Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review: Free-Range Kids

Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with WorryFree-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since I am really on board with Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kid movement, I thought I would be giving this book five stars. I ended up shorting it a star because there were some parts of her whole concept that I don't agree with.

She set her book up like a set of commandments--the Ten Free-Range Commandments but added four more to them, so there are fourteen commandments. Then she has a section that is about common parental fears A-Z and whether or not they are grounded in reality, or what the statistical probability of the fear happening to your child. I felt it was a very organized approach to the concept and a very easy read.

I loved Commandment Four: Boycott Baby Knee Pads (and the rest of the kiddie safety-industrial complex). She talks about a lot of safety items that are marketed to parents that are just not needed, like baby knee pads for when babies crawl and helmets for when they first start walking. She also talks about "educational toys", you know, the Baby Einstein product line and the LeapFrog product line. I wholeheartedly agree with her that it's only become this competition to raise the smartest baby in recent years and that somehow people think that the things parents did to raise babies before isn't going to make them smart enough so now they have to invest in all these gadgets to make them smarter. In reality, it's the social interaction between them and their caregivers (playing with them, talking with them, working with them alongside, singing to them, reading to them) that makes all the difference and these gadgets aren't really going to change that.

I also loved how in Commandment Five: Don't Think Like a Lawyer, she gives a list of wacky warning labels that are on products now thanks to the onslaught of ridiculous lawsuits: "Remove child before folding" on a baby stroller; "This product moves when used" on a scooter; "Never iron clothes while being worn" on an iron; "Do not use on roof" on a snowblower; and on a box of birthday candles "Do not use soft wax as ear plugs or for any other function that involves insertion into a body cavity."

In Commandment Six: Ignore the Blamers, she points out that only a few states actually have laws stating an age that is appropriate to leave a child home alone for a short period of time, which I found interesting since numerous parenting boards people are always posting that there are laws that don't allow you to leave, say, an 8-year-old home alone for an hour.

In Commandment 7, she dispels the myths surrounding Halloween candy, that there have been no reported incidents ever where children were poisoned by Halloween candy.

I really enjoyed Commandment 8 where she talks about what children were doing throughout history at different ages, which really puts into perspective how over-protective parents have become. Not just of not letting kids play outside unattended but also not allowing them to do things like bake a cake when they're nine or mow the lawn when they're ten.

The part that forced me to give this book four stars instead of five was Commandments Eleven and Twelve. In Commandment Eleven: Relax, she talks about how so much of how kids turn out (intelligence-wise, interests, etc.) is due to nature, not nurture. But she made it sound like parents could sit back and do nothing and their kids would turn out the same as if the parents were always doing something for them. I disagree. I think parents are there for a reason, for guidance, to teach between right and wrong, to help them learn from their mistakes and recognize learning moments. I don't really think she was trying to say that parents aren't needed, but that's how she came off in that chapter. In Commandment Twelve: Fail! the whole point was to let kids learn from their failures. I am all on board with that, but she made it sound like you couldn't ever push them to succeed or set high expectations for them because you'd end up doing the work so they wouldn't ever fail. I don't think it's bad to have expectations and encourage kids to succeed and even give them guidance on how to succeed but then let them do the work.

I totally agreed with everything she said about the importance of creative play both outside and inside and how standardized tests and media frenzy over child abductions and the electronic equipment that has taken place of playing outside have contributed to the obesity epidemic and the whole education problem in America. And she even talks about how so many toys these days take the creativity out of play, like the talking, dancing Elmo where the kid just pushes a button and watches Elmo have all the fun.

I enjoyed this book. It was easy to read, funny, and eye-opening. I already was a "Free-Range Parent" but I recognized some of the baby steps I have already taken in the last couple of years to become one. I would like to see more of a movement back to this type of child-rearing just so my kids aren't the only ones allowed to ride their bikes around the neighborhood or walk to school, wherever we end up. Hopefully this catches on and people start to relax a little about everything and realize that kids are smart and capable.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Will Never Hurt Me...

