Friday, May 27, 2005

Who am I, anyway?

Chloe has this cute thing that she does lately...We'll be driving in the car and she'll say "Mommy!" I'll say, "what?" and then she says, "Mommy, I'm Cwoe." I know I get really quiet and lost in thought while driving sometimes, and I think this is just her way of getting my attention and letting me know she's there.

As an extension of this, she sometimes says "I'm Goose" or "I'm a baby" or "I'm Kanapawi" or she just says them all. Goose is my nickname for her, Kaanapali is Joel's nickname for her and I guess we call her baby a lot, too. After all, she is still my baby and always will be! BUT, aside from those four things, Chloe will not allow herself to be called anything else. Not funny, not silly, not smart, not adorable and especially not cute. (Even though we all know that she is all of those things!)

Well, the other day as we were driving in the car, I heard her little voice say, "Mommy!" I answered, and the ritual began...."I'm Cwoe, and I'm Goose, and I'm Baby, and I'm Kanapawi!"
Then Bria said, "And you're a child of God!" Yet another moment where I had to really examine my skill at teaching the gospel to my children. Shouldn't I have thought to use this game Chloe plays to teach her that very important fact? And then I was torn, because obviously Bria understands who she is. So did I teach that to her? Or am I letting the Primary teach her everything?

I honestly don't know why this experience made me doubt myself so much as a mother. I mean, I've definitely tried to teach them that they are children of God. I started by singing "I am a child of God" a little too often. I thought that it would be such a great idea to sing it every night as a lullaby, but that backfired! I think it took Bria until she was about 3 1/2 to not burst into tears every time she heard it! We had to take her out of Sacrament meeting a couple of times because she was devastated that the entire congregation would sing that horrible song to her! And then when she did get around to accepting the song and even singing it herself, she always sang "parents kind of dear." I think she still does that, and it still gives me some I the best parent I can be? Do I take every opportunity to teach my children the Gospel? It is such a huge responsibility and there are so many other things that require my time and attention. Are my priorities in line? Do I remember that I am a Child of God?

And I think that's what it comes down to. I have to remember that I, too, am a Child of God. And he loves me. I have to remember this all the time so that I can sufficiently teach my children that they are also dear children of their Heavenly Father. I forget this too often and as a consequence, I don't act like the mother I want to be.

I think it doesn't matter who or what we want to be. We have to first acknowledge our divine nature, and then we can be whatever we desire. A good mother, a good wife, a good leader, a published scrapbooker, a writer, and even a Kaanapali or a Goose. First we are children of God, and after that, anything is possible!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Is my house working correctly?

Jaroldeen Edwards was in my last ward. If you don't know why this is amazing, then you are seriously missing out on a wonderful lady! If you haven't read her book, Things I wish I'd known sooner: Personal discoveries of a mother of Twelve, you ought to! (She's written several other books, many of which I'd read before I knew her, as well.)
She quickly became my total hero as I got to know her. She was one of our Relief Society teachers and I always looked forward to her lessons. Let's just say that I want to be Jaroldeen Edwards when I grow up.

The other day as I was going through my daily routine, I thought of a lesson she gave. I was totally stressing over the house staying clean. I had spent all morning cleaning everything spotless and the kids were quickly undoing every single thing I had done. Then one sentence from a Relief Society lesson three years ago just popped into my brain, and I started feeling pretty darn guilty.

Here's what I remember:
The lesson had a lot to do with motherhood, though I can't say if that was the exact topic or not. Sister Edwards told a story about going visiting teaching to a woman who was so worried that she'd be judged for the fingerprints on her walls and the toys on her floor that she literally followed her children around cleaning up after them. If someone showed up when anything was out of place, she was completely mortified. Then came the phrase that impressed me deeply:

"When I go to a house of small children and I don't see any signs of them--no toys on the floor and everything spotless--I think to myself, this house isn't working correctly."

