Grace in Parenting

When I was a young mother, I thought I had it all together. I was probably a little overconfident and obnoxious, but I felt like I was doing a decent job as a firm but loving parent.

My oldest is now entering the teen years, and I suddenly have never felt more out of my element.

He is stretching and testing and pestering and exerting his power over his brothers by using his sudden strength and size. Not to mention challenging everything he’s told, the sudden self-awareness and subsequent insecurities, and needing freedom to spread his wings outside of my watchful care.

I had never read a parenting book in my life, but after stumbling across a really great insta-story by @simplyonpurpose about sibling rivalry (which is intense here at times) and she suggested reading some books about it for more information, I practically ran to the library. OK, I drove because if I had run, my legs wouldn’t have been able to keep me upright once I got there.

A nice librarian showed me the parenting section, pointed me to the right Dewey Decimal numbers, and left me to my own devices.

I checked out a couple of books on sibling rivalries, and The Five Love Languages of Teenagers caught my eye. I grabbed that one, too.

(Since I had read The Five Love Languages when I was first married and really liked it, I decided to start with that. I have to admit I renewed it the two times I was able before I just bought it so I could finish it.  But it really has helped open my eyes to what my learning and growing and maturing son needs.)

I also had never attended a parenting class before, but right about the same time, I saw an ad for a class put on by a local agency, and signed up the same day.

I was reeling in my inadequacy. I was reaching for any help I could possibly get. I was in tears many times after asking my son a (what I thought was) casual question or requesting he do a job for me, which turned into major confrontation.

I was lost.

And then I was reminded (again and again and again) that Heavenly Father is absolutely aware of my insignificant life. Not only did those two experiences fall into my lap just when I needed them, He brought it all together for me.

We had a great speaker in church talking about grace, a topic which I truly didn’t understand until now.

In Mormon culture, there is a story called The Parable of the Bicycle. I can’t really really summarize it here quickly, so click the link and watch the quick video about it. It’s worth it. Basically, if we put all our efforts into something and come up short, the grace of Jesus makes up the rest.

This same speaker then talked about another Mormon parable I’d never heard, which he called the Parable of the Piano Lesson.

Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.

God isn’t asking for perfection, He asking for continual improvement.

But what about when we rise to the bait our children set? What about when he reacts irrationally, and I in turn react irrationally to his irrational reaction and it all blows up? What about when he comes to me wanting to talk about something important to him and I give the wrong answer?

What about when I totally and absolutely fail?

When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying.

That is the sentence that rang true for me that Sunday more than anything else.

And because I am trying, putting more effort into understanding this stage in his life than I’ve ever put in before, even when I do mess up, the grace of my Savior is making up the difference. I’m putting in the practice, and He is making my efforts go so much farther than they could ever hope to go.

 The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.

He is changing me, everyday.

As a parent, yes. That’s where I think I need it most right now.

But in every other possible way as I’m continually practicing at life.

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You’re Doing OK

A month or so ago, a friend was giving a talk in church. It was a great talk, but I’m not entirely sure that what I came away with is something he actually said.

Have you ever had one of those times where you’re not sure if a person spoke the words or if it was the Holy Ghost?

Anyway, he possibly posed a self-reflective question asking how long it had been since we’d been to the temple, and I started thinking, “Thirty days has September, April, June, and … I have no idea.”

I went home and looked at a calendar trying to figure it out, and still had no idea. So the next day the temple was open (Tuesday), I called the temple (we have one of those cute mini-temples near us that you have to make an appointment for), and set up my time. Friday at noon. I would make it work.

Friday was a pretty typical “get the kids out the door” morning.  Get up, make sure kids are up, get breakfast going (Yes, I make my children breakfast. I have four boys. I don’t dare send them off to their teachers without them being well fed.), pack lunches, remind people to brush their teeth and put on their shoes, pray, and kiss them on their way out.