Or will they?

One of the chapters I read in the book Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic talked about using good words and teaching your children to use good words.

In the beginning, that's what we were doing.  We were more careful about keeping our language clean and using positive, uplifting words. But lately, I feel, we've been using more harsh words.  We get frustrated and exasperated with our kids and we say things like "That's stupid!" or "Shut up!" when our anger is elevating.  The kids have picked up on this and have started saying these unkind words to each other.

Because of our Family Declaration, I felt it was time to talk about cleaning up our language around here.  So on Monday night, I gave a little *FHE lesson on that very subject.  Then it was funny that the very next day, Mormon Mommy Blogs posted a post about how it's silly that people get offended by words like "stupid".  But if you think about it, when is stupid ever used in a positive, uplifting way?  When is it ever used not to offend?  Even if all you're doing is saying how something looks stupid or seems stupid or was stupid, not referring to a person, it's still said with a negative connotation.  On the flip side, there was a post yesterday on Raising Homemakers about the overuse of the word "no" and how to substitute other words and phrases for the word "no" to get across what you really want to say.  It was a great, uplifting post.

When I taught this lesson, I grabbed the dry erase board and a marker.  I drew a line down the middle of the board and wrote a title on each side of the line:  Mean, Hurtful Words and Nice, Uplifting Words.  Then I asked the kids what words they wanted to write up on the board.

Interestingly enough, for all those people who don't think "stupid" is offensive enough to take out of their vocabulary, that was the first word they listed under Mean, Hurtful Words.  They went on to list crybaby, retarded, dumb, and idiot.  Then they listed name-calling as a category under that section and insults.  Last they listed swear words and put-downs.

Under Nice, Uplifting Words, they listed super, fantastic, I love you, really nice, and saying sorry nicely.  We made a poster that says:  If you can't think of anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.  We coined the phrase that way instead of the typical "If you can't say something nice...."  because we decided that our thoughts lead to our words, so we need to focus on the thoughts first.

I feel the activity really resonated with them.  I even let the word "stupid" slip out yesterday and they all called me up on it.  I think it's really going to help the spiritual atmosphere of our home by focusing on speaking kind, uplifting words.

*FHE means Family Home Evening, something we members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints try to do once a week, usually on Monday nights, to teach our children the Gospel and spend quality family time together

Monday, April 23, 2012

Music and Me

A few years ago, my ward choir director asked me if I would sing a solo at a stake relief society meeting.

Yep, me, sing a solo.

She was under the impression that since I went to ward choir and knew quite a bit about music (as in, I could read music and understood the terminology) I could actually sing.

Fortunately, I was able to snag up a partner and we sang a duet, which was a much better proposition than me singing a solo.

It's interesting, though.  I've often been tagged in wards as a music person.  I've always been interested in music theory and history and so I paid attention in choir and in orchestra and learned about phrasing and dynamics and actually committed those things to memory.  I bet some of the kids I sang in the high school choir with don't remember some of that stuff.  But I do because I just love music.

What's funny is that I'm really NOT a musician.  I do a pretty good job at faking it, though.

I started out teaching myself how to play the piano.  I don't remember ever NOT knowing how to play it or to read music.  I think that once I could read, around the age of four, I just couldn't stop reading and one of the books I ran across was a beginning piano book.  So I took the book to the piano, read it and applied what it was saying to the piano in front of me and it worked!  I was able to play notes, then songs.

When I was in the third grade, my parents put me in piano lessons. I took lessons for about nine or ten months. In the fourth grade, I started to play the violin, due to our school's beginning music programs in fourth grade and my parents' access to a free violin.  I even got to take private lessons for the violin starting in seventh grade until I quit orchestra in the ninth grade.

In the ninth grade, I decided to join the choir.  I really didn't know anything about singing, but I knew how to read music and I knew that the majority of cute boys in school were in the choir.  I tried out for the mixed chorale but to my utter sorrow, I was placed in the all-girl choir.  Read music I could, but singing, I'm not sure I ever could sing.  I still try to sing to this day, but I've never even heard myself sing (and I avoid the idea of that like the plague) so as far as I can tell, I have a "choir" voice and not a very good one.  Which is why I always sang second soprano and never made any parts I tried out for.

