Sunday, December 15, 2013

Parenting Tip - Pass on Your Heritage and Traditions

Everyone comes from somewhere. 

Duh, that was an intelligent sentence.  What I meant was, that if you trace your roots back far enough, you will find that you come from some country other than the United States.  It's fun to find out where that is.  For some families, it may be several countries, but no matter where your ancestors come from, it's often enlightening to see just where that is.

My mother's ancestors came from Sweden.  My mother is 100% Swedish and I am half.  My children are one quarter Swedish and my grandchildren are 1/8.  It is so heartwarming to see my grandchildren embrace their Swedish heritage as their parents pass on the traditions that they enjoyed as children.

Yesterday, December 13 was St. Lucia's Day.  This is celebrated in Sweden as the day when darkness will begin to recede and light will gradually stay more during the day.  It also commemorates a young girl, Santa Lucia, who brought food to the poor.  It is traditional to observe St Lucia's Day by dressing the oldest daughter in the family in a white dress, tied with a crimson sash. Candles are set into her crown, which is covered with lingonberry leaves.  She then wakens her family in the morning, bringing them rolls and a warm drink.

My aunt and her daughter would waken my family in this manner on St Lucia's Day when I was a child.  When I grew up, I dressed my eldest daughter, Faith, in the traditional white dress, sash and crown and we went around town waking up my family members and Swedish friends.  She was 3 when we started this tradition and carried it on until she was in junior high, then passed it on to her younger sister who passed it on to my last daughter.  This year, that daughter, (married -but with no children yet) made rolls and shared the tradition with her friends at work.

My eldest daughter-who just had a baby-shares this tradition with her children in their school classes.  Each year her 2 daughters dress in their white dresses and crowns and tell the history of St Lucia to their classmates.  Her son doesn't dress up, of course, but loves to share the day with his class also.

I got to go with my grandchildren to their school classes this year and share our tradition.  Their teachers were so welcoming and enthusiastic.  My daughter even has the students make their own paper crown headband, then they parade around the classroom while the music, Santa Lucia, is playing.  Each of the teachers get a plate of St. Lucia rolls and the students get a candy cane.

What traditions do you continue to use that have been passed down from your ancestors?

What traditions do you begin, that your borrow from something or someplace meaningful to you?

One of my sons served a two year  mission for our Church to Germany.  Presently he is writing his doctorate dissertation in a field of research having to do with Germany, and he has returned several times to Germany for research.   His family is connected to Germany on different levels.  Recently they began a German tradition of ...well, I can't remember.  Ammon, please comment and tell us about your German Christmas tradition.

Merry Christmas,
thanks for reading,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Yes, Virginia, You Can Have a Guiltfree Christmas

My grandchildren think I'm old. I don't think I am.  But still, when I look in the mirror, I'm seeing sagging cheeks and wrinkles on my neck and hands, which I prefer to think of as "wisdom lines".  I remember when I turned 40 that I decided if I was going to be THAT old, then I should start using the wisdom I had gleaned throughout those years so that the next 40 years could be a little less stressful and more enjoyable.

Which takes me to Christmas.  I've seen lots of Christmases--as a child, teenager, young adult, young mother, middle aged mother and now, as a grandmother.  I've felt a lot of guilt during those Christmases about things I didn't do and wish I had, or things I did do and wish I hadn't. But I'm really, really tired of feeling guilty.  It's no fun. So with all the wisdom I have learned over the years, and all the hope I have for many more bright tomorrows and Christmases, here are some thoughts about having a....

Guilt-free Christmas!
1.  Enjoy other people's decorations - I'm in Pennsylvania in a winter wonderland of postcard beautiful snow (my daughter just had baby number 4--a girl).  The house two doors down is decorated with 36 wreaths hung outside in front of every window!  It is gorgeous.  Should we feel guilty that we don't have any wreaths hung up, let alone lights or a tree.  Nope!  We're enjoying their wreaths (and enjoying that we don't have to take down 36 wreaths and find a place to store them!)

As you drive around your neighborhood, don't feel guilty.  Enjoy the decorations, savor the lights--even the traffic lights.  I love to see the red and green traffic lights at night during December, they're so Christmas-y.

2.  Enjoy the humor.  I just received a text that said, "Here is a letter _______ wrote to Santa today:  Dear Santa, two of the kids in my class don't believe in u.  Can u please put coal in their stockings.  Their names r Sienna and Jake. (Names changed to protect the innocent, and so Santa can't find them!)

Find humor in the car as you drive (yeah, very dificult, I know).  As I've been driving grandchildren around this week (and getting lost every single time), I have noticed that in between the streets, there are these cute little side streets called alleys (they don't look like AZ alleys) and they all have the name of vegetables!  There is carrot alley, leek alley, tomato alley, artichoke alley.  I find it hilarious. 

3.  Enjoy the food.  You don't have to make all the holiday treats you read about on every blog you look at or from every person you talk to.  Just pick one treat you have time to make or that your family likes.  Then savor and enjoy eating it.  I have the hardest time eating slow.  But I'm going to try and saaavvvvvoorrrrr my food this season instead of gulping it down.   My goal is to drink hot chocolate and watch the falling snow, which I should stop typing and do right this minute!

 4. Enjoy your children and husband and family.  Listen to your children--look at their cute little faces.  Try to figure out what makes them tick.  My daughter said she finally realized that if one of her daughters didn't get to bed by a certain time, she would have a melt down every night. Her daughter just couldn't cope, be obedient or make any rational decisions if she was too tired.  Sidenote:  last night we were trying to get the kids in bed on time and my daughter was making silent gestures at me to remind me we needed to get so and so in bed on time.  My granddaughter noticed and said, "Mom, I don't do that anymore."