Then I had a minute to breathe and think before it was my turn to get out the door. I usually try to go to the temple with something to ponder or a specific question, so I spent a minute asking Heavenly Father to guide my thoughts. Instead of a train of thought to ponder or someone specific to pray about, I was given some instruction.

I needed to go to the temple fasting.

But I wasn’t given anything specific to fast about. In an effort to follow the spirit even when I don’t fully understand, I started a fast and got in my car.

I had an hour-and-a-half drive to ponder and think, but still had no insights or thoughts as to what I was fasting for, and when I’ve gone to the temple alone in the past, the drive has been a time when I’ve had some great conversations with the Lord. So, I just put on some Hymns and drove. Truthfully, it was quite peaceful.

Sometimes when I get to the temple early, I will have a conversation in prayer, but again, I just had quiet. I started to wonder what I was fasting for.

Then, as my time there progressed, I had a very distinct thought come to my mind. “You’re doing ok.”

And I was a little blown away. I didn’t realize I didn’t feel like I was doing ok. I had no clue that the everyday tasks and the continuously changing phases the boys were going through and my husband’s constant need to be busy and an agent of change was wearing on me. I knew that I wasn’t feeling like I was on my “A” game, but I felt like I was mostly past that.

And yet, here I was, following promptings that I needed to get myself to the temple, and that I needed to increase my communication with the Holy Ghost by fasting, and return being greatly, greatly edified and uplifted.

Because that thought, “you’re doing ok”, wasn’t the only feeling I got that day. I was filled with a light and peace I had never felt before, at least that I can recall. My heart was lifted, my shoulders felt lighter (which is really something since they are ALWAYS tight), and my whole soul felt peace.

Years and years ago, I gained a testimony of how little we have to do to be greatly blessed. We just have to be trying, in some small way, and we will be blessed. I had to put forth the pretty minuscule effort of making an appointment, arranging a playdate, fasting, and driving, and in return I got an amazingly uplifting experience I didn’t even know I needed.

And I am so thankful for it. There have been many, many times since then that I have questioned myself, and I’ve been reminded that I have an answer for that. From God. And that’s pretty difficult to doubt.

And let me tell you this. If I’m doing ok, so are you.

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A Little Closure

Anyone who has ever experienced a loss will tell you that all the things “they” say about grief are not true. You can run from it all you want, but eventually grief catches up to you. You never stop thinking about and missing those people you love.

Case in point, my kiddos were asking about my dad on the way to church a few weeks ago. I was overcome with sadness and started crying and missing my daddy who has been gone for more than 20 years.

Time does not heal all wounds.

The atonement, on the other hand, can provide comfort that can’t be found in any therapy session or bout of writing.

It’s been four-and-a-half years since my second dad, Lloyd, passed away, (it’s overly documented here that I’ve had a little bitterness about it) and I’ve finally been open enough with God to get some answers. Or one answer. An insight really. A very small but powerful insight.

I’ve been selfish.

Every time I’ve complained in my head about Lloyd being gone, which is every time I work on a project, something goes wrong with my car or house, I need parenting advice, my boys have any kind of event, or they are sad that he is gone, I’ve been complaining for selfish reasons.

But Lloyd is gone because that is what was best for him.

That small insight provided by the Spirit has taken away the bitterness of Lloyd’s loss.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t still have heartache about him being gone, or my dad and brother. It just means that I don’t feel angry at God about it any more.

I had a similar healing experience years ago.

I was a lost teenager repenting of the mistakes she had made while trying to navigate the angst-filled years of her youth without a father and then with a man trying to come in and be her father.

I’ll be forever grateful for that repentance process because it gave me a closeness with my Savior that I don’t think I would have achieved otherwise. Because of that closeness, I had true communication with the Lord and had been praying that my dad would know I loved him. I could only imagine that someone who had chosen to end their own life had to suffer the consequences of those actions and he must have seen the suffering his children were going through because of his choice. Anyway, I wanted him to know that I still loved him and started asking in my prayers that Heravenly Father would tell him.