In tenth grade, the only music I did was take piano lessons for about four months.  Junior year, I joined choir again and stayed in choir through high school.  I did University Chorale at BYU (no auditions).  I took piano lessons for one semester at BYU.  I even took guitar lessons one semester.  I sang in various ward choirs.  In my singles ward after college while I was teaching school, I was asked to be the ward choir director, which was an epic failure.  I took violin lessons again from January 2010 to December 2010 and participated in a community orchestra. 

Even now, people still think that I'm a "music person".  I understand music.  I love listening to music by classic composers and have introduced that love to my kids.  I've even taught the older ones basic piano lessons.

Hopefully nobody will ever ask me again to sing a solo in church.  Let's leave that to people who actually have a voice!  In the meantime, I might join a ward choir again just for the fun of it and I'll always love music.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Two Things On My Mind

The last couple of days I've seen two different topics popping up on blogs and new sites:  reviews of Hunger Games (both the book and movie) and the topic of religion and politics.

I have been asked by many friends, acquaintances, and even family members if I've read that series of books.  They know I'm a reader and probably figured since they liked it, I would like it too.  After reading a brief synopsis of the books after they came out and reviews by other readers, I decided against reading the books.  Since I haven't read the books, I really have no interest in seeing the movie either.  Mostly, I'm just not interested in reading books where the setting is a dystopian society.  I really can't stand books or movies that are about the end of the world, or post-apocalyptic societies or dystopian societies.  I find them, as a whole, to be disturbing.  I don't like coming away feeling uneasy, which is how I'm left feeling after viewing or reading such a work.

Then I stumbled onto some blogs that railed on Hunger Games as being something not worthy of reading or watching, as Latter-day Saints.  The 13th Article of Faith states that "if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."  These bloggers were talking about how Hunger Games, both the books and the movie, did not fall into this classification.  Not having read the books, I couldn't say for sure whether they did or didn't, but reading what content was in the books, I could see how people would make those judgments.  Then people were commenting that Harry Potter was equally dark and violent and equating that to something that is not worthy for us to read or view.  But then that brings to question most entertainment generally.  I felt Harry Potter contained pretty strong Christian symbolism and the classic literary theme of good versus evil as well as following some of the classic archetypal characters you find in good literature.  Having not read Hunger Games, I can't say whether Suzanne Collins utilized those classic literary tools in her writing or not.

I still have no desire to read the series or see the movie.  I am just not interested in plots that take place in such a dismal setting. 

With politics and religion, many bloggers have been harsh on LDS people for supporting a certain candidate.  They feel that those of us who support him do because he is Mormon.  I feel that upstanding moral character is of great importance in a strong leader.  Those who say that moral character isn't important are mistaken, in my opinion.  A leader's way of thinking is formed by his moral grounding (or lack thereof) and often that relays back to the tenets of his faith.  If that person is truly living, as best as they can, by those beliefs, they often possess stronger moral character than someone who picks and chooses which tenets of their faith to live by and only live by the ones they like.  Most religions teach that sex should only be practiced within the bonds of marriage, that how we treat others is of great importance, that there is sanctity in the creation of life, that there is a great Creator or Supreme Being who is over all.  There are certain leaders we've seen in the last several years who profess to follow a faith but then they do not stay true to the tenets of that faith.  That, to me, shows a lack of moral character.  If a man (or woman) cannot hold true to the beliefs they claim drive them, what else are they deceitful about?  That is why I believe that what shapes a person is of vital importance to understand them.  If they claim to be Christian but have no issues with things like gay marriage or abortion or living with a partner outside of marriage, and so forth, I don't believe that they understand what their religion teaches, or they choose not to follow all of their religion.  If they are like that with something so influential of character as their religious roots, how will they be in other areas of their life?  Where is their integrity?