Love your husband and make memories.  Find out what his love language is: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time or physical touch.  Then be sure and tell him what YOURS is.

5.  Enjoy Christmas shopping.  If you're not done shopping, try shopping online this year.  Or try going first thing in the morning.  Make it fun:  hum or listen to Christmas music while you drive to the store, suck on a candy cane in the car,  feel grateful, grateful, grateful.  Above all: don't feel guilty because you kow of others who are done.

Those are my ideas.  If you have any other ideas on how to enjoy the Holiday Season, please leave a comment.

Thanks for reading,



Saturday, November 23, 2013

Parenting Tip - Prayers of Gratitude

At this thanksgiving time of year, I am reminded of an experience I heard in a talk several years ago that has always impressed me.  A family was kneeling for their evening family prayer with a Church visitor who was staying the night with them.  The well respected  Church visitor requested that the wife (who had been asked to say the prayer) only say words of appreciation for blessings received, and not ask for anything. The wife, who had received word earlier in the day of a dear friend's passing, wanted to pray for help for the family.  But acting in faith and obedience to the request, she offered a sincere prayer of thanksgiving.
She thanked Heavenly Father for meaningful and memorable experiences with this dear friend. She communicated sincere gratitude for the Holy Ghost as the Comforter and for the gifts of the Spirit that enable us to face adversity and to serve others. Most importantly, she expressed appreciation for the plan of salvation, for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for His resurrection, and for the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel which make it possible for families to be together forever.
This family learned an important lesson about gratitude and how in the midst of trials and problems, one can always find things to be thankful about.

I have offered prayers of gratitude and have experienced some very special moments at these times.  When you only express gratitude, you look at things in a different light and suddenly come to understand problems and situations in a different way.

If you are dealing with a troubled child or spouse, suddenly you see and express gratitude for the opportunity to learn and grow and for the wisdom which your Father can give you through the Holy Ghost. 

If you are experiencing health problems for yourself or a family member, you understand how to express gratitude for good health in the past and for medical doctors that give help and medication.  You thank your Father in Heaven that you live in this day and in this country where medical knowledge is so advanced and available.

If you are undergoing financial difficulties, you find yourself thanking your Father for future help He will give you.  You thank Him for the ability to know how to be resilient and wise in cooking with the food you have on hand and how to manage on a tight budget.

I LOVE to offer prayers of gratitude now, because I have such a paradigm shift in looking at life.  It's so fun to see things in a completely different light.  Instead of looking at problems as "why me?", you view them as a chance to learn and grow. Instead of your problems having a negative and depressive feel, they take on a more eternal and spiritual perspective.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1Thessalonians 5:18    

Happy Thanksgiving!



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Parenting Tip - We are Mothers!

When I was pregnant with my 5th child, I was embarrassed to tell my neighbors or even go grocery shopping. I dreaded getting those looks that said, “What? Do you think you have to populate the whole world yourself?” Or worse still, the people who made snide little comments like, “Are all those your children,” then walked away muttering, “doesn't she know about birth control?”

But I loved children and my husband and I wanted another baby. We both were raised in large families and saw the benefits of having lots of siblings, and we wanted a large family ourselves. But did I really? It was hard enough raising four children without adding another. I decided, yes, I did want another child. But I also decided that if I loved having a large family, I needed to start noticing the joy my children gave me, so I started a “Joy Journal”. In this journal I recorded little things that happened during the day that gave me joy. I didn't want this to become a burden or another failure attempt, so I didn't record things every day, just whenever I noticed something special.

My Joy Journal became a wonderful blessing in the life of my family. At birthdays I would read from my journal about the things the birthday child had done during that year that brought me joy and this became a special part of their birthday.

Every family is different. Some mothers who only have one or two children wish they could have more. Some are very happy to have just the amount they have. But as mothers, regardless of the number of children we have, we should never be embarrassed to BE MOTHERS.

With permission, I quote from an article I recently read (Ensign Oct. 2013, 60) of an experience that happened to the author, Craig Cardon's, wife. It took place when they attended a dinner for members of the Dean’s Alumni Leadership Council at the Harvard Kennedy School several years ago.

“After the dinner the president of the council invited the council members and their companions to stand and introduce themselves. He suggested that each person share educational and professional background information, along with what each considered to be his or her most significant accomplishment. Because of the way the room was organized, our table would be the last to participate.
[My wife} later explained to me that as she saw all in attendance standing and listing their many academic degrees and professional accomplishments, she thought, “What can I possibly say to these people who have been ambassadors, high government officials, educators, professionals, and leaders of gigantic enterprises? I don’t even have my bachelor’s degree yet” (though she subsequently received it in 2008).
[My wife’s} mind continued racing: “I’ve got to think of something to say. No, I’ve got to find an excuse to leave.” Then, in an instant, she thought, “I’m going to pray.”
She said a silent, earnest prayer, pleading with the Lord for His help and direction. In that moment, a voice came into her mind with perfect clarity. It said, “Debbie, who in this room has achieved more important things in this life or has had more amazing experiences than you? You are a mother in Zion. You have brought eight children into this world. Those who are of age are happily married and are having children of their own. What is more important than that? Debbie, get up and tell these people with power what you have done.”
At that moment, the microphone was passed to our table. I had seen [Debbie] shifting in her chair and looking a bit uneasy, so I extended my hand to take the microphone, thinking to give her additional time to prepare herself. Imagine my surprise when her hand stretched out in front of mine and literally grabbed the microphone.
She confidently stood, and with an elegance difficult to describe, she said, “A few years ago I accompanied my husband here to the Harvard Kennedy School. And my most important achievement is that I am the mother of 8 children and the grandmother of 18 grandchildren” (the number of grandchildren at the time).
With that statement, spontaneous applause erupted in the room. It was the only applause of the entire evening. [Debbie] shared a few additional thoughts relating to the central, societal role of the family and the happiness found therein. Then she handed me the microphone and sat down. I stood and added simply, “I’m her husband.”

