Saturday, April 26, 2014

Toddlers and Goats


Our three year old is going through this unreasonable, illogical, difficult growing phase that three year olds often go through. I know it's officially here because it has happened two other times before with our other children, and I recognize the signs. I don't know who came up with the phrase, "terrible twos." It never seemed to match our family's experience! The twos are happy, delightful, adorable, and fun!  It's these trying threes that test the limits of my patience as a mother. It's these threes that remind me everyday of the vulnerability of my emotions,  and my ability or inability to hold up to the strongest changes in the currents of motherhood.
"I can do this," I encourage myself. "He's only a three year old! I can take on a three year old! Can't I?"

A typical morning in a day in the life of the trying threes goes like this: 
We wake up and eat breakfast, then after breakfast everyone does their important things. Our eight year old and six year old rush downstairs to complete their tasks. I wait patiently for our three year old to saunter slowly down the stairs, dragging his little feet behind him. 
"I can't brush my teeth today," he says. "It takes too looooooong,"he finishes with a whine.
"Let's get it done fast then! Let's go pick out a toothbrush!"I say enthusiastically!
He has a choice of four different toothbrushes and two different types of toothpaste. I read once in some parenting article that resistant toddlers often need more choices to motivate them.
He still can't decide.
"How about the electronic-vibrating-Angry Birds toothbrush today?" I suggest.
"Flashing-Star-Wars-lightsaber toothbrush?"
"Blinky yellow toothbrush? Blinky white toothbrush?" I continue, a little less enthusiastic.
Nope and nope.
He crumples into a ball on the floor, whining over the impossibility's of this horrible task ahead of him. I give him several moments to recoup, then talk as sweetly as I can:
"Right after you brush your teeth we can read books or go outside and ride your scooter!" I nudge him gently with promises of his favorite, fun things ahead.
"But it will take too looooooong." he complains again, even louder, with more dreadful screams and angry cries thrown in for added measure.
"Little one," I explain calmly, "The rule is that every morning we brush our teeth after breakfast. It's important that we keep our mouth-bones healthy and strong! We don't want them to get rotten with cavities."
He gives me the evil eye, and rolls into the other room, away from the impending threats of the big, mean, tooth-brushing-police-lady.
At this point I am feeling exhausted. Impatient. Frustrated. I think about the reward chart I made for him several weeks before, and how I was so sure this would help him to brush his teeth, get dressed, eat meals, get in the car, put on shoes, wash his hands, go to sleep at night--or complete any number of the things a person normally accomplishes in one day, if they're not a stubborn-headed three year old. However, the reward chart only caused more problems, more complaints, and more toddler-anger-management that I wasn't prepared for. I tossed it out the door.
The other method was to try leaving him alone completely. What if I let him decide when is the right time to brush teeth, get dressed, and eat a snack? He might surprise me by doing all these things by himself, without me even reminding him! But after several days all I had on my hands was an overly-hungry, overly-grumpy little boy, with bad breath and the same, dirty pajamas on. Not good.

Back to brushing teeth: After several more minutes of cajoling him, pleading with him, and downright begging him to brush his teeth, he decides to give in. But only after he says his prayers, pets his kitty, and rearranges his stuffed animals on the floor properly. It takes us less than 2 minutes for the actual teeth-brushing, then he is done. The task is finally done. 
I feel like all the energy I had reserved for the entire day was put into that 2o minutes, and now I am feeling done. I feel like doing nothing but going back to bed, crawling under the covers, and reserving my energy for the next toddler challenge. 
Except I can't do that at all, really. Because I am the mama.

One morning this past week I woke up feeling rebellious. I didn't want to do any important things. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the lilac blossoms were blooming, and Spring was exploding through my front windows like fireworks in summer!
We ate a quick breakfast and got in the car. 
"Where are we going?"the kids asked.
"To a farm!" I told them excitedly. "We're going to visit the animals!"
"But what about chores?"my eldest asked. "And what about Jonah? He's still in his pajamas."
"It's all good," I told them reassuringly. "We'll do it later. Right now we're going to a farm." I felt determined not to let anything stop us.

We drove a few miles to Red Acres Farm here in Cedar City. It's an adorable, little, family-run farm that grows herbs, vegetables, as well cow milk, goat milk, and eggs. I had never before been here, but had been itching to go for a visit since we moved back. 

