matthew Cowley taught that “men have to have something given to them in mortality to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. They are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority to be the saviors of human souls…and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children”. President Hinckley stated that “God planted within women something divine – the gift and gifts of motherhood”. And finally President J. Reuben Clark Jr. declared that motherhood “is as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself”. I am so grateful to my Father in Heaven for blessing me with the opportunity to have and raise children, but I am also grateful for the struggle it has been to become a mother because it has brought me closer to the Lord and made me more fully appreciate the highs and lows of motherhood. On this special day I am grateful for my own mother, who I now appreciate and understand more now that I am a mother myself. I am grateful for my husband, my son, my daughter...and those children who will make their way into our family in the future. Happy Mothers Day moms...

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Those Darn Mother's Day Carnations

I realize it is the thought that counts and blah blah blah...and I am totally not that into Mother's Day, as you will see in my comment from Carrie's Best Week, I mean, Mother's Day Ever, but there is an area of improvement that I am interested in. My DH is in charge of the M's Day Gift in Sacrament Meeting. (I also think this is a bizarre tradition, but whatever.) The past few years he has gotten carnations for all the women in the ward...whether they are technically mothers or not. I hate this. Aside from the fact that I am allergic to flowers and always decline the gift, I think: Ok great, for the next 3 hours these women have to carry around this dumb (come on Carnations are sort of a dumb flower) flower and prevent it from being dried out, stepped on, broken in half or lost. Women always have too much to carry anyway, let's not make them take care of a delicate flower for all of church, then expect to get it home on the subway and to sit alone in a little glass of water.

I further resented this when my DH asked me (granted he is WAY stressed out right now, we won't mention the fact that I was in the ER last night), to take care of the carnations for Sunday. I expressed the above paragraph and he told me that I could get 50 whatevers for around 50 bucks for the sisters in the ward. Here is where you come in. I would love ideas. For me, the ideal is to go to Costco and buy 50 bucks worth of full-size candy bars and wrap as many as is a dollars worth (let's say 2 or 3), in a ribbon and hand them out. And if you like the flowers...please tell me WHY?

PS I know it's not really my turn right now, but this is time sensitive, I will save the bed bugs, spraining my back, and ER visit that also happened yesterday, for another time.
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Before I Was a Mom...

This is a great poem about moms that I can't take credit for (not sure who the author is). I can identify with everything the author has written - enjoy!

Before I was a Mom -

I slept as late as I wanted and never worried about how late I got into bed.
I brushed my hair and my teeth everyday.
Before I was a Mom -I cleaned my house each day.
I never tripped over toys or forgot words to a lullaby.
I didn't worry whether or not my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom-
I had never been puked on.
Pooped on.
Spit on.
Chewed on.
Peed on.
I had complete control of my mind and my thoughts.
I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom -
I never held down a screaming child
So that doctors could do tests.
Or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom -
I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn't want to put it down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn't stop the hurt.
I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.
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Monday, May 08, 2006

The Best Mother's Day Ever

There is a family legend of sorts that gets retold every year right around this time. It happened years ago, back when my sister had a house full of children (now three of them are married and gone). The day was Mother's Day and her husband and children did NOTHING. Or what they did do was an obvious, last-minute, half-assed attempt to honor their mother. I can't remember which. Personally, both are pretty bad in my book. So, at the close of this truly pathetic Mother's Day, my sister gathered her family together and told them she was officially declaring that the next Sunday would again be Mother's Day. She was giving them another chance to do it right.

I might be getting the story all wrong. I did say the story has become a legend which means the facts might be changed, but the moral has remained intact. You may disagree with the moral and/or the tactic, but I just love it. And I'll be honest, I'm probably the only one that retells this story every year...to my husband...as a reminder that I, like my sister, will not accept a less than fabulous Mother's Day.

But the truth is, I am really not sure what makes a truly fabulous Mother's Day.

When I was younger, we would always spend Mother's Day doting on my mom. Breakfast in bed, lunch, dinner all prepared and cleaned up by the family. It seemed like the least we could do given that the other 364 days of the year she cared for us. But, she would always tell us how uncomfortable she felt when we served her because the thing that made her the most happy was serving us. I never understood it. I mean, I do get joy from serving my family, but I am more than happy to be served as well. What would make the best Mother's Day ever for my own mom?