We are mothers. We love, teach, and nurture our children into responsible adults. We cry with our children, cry over our children, and cry about our children. We laugh with our children, laugh about our children, and cry when they're gone. We teach with our words, teach by example, and pray that our teaching will become internalized. We have an important job! Let us never be embarrassed to proudly say, we are mothers!

Thanks for reading,



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Parenting Tip - Do Not, I repeat, Do Not Overschedule Your Children!

I was talking with another piano teacher who told me that one of her students is blind.  She mentioned that his caretaker brings him to lessons and sits in another room waiting for him.  Her student never progresses and she was feeling frustrated one day at his lesson.  Finally, she asked him when he practiced--when in the schedule of his day did he find time to practice the piano.  He replied in astonishment, "you mean I'm suppose to practice at home?"

The teacher asked him about his day's schedule to try to help him find a time to practice but he said he was always busy.  She went and talked to his caretaker about his piano practice and she answered the same as he did, "you mean he's suppose to practice at home?"  After talking with the caregiver she realized that he had no time at all to practice the piano at home.  He went from one activity to another after school until it was time for bed.

I have had piano students do the same thing and I feel like shouting to the parents, "What are you doing??????  What are you teaching your child?"

This is really a pet peeve of mine--overscheduling children.

I've tried to look at it from the parents' perspective and know they have their children's interests at heart.  They are probably trying to enrich their children's lives, expose them to different kinds of activities and help them develop their talents.  But instead, too often, they are teaching them wrong principles.

They are teaching them:
*  I can do it all.  I'm a super kid and I can be good in sports, be in gymnastics, learn a musical instrument, swim, etc.

*  I deserve to do it all because my friends are doing it all.

*  I can do it all without practicing.  I can show up to rehearsals, lessons and that's all that's required of me.  I don't understand the concept of daily practice to become more proficient.

*  The Law of the Harvest--what you grow, you reap--what's that?  I just show up, then leave and don't really get good at anything.

*  I'm here to be entertained.

 I understand that parents want their children to be well rounded, be able to compete with their friends at school, and to develop talents.  They want them to have the life they didn't get to have, the lessons they missed out on, the talents they wished they had.  But unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

So what do parents do?  Can't your children take any lessons or experience any new classes?  Yes, of course, but there is a balance to life.  You can have your child take gymnastics or be in the after school choir or be in sports, but it doesn't have to be all at the same time.  One summer do gymnastics, one semester be in the youth choir, choose one season of sports.  Then if your child shows an increased interest in one area, choose it for continued lessons and daily practice to help your child develop a talent in that area.

Your children need time to be home with their family.  Time to do their homework without rushing through it at the last minute.  Time to sit down with the family and eat dinner.  Time to help out with family chores.  Time to play with younger siblings.  Time to read books.

Don't put your child through a rushed childhood.  Let him enjoy being a child.  Playing, imagining, swinging outside, writing with chalk on the sidewalk.  Riding his bike, skating.  Talking with you.  Laughing.  Snuggling.  Enjoying life. Loving you.

Give your child a happy childhood.

Here are just a few of my happy grandchildren.  I'm so glad their parents are balancing their activities and giving them a happy childhood.

Thanks for reading,



Thursday, October 17, 2013

Music Tip - Be a Cheerleader

One of my piano moms sent me a link to this piano post on a piano teacher's blog.  I thought it was such a good idea, I decided to talk about it too.

It seems that children who are in sports have a lot of parental and family support.  Their parents take them to practices, and many times the Dads are even the coaches, with the whole family coming out to the ball games or swimming/gymnastic meets.  It's a fun, busy time of year for the families, with grandparents also attending the weekly games.

But what about the poor, lonely piano student?  He/she gets dropped off at the teacher's house, gets nagged at every day to practice, and then has family support once a year at a piano recital.  No wonder so many children quit music lessons.

I've always pictured parents as being the cheerleaders for their children.  They encourage them, support them, tell them how great they are and attend all their activities.  But sometimes parents need to step up their cheerleading routines to keep their children interested and progressing in their music lessons.

Some parents have told me they dance while their child is practicing the piano.  One mother said she does her daughter's turn of dish washing in return for piano practicing.  One family said their 3 year old comes running into the piano room from wherever he's been in the house, just to sing along with one of the songs he really likes that his brother plays.  Another mother always stopped by Seven 11 and bought her daughter a muffin after her early morning cello lesson.  All these families are being cheerleaders.

It doesn't take much to be a cheerleader.  You just need to know how to:
  • smile
  • jump up and down
  • be enthusiastic
  • call out chants
  • clap
  • always be positive

Speaking of chants, how about:
who do we appreciate?
______________________ piano playing!
(your child's name)

Enjoy being a cheerleader this week!

Thanks for reading,



Friday, October 4, 2013

Parenting Tip - What Would Happen If....

One of my favorite things to do with grandchildren (or any children for that matter) is play the "which would you rather" game.

Which would you rather......go swimming or play at the park?
Which would you an ice cream cone or lick a sucker?