It felt so good to be out of the house, away from domestic responsibiltiies for a moment.
The smell of the dirt, and the animals, and the freshness of the earth was intoxicating to my soul.
I took my children over to see the goats first.
There was a large pin of billy goats, mama goats, and kids, all running around happily.
As we watched them I looked over to see my children smiling, then laughing, then getting excited about all the silly things they saw.
 They started to quickly spew out their observations at me: "One goat was head-butting another goat! Another goat was trying to ram another goat off of a crate! A small kid was trying to get milk from it's mom, while it's mom was running away! Another goat was sticking it's head through the fence trying to lick Jonah's fingers!"
We exploded with laughter at all the crazy goats. We watched them for a long time. We pet their ears, and tickled their goatees, and gave them funny names.
I am so grateful for these magic moments with my children. I know that someday (soon) these hard parenting phases will pass, and I won't remember the exhaustain or the frustration of a trying three year old who won't brush his teeth, but I will remember standing at the farm with my kids, laughing hysterically at the silly goats. I will also remember the big smile on my toddlers face while he pet his first baby goat, and the excitement in his voice on the car ride home, as he told me all the amazing things he saw at the farm. 

I know now that I need to fill up my life with more Springtime, more sunshine, and more goats, to counterbalance the hard stuff. Or maybe even out-weigh it completely.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How Babies are Made and other Sex Ed. talk

We just recently had our puppies neutered (9 months old) and along with the procedure came lots of questions from three boys (8, 6, and 3 years old) about how babies are made! I realized that it was time to explain the birds and the bees once again, just to touch up on the basics.
I was also motivated to talk about it again when I got out of the shower the other day and my toddler tells me,"Mom, you have a weird-looking penis."

We have an open policy about sex education in our home, meaning we believe that talking about sex, teaching our kids about sex, and answering any questions they might have about it, is the most natural way to teach them how to understand the world around them. It isn't awkward or uncomfortable, it's normal. I want them to know that sex is a natural part of life, and is happening all around us, and not just between humans, but between plants and animals, too! I also want them to know that it is very sacred, and when you share it with the right person, in a loving, marital relationship, it is one of the best things in the world! 

I picked up this vintage children's book (1968) several years ago at a thrift store for 50 cents:
 It was a treasure of all treasures to behold! I love the illustrations, and the cute, simple explanations of how plant seeds, animal babies, and humans are made. I've read and discussed it with our children many a time, and each time it brings up more questions. 
I think one of my favorite discussions EVER, was when our eldest son realized that if sperm and egg had to come together to make a baby, then that meant that Micah and I had to (GASP!) do that with each other!
"You mean you guys had to do that four times to get four kids??" he asked, with utmost disgust and concern.
"Yep! I answered. "At least that many times." 
"Ewww!" he responded. "That is so gross!"
"Well, your not going to think so someday," I reminded him. "In fact, you might even want to do it more than four times."
No response. Meanwhile, I was trying not to laugh and chuckling in my head.

I sat down and read this same book with the kids again this week and answered all their curious, innocent questions. 
I think they walked away with a pretty good understanding of why our male puppies couldn't make babies with female ones, how I got this huge belly on me, and why mommy's "penis" looks weird.

I took a few pictures of the inside of the book because I couldn't resist sharing some of my favorite pages! Actual quotes are in "quotations" and italics.

How Babies Are Made:  
"When your life began, you were very, 
very small-even smaller than a dot made by a pencil."
"Many living things, even you, began life as a tiny egg."
 "The egg cannot grow into a flower seed without a helper" :Introduce, pollen.
Both plants and animals need two things to procreate:
 How chicken babies are made:
 Dog parts:
Dog sex: 
"After it is fertilized, the egg leaves the ovary and moves to another place, called the uterus. There it begins to grow into a puppy."
After 8 or 9 weeks, a dog baby is born:
 Humans! "Human babies begin just like chicks and puppies. A sperm from the father must join with an egg from the mother:"
"The sperm, which come from the father's testicles, are sent into the mother through his penis.  Unlike plants and animals, when human mothers and fathers create a new baby they are sharing a very personal and special relationship."
 How the sperm and egg meet together in the ovary:
Here you are, attached by an umbilical cord: 
"The muscles in your mother's body helped you go out through her vagina. This is the same opening your father's sperm went into when it fertilized the egg." 
"You were born hungry, just like puppies and kittens, and so you had to be fed. You were fed milk from your mother's breasts or from a bottle." 
 "And so you were born. That is how your life began. You were not an egg alone from your mother; you were not a sperm alone from your father. You were both, because it was when they joined together that you became alive. 
All people begin their lives this same way."
 The End

Is that not the sweetest book?? 
Another sex ed. book that we own, which I really like, is the Usbourne Facts of Life (1985 version) It's full of graphs, and charts, and animated pictures about the science behind life.