I know it was because I was experiencing the power of the Atonement very strongly then that I was blessed with another small healing moment.

It was right about the 5th anniversary of Dad’s death and I was traveling down a back road with my mom. Suddenly, I could smell him. He had a very distinct smell of Old Spice, engine grease, and a stinky lunch box. I loved that smell. There was no mistaking it, and suddenly it was there. I knew right then that he loved me very much, which, if you can imagine, I had questioned.

It was like when the sun breaks through the clouds after a long, dreary winter. My heart was lightened. I wasn’t weighed down by what I didn’t have.

These two healing moments haven’t changed that I feel sad when I think of them, but it does make the weight of sorrow lighter. It doesn’t mean I’m not side-swiped by sadness occasionally, but it does mean that I have hope and joy in the thought of reuniting with them some day.

 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so,… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. – 2 Nephi 2:11.

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Back to Prayer

I sat in a beautiful testimony meeting yesterday.

Some of the sweetest and simplest testimonies I’ve ever heard about prayer were shared.

A mom with an inactive teenager shared how her son had gone on an activity with the Young Men and lost something valuable and important to him. He and a friend searched and searched, and just as they were going to give up, the friend suggested they pray. The boy said sure to not be rude, and then, not 10 seconds after the prayer was offered, the missing item was found in a place they had searched together many times.

His heart was touched.

Then some sweet little kids got up and shared about a time they had lost something, prayed for help to find it, and quickly found it.

Finally, a man arose and shared about a time when he was a boy and had prayed for a lost item and then found it, and how sometimes those prayers and answers seem so simple and trivial, but as a young child, that simple prayer and answer had a huge impact.

All those sweet witnesses reminded me of how I’ve learned that when I’ve lost, say, my keys and it is time to walk out the door or we’re going to be late (something I hate), I can either turn into a rage monster, or I can say a quick prayer and, most of the time, find them.

Which brought me around to this that I wrote just about a year ago. I thought about how I’ve been doing (not perfectly) and then noticed that even though I may have yelled at God at some point this year and told Him I was angry with Him, and hurt, and I was having a really hard time trusting Him with my heart, He has still blessed me.

He has given me insight into why my children were struggling, how to resolve a conflict with my husband, how to build a better relationship with my brother, what to say to an inactive friend who is struggling in his own life and faith, and, of course, where to find my keys.

He has blessed me with answers to questions, helped me in my callings, kept me safe, provided me with comfort, lead to me where I could find physical healing, and helped me know that He has the people I love safely in His watchful care.

All while I have struggled to trust Him with my deepest feelings and thoughts.

God’s love is amazing.

He is waiting to help us.

This morning I read this: But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally… (D&C 46:7).

I haven’t been great at keeping the commandment, but when I have, He has given liberally. His love is obvious and abounding in my life.

I truly used to have a very open and trusting friendship with my Heavenly Father, and while my heart is not yet fully healed, it is getting better. My friendship with Him is incredibly important, and I know He’s just waiting on me.

And I’m working on it.

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Looking Back

Today marks the 4th anniversary of my second dad’s death. I though I’d share something I wrote on my family blog back then. It’s from 2013.

About Lloyd

It’s been five months. We’ve celebrated three holidays and two birthdays without Grandpa and I guess it’s about time I put down my thoughts.

When we first found out Lloyd had leukemia, I spent the day in tears. It was too much to take in. We had a family meeting scheduled with the doctor for that afternoon, and my father-in-law was in surgery that day to get a hiatal hernia fixed. Norm had a hole in his diaphragm fixed a few years ago and it had retorn and 30 percent of his stomach was in his chest cavity. The doctors were concerned it would be a very difficult surgery because there had already been a repair and things were pretty tight. They were almost positive they’d have to open him up instead of fixing it laparoscopically. He called me after he was out of surgery to tell me he’d been the recipient of a miracle. There was no hole in the diaphragm when they went in, despite very extensive CT and MRI scans. He had it confirmed to him that he had been blessed by the power of the priesthood.