Last year, I remember talking to some Tales girls about Mother's Day and it seemed like the thing we wanted most (and what we got) was to a break from our Mothering duties. When I think about it, it's sort of a strange request for Mother's Day. Right?

I think my best Mother's Day ever falls somewhere between these two extremes. I would love to have my children around me, but maybe only when they are clean, happy and fed. I would love to have a nice meal where we all work to make it together, but I don't want to clean up. I would love any gift homemade or bought that said to me: "we spent some time thinking about you and what you might like." I am not looking for extravagance. Just thoughtfulness.

What would make the Best Mother's Day ever for you? And what are doing for your own mother?

(Maybe we'll get some husbands to stop by and take a look so we won't have to have any "do-overs" this year).

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Words from Mom: Crazy Years = Happy Years

Over the next few months we will be featuring guest posts from some of
our favorite people---our moms. We hope their messages will bring
added hope, wisdom and perspective to our lives as crazy, "young" moms.
The first post is from my mom:

How nice to reflect on motherhood as we approach Mother's Day. I am a mother of four with eleven years separating our oldest and youngest children. One year I had a busy Freshman in High School; a busy sixth grader in middle school; a kindergartner (which is a nightmare in itself) and a child attending preschool. Those were the days that I filled my gas tank twice a week.

Those were crazy days with a husband in the Bishopric and me serving in the Stake Young Women Presidency. There were countless lessons, practices, rehearsals, homework, meals, talks, tears, laughs. I look back and wonder how I ever did it. But I also look back on the happiest years of my life... everyone living under our roof. I am a little teary-eyed just writing it. How quickly the time has passed with child # 3 readying himself to leave the nest as he graduates from high school this May. This will be a tough one to lose.

I think I have always tried to have a sense of humor, but even with a sense of humor, a mom can snap. With only two children at home I rarely raise my voice. But with four children at home, I did my share of yelling and that is something I regret. I was stressed out alot of the time. I wish I had had the peace and assurance I have as an older mother. I have learned that yelling or being angry accomplishes nothing. It only makes you feel guilty and everyone else feel bad. Staying calm and in control fosters love and self esteem. Remember the Savior said, "Come unto me", not "Go away!".

One night I had a dream that I was telling this man about my life. I told him how busy I was and my concerns for my children; my husband; myself. How could I get everything done and meet everyone's needs and do it well? This man was so understanding. He listened intently. He comforted me and said all the right things that I needed to hear. The whole time I talked to him I never looked at his face but suddenly I caught a glimpse of his shoe. His shoe was a sandal.... and I knew that I was receiving assurance from the Savior that I was doing my best to be a good wife and mother. I have drawn from that experience many times over the years.

Before I close, I would like to say a word about being a grandmother. One time when I was helping Kage with a new baby (Poopy), Pukey was going around the room asking her dad if people were mad at her. When she got to me she said, "Daddy, is Grammy mad at me?" And her daddy said, "No, Grammy will never be mad at you." And that is the greatest joy of being a grandmother because he is right. I would never be mad at her. When she and her sister visit our house and I yell at the dog, they get a look of panic on their faces as if to say, "we have never heard that tone of voice from Grammy before...." And that is the joy of being a grandmother. My grandchildren will never hear "that tone of voice". Thank you for letting me share some thoughts as an older mother and a young grandmother! Happy Mothers Day to all especially to my dear daughter who I think is the best mother in the world.
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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Swimsuit Model no more

So I am what they call a commercial print model. I am the woman who looks decent enough to sell a product but does not have what it takes to be a model, model, model, as I call them. In other words, I am at a healthy weight, and I cannot remember a time when I didn't have cellulite.

I have always been interested in the Beauty Industry, and dreamed of being a model, but I did not aspire to it until I lost about 20 pounds after giving birth (please don't hate me). I have been doing it for a little over 2 years now, and having a great time.

I was recently chosen to participate in a swimwear story for Prevention magazine. I was a little apprehensive about it, but have similar feelings as Jen when she posted about loving her body post-babies, and so I am pretty comfortable with my body. Seriously if I can poop, pee and puke on another woman (my poor poor midwife), and groan (like some animal I am certain is extinct) while giving birth, I can literally do anything, including pose in a swimsuit for the world to see.