You can find out a lot about your children/grandchildren's tastes and interests by asking questions like these.

Recently I read another fun game here that fosters imagination.

What would happen if......everyone had 4 arms?
What would happen grew on trees?

Your child has to think and imagine the scenarios of these questions--which is a great cognitive skill.

Researchers are studying children and their imaginations and hoping that will help in understanding children with autism. In an article on children's "magical thinking", Dr. Harris states, "there is evidence that imagination and role play appears to have a key role in helping children take someone else's perspective. Kids with autism, on the other hand, don't engage in much pretend play, leading some to suggest that the lack of such activity contributes to their social deficits." 

Interesting! Can you help an autistic child learn to imagine things? Would that stimulate part of the injured brain and help repair it?

The Reader's Digest had an article that listed 5 benefits of encouraging your child's imagination.  I especially liked this one:

     Work out fears
     Playing pretend can help children work out their fears and worries. When children    role-play about the big, bad monster under the bed, they gain a sense of control over him and he doesn’t seem quite so big or so bad. Imaginative play also helps kids vent confusing feelings they might have, such as anger toward a parent or rivalry with a new sibling.

      To encourage your youngster’s imagination, read to him every day. Books offer  children the opportunity to visit other worlds and create new ones of their own.

I read a fun book this week to a music class of children/parents called, "Cows Can't Fly" by David Milgrim.  I had two of the older siblings play funny sounds on a keyboard after every stanza, which really added to the fun.  Then I encouraged the children to close their eyes and visualize cows flying in the sky.  I asked them what color their cows were and what they looked like.  Then I challenged them to go home and draw some cows flying.  

I was delighted to have one of my students, Clark, age 8, come back later in the day for his piano lesson, with his picture of cows that were white with blue polka dots.

*  Encourage your children to use their imagination by not providing them with lots of toys.  I loved watching my two preschool age daughters play secretary one day many years ago, using bananas as their telephones.

*  Encourage imaginations by reading to your children.  Every so often have them draw something related to the book.  

*  This site has lots of fun ideas to encourage your children's imaginations, with many ideas requiring nothing but talking with your child--like "Mouse-Eye View, and If Pickles Could Talk.  What a great way to keep your child quiet and busy while waiting in the doctor's office or grocery store line. 

And this by Walt Disney, "I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse."  I think that is hilarious and yet, profound.
Thanks for reading,


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Parenting Tip - A Zinging Book

I have a new favorite children's book series and author: the Mr Putter and Tabby books by Cynthia Rylant.
Have you read them?  One of my piano mothers told me about them and they are so cute!  I love the unexpected plots in these "early reader" books and the choice of words she uses.  Cranky, juicy, droopy, zing.

The illustrations by Arthur Howard are the best!  I love how Mr. Putter is drawn, as well as his house and cat and Mrs. Teaberry.  I always think the illustrator should get just as much or more attention than the author.  The pictures are what makes a book come alive, after all.

I looked on Cynthia Rylant's webpage and was interested to see that she picked up painting as an adult and was told to "just paint like a child."  I've always wanted to paint.  Is there hope for me?  I noticed she hasn't illustrated any of her books, yet....

What I wanted to write about, though, was the fun words Cynthia Rylant used in Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears.  Whoever says "cranky" or "zing"?   I'm going to use zing three times this week--it's such a fun word.

And cranky--that could apply to children, husbands, backs, and ourselves.  But to me, cranky sounds more softer and gentler that "mean, irritable, crabby or ornery".  Cranky has a little humor to it.  My hair is cranky today.  My emotions are cranky. 

Thanks, Bonnie, for telling me about these fun books.  They put a little "zing" in my life and I love to pass on "zingful" things.

Share with us if you've read these books or if you have a different favorite book your family loves.

Thanks for reading,



Monday, September 23, 2013

Parenting Tip - Egg Cartons and Golf Tees

I read a cute idea somewhere on the internet this summer that I tried with my grandsons and they loved it.  All you need is an empty egg carton, golf tees and a hammer, then this is what you do:

1.  Turn the egg carton upside
2.  Give hammer to child and watch his eyes light up in disbelief
3.  Hand child a golf tee and motion for him to hammer it into one of the upturned egg carton bumps
4.  Enjoy the smiles and happiness as grandson spends 30 minutes happily hammering tees into egg carton, opening carton to retrieve tees, and begin again.

I happened to have a foam egg carton and this made it really easy to hammer the golf tees in.  I think a cardboard egg carton might be more difficult, but once the holes are made, it's easy to re-hammer the tees into the same holes over and over again, which my grandson loves to do.

His little brother can't quite handle the hammering aspect of this activity, but he loves to push the tees into the holes of the upturned egg carton bumbs, then open the carton, take out the tees, and start pushing them in again.

Another thing my 3 year old grandson likes to hammer golf tees into is a square  floral foam--those green things you put in a vase and stick flowers into.  I bought a square one at the Dollar Tree and kept the plastic covering around it so it wouldn't disintegrate and make a mess.  You can hammer and re-hammer tees in it and it even has 4 sides so it should last forever. My grandson likes hammering tees into the floral foam even better than the egg carton.

So little money--so much happiness! Isn't life grand?!

Thanks for reading,



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Parenting Tip - What Matters Most?

School has started for some moms around here, but summer is winding down for others, with school just around the corner.  It's time for a new season, new routines and time to re-evaluate goals you've set.
(The cones are a family tradition that my son's children look forward to.  It's a German tradition when a child starts kindergarten to be given a "Schultute"--school cone.  My daughter-in-law fills the cones with treats like ring pops and fun school and/or art supplies).