 And, How I was Born, by Lena Katarina Swanberg. This wonderful book follows a mother, her husband, and two children in Sweden, as she goes through pregnancy and childbirth with their third baby. It is filled with real-life pictures as the fetus grows and is finally born into their baby!
 You know I love and appreciate the breastfeeding pictures. 
I wasn't going to mention this, but I think it's kinda funny, so I will anyways. My own personal experience with sex education as a child happened this one day when my mom pulled the car over while she was driving with me and my sister. I was about 9 years old. I remember wondering, why the heck are you pulling over? She then quickly and awkwardly explained that a baby is made when a man's penis enters a hole through a woman's vagina. Then she kept driving again. That, and the fifth grade sex education video was about all I learned about procreation as a kid! (No offense, mi madre. I'm sure you were doing the best you could in the generation you came from. :) As a result I was terribly ignorant about sex and the female body for many, many years. Even at age 27, when I got married, there were still some things that my husband was appalled that I didn't know about my own body!  (Luckly, he filled me in, as he was more sexucated than me.) 
 Overall, I think it's very natural to talk about where we come from. There's no shame or discomfort in explaining the science, the facts, and the beauty behind creation. I'm always on the lookout for more fun books to have on hand, too. Thrift stores are the best for the awesome, vintage, sex ed. books. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thoughts on Easter Sunday

Today is Easter Sunday and I want my children to know how valuable the atonement of Jesus Christ is for their lives. This morning as we sat around the living room and talked about the true meaning of our celebration for Easter Sunday, my words alone could not really express the significant, amazing, life-changing power behind the atonement of Jesus Christ:
"He died for us so that we could be worthy to live with our Father again."
"He sacrificed his life so we could repent of our mistakes and move forward in our lives."
"He was resurrected so we would always know that we will be resurrected someday, too, and live with our loved ones who have passed away."
"He loves us with an infinite love and wants us to believe in him."
"Jesus Christ has the power to heal, renew, give light, and help us in ways we can't understand."
I remember clearly when I was 22 years old and started attending my LDS Christian church again after a long absence, and there was a Sunday school lesson about the atonement of Jesus Christ. I was trying really hard to understand what it all meant. It had been so long since I heard the words atonement and It felt like a new concept to me. 
As I was trying to grasp the meaning of the lesson, and conceptualize the words coming from the teacher's mouth, I suddenly felt a powerful rush of understanding. The Holy Spirit came over me and I knew that the atonement of Christ was real. No matter how abstract a concept it may seem, or how much I tried to understand it in complex terms, the Spirit told me that Christ's atonement was meant for me.

That night I had one of the most powerful experiences of my entire life, as I poured my heart out to Jesus Christ and asked him to help me use the atonement in my life. Up to that point my life had been filled with a lot of sadness, heartbreak, and many, many mistakes that I felt confused about. I carried around a heavy burden with me that I didn't know could be lifted away. I didn't know that Christ could not only forgive me for all my ignorant mistakes, but He could also heal my broken heart, pour light into my confused soul, and provide healing for the hard things I had gone through. This was something nobody else in the entire world could do. Imagine that! There is someone out there who will literally take your pain away and replace it with happiness and hope!

I am so grateful for my Saviour Jesus Christ. It is because of His infinite atonement that my life has continued to climb in such a positive direction. I don't think I will ever truly know how much He has done for me until we see each other face to face. Until that day, I will continue to use his atonement and teach my children to do the same. I know that the day will come when the Spirit will teach them all they need to know, and they will understand, too. 

