Sunday, August 3, 2014

Be Yourself

An open letter to my amazing niece about becoming a woman:

Even though she was my sister, when I was really little, your mom was like a mother to me.  I have vivid memories of crying myself to sleep on the couch many nights after she left for college because she left such a void.  When I was a little older and she was married and had children, I would come and stay with her for a while sometimes.  During those long visits she became more than my sister, she became my friend.  I enjoyed each visit more than the last and never wanted to leave.  When I became an adult, she became my best friend and mentor.

When I was little, I loved her because she was my sister.  But as I grew older, I began to respect and admire her as a woman as well.  She was everything I thought a woman should be and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.  For me, she was the standard, and I gauged everything I did by her example.  As a new wife, and then later as a new mother, I often felt like I didn’t measure up.  I struggled with feelings of being overwhelmed and under qualified.  I would think to myself, ‘If I could only be more like her, I would know what to do and everything would be better.’

Now after almost 20 years of marriage and over 10 years of parenthood, I have realized a few things.  First of which, is that I can never be just like her, because God made me differently.  I'm louder, crazier, more opinionated than she is.  My perspectives, experiences and capabilities are different too.  I still think of her as the embodiment of the Proverbs 31 woman, and the fulfillment of the fruits of the Spirit.  For sure, she is an example to learn from.  But I have realized that I don’t have to be just like her to be those things as well.

Often, we struggle as women because we think we don’t measure up to someone else’s standard.  We think there is something wrong with us because we are different.  But God made each of us differently.  And He did it on purpose.  All of us are all different parts, and we need each of those different parts to function as a whole.  There are things we have to learn from each of these differences, and the differences in each of us are what make life interesting.  And while there are some amazing women that we have to look up to and learn from, (your mom is one of those for sure) we don’t need to feel like we don’t measure up because we are not just like them.

As you are on your way to becoming an adult, you are discovering who you are; who you want to be.  While you are on that path to self-discovery, I want you to keep in mind that God didn’t create you to be like someone else.  He created you to be different.  So find those women you look up to, women who embody the traits that you desire, and learn from them.  But don’t try to be like anyone else; because God created you to be you.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Things I know about life

When I was asked to write about what it meant to be a woman, my first thought was, What do I know about life?

Nothing.  That was my second thought.

But then I realized, That is what I know...

I know that the more you know, the more you know you don't know.
~And those who think they know, are usually the ones who don't. 

I know that knowledge is power, but wisdom is knowing how to use knowledge.
~A smart person knows what to say, a wise person knows whether or not to say it.

I know that your beliefs don't make you a better person, your behavior does.
~And no one will care what your beliefs are if they don't believe you care.  And they will not believe that you care unless you show them that you do. 

I know that it is good to be right, but better to be kind.
~No one will care that you are right, if you are not kind.  I often say to my children, Was that necessary to correct?  If it wasn't, then don't. 

I know that comparison is the thief of joy.
~You can't be happy with what you have, if you are too busy being unhappy with what you don't have.

I know that gratitude turns what we have into enough. 
'It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.' ~David Steindl-Rast
~Gratitude is key.  It gives us perspective.

I know that perspective makes all the difference.
~How small are we compared to the vastness of the world.  It is only when we are able to see past ourselves, that we are truly able to see. 

I know that you should never judge someone, because it doesn't define them, it defines you.
~You might be right.  They might be right too.  Sometimes different is not right or wrong, it is just different.

I know that you should never worry about the opinions of those who have no importance in your life.
~You are the only one that is responsible for the choices you make.  Make the one you think is right and don't worry if someone who is not important to you thinks differently about it.

I know that you can never be perfect, but you are never closer to perfection than when you are trying.
'Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.' ~Maya Angelou
~And forgive yourself for not doing better before you knew better.

I know that you never fail until you quit trying.
~Never give up.  Stay the course.  There may be times that you will need to reevaluate, maybe reroute, but never stop.  Never give up.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

No laughing matter!

I know it seems like it should be easy not to laugh at your kid when they are upset, but it isn't always.  Sometimes it is really hard.

My shy child was in Math Olympiads one year.  He really loved it, but a few weeks into the program he came home crying.
"I can't be in Math Olympiads anymore."
What?  Why?  I finally coaxed the following explanation from him...
"I farted in class and everyone laughed."
Oh, honey... No one will even remember by next week.
(Insert story about a parent's embarrassing public fart to make him feel better.)
"But the teacher told me if I farted again, I couldn't come back."
Okay, no way is that the whole story...  Tell me 'exactly' what happened.
"I accidentally farted in class and it was really loud and everyone couldn't stop laughing.  The teacher was trying to get everyone to pay attention again, so she told me that if I had to fart again, I had to leave."
Honey, I think the teacher (who had a heavy French accent) was trying to say, If you need to fart again, step out of the classroom for a moment so as not to cause a disruption.  And then come back in.

I really felt bad that he was so upset, so I really tried hard not to laugh.
But it was REALLY hard.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Fling

Of all the holidays, Easter is the one that I have the most fun with.  We take our kids to a community egg hunt or two where it is a free for all.  Plastic eggs filled with sweets are just lying on the ground.  When they get the signal, the kids run around grabbing as many eggs as they can before another kid does.  There are tons of kids at these events, getting tons of candy and tons of happy.