I'm in a new season myself, just having retired from teaching music part time at school for the last 15 years.  What do I do with my two extra free days now?   Oooooo, I can think of a millions things to do.  But what are the things that matter most?

I listened again to a wonderful talk by Dieter F. Uchtdorf who talks about "things that matter most".
He listed four key relationships we need to develop: with our God, with our families, with our fellowman, and with ourselves.

Sometimes I get so bogged down with my "to do" list, that I lose sight of what should be at the top of my "to do" list and what really only needs to be on my "to do" list. [Funny side note.  The first week of my retirement I started enthusiastically, and somewhat frantically, making a list of all the things I wanted to do now.  After writing down 19 things, I felt such relief in knowing that now, I could be focused on how to use my time.  I texted my daughter and said how good that felt to write out my list.  She replied saying that she must be my daughter, because that's exactly what she does all the time too--make lists!]

But, as Elder Uchtdorf says, "Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list."

Ouch!  So back to my list to re-evaluate what falls under the four relationships mentioned above and what is just busy work, taking me away from what matters most.

Perhaps you could evaluate this new season in your life.  Do you still have preschoolers at home?  Are all your children in school now?  Are you home schooling your children?  Are you babysitting to make a little more money?

Regardless of your situation, you can still focus on the four above mentioned areas of your life to see if you are working on your important relationships.  Relationship with your God:  maybe that only means 10 minutes of scripture/meditation a day, but 10 minutes times 365 days is 3,650 minutes which is more than 60 hours which is 2 1/2 days.  Just think of the love, wisdom and advice you could get from your Father who loves you, if He talked to just you for 2 1/2 days straight.

Relationship with your family.  Well, that's vital to your family's health and well being.  Plan your together time with family wisely.  Use driving in the car time to listen to your children.  Look into your child's eyes when he is telling you about his day (uummm.... not while driving though).  Problem solve meal times so they are more pleasant. Let your child read to you.

Relationship with your fellowman.  Volunteer at school, only if it's to send cookies for a party.  Be dependable in your service at Church.  Smile at the cashier and wave to your neighbor.  These seemingly small things do count--especially if your season of life limits any big projects of service.

Relationship with yourself.  Elder Uchtdorf said,  "Some people can’t get along with themselves. They criticize and belittle themselves all day long until they begin to hate themselves. May I suggest that you reduce the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better. Walk in nature, watch a sunrise, enjoy God’s creations, ponder the truths of the restored gospel, and find out what they mean for you personally. Learn to see yourself as Heavenly Father sees you—as His precious daughter or son with divine potential."

 It's a new season.  Find out what matters most in your life, then DO IT!

Thanks for reading,



Saturday, July 20, 2013

Parenting Tip - Validation

I've been babysitting 3 of my out-of-state grandchildren while my son and his wife are out of the country--a five year old, three year old and 11 month old. Wow!  What I've been learning!

The first couple of days were hard.  Very hard.  The three year old is a strong-willed child who does not understand the concept of taking turns or sharing.  I was not enjoying myself and not acting like myself.  I was grouchy, short tempered, felt picked on and started harboring and thinking negative thoughts. 

I felt bad about my feelings and called one of my daughters.  I was so frustrated-- at ME-- not my grandchildren.  I was discouraged with myself that at my age, I still am having negative, mean thoughts, that I can't control my anger, that I'm judging and coveting.  STILL.  When am I going to improve and get over my weaknesses?

My daughter told me that I wasn't going to perfect them in this life.  That they are my struggles and weaknesses and I have to deal with them my whole life--but that's  normal.  Yes, I can improve, but they will always be my demons.

For some reason that made me feel much better.  Oh.  It's a lifelong process.  I'm not a horrible person.  Yes, I'm having problems again with my feelings and attitudes, but I can nip them in the bud quicker now, than I did several years ago.

Another thing that happened to me, was several people validated that, yes, I had a difficult three year old to deal with.  Yes, it is very hard on you.

Once I was validated, and once I realized that I'm not a horrible person, I immediately felt better and immediately became my cheerful, fun loving, creative grandma-self again.  When my grandson started yelling and crying, I could change the atmosphere just by doing silly things to distract him.  One time I yelled, "Oh my gosh, there's a dinosaur outside!".  Then I rushed outside with two little boys following me and suddenly we were outside playing and having a good time.

The daughter I talked with was having a hard time herself.  She is a nanny for a little boy who is having difficulty in the potty training area.  She felt frustrated, mean and horrible like me.  Then the father and mother of the boy got a little more involved and said how hard the situation was and immediately, my daughter felt validated.  The situation didn't change, but now she could deal creatively and cheerfully with it again.

Validation is magical!  How cool is it, that when a situation doesn't change, but we are validated in the difficulty of it, then we become able to continue to face the challenge with new strength and energy?

Who can I validate? I'm going to be a better listener, and instead of trying to solve someone's problem, I'm going to validate that they truly are having a  difficult situation. 

"Your husband works nights and you never get to see him that much?  That must be really hard."

"You've been trying to find a new job for months and can't find anything?  That must get discouraging."

"You've been trying to lose weight, but nothing seems to help?  That's so frustrating."

Validation.  Miracle cure.

Thanks for reading,



Thursday, June 13, 2013

Parenting Tip - Summer Goals

How are your Summer Goals coming? 

WHAT?  You haven't made summer goals for yourself or helped your children make summer goals?  Well, let me telling you, you're missing out on an excellent opportunity to get some things done and create a feeling of accomplishment for yourself and/or your children.