When I arrived to the set, it was a full circle moment for me because about a year to the day earlier, I shot a story for them about eating eggs while pregnant, and I was VERY pregnant. It was nice to walk in with my body "back" one year later. It was a day of firsts for me b/c I had never had my entire body bronzed, I had 16 inch hair extensions (for a previous job), that had never been photographed, and I would be wearing a variety of swimwear.

I was slightly nervous at first, but I ended up having a great time on set and feeling beautiful to boot. I learned where to place my body so that I looked the most flattering, and there was even a wind machine. Whenever the "you look so ugly in a swimsuit" thoughts crept in, I just reminded myself that photoshop was my best friend, and they could edit out the flaws. It was a good lesson for me to know that when I am feeling down about anything (especially when it comes to my MOTHERING), I can just be my photoshopped self until I figure out how to strengthen my weaknesses...but I digress.

The client seemed happy with the photos, and I thought the polaroids indicated that I looked good. Oh by the way, the story (if you click on the link you will see) was about choosing a flattering swimsuit for your figure flaw. My figure flaw?....drumroll please....SMALL BREASTS (among other things). And I left feeling on top of the world that I had conquered a fear and that I would be able to share that publicly...and my boobs did look a little bigger.

I got on the website today to check for the photos, and (gasp) they re-shot my portion with a different model. There I was clicking away and another model had on every single suit that I modeled. Don't worry, I still get paid and everything, but my ego was bruised. I was willing to conquer my fear of not only appearing in a swimsuit but being photographed for all to see, and then I was given the shaft. My wise mother suggested it was divine intervention (ok there were a few rather skimpy bikinis), but I was a little bruised nonetheless.

I think it is safe to say that was my first and last swimsuit modeling job....ah...it was fun while it lasted.
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Friday, May 05, 2006

A Taboo Topic?

I am inspired to write this after witnessing a very brave friend of mine suffer a miscarriage. I’ll call her Carla. Carla really impressed me. I knew she was a nice woman and a good mother to her one year-old son. I serve in the Young Women’s presidency with her in our ward. She is a hard worker. But I never knew how open and brave she was until she confided that she was having a miscarriage.. First off, she wasn’t ashamed. She wasn’t afraid to confide in her friends what was going on with her and her body. Not to say that she didn’t have nights where she was scared and cried and mourned the loss of the child, but she was open and honest (with those she could trust) and I came away from those difficult weeks she had feeling impressed with her for sharing what she was going through. She had a support system around her that she created by being honest with her friends and family. She was brave at a very vulnerable time. That inspired me.

I write this because my first pregnancy was a miscarriage and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alone than at that time. Granted, my DH and I had just moved across the country and I didn’t have a lot of close friends to lean on. The gyno reassured me that 1 in 3 pregnancies end in miscarriage. I thought about that and said to myself, “then why do I feel like there is NO ONE for me to talk to”. This was my first pregnancy and I was terrified (“what if something is wrong with me” “I’m a woman…my body should be able to do this”), and I don’t know why, but I was embarrassed and scared and didn’t want to let anyone know. I felt like a failure. I lived near my mother-in-law at the time and she had had 3 miscarriages, but then went on to have 7 children. This was little comfort at the time because I was afraid I would never even have ONE child. I desperately wanted to know that other women my age were dealing with this…that I was not alone. I realized that I had so many friends that were mothers, or were my own age, and I thought about that 1 in 3 statistic and wondered… “Did any of my friends suffer a miscarriage and feel alone as well?” Times have changed in our country and yet I still felt like this was a topic that felt secretive… like I wasn’t supposed to talk about it. “Don’t tell people you are pregnant until you’re 12 weeks along just in case you have a miscarriage?” Why? Because you would have to acknowledge that it happened. I look at Carla and the support system she created around her, and think back to how alone I felt and wish that I had had a friend like her at the time, or that I would've been as brave to open myself up as she has been.

Anyway, time passed and I endured my miscarriage. I did make a conscious decision to tell my sisters and close girlfriends about my miscarriage. Mostly because if they had a miscarriage I wanted them to know they could pick up the phone and know that someone out there knew how they felt, and that they weren’t alone. I think it’s important that women stick together like this. Now I’m in no way trying to tell women to be open about something so personal if they feel like it’s a private matter. I just hope women don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed, or like a failure, because of miscarriage. I hope they don’t feel alone if what they are looking for is someone to connect to. And I hope that in this day and age miscarriage isn’t a “taboo topic”.
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A question from a frustrated newlywed: Do garments ever get better?