So whether or not I vote for a candidate because he's Mormon shouldn't matter.  The fact is that his Mormon faith shaped him to be a man of upstanding moral character, at least compared with many of his opponents (not all--some were equally moral, just with different parts of their platforms I didn't feel were sound).  If a man's Muslim faith, or Jewish faith, or Evangelical Christian faith did the same and he remained a person of integrity, I think I would feel the same way.

Integrity, moral character, those are things I look for in a good leader.  Our current president I feel is lacking greatly in those qualities.  He might be a fine orator and even a well-intentioned person, but he lacks qualities of character I think are necessary to be a good leader.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book Reviews: The Secret Life of Bees AND The Lovely Bones

The Secret Life of BeesThe Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book held mixed reviews from what I could tell.  I personally enjoyed it.  I felt it was well-written and easy to read but compelling.  The symbolism of the life of bees and life was well-woven throughout the book.  I didn't particularly care for the ideology of the black virgin Mary and what it was used for in the book, although clinging to a religion for a higher purpose in life is clearly something many people do.  I also didn't like some of the graphic description of everyday things, like peeing and chewing/spitting tobacco.  For me, those distracted from the real writing.

There were some passages which I enjoyed in particular or at least gave me food for thought.  The first was when August and Lily are talking and August is telling Lily about some of her life.  Lily asks August if she ever got married.  Lily asks: "But you didn't love him enough to marry him?" August replies: "I loved him enough...I just loved my freedom more." I felt that was kind of a sad notion that unfortunately many people have fallen for.

Another part was when August is telling Lily about the painting of the house.  She talks about how some things in life don't matter much, like painting a house a certain color, but how people are what really matter.  I have to agree with this concept and it made me reflect on how I treat people and how often I distinguish what really matters from what doesn't.

Overall, I feel that if I gained something positive from the book, it was worth the read.  I liked the book, I gained something from it, it made me reflect on life. 

The Lovely BonesThe Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did enjoy this book. The whole book is written from the interesting perspective of the girl who was murdered, Susie Salmon. I felt that was an interesting perspective to take for a whole book. This included the author's idea of the afterlife, which I found somewhat fascinating. Definitely different than my idea of heaven. I found it frustrating that the characters were never able to catch the man who murdered her. It sort of did not give closure. Although I do like how it kind of didn't matter in Sebold's view of heaven, that everything worked itself out and things like that were common knowledge in heaven.

The book was pretty clean, but I have to admit that I despair that authors these days think they have to add the sexual content to make people interested in reading a book. I felt that the book could have been complete without the small amount of sexual content, really only one or two scenes. I felt them unnecessary to the plot entirely, just there for the people who seem to need it.

I don't think I would necessarily recommend this book, but it was, for the most part, enjoyable to read.

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Monday, April 16, 2012


I have a recurring nightmare.  It's 2 am and one of my kids will wake up during the night and no matter how much comfort I give them, no matter how much I plead and beg and then punish and threaten, they will not go back to bed. 

The unfortunate thing is that I know what induces this nightmare.  The grim reality that this actually may happen.  The fact that I have two kids, one four-year-old girl and one thirteen-month-old boy, who just might get up around 2 am and never go back to sleep that night. 

My daughter (age four) comes in sometimes, afraid.  She's had a bad dream.  She can't ever actually tell me the dream, but she claims she is so scared, she can't go back to sleep.  So I'll let her into our bed, but then she'll just play around and not go back to sleep.  I really can't stand sleeping in the same bed as another person--that person can't be touching me or breathing on me and I need to not be able to even hear them breathing in order for me to sleep.  Yes, I'm that light of a sleeper.  It's even better if the room I'm in can be pitch black.  Back to my daughter.  On these nights, it's not uncommon for me to send her back to bed, carry her back to bed, sing to her, tuck her in, etc., six to ten times before dawn finally arrives.  I can't understand how on those nights, she doesn't seem to be very tired the next day.  Or, even if she is, she still won't take a nap.  I could sleep all day if someone would take over my responsibilities and let me.