Is my house working correctly? As the mother of young children, I find it extremely difficult to strike a balance between letting kids be kids and keeping my house clean. But what is my home for, anyway? Is it to be a cold, sterile environment where the children aren't allowed to breathe without permission for fear they'll somehow make a mess? Or is it to be a warm, comfortable place where the children are loved and nurtured? The answer is obvious...but where do I draw the line? I often feel like the woman in Sister Edwards' lesson...I am so worried about what other people will think of me if they saw my home in disarray. Even more so now that I have been the Relief Society President...I mean, if I can't even keep my own home presentable, then what business do I have in this calling?

I think it goes back to tent work vs. well work. In fact, I know it does. It doesn't make it any easier to strike a balance, though. I mean, the well work has to be done. If I spent all my time in the tent, I wouldn't have much of a tent after a while and it would cease to be the nurturing environment it is intended to be. But if I spend all my time at the well, my children are not growing, they aren't learning, and worst of all, I am not there for them. Does it really have to be a toss up? Messy house but happy kids, or clean house but unhappy kids? Can't I have it both ways?

Probably not. I mean, there are always compromises that have to be made. If I want my kids to learn, I need to let the toys be out. After all, a child's work is his play, right? But I can also teach them to have only one toy out at a time and to clean up after themselves. If I want my kids to be creative, I need to let the art supplies come out. But I can also be there to supervise so paint doesn't end up on the walls instead of the paper. I can teach them to put the lids back on their markers. And I can teach them that Play-doh isn't meant to be ground into the carpet. What it all means, is that it requires more time from me. It is much harder to stay in the tent then it is to work at the well. I've always been taught that the difficult things are always worth it, though. And I think in this case that is definitely true.

So, is my house working correctly? I guess it's the question of the ages. I'm trying though. I'm really trying.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Out of the mouths of babes...

Image hosted by Photobucket.comNow isn't this the most beautiful girl you've ever seen? (With the exception of Chloe, who is just as cute). I wish my scanner would do better justice to the pictures, but alas, it is what it is.

This beautiful child, who is all of 4 years old, teaches me every day what it means to be a daughter of God, a mother, and just an all around good person. In her own childlike way, she is much wiser than I am. The simplistic way she understands life and the Gospel always cause me to take pause and really think for a minute. I think we adults try to make things too complicated.

Three quick stories:

The other day I wasn't in a very good mood and I was arguing with Joel. I was frustrated about everything in my life and I was taking it all out on him. Bria was in the next room and she came out and put her hands on her hips and gave me a stern look. She then disappeared for a while and came back with a piece of paper. She thrust it at me and said, "Mommy! What does this say?" I looked at it and it had as many smiley faces as she could fit on the page. My heart immediately sank...she was trying to tell me that I needed to be happy and nice. So I Joel and to Bria. Our children watch us every minute and if we aren't careful they'll catch us doing the very things we teach them not to do. I'm thankful she called me on it.

Last month she was asking me to spell hundreds of words for her. She is in a phase where she loves to write words everywhere...she goes through reams of paper, but I love to watch her learn. I've gotten to the point where I don't really pay attention to which words I'm spelling, so I was surprised when she brought me a finished product. THINK GOOD ABOUT SOMETHING GREAT. Now if those aren't words of wisdom, I don't know what are.

Last night, I was doing something for the Relief Society, so I missed scripture reading and prayers with the girls. Joel told me this story and it is truly amazing. They finished reading the scriptures, and Bria had recited all the scriptures she has memorized. She then took her Book of Mormon, showed it to Joel, and said "If we read all the scriptures, then we will know all of the commandments of God!" How right she is. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

Yes, I have much to learn from my children and I am glad that I have them as teachers.

Tender Mercies

Ever since April General Conference, I have been mulling over David A. Bednar's talk The Tender Mercies of the Lord. There is so much to say about the topic that I don't know if I'll be able to keep all of my thoughts straight, but here goes...