We recently received the following comment on a really old post. Instead of letting it get lost in the archives, I thought I should make it a post of it's own to see if we can help this girl out (or at least share in her pain).

I need some advice. A friend in my ward told me about this site, and I have loved reading advice and different situations that LDS women offer to one another. I am in need of help and dont know quite who to talk to. I have been happily married now for 6 months. I was almost 27 when my husband and I were married in the temple. I am now getting use to wearing garments and it has not been an easy transition.

The reason I find it hard to discuss this is because people are quick to jump at the idea of me not appreciating what garments stand for. To set the record straight, I love the purpose for garments and I understand how important and sacred they are. That is not my concern. My concern is that everyday (and night), I am uncomfortable in a tugging and pulling kind of way. I find them very unnatural for a womens body and so diffucult to wear with clothing. Modesty is not an issue for me, but the fact that every waist band comes up past my belly button is hardly in sync with my jeans. (Yes I have tried every size, material, shape etc.. Even the 2xs petite) I find myself becoming resentful because i am so physically uncomfortble.

I also loved the websites to modest tee's etc... Great idea, however, living in southern California makes layering diffucult. It is already very warm each day with just a garment top and shirt. Layering is out of the question other than about 2 months each year. IS THIS EVER GOING TO GET BETTER?? I am really concerned that I may never get use to this change. And in my opinion it is a major change!

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks, A frustrated newlywed

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Don't kiss your baby

Seriously? Horrible.

The doctor just told me I have a virus. One that I don't want to give my one month old son. It's not serious, but we don't want the little guy getting sick, right? So my orders were: keep nursing him, if he doesn't eat well or seems lethargic - check his temp, oh and don't kiss him. Fine. I can do that.

I would never have described myself as a "baby person". I'm not that girl at church or at parties that always wants to hold and kiss babies. I can look at them for 30 seconds and coo, but then I move on. That is one of the reasons I was scared to have my own baby. Would he get the attention he needed?

Well...guess what. He turned me into a baby person. I can't take my eyes off of him and can't stop kissing his cute little neck rolls, his funny little balding head or his scrumptious cheeks.

In talking to a friend a few weeks ago about the adoption process she was going through we talked about many horror stories we had heard. One example: some friends finally got a baby through LDS services. They were ecstatic, loving, wonderful parents. For two months. Then, the birth mother decided she wanted her baby back. Huh? Can you do that? Apparently, it was legal.

Now after having my own baby I can see how devastating and difficult it would be to give up a child. I always thought that it would be hard, but now...I think mothers who can do that are amazing and strong. Now I have a new perspective. After two months, how can you have your baby taken away? Is that what is best for the child? I didn't have time to research the laws in different states (I am too busy kissing my son now that I am better) so I don't have concrete information, but I wonder what you all think about what the law should be. I have heard that in some states a birth mother has 6 months to change her mind.

I never knew you could fall in love with someone so quickly. But the way I loved my son the minute he was born...it's indescribable. Having someone take him from me after two months...unbearable.
What should the adoption laws be? The child is most important, but after that, should the legal system be protecting birth mothers or adoption mothers?

Whatever kind of mother you are...never stop kissing your babies.
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Don't I Get Workers Comp For This?

You’d think being a mom would be a pretty safe gig. Kage recently wrote about a near-catastrophic injury she had getting off a city bus with her kids. I, as well, have recently suffered a mommy-related injury. Not nearly as dramatic as Kage’s story . . . but serious enough that it will require surgery to fix.

We recently moved into a two-level townhouse and my kids are fascinated with the stairs, as they have never before had such easy access to a staircase. We originally bought child-proofing gates, but we are up and down the stairs so much, they became an annoyance and we aren’t consistent about keeping them up. I was in a bedroom kneeled down on the floor picking up toys when I noticed 17-month-old Asher moving at full speed, preparing to kamkaze down the staircase. I jumped up after him and immediately felt my knee pop. When Asher heard my shriek o’ pain he stopped long enough for me to intercept his fall. Then there was swelling, bruising, and now my knee pops out of place whenever I bend it at a certain angle and I have to manually move it back into place.