At least she can be (somewhat) reasoned with.  We can tell her that she will be punished beyond her nightmares if she doesn't go back to bed.  We can convince her to try to think of happy things (rainbows, unicorns, chocolate ice cream) while she teeters off into dreamland again.  On more than one occasion, those things work.  We tell her to sing herself a song or say a prayer and she goes back to bed and doesn't come back.  Granted, sometimes she climbs into bed with one of her older brothers, but as long as they don't care, I don't care.  As long as the family is rested, fine.

A thirteen-month-old, however, cannot be reasoned with.  He cannot even be shushed.  At least when my daughter is in my bed and won't be quiet or stop playing, I can tell her to stop and she will, even if only for five minutes.  I can even turn the TV on for her at low volume and she will watch and I can sleep. The baby, on the other hand, will wake up and cry.  He can't tell us what's wrong.  He can't be shushed  unless we figure it out.  Most of the time, we can't figure it out.  Often, he'll wake up around 3 am and we can't get him to go back to sleep.  Unlike his older sister, he cannot be calmed by television (at least not yet).

We've tried letting him cry.  It's hard to listen to your baby cry on and off for two to three hours every night for seven months.  Before about five months, we never let him cry, but since we tried letting him cry, it hasn't changed a thing, except keep us up and risk waking everyone else up (think, little girl with nightmares) too.  It's a very grueling thing to have to listen to that.  The worst part is when he stops for several minutes, sometimes up to twenty minutes, and then starts again.  It puts me on edge pretty much all night long, knowing that there will not be silence in the house, that there will be crying.  It's a predictable thing.

We have tried bringing him into bed with us at that point, but then he just plays around and talks to himself.  It's virtually impossible to sleep when you have a 1-year-old next to you trying to climb over you and off the bed at 4 am.  My biggest fear is that somehow we have trained him not to sleep and he will do this his entire early childhood. 

That's my nightmare.  Or that is my reality.  They are one and the same thing right now.

Can I please go take a nap? 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Family Declaration

The kids were fighting again.  They can get pretty nasty to each other when they fight.  One of them says something mean, then the other one cries, then the first one makes fun of him for crying, and so forth.  Sometimes it's such a circle of viciousness that it's hard to back track to where it started in order to discuss a better way of handling the situation, which is what I try to do when a fight gets out of hand.  Often, I try to let them handle it on their own. 

But there they were, fighting about something so trivial I can't even remember what it was anymore.  We were sitting down to dinner.  Both my husband and I are so tired of the fighting and bickering and the general atmosphere of contention.  Why can't they just be nice to each other?!  I know, they are learning how to have self control, how to ignore inflammatory remarks.  Heaven knows, my husband and I still are working on those qualities, we're just further along in the process.

My husband started it.  A conversation about being a member of a family and what the responsibilities are of each member.  How to make a family and a home a happy place.  He talked to them about temples and how they are quiet places of contemplation where you can feel the Spirit and love of Heavenly Father.  He asked them if they wanted that kind of peace in our home.  They agreed that sounded like a wonderful idea, so we talked that night at dinner about how we could make that happen.

The Family Declaration was born.  We talked about what each of us should commit to doing in order for our home to be a place of peace, like the temple.  We talked about what goals we had and how to accomplish those goals.  And then we asked the kids if they would be willing to commit to working on these goals together as a family.

My husband and I then typed up a declaration.  We used the talk, "Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples" by Elder Gary E. Stevenson from the April 2009 General Conference as a springboard for our idea.  We also used the hymn, "Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth" and the primary song, "I Love to See the Temple."  We typed up our declaration, printed it on nice paper and signed it.  As soon as we get our new family pictures done in a couple of weeks, we are going to get it custom framed with our declaration and The Family:  A Proclamation to the World and hang the whole thing above our piano in our front room.  So far, it has been wonderful serving as a reminder to our children (and to us) of how we should treat each other and learn to get along better in our family.