It was exactly the miraculous event I needed to have any hope at all. My thoughts were immediately filled with the song line, “There can be miracles if you believe.” I put all my trust and faith in that small line and went to the hospital to meet my mom, sister, husband, dad, and doctor.

The news was grim. Untreated, he had 60 days at most. Traditional chemotherapy would most likely kill him. We needed to get him to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle as soon as possible. He had an appointment already scheduled for one week away. He could go home and be treated for his pneumonia until then.

So, he went home the next day and my very experienced nurse of a mother took care of him to the best of her ability, but his pneumonia and cancer were much more aggressive than anyone thought. Fortunately, my babies got to spend one last afternoon snuggling Grandpa on the couch watching a movie with him.

I hadn’t told the boys how sick Grandpa was yet. I could see in my mind’s eye that he would have some serious treatments and would be fragile the rest of his life, but he would have more time. I didn’t want to make my boys worry. My bishop called for an update one day and asked if he could petition for prayers from the pulpit, and I hesitated since my kids still really didn’t know anything. But then Lloyd got admitted to the hospital again and I called my bishop and asked if I could change my mind. Then I braced myself for telling Sterling. He got very upset and the first words out of his mouth were, “I don’t want Grandpa to die.” He was worried about James never remembering what an amazing Grandpa he had. My sweet Jonah was walking by and said, “Don’t worry. Grandpa’s not going to die.”

That sealed it in my heart. Lloyd wasn’t going to die. I was supposed to believe in a miracle and my three-year-old confirmed that he would be fine.

I hung on to that. It got me through seeing Lloyd fail more every day. I knew that he would turn around. He had to. It got me through watching him go into respiratory failure and kidney failure and liver failure. There was going to be a miracle. I felt like I had been promised that!

In the email post I mentioned that Brandon knew the first day in the hospital that Lloyd’s time was short, but he felt that he needed to keep that to himself. I was kind of upset with him when I found that out later. I really could have used some warning. But it wasn’t my turn to have a warning, I guess. It was my turn to show unwavering faith and hope. But I wish I’d had a warning.

After Lloyd passed and I was holding Sterling, we were talking about why it happened and that it wasn’t fair, and my sweet Jonah came in. I asked him about saying Grandpa wasn’t going to die, and he said, “Yeah, but Grandpa got sick.” And that was that. I believe that the laws of nature are fully intwined with the laws of God, and God has to obey those laws also. But I also believe in miracles and the Godly power of the Priesthood.

Someone wrote a card to mom saying that she remembered Lloyd bearing his testimony on fast Sunday in October and thinking that it was the testimony of a man who had completed his mission here. As far as I’m concerned, he had a lot more he could have done. What about my baby? How will he ever know what’s it’s like to have the best Grandpa in the whole world? What about my mom? How could the best years of her life been so short? Who would I have to counsel with when I was feeling irrational about something?

But since his work obviously was done, I can tell you that he fixed us. Our bishop at the time Lloyd was baptized spoke at the funeral and talked about what an amazing man Lloyd was. He met my mom when she had four troubled teenagers at home who were flailing trying to cope with the tragedy of losing their father by his own hand, and Lloyd loved us immediately like his own. He saved me and he saved Peggy. He taught us how to love and to be loved. He taught us how to communicate openly without screaming and raging. He taught us how to be friends and confidants. He taught me how to be a parent. He taught us how to have fun and spend time together. He took us, broken, shut-off, and angry, and loved us, coaxed us out of ourselves, and blessed us. I can only scratch the surface of what he did for my mom, whose history of feeling abandoned, unloved, belittled, and betrayed by men was 50 years deep.

His loss is poignant. I feel it every day. I don’t cry every day, but there is still a big absence. Someone told me that our parents are like pillars in our lives and when one dies, that pillar is gone and our support system is not the same. That is absolutely how I feel.