I LOVE, (repeat) LOVE to make summer goals.  I have made summer goals with my children when they were growing up each year, and have annoyed their families now that they're adults, by suggesting they make summer goals as a family.  Except this year.  I decided not to force my exuberance onto them again this year--though one daughter reported that she's really excited about doing summer goals with her family.  And a daughter-in-law loves summer goals, too.

I like to make goals during the summer because summer is a concrete length of time.  It has a beginning and an end.  It starts NOW, and ends THEN, depending on where you live and what your school calendar is.

When my children were younger we made goals on cooking, reading, learning something new, and music goals.  What a great time to teach your children how to cook a simple meal, or your teenage son/daughter how to plan a menu and cook the meals.

 What a great time to read, read, read.

What a great time to learn something new, like how to play the guitar, or earn a merit badge for your scout or cub scouter.  How about doing family history or sewing or knitting?  One year my sons were so hooked on making bookmarks out of plastic mesh, that one of them tried to sell some to the neighbors because he had made so many.

Don't plan so many activities this summer that your children don't have time to relax, play, swim, or be bored.  Yes--bored children can be creative children and make up the most interesting games and activities to do.

It's never too late to make summer goals--and actually, in some places of the United States, school isn't over yet.  So if your children are still in school, think about making summer goals this year.
Make them simple, attainable, and FUN!

Thanks for reading,



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Parenting Tip - Be a Minimalist Mom

Whoa, I was just reading a blog entry I happened to run across and had to stop and post the link  here--immediately!!

It's a post from a mom suffering from post partum depression, but that's not what the post is about.  It's about how her young daughter completely changed from being a whiny, moody, obstinate, change -clothes-constantly, non sleeping child into a happy, cooperative child again.

I know.  You're thinking, "what's the secret?  Tell me quick!"

She decluttered all the toys--picked up stuff off the floor and just put the stuff in a box in the other room.  She did it every day for two weeks--her daughter even started helping her. 

What was the reaction of her daughter?  She spun in a circle in her room and said, "It's a dream come true! Thank you for my new room mommy!"

Then this mother lists how her daughter has turned back into a normal, happy child again.

Are you sick of having a messy house?  Are there toys all over the floor that your child rarely plays with?  Are you feeling claustrophobic with junk piling everywhere?  Are you a hoarder?  Are you selfish?

Declutter.  Get rid of stuff.  Give it away.  It's WRONG to have so much of nothing.  It's WRONG to teach our children they need more, and more and more.

It's RIGHT to live a simple life.  It's RIGHT to enjoy using what you have.  It's RIGHT to not have so many decisions to make, clothes to wash, toys to pick up.  It's RIGHT to let children be creative and use throwable things to entertain themselves.

Stop the EXCESS!

Okay.  Sorry for the rant.  I think I've got it out of my system now.  But I'm going to take this thought to heart and go declutter my own house.

Thanks for reading,



Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.  ~William Morris

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.  ~Hans Hofmann, Introduction to the Bootstrap, 1993

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Parenting Tip - Establish a Summer Schedule

My son and his wife and 5 children are coming for a month long visit this summer, and I'm getting really excited to see them.  But I'm also thinking, "yikes, 5 kids ages 10 down to a baby.  How do I keep them busy?"  So I've been having a lot of fun searching the internet for fun summer activities--and if you've been out there surfing alongside me, you'll understand when I say there are a TON of ideas.

But first things first.  To make summer enjoyable, you have to be organized and ahead of the game.  That's why I'm sharing some summer organizational ideas I found that interested me.  Maybe they'll work for you too.  These ideas go from very simple to more complex.

This idea from Home Stories A to Z  is pretty simple.  Just type up ideas of things you 
want to do this summer, add some artwork, print
them and post them.

The next idea from Somewhat Simple and
Remarkable Home
has a different focus for each day. 


The blog, The Finer Things in Life has a free printable bingo poster of activities to do this summer.  She lists several fun ways to use the bingo idea so you can twist it to your family's needs.

The Reading Confetti blog had a cute alphabetical listing
of summer ideas. 

The Power of Moms  has a great chart to download of daily things each child needs to do each day.


These are just a few of the many, many ideas out there.  My suggestion to you is to ponder what YOUR focus should be this summer, decide how YOU want to implement it, and do it YOUR way.
 (Hmmm, that sounds like a song).  Then don't look back.  Don't compare your family with any one else.  Don't feel guilty you're not doing what someone else is doing.

Feel positive about how you are mothering your children with the abilities and strength you have in this season of your life.  You are like no one else and your family is like no one else. Never compare.
Just ENJOY! 

Life is meant to be enjoyed, and so is summer! Eat lots of watermelon :)

Thanks for reading,



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Parenting Tip - Housework Scavenger Hunt

 Summer is here for lots of you moms out there.  Now is the time to get some strategies going so that you have a successful and happy summer.  My daughter just emailed what she was doing today and I thought I should share it.

Problem: The house is a mess today and I can't and shouldn't clean it all myself.
Solution: A Housework Scavenger Hunt!
(We earn stickers for chores that later transfer into quarters.)

Here are the clues:
 We’ll start in a place where we like to hang out.
Reading and piano are what this room's about.

Let’s go to a room where we all like to sit.
We brush, wash, and ‘go’ there. Can you think of it?

Now let’s collect yucky stuff all over the house.
We need to get it out before it attracts a mouse!

Let’s go to the room that is mostly clean in part.
Just clutter from projects and animals and art.

Now each of you start on the room where you dress.
Pick up 30 things each while I sweep up this mess.