The King Family Declaration of Strengthening Our Family

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Free Range Kids

The four older kids playing in our side yard on a warm winter day, taken through the side window. 

Recently, I stumbled onto Lenore Skenazy's blog Free Range Kids.  Lenore Skenazy was in the spotlight a few years ago when she let her then 9-year-old  make his way home from a department store on the New York subway.  She got a lot of backlash from the media and parents all over our country calling her a negligent parent.  In the meantime, she's written a book about it and started this blog, which I find fantastic.

In fact, I will quote from her blog what Free Range Kids is all about:
Do you ever...let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk to school? Make dinner? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free-Range Kid! Free-Rangers believe in helmets, car seats, seat belts — safety! We just do NOT believe that every time school age kids go outside, they need a security detail....Here's to common sense parenting in uncommonly overprotective times!

This blog really resonates with me.  After all, I grew up in the last generation of free range kids.  I remember at the age of thirteen riding my bike with my eleven-year-old brother several miles, under a freeway overpass even, to find some girl's house that he liked from school.  We figured out how to get there based on a map of our city that I had found in my parents' home office desk.  We took our backpacks with snacks and water and planned out the whole thing.  We told our parents we were going for a bike ride.  As long as we were home for dinner, they weren't too concerned about where we went.I can remember several incidences like that throughout my school-age years at different ages.

Fast forward twenty-five years.  Kids can't even go to the neighborhood park to play by themselves without CPS being called, the cops being called, and charges being filed against the parents.  Honestly, I'm more afraid of having the cops called on me for letting my kids play outside without me hovering over them than I am of anything actually happening to them.

I'll admit right now.  My two older boys (ages nine and seven) walk to and from the bus stop (three blocks away) completely by themselves.  I let my kids play out in our neighborhood without me there all the time. In fact, I let them take the baby out in the stroller when it's nice and they walk around the block with him.  I let them stay in the car if I have to run into the bank for something quick, grab a book on hold for myself at the library, or even run into a grocery store for one item. I have left the two older boys home for a brief amount of time (one hour) while I am at my daughter's dance class or running an errand.  My older boys have even walked to the bigger park that's a couple blocks away by themselves.  I even found out that they like to go down into the canal that runs next to the park and walk under the bridge and play down there.  I told them as long as they are careful to not do that when there is a lot of water, I'm okay with them exploring and enjoying their childhood.

But it's not just about letting them play without you nearby.  It's about letting them learn to do things on their own.  Lenore Skenazy's nine-year-old found his way home on the Subway without his parents hovering over him.  Nine-year-olds are capable of reading maps and following directions.  It's about letting them try things by themselves so they can practice it and get better.  My older three boys (so including the five-year-old) cut up fruits and veggies for me for dinner.  By themselves.  With a sharp knife.

When I was a new teacher, a veteran teacher gave me sound advice.  She said, "Never do anything for your students that they are capable of doing for themselves."  That was in the light of so many teachers doing so much of the work to ease the burden on the students.  Prep work and such.  Cutting out flashcards, that sort of thing.  It really lessened my load considerably as I didn't spend hours of prep time at the school that some of my colleagues did.  And my students became quite capable little people.  I like to apply that philosophy to parenting too.  It really works.

If the goal of parenting is to raise kids to be self-sufficient, independent and responsible adults, then we as a nation are failing miserably in a lot of areas.  You might be shocked at some of the things parents are charged for as you read about them on Lenore Skenazy's site.  I haven't read her book yet, but it's on my list of to-reads.  I am a free range parent and proud to be one!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Book Review: Loving the Little Years

Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the TrenchesLoving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was hoping for more from this book than what I got out of it.  It came so highly praised that I thought it would really give me tips and be a heartwarming advice book that would help me appreciate where I am in life.  It did that a little bit but not as much as I was hoping it would. 

The author, Rachel Jankovic, does go on about how hard it is to be a mother of five young children but doesn't give advice on how to cope in every chapter.  She does give some advice, and I will highlight the chapters that I felt were the most helpful, but many of the chapters, she is simply pointing out how it is.