I am extremely grateful for small moments when I know he is still near. One day I was driving the kids to school and I had my hand on the headrest of the passenger seat and suddenly I could feel Lloyd holding my hand. He had pretty distinctly rough hands, so I knew it was him. I’ve also had a small glimpse into the work his is doing now, and I’m grateful for that. Most of all, I’m grateful that he considers me his daughter and he’ll be waiting for me when it’s my turn to go home.

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Hope with a Capital H

Have you seen this video? I watched it a while back and was struck by something I didn’t know before. Right about the 8:30 mark.

Hope is a doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is often grouped in with faith and charity, both of which we hear a lot about and there is plethora of information on, but hope as a doctrinal principle is not something I’ve ever heard of much as a Latter-Day Saint.

I wanted to know more. I wanted to understand. I have felt hope in my life when all seemed hopeless, and I wanted to understand it’s deeper meaning.

I felt the best place to start was the scriptures, so I pulled out my paper set and opened to “Hope” in the topical guide. (You might notice that next to the topic title are some parentheses encouraging you to also see Expectation, Faith, and Trust. Good words.)

I started at the top, fully expecting not to find much in the Old Testament, because I haven’t figured out how to crack the message there yet, but was surprised to find powerful words on the subject:

Psalms 16:8-11: I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Psalms 33:18-22: Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.

Psalms 42:11: Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Proverbs 13:12: Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

Jeremiah 17:7: Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

Joel 3:16: The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.

And also in the New Testament:

Romans 8:24-25: For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

Romans 15:4, 13: For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

1 Corinthians 9:10:…he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

Hebrews 3:6: Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

Hebrews 6:11,12,19,20: And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus…

1 John 3:1-3: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

In the middle of my thinking about all this, I had one of those provident life moments where I was able to catch up with an old Bishop that I truly admire. My husband and I stayed in the home of he and his wife for a week, which awarded me opportunities to have late night and early morning chats with this dear friend. During one of our conversations, he mentioned the principle of compensation, which was another idea that hadn’t occurred to me. He explained it as the promise that the trials, tests, and hardships we endure in this life will be made up to us in the next with joy and peace.

I had some understanding of that as I’ve been promised that because my grief has been so great, my capacity for joy is that much greater.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin has said, “The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.”

I have seen the principle of compensation in my life as stalwart and loving men have been placed in my path to compensate for the loss of my fathers. I know that I have four amazing boys for that very reason as well.

I have an overwhelming hope and trust that the sorrow I carry with me here will not exist when I cross through the veil, and that my joy at seeing my loved ones will be incomprehesible.

I have hope in Jesus Christ.

 

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Sunday Thoughts

As I sat in church a few weeks ago, a scripture I love but don’t think of very often popped into my head.

Mosiah 2: 20-24:

I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

I kind of love it when that happens. I like to think it’s Heavenly Father giving me something to ponder on a little more. And, because I’m pretty weird, I started writing a talk in my head based on it.

It would start, “Why are we hear today? Why did we bother getting out of bed, getting dressed in our nice clothes, wrestling our kids ourt of their beds (because the only ever-loving day mine will sleep late is Sunday morning), cram food into our mouths, and get ourselves here to listen to some reasonably boring speaker? Why did we put time and effort into preparing a lesson or making sure there was someone to teach a lesson, or check in with the people over whom we have stewardship? Why?”

That scripture is why.

I was blessed at a very young age to have very humbling and learning experiences with the Atonement in two different ways. I was blessed with the miracle of forgiveness, and the miracle of having my burden lifted.

Because of both of those experiences, I have an undeniable, but miniscule, understanding of what my Savior truly experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I owe Him everything I am. I am truly an unprofitable servant. I can never, ever repay Him. Ever.

And so, I serve. I work. I coax my children out of their beds. I search for missing church socks Saturday night. I have family prayers and scriptures and Family Home Evening. I read personally, I pray. I bear my testimony. I attend the temple.

I try to do it all. For Him.