Then we have an egg hunt at home that is just for our family.  We hide our eggs and vary the difficulty by age.  Each kid has two colors assigned to them and they can only collect eggs with their colors.  Each kid also has the same number of eggs to hunt so all is fair and square.  …except for the golden egg with cold hard cash in it.  There is only one of those, and finders keepers.

Since the kids have already gotten more sugar than I would ever wish for them to have at the free hunts, our family hunt is a sugar-free event.  Instead of sweets, I fill the eggs with little toys and trinkets I have picked especially for them.  I enjoy the challenge of shopping for fun things to put in their eggs.  I try to be as creative as possible for as cheap as possible.

Last year while shopping, I spotted some ceramic eggs.  They were pots that were pre-packaged with dirt and seeds, just add water.  Oooh, they were so cute!  And I was so tempted!  But $3 per egg filling is my limit and these were $5 and change.  It gave me the idea to use seed packets as an egg-filler though.  Those are under $1.  I picked out the perfect one for each kid; cucumber seeds for Ethan, sugar snap pea seeds for Daniel and wild flower seeds for Asha.

As expected, the kids were super excited when they found seed packets in one of their eggs.  They wanted to plant them immediately.  I told them to wait and finish up what we were doing and then we would head out to the back yard to plant them.

Asha did not hear this because she had already ripped open her packet and, in a flash, was twirling around in the middle of our front yard, squealing with delight, as she flung the seeds across our lawn.  I looked at her in stunned silence, my mouth agape, as she excitedly asked, "When do you think they'll bloom?"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Persuit of Perfection

If I'm honest about it, New Year's Day is always hard for me.
I've never been able to make New Year's resolutions because I am a perfectionist.  I don't hold others to an impossible standard, but in myself, I have trouble not seeing anything less than perfection as failure.  I don't make resolutions because you don't set a goal to be so-so, and I already know that I could never live up to any goal I would set, so why set myself up for failure?  Add to this the fact that taking stock of where I could improve is in essence taking stock of where I have failed.  Ouch.

I don't know that I will ever make resolutions, but this year I have decided to make a few goals.  I have decided to set them while keeping this quote in mind:
You have not failed until you quit trying. ~Gordon B. Hinckley

Because you can never be perfect, but you are never closer to perfect than when you are trying.

Happy New Year 2014!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

I would be a much better parent if... weren't for my children.

It is much easier to know how other parents should parent. And it was much easier to imagine how I would parent before I had my children.  Before having children, it was easy to imagine the perfect scenario: This is what I will do, and consequently, this is what they will do. And then I actually had children. As it turns out, you may or may not do what you imagined based on what you and your children are actually capable of doing. You are busier than in your perfect scenario. You are way more tired than in your plan, your kids more active and less compliant than the ones you parented in your head. And consequently, they may or may not do what you imagined either.

There is a LOT of parenting advice out there; books, articles, seminars. I have found that people are very fond of giving unsolicited parenting advice too. But often the advice they give uses their family as a base line, and doesn't leave room for variation. This can make the person receiving the advice feel like they are doing something wrong if their experience doesn't measure up. Or make them feel superior if they think their experience is better. But let me suggest that maybe it's not better...or worse. Just different.

In general, people are all the same. But individually, they are all... well... individual. And individuals are what make up a family. And that makes each family individual as well. There are parents (mom and/or dad) who have different personalities, capabilities, responsibilities, etc. Then there are kids with different personalities, capabilities, activity levels, etc. Consider how the combination of all those different qualities makes each family unique, or... individual.

My brother's daughter was one who would announce that she was tired, go to her bed and sleep. My daughter views going to sleep as just shy of torture. The more tired she is, the more tortured she feels when I tell her it's bedtime and a 'take-no-prisoners' bedtime battle ensues. Both of our daughters go to sleep, but how they get there is a very different experience. So if my brother were to give me advice on bedtime based on his family make up, I would fall short of living up to his experience. He obviously does a better job than me, right? Sure, I could improve my daughter's bedtime experience. But there is nothing I could do to change her into a person who says "I'm tired so I'm going to put myself to bed." instead of one who says "I shall never surrender!"  In this case, it is not the parenting skill that is the difference, but the personality of the child that is.

I'd like to give some unsolicited parenting advice here. My parenting advice is this: Take it all! Listen to all the parenting advice... and then sort it out. Is there anything in that advice that you can apply to improve your parenting?  Use it! Then set aside anything that does not apply to your family and leave it for the family that it does apply to. Don't let it make you feel superior if your parenting surpasses it. You may have more capabilities and/or easier children. On the flip side, do not let it sit on your shoulders as guilt, thinking that your parenting does not measure up. You can only do what you can do. So if you can do better, do it! If you can't do better, then you may already be doing your best parenting. Your kids are blessed to have a parent who is doing their best. Just let parenting advice be what it is. Advice.

Monday, May 20, 2013

I do see you.

My daughter earned a dollar the other day.
She was very excited to go to Walmart with me to see what it would buy.

It bought...
a notepad and pen set.

After we got home, she wrote as many notes as she could think to write,
and then tore them all off and put them in here.

Once or twice a day she brings it to me and tells me to
close my eyes and pick one.

This is what I have picked so far...

The last one is by far my favorite.

I do see you too, honey...
and I love what I see.