We’ll go back to bedrooms after piano lessons are done.
For now get 2 stickers and then go have some fun.

 Ok, let’s get back to the place where we drop
Shoes, backpacks, mittens, lunchboxes, papers and socks.

Now that that’s finished, who’s up for a race?
Get an old rag and let’s mop this whole place.

Let’s straighten the room with the big fireplace.
It shouldn’t take long, there’s not much out of place.

Now let’s finish up where you lay down your heads.
If we get it sparkling we can rearrange some beds.

While we are here, let’s straighten another little room.
It’s hardly a mess and does not need a broom.

I think we are almost done with our chores.
Put up 2 more stickers, then put clothes in your drawers.

You were such a big help, I couldn’t have done it without you!
Please go eat a popsicle as my way of saying THANK YOU!!

Good luck with your summer ideas!  I'll be posting lots more ideas, so check back often.
Thanks for reading,



Thursday, May 30, 2013

Music Tip - Pete the Cat Books

Have you heard about or read Pete the Cat books?  I had never heard of him until I visited my grandkids in Utah.  One day someone in the family said something--can't remember what--- then all of a sudden the whole family started singing a funny little song.  I found out the song was from one of the Pete the Cat books.

I decided to investigate and this is what I found out:  Pete the Cat books are famous!  And cute! Some have songs in them, and Pete teaches something in each book like colors, numbers, being a good helper, etc.  They tend to be written for toddler to early elementary grade children.

The website at Harper Collins Children's  has a lot of fun activities to do in connection with Pete.You can learn about the author/illustrator, read about the books, download free activity pages and download the songs for free as well. 

Check out Pete on You Tube.  Several of the books are read and sung.  Your young children will love Pete!

Thanks for reading,




Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

If you're a daughter--tell your mother how much you love her.
If you're a mother--tell your children how much you love them.
If you're a mother feeling bad about how you "mother" your children--change ONE thing today.

Be happy.
Be grateful.
Love life.

Thanks for reading,



Monday, May 6, 2013

Parenting Tip - Have a More Meaningful Mothers Day

I hate Mother's Day.  I know, I know. I'm horrible.  I don't mind honoring MY mother, of course-- she's one in a million.  It's all the attention I feel like I'm getting, but not deserving and I would just rather hibernate until the day is over.

But this year, I would like you to visit the Arizona American Mother's blog.  Tamara Passey, 2013 Young Mother of the Year, is posting ideas each day that will help you make Mother's Day a little more meaningful in your life.

Go check it out!

Thanks for reading,


Monday, April 22, 2013

Parenting Idea - Forget Perfectionism if you're a Parent

 My extended family has a group email where we share and exchange ideas and thoughts. My daughter recently emailed the following question.  With her permission I'm posting it on my blog with some of the answers she received.  Hopefully this might help you, too.

Hi Family,
I would like to call in for some back-up from all the wise and wonderful parents out there.

Did you/Do you ever feel like no matter how many good and important things you were doing as a parent, there were a couple random things that if you didn't do- you were a failure parent all together?

For example, I know I'm a good mom: my kids brush teeth every night, I make their lunches, I say I love you, we go for walks.  Not to mention the obviously most important things like weekly FHE, daily family prayers, and scripture study.  But for some reason, I also feel like it's all not good enough unless I am 1. teaching my kids piano and 2. reading to them at night; two things that are good, but definitely not going to make or break their salvation.  And two things that I can not for some reason get consistently into our lives!

So I'm just wondering... Are there/were there things like this for you as you raised your kids?  Or am I alone in this ridiculous yet frustrating status. 
Hopeful for some help and humor, 

Here's my mother's reply:
 Faith, Why are there only two things on your list of things that you are not doing consistently?  You should also be worrying because you aren't teaching your kids Spanish and Chinese, in a world where those languages would certainly be good to learn.  You should also be
worrying because they don't know how to do the grocery shopping yet. Ok.  There is the humor you were looking for.  

 Being frustrated because you are not perfect never ends.  I think because the devil knows he can't get us to take drugs, or have an affair with the mail carrier, he CAN, however, use the perfectionist streak we have to keep us from enjoying the things we can do, and do do.  I think that perfectionism is a test (just like any other test) and realizing it is essential to our sanity.  And it never ends, just like an alcoholic's craving for liquor never ends.  A test is a test because it's HARD, and perfectionism is hard.  Your email came at a good time for me and reminded me that no, I'm not perfect and won't be perfect (I'm really just old) and most of the things I worry about just keep me from enjoying what I can, and am, doing.  I'll bet every mother on Skunkville can identify with your frustrations.  YOU ARE A GOOD MOTHER AND, BY ASKING YOUR QUESTION, HAS HELPED ALL THE REST OF US ON SKUNKVILLE, RECOGNIZE AND LAUGH AT SOME OF THE THINGS FRUSTRATING US. I FEEL MUCH BETTER JUST FROM READING YOUR LETTER AND TYPING THIS REPLY.  I hope it makes you feel better too. 

 My son's reply to my mother's reply (we call her Mormor, that's Swedish for mother's mother)
You answered a question I have had for a long time.  I can only see the trials, temptations, and sins that I am faced with at a given age.  I have a hard time thinking of any sins that I will face when I get older.  I have often thought, "What type of sin is there that prevents older people from being perfect?"  Having seen your laundry list, I have something to look forward to when I get old.