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Let’s Talk About Sleep

An amazing friend of mine just had her fourth baby. We went out one night, and, with that desperate pleading a mother of a newborn has, asked me if my kids sleep. I almost did a spit-take because, no, and then my heart just ached for her.

She has one good sleeper.

I can relate.

There is so much out there about how to get your kids to sleep. When I was a brand new mom, there was the Ferber method, where you essentially throw them in the crib and let them scream themselves to sleep. (At least, that’s what it felt like to me, the one and only time we tried it and that poor child screamed for 3 hours while my husband and I kept talking the other down from rescuing that poor baby.)

I spent years pleading on my knees every night that I could get some sleep, and then would pray with my husband about the exact same thing.

My babies were not those amazing kids that would sleep for hours on end. They were the kind that wanted to be fed every two hours, thank you, day or night. Growing was going on! And gas. And ear infections. And colds. And …. you get the gist.

I would keep track of what time it was when I got up, got back in bed, settled down enough to go back to sleep, and then got up again. And then I would compare the amount of sleep I got to what my husband got. We had to one-up each other with our amount of wakenings. And let me tell you, I’ve heard finances are one of the top causes of divorce; sleep comparisons could have been a legitimate reason for us.

Finally, after my repetitious prayers were going nowhere, I came to the (prompted) conclusion that I just needed to suck it up.

Even if/when I did finally feel like someone was finally sleeping pretty well, someone else would get sick. I spent many a winter night in the garage with a child’s head over the deep freeze breathing in the freezing air to calm the incessant croup.

Or someone would have a bad dream and need to snuggle for a bit.

Or someone had an accident that needed to be taken care of. (Or, if I’m being honest, the child got relocated and the mess waited until the morning. We’re talking survival here.)

Or vomit.

Or a trip somewhere where it starts all over again.

Or, in those baby days, a move. That was about every 18 months.

Or I was pregnant. There is no sleeping when I’m pregnant because I’m either vomiting, or I have restless leg, heartburn, or a backache.

Or my husband was on a work trip. There is just not sleeping then. Period.

There are a lot of “or”s there, but I think you get the picture. No uninterrupted sleep.

I transitioned from feeling desperate and angry every time I had to get up with someone to just realizing that this is what I signed up for. And let’s face it. The only thing that has been removed from that list is pregnancy.

IMG_0845

And in case you’re reading this, nodding your head in agreement and relief that you’re not the only one, here is a picture of my baby, who will be five in a few months, with his reward he just earned for going to sleep on his own and staying in his bed for the whole night. Survival mode got to the point of just scooting over and letting him snuggle in instead of getting up and fighting with him to go back to sleep in his own bed. If I have to actually get up and function at night, I’m up for at least an hour before I can go back to sleep. If I let that little cutie snuggle up close, I’m back to sleep in 5 minutes.

Here’s all I’m saying. Sleep is amazing. Do what you have to to get what you need. If that’s a 15 minute nap every afternoon so you don’t want to sell your children at bedtime (guilty), then do it! If your baby needs to get in bed with you until he’s five, it’s not a big deal. If you’re kids don’t sleep well, you are not alone.

The terrifying part is, I don’t see any change in the foreseeable future, as I have one who is approaching teenhood, and I’ve heard the sleep and worry is even worse then.

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Why Do I Bother?

I feel like I’m coming to a crossroads in my life.

When I had three little boys at home and another on the way,  it was a no-brainer for me to stay at home with those boys. The cost of putting the boys in daycare would have eaten up any money I would have brought in. The days were all you could expect staying home with three little boys would be – fabulous and frustrating.

Now, as all but one of my boys are in school full time, and my baby will be going to preschool next year, I’ve been wondering what my worth actually is. What do I do that is beneficial to anyone besides my family, who, if it came down to it, could really do all the things I do on their own? Maybe the house would be messier and there would be a lot less fruits and vegetables in their diet, but they would be fine without me.

Just to pile on, because sometimes Satan sees an opening and takes it, I’ve had a couple of little things happen that made this whole “who the heck am I?” question really, really bother me.