According to the doctor, I have a “bucket handle” tear in the meniscus of my left knee. The tear causes my knee to “catch” and “pop” out of place temporarily. Let me tell you about the pain. It makes me cry for my own mama every time it pops out. I can’t completely blame the child. I have a long history of injuries to this knee, which date back to my more athletic days in sports. This will be surgery number five on this knee in the last 8 years.

So it looks like I’m going to be dusting off my crutches and looking forward to that complementary bottle of post-surgery Vicodin in the near future. . . .

I know there are some good tales out there that need a tellin’ about your own mommy misfortunes. What kind of injuries have you suffered at the hands (or knees, in my own case) of your kids?

I don’t know about you, but I am going to demand hazard pay in my next round of mommy contract negotiations.
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Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Ok so it's not quite the kind that you see on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, but it was a little piece of demo in my tiny domain that I call home.

My apt. is really nice on the inside...new appliances, newly refinished, hardwood floors, all that jazz... but the entryway, garage and stairs leading up to the apt. look like armageddon. In fact when I recently had the princess party for Pukey, I made sure that the moms actually trekked the 3 flights up to my apt. to see that their children would be safe in my home because judging by the entryway, I would have my doubts if I were the mom.

In an effort to spruce up my portion of the stairwell, I created an art wall. I had just finished painting Pukey and Poopy's room blue and had some leftover paint, so I painted frames on the wall outside of my door with the idea to tape art projects inside them. I got this idea from a magazine article (I think Mary Engelbreit) years ago (see photo above). I save articles/ideas that I like from magazines in a binder, so that I don't have to keep the whole magazine, and found the photo again in that binder.

The art wall eventually exploded into an entire corner. I would rotate art projects, but we just couldn't part with many of our favorites. Everytime I walked up my stairs, I loved seeing our creation. It made me smile and excited to be home. Since Carrie moved the super has been back to fix some of what he started (4 years ago) and one of the projects is to paint the walls of the stairwell. So, last night I had to take down our beloved art wall. I decided to put some of the creations on our front door, but I will really miss that welcoming sight. I am looking forward to when I have more space to call my own and I can create a more permanent Art wall, but for now it will just have to be an art door.
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Monday, May 01, 2006

Teaching Modesty to Teens

I have been asked to speak at a YW activity next week about fashion and modesty. Because of my background in fashion, this is not the first time I have spoken on this topic. But still, each time, I sit pondering trying to figure out exactly what to say—What will make the most impact? What will stick in their heads? What will I feel comfortable saying?

Wendysue made a recent comment about working with the YW in her ward:

“We would go over and over all the things they weren't doing quite right (modesty, attitudes, etc.) These girls were going to school every day in a very difficult world. One in particular told a story of when her parents were harping on her about one thing or another and she said, you know what? I wish you could be at school with my and see how good I really am with all that I have to put up with! After that I always tried to congratulate and encourage them in the decisions they were making.”

I think this is a great attitude to have. I don’t want to “come down” on them. They are good girls who try hard to make the right choices. I don’t want to tell them what modesty choices to make because when I was a teenager, I hated being told what to do.

So, here is a list of what I do not want to do:

  • Give a list of modesty do’s and don’ts.
  • Make any girl feel guilty for what she is wearing (or what she has in her closet).
  • Lecture like a parent.
  • Make them feel like they have to be modest because it is what is expected of them (to me this may work for a time, but in the long run, it is a very unstable foundation to base your choices on).

And here is what I would like to do:

  • Empower and inspire them to want to make modest fashion choices.
  • Make sure they know the counsel of the prophet regarding modesty.
  • Talk about the gospel principles that help us make good choices: faith, obedience, testimony
  • Empathize with them-- I know making modest choices can be a sacrafice.
  • Teach them the power of dress - helps not only make more modest choices, but more appropriate and better choices in all situations (job interviews, first day of school, speaking in church, dates--or "hanging out", etc).

Here is where I ask you for your help: Think back to your YW days. What would have been helpful to hear on this topic? What would you have responded to? Do you think my approach is too passive? Or unrealistic? If you have teenage girls, what is the most important message about modesty you would like to see reinforced?
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