The first part that I enjoyed was "Spirited Riders".  She talks about how little children have all this emotion in their little bodies and they don't always know how to manage the emotions as adults do.  She compares a child's feelings to spirited horses and that the children are the riders.  I quote from the last paragraph of the chapter: "The goal is not to cripple the horse, but to equip the rider.  A well-controlled passionate personality is a powerful thing."  I think I liked this part because I felt that I could see that in my daughter, and also my sons.  They just need to learn how to manage and control their emotions.

She also talks about seeing your children.  You can’t make a watermelon from a tomato plant.  You need to look at your children and see who they really are and let them become the person they’re supposed to be.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t shape them along the way, but she makes a valid point by saying that it would cause unnecessary pain and damage to try and turn a watermelon into a tomato. 

Another point she makes is the issue with sharing and fighting over toys, something that is very common for young children.  She talks about how with her own children, she tries to elicit sharing by reminding them that their relationship with their sibling is more important than the toy they were fighting over.  She gives specific advice on how to do this, which was helpful.

She does give good advice on disciplining and how to use it as a tool to produce a functioning adult who chooses a good path in life.  She talks about limits and boundaries but also about how too much of that can be disastrous. 

I appreciate that she talked about setting up clear and realistic expectations, which will gradually change as the children get older.  I definitely agreed with what she said in that chapter. 

My favorite part was when she talked about “me time”.  I have come to loathe the implications of “me time” by society’s standards.  But the way she defines it is so wonderful.  She says,

We are like characters in a story.  Our essential self is not back in the intro, waiting to be rediscovered.  Who you are is where you are.  When you are married, your essential self is married.  As the story grows, so does your character.  Your children change you into a different person.  If you suddenly panic because it all happened so fast and now you don’t recognize yourself, what you need is not time alone.  What you need is your people.  Look out—look at the people who made you what you are—your husband and your children….Those women who try to find themselves by stripping away the "others" will find that they are a very broken little thing.

I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to anyone with young kids.  I almost wish that I had read it a little sooner, since now my children are in that middle phase of childhood and I have sort of missed the boat on a few things. 

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Friday, April 6, 2012

How I Got Here

I always knew I wanted to be a mom.  I'm not sure what influenced me more--the teachings of the Church regarding the divinity of motherhood or my mom's own powerful example of motherhood.  When I was a child and people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded that I wanted to be a mom. 

When I was in college, it didn't feel like it would work out.  As a senior in high school, I steadily dated a young man who went on his mission during our freshman year of college.  When he returned home, we dated a little bit but it didn't go anywhere.  As I look back I recognize that it was mostly my fault.  I was impatient and didn't want to wait around for him to make his move, so I moved on.  In the end, the next young man broke my heart and moved on to someone else.  The damage I had done to the first relationship was irreparable, and I graduated from college still single, somewhat broken-hearted, and wondered if my dream of being a wife and mother would ever come to pass.

Being single opened up a world of possibilities.  I toyed with the idea of taking the LSAT and applying for law school, just because I could.  It seemed a romantic, exciting prospect (too much TV). I also considered serving a mission.  Another option was to go for a graduate degree.  However, I went with the last option, which was to find a job in the field for which I had studied and start my career.

That field was elementary education.  In the year 2000, it seemed almost everywhere in the southwest needed teachers.  In states like California and Arizona, you didn't even need certification.  They offered emergency certification for your first year, higher pay than almost everywhere else, and you could get certified during that year.  I decided to try California.  It was an exciting prospect to move to California.

I took a job teaching second grade in a tiny school district in a little town in the high desert area of Los Angeles County.  I took that job after interviewing and meeting with several principals in school districts all over Southern California and even one in Northern California.  The job just felt like the right one for me.