Incident 1 – A sweet friend asked me if I’d present at her son’s elementary school career day about being a stay-at-home mom. I’ve seen and heard about women who do this and totally rock it. All I could think of was folding laundry. I declined that invitation.

Incident 2 – I was visiting after school with some of the moms at the playground who were mentioning their work. One stays at home right now, but when her twins start first grade next year, she is going to start doing some free-lance editing from home. I had mentioned the career day thing, and another mom told a funny story about her daughter asking her what she did at school. This woman had gone back to school to get her PhD in English and now teaches classes at the university along with being a mom and doing the drop-off/pick-up thing, toting her kids to and from sports, laundry, dinner, and cleaning. All I could think was, “These women are amazing! What the heck to I have to show for myself?”

Incident 3 – My husband and I were asked to be judges at a scholarship pageant. They asked us to come up with a bio for their program. Given the previous two incidents, you can imagine my excitement about this. Here’s what I came up with:

Sarah Chapman folds clothes, washes dishes, vacuums floors, and makes dinner. She lives in Pullman, WA.

Pathetic. Let’s try that again.

Sarah Chapman is a stay-at-home mom, where she oversees four boys, two dogs, her husband, Brandon, and her mom. She also volunteers in her children’s schools, is secretary of elementary PTA, and serves in her church. Sarah loves her life in Pullman, WA.

Well, that’s marginally better.

Here’s what my PR husband came up with:

Sarah Chapman is the mom of four rambunctious boys, plus a husband who is just as bad. But she holds her own with a keen ability to laugh and have fun. She grew up in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and Centralia, Washington. She graduated from Centralia High School and attended Centralia College before graduating from Clover Park Technical College with her degree in Surgical Technology. She used that to work in the operating room of three different hospitals, the last of which was in Moscow, Idaho, as she helped her husband get through school at WSU. She has also performed in various school and church plays. She’s sung in, and directed, various choirs. However, her real ability is to burst out in song or dance whenever the mood strikes her. She likes good TV and cinema, though she would much prefer Broadway and a book. She loves Pullman, volunteers every week at her children’s schools, is the PTA secretary, and serves in her church.

to which I responded with something like, it’s a good thing a married a PR guy to turn nothing into something.

Before all this, Brandon had arranged a meeting for me with a professor at his college who is doing some research, and it looked like I would be able to do some work for him from home. He seemed pretty excited about my helping when Brandon talked to him, and then I went in and met with him and it seemed like a sure deal, and then I didn’t ever hear back. Good times.

So, I was in a serious funk leading into Easter. I was feeling totally lost about what the point of my life is. I had devoted the last almost 12 years to my family and now my family is getting to where they need me less. Three boys are in school full-time and my littlest is just around the corner. Then, really, what will be the point of what I do. What will be my worth?

I decided to do some reading on the worth of mother’s on lds.org, ponder, and pray. It didn’t take very long for me to have some very uplifting and confidence building points of inspiration.

The first was, I am giving my children a sense of security in a turbulent world. When I mentioned to my oldest son that I was going to talk to someone about doing some work, he practically broke down in tears. “You mean, you’re not going to be the loving, supportive mom at  home?”

Honestly, I didn’t even think he noticed. And there is a real chance that none of us will ever understand or comprehend the benefits, but Heavenly Father assured me that I am providing a refuge, so I’ll stick with that.

The second thought was that I am in a partnership with God. I am a partner with God. God has given me a share of His eternal work and glory. What more can I add to that?

Is the laundry still monotonous and never-ending? Yep.

Do the children still complain about what’s for dinner? Of course.

Do I feel better about why I chose this particular path in life? You bet.

How could I not?

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Happy Birthday to My Brother

James in canoe

My brother would have been 32 today.

He was a handsome guy.

He was a pretty fantastic brother.

People were drawn to his smile.

I wish he were a part of my boys’ lives.

 

I miss him.

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