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the Prophet Joseph Smith today, which reminds me of the pathway we take towards happiness, if we simply pursue it. Utilizing the atonement is on my path of happiness, and I don't think I would have found it, had I not started on this path at all....:
"Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”

Happy Easter. Sending blessings of happiness, renewal, love, healing, and light on this beautiful Spring day!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Restoring Energy (and back again)

My children fill me up with so much joy, that there are moments when I cry just looking at them. I wonder at how God so generously gave me these amazing, precious souls to raise and to love. Their automatic, unconditional love for me blows me away to uncomprehension! Without even questioning it, or wondering what else might be out there, they love me unconditionally with all their hearts. As a mother the ups and downs of my energy tremendously vary from energetic, calm, and optimistic, to completely depleted, chaotic, and overwhelmed. Yet even on the days when my vessel has been depleted, and my energy has drained from my mind, body, and soul--they still adore me and look to me for love and validation in all they do. 
This, I think, is one of the greatest gifts about children, and families, and the intricate design of God's plan for us, because as a mother I am a continuous flowing fountain of love for my children even when I am completely drained of good feelings. I know the love is still there. I suppose our mutual love will always be there, no matter what.

When I feel drained beyond reason, I know it's time to recharge myself. I always hate it when I let it go past what I can bear, but sometimes I can't help it. Life is so busy and full of  daily challenges, that I don't realize how drained I am becoming until it hits me hard.

This past Tuesday evening I attended a yoga session specifically for women. I wanted something that would help me not only prepare for childbirth through stretching and toning my muscles, but also a way to bond and connect with other women in my community. There were five other women there, one other pregnant mama like me. The yoga studio was beautifully decorated like an enchanted temple in India, or a jungle yoga retreat in Hawaii, in every way designed to relax, and refresh a tired soul like mine. I felt right at home there.  
We started off by doing some simple meditations and chants, where we sat quietly, legs crossed, jnana mudra fingers in place. The room was darkly lit, with shadows bouncing off the walls from the flickering lights. The aromatherapy from the oils was powerfully fragrant, and relaxing to my entire body. The music was soft, soothing, and melodic. The yoga teacher's voice was full of warmth and knowledge. Everything in that room was inviting me to relax, to let go, and to fill my energy back up to full again. 
As we started our second chant I realized how precious this time was for me to be still. Rarely am I ever still. My body is in a constant state of  walking, getting, clicking, scanning, retrieving, stirring, flipping, climbing, stooping, lifting, bending, etc, etc. It's no wonder when I lie in bed at night that I literally melt into my mattress and fall asleep even sometimes while my husband is still talking to me. Sitting there in meditation pose, letting the aura of that room fill every crevice of my soul, I realized that I needed to slow down. Big time. I knew I  needed to let go of anything extra (besides my family) that demanded too much of my energy. I needed to slow down, let go, and surrender to the hardness of my pregnancy and the challenges of life right now. 
The power of that meditation sent me through an intense emotional release. I sat there and cried, letting the tears fall down my cheeks to floor, freely. I felt a powerful connection to God, and His love for me. I knew that He was with me in that room, telling me I could go on--that I could do all these hard things still ahead. All I had to do was surrender and let go, and keep filling my energy back up when I need to. I went home feeling refreshed, recharged, and ready to give all my love to my family.

Ironically, the next morning (yesterday morning) I woke up with a terrible virus, which is giving me headaches, chills, an aching, sore body, a sore throat, and a deep, bronchial cough that sends my body into shaking fits. Ironically, I am depleted of energy again, and feeling that tremendous fluctuation of highs and lows once more.
 But I am grateful. And I see the blessings beneath the chaos in all of this. I am grateful for a husband who stayed home to take care of the children, grateful for an active, healthy baby inside my womb, and grateful for three loving children who love me even when I'm at my worst....again.

My goal is to keep filling my energy back up again-to keep pushing forward, even when I keep getting knocked down.  
Fourteen more weeks to go til I get to meet our little baby boy. (give or take 2 weeks in either direction.)

Sending love and light to all those who may be going through the toughest of ups and downs, as well. May you find ways to keep filling back up and pushing onward. :)

A few pictures from the latest, most joyful times:
First Zadok's baptism: My firstborn baby boy was baptized on March 29. One moment he was a baby in my arms, the next moment he's making this huge, grown-up decision to make life-long covenants with Jesus Christ. I am so proud of him and his mature, righteous example. His baptism was spiritual, and powerful, and wonderful in every way.
Our little Odin had a birthday. He turned six! We took him to his favorite place to hop over rocks and feel on top of the world!
And here he is at Kindergarten, being honored and celebrated for his birthday! 
And this is our loving cat, Cotton Candy, who will make sure to love you and groom you long after you've gone to sleep. 
 The end.