And so it was.  I moved to Southern California to my very own apartment.  I didn't know a soul.  The first thing I did upon deciding that was the job for me was to find the LDS Institute.  I found a place to live on recommendation from some other teachers.  I also met a few teachers at my school who were LDS and they helped me through the transition.  My parents were far away in Michigan; my brothers in Japan and England and Utah, and the nearest family I had was my aunt in Northern California.  I started attending Institute every Wednesday night and the local singles ward on Sundays and all other activities.  I was very busy, teaching, attending school meetings, singles ward activities, and Institute classes whenever I could.

Through Institute, I met a young man who was recently returned from his mission.  Our courtship was very fast, about one month, and our engagement was about six months.  We got married on June 21, 2001.  We stayed in Southern California for one more year while I taught school and he finished his associate's degree at the local junior college, playing football and also working.

We moved to Idaho with the intent for him to finish school.  I found a job teaching a bilingual kindergarten.  He worked part-time at Sears and part-time as a second grade teacher's assistant.  I became pregnant, and our circumstances changed.  So we packed up and moved back to California, where my husband got his old job back on the fast track to management and I stopped teaching and became a stay-at-home mom.

Since then, I have devoted my time and energy to making motherhood my career.  I have struggled on and off with the isolation of it all, but recently have realized that this is my dream life.  I always wanted to be a mom and be the primary caregiver to my children, stay at home with them, and teach them, and I get to do that.  I am so grateful for that.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


In Season Five, Episode Five of the TV show "Yes, Dear", the character Kim is portrayed as Supermom. She bakes individualized cookies for her child's preschool class, attends the PTA meetings, organizes field trips, keeps her house clean, and looks good doing it. During the show, her husband Greg comes home to tell her that yet another one of his assistants at work has quit and he doesn't know why. Kim's sister Christine, a recent college graduate, is looking for employment, so Greg hires her to be his assistant, partly to find out why the other assistants keep quitting, if it's something he's doing that's making them leave. We come to find out that the reason all the assistants are leaving isn't because of Greg, it's because of Kim, his wife, who keeps having his assistants, now Christine her sister, do her Supermom jobs--make flyers, organize field trips, pick up the dry cleaning, etc. We find out that Kim is not Supermom after all because she doesn't do all the work by herself.

What is a Supermom?  I always thought of someone as being Supermom who seems to be in control of herself all the time, very patient with her children, always looks good, has time to develop her talents, and is active in various social committees, whether that be on PTA or something else through church and community.  Someone who is very, very busy but seems to keep her cool.

Then somebody called me Supermom.  My husband came home from work and told me that one of his employees, someone who has watched our kids overnight before, thinks of me as Supermom.  Flattered though I was, I felt I hardly qualify for Supermom status.  I stay home and take care of kids. Occasionally, I do something really brilliant (in my mind anyway) like baking a cool birthday cake or sewing a dress or tweaking some recipe to make it better.  Mostly, though, I just hang out at home, trying to sludge my way through an ordinary day with a fussy baby who doesn't know what he wants (therefore I don't either), two preschoolers who don't want to play either outside or inside and are always hungry but never want to eat the food I give them, and two school-age kids who have bad attitudes and don't want to obey.  By bedtime, I'm ready to run screaming down the street most days.

I started thinking about this concept of "Supermom".  I decided that all of us moms who try our best to do our job are Supermom.  If I can qualify for Supermom status just because I take care of five kids and barely make it through most days then all other moms qualify for Supermom status too. 

All the moms I know are doing their best to teach their kids to make good choices. They want their children to develop talents and give them opportunities to do so. They try to stay involved with their child's education, whether they just keep up with what their child is doing in school, sign up to be PTA president, or home school their child. Many of them are involved with community service or service opportunities through church. The moms I know get up and get ready for the day. Some of them also balance careers with being a mom. Some of them are single moms and have a lot to deal with and worry about. The moms I know work hard at keeping their homes beautiful. They are always looking for better ways to do things, whether it be cooking, cleaning, or helping their child learn. The moms I know also take time to develop their talents and utilize those talents to empower them as parents. The moms I know do an awesome job.

We are all Supermom.


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