Just the other day, I was telling Joel how I knew Heavenly Father loved me. He was surprised by the reason: I know Heavenly Father loves me because my voice lesson canceled today. Of course this would seem odd to anyone at first. Why not an answer like, "He loves me because I have such beautiful children, " or "He loves me because of all of the financial blessings we have received lately." Let me explain...

I have been teaching voice lessons for about 8 years. In the past, I have had up to 20 students at a time, and now I only have one. Yet, my Father in Heaven knows exactly how many I can handle at a given point in my life and that is the amount of students I always have, through no doing of my own. When I got called to be Relief Society President I had 6 students. I was just starting to build up my studio here in Arizona. As soon as I received the calling, 4 of them quit lessons for various reasons. Now I am down to one. That is all I can handle, and I know that. More importantly, the Lord knows that. That is a tender mercy. In my terms and conditions it is very clearly stated that if a student cancels a lesson with less than 24 hours notice, I am not obligated to make it up and they will still have to pay for it regardless of my decision. If I, as the teacher, cancel a lesson, I am obligated to either make it up or refund the tuition for that lesson. It is obviously not very good business sense for me to cancel any lessons. Another tender mercy is the fact that if I am having a particularly hard day and it happens to be on a day when I have to teach, inevitably the student will cancel. This has happened three times in the last month (which hasn't been an easy one). That means that my ordinarily very responsible one student has missed 3 out of 4 lessons this month. I couldn't have handled teaching on those days. I know Heavenly Father knew that, and he loves me enough to take that extra burden from me. There were times when I was pregnant with Chloe that every single student canceled in a day. I don't believe it was coincidence. Because I know that Heavenly Father said, "Lara is too sick. Today her body cannot take the extra pressure of those 4 lessons. She needs to rest." And knowing that I wouldn't cancel them myself (remember my good business sense), he went ahead and canceled them for me. Yes, I know my Heavenly Father loves me.

It is such a simple thing, really. And that is what Elder Bednar talks about...small things that have great meaning to us personally. He mentions three separate times that it is the Lord's timing that helps us to recognize His tender mercies. How true that is. If a student cancels on a day when things are just rosy I am actually annoyed. But when someone cancels on a day that I can't cope with anything, I know that someone is looking out for my best interest.

So how am I doing at showing tender mercies to my own children? Most definitely not as well as the Lord does for us. But it is something I've been thinking about and something that needs to be improved in my life.

One experience stands out in my mind where I can honestly say I did show tender mercy to my child. Bria was 3 years old and Chloe was around a year old. Bria was doing something with her toys...building something or arranging something to be just a certain way. Chloe really wanted to do what Bria was doing and kept ruining the masterpiece. Bria began to get frustrated and upset at her sister. My first reaction was to make her share and play nicely with her sibling, but an interesting thing stopped me from doing that...

...Suddenly, I remembered way back to when I was 3 years old myself. I was building a castle on the coffee table with my blocks. My younger brother David, who was around a year old, kept knocking it down. I was so upset because I couldn't remember just how it had been before, and right when I thought I had it figured out he would mess it all up again. All of the emotions I felt so many years before came rushing back to me and I realized that was exactly how Bria was feeling right then. I decided that as noble as it is to teach my children to share, it wasn't necessary all the time! Instead I found something else for Chloe to do and let Bria happily finish building whatever it was that she was building.

That is what tender mercies from the Lord are. He knows just what we are feeling and what we need, and he loves us enough to give it to us. At that moment, I knew with perfect clarity how Bria felt, because I had felt that way once, too. Yet, now that I think of it, perhaps it was a tender mercy of the Lord that I even had that memory pop into my head. It isn't something I'd thought of in many years, but it was there in my psyche, and I do remember it.

So that is what I'd like to work on as a mother right now. I don't want to be Mrs. Justice all of the time, and I am realizing that I don't have to be. Being Mrs. Mercy is just as important in growing children who are emotionally healthy and happy. And I know that I am shown mercy much more often than I deserve it.

My Heavenly Father loves me.