 My sister-in-law's reply
 Hi Faith,
     Yes, all us Moms and Dads can relate to how you are feeling.  As you know, Uncle Mark & I have raised 5 kids so far, and have 4 to still finish raising.  There are times I wish I could go back in time and do a few things better or different, but I wouldn't trade the wisdom that comes from learning.  If there is one thing(out of the many) we have learned, it is not to stress too much about things, but do the best we can. There are so many things(work, church, school, etc.) that demand our time. We decided long ago that we would concentrate on a few things most important on our list, and if we could fit a few extra things in we would.  We have had to really compact down what we do in life. Otherwise, everyone(us and the kids) feel overwhelmed. Time is such a gift, but we have had to really decide what is worth our time.  We also have learned to take time to enjoy the journey.

Matthew [their down syndrome son] has taught us to enjoy the little things.  He gets so excited over things that most of us would over look.  He has helped us see what truly is most important.  Since I am homeschooling him, I sometimes feel like I am not a good teacher. I had wanted everything traditional as far as teaching him goes. Like writing, reading, math, etc.. Mark keeps reminding me that I am teaching him, but in the way that works for him.  So we do computer games, ipad, coloring, singing, t.v., dress up time(costumes), and things like this.  He is learning, and I am trying to not be hard on myself.  So I hope something I said in this helps.  I need to remind myself everyday even at the age of 50 years old that I am doing the best I can, and it will all work out good in the end.  Here is a poem I saved from many years ago.  It reminded me that what we do as Mom's is important even though we don't feel it is enough sometimes.

If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again
If I had my child to raise all over again, I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging.
I'd see the oak tree in the acorn more often.
I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.
I'd model less about the love of power, and more about the power of love.
Author Unknown
 My brother's reply:
 Great poem, Tammy.  It is very true.

Here is some advice from me:
  • perfection isn't required nor attainable in the role of being a Mom (or most other things for that matter).
  • not everyone needs to play the piano (we had friends once who had 6 kids and each one was always enrolled in something--piano, dance, football, basketball, soccer, cheerleading, band and on and on, year after year).  It made me wonder if we were slacking off when I would look out the window and see our kids just swinging or jumping on the trampoline.  Their kids didn't turn out any better or worse than ours. 
  • Choose a style that works for you and yours and stay the course for the long run. 
  • We often rotated who got to be in a sport or activity.  They could support their siblings by attending the game as supporters instead of the star.
  • Unstructured time is great sometimes.
  • I loved reading to the kids at night but that was my thing, not the only thing or even the right thing.  I didn't play catch with them or teach them to fix the car.  Maybe I should have, but I didn't and none of them are in Alcatraz.  (Of course, that isn't a very high standard for determining successful parenting).
  • Find what you and your kids love doing and just keep doing that.  It will become a good memory to them and you are more likely to keep it up.
  • Elder Oaks wrote an Ensign article once called "Two Cheers for Excellence".  If you can find it, it might apply to your question.  As I recall, the point was that 'excellence' wasn't always the goal --hence, only two cheers (not three) for excellence.
  • I know some people with some terrible parents.  Make a list of all the things you don't, haven't and won't do to your kids and you will begin to see that you are getting the important things right.  These are real things people have told me about their parents (Moms and Dads).  Believe me, you aren't the one who should be worrying about your parenting skills:
  1. Fed the kids breakfast then sent them outside and locked the door.  They were not to come home until dinner time.
  2. Put a big bowl of cereal on the floor and told him--a toddler--to feed himself for the day.  Mom went back to bed, locked the door and drank.
  3. Mom only spoke to say "Shut up!" "Stop that" "Go away" "You're stupid".
  4. Dad threw them against the wall.
  5. Mom/Dad/Grandparents sexually abused them.
  6. Father shot himself in the head in the house.
  7. Guardian (an angry grandmother who hated men) dressed him as a girl and locked him out of the house.
  8. Screamed.  Screamed.  Screamed.
  9. Drank.
  10. Left and never returned.
God is the only perfect parent.  It is a tough job but very very rewarding.  Enjoy the chaos and imperfection and move forward with...Faith.


 My daughter-in-law's reply:
I understand what you are going through.  I feel guilty if my house is not perfectly clean.  Which, Elise assures me, is totally unnatural and freaky since none of her friends' houses are perfectly clean.  I used to guilt myself about my kids not being in multiple activities, I guilt myself that I haven't worked on reading as much as I should with Maya, and that my kids don't get music lessons, that my bathroom walls and refrigerator aren't covered in scripture quotes, with everyone with an assigned scripture to learn that week.  etc. etc.  There are a thousand things that I have felt guilty, inadequate, and a horrible mother for over the last 13 years.  However, I have also learned that my kids are perfectly fine, and capable of surviving without those things.  The basics are the most important to provide your children.  Love, food, fhe, prayer, and scripture study.  Everything else is fluff.  My children may not be able to play the piano, quote scriptures, turn somersaults, read greek, or speak a second language..... but they know that they are loved.  They will be just fine or make some therapist a very rich person.  

I have also learned that having a 13 year old is not easy.  These middle school years have been a real struggle for us as parents.  She started out the beginning of each year as a great student and then by the second quarter she was getting d's and f's in all but two of her classes.  We tried everything, taking away books, computer, internet, tv, no friends, bribery, rewards..... It was driving us nuts and making our relationship with her one big battle.  I talked to a lady who is a middle school counciler [at another school].  She said that we (mostly me) just needed to stop letting her have this power over us.  So the plan was for me to never look at her grades or say anything about homework. In essence I had to accept that Elise's grades and actions were her responsibility and had no reflection on me as a parent.  When teachers e-mailed me about her grades and requested a meeting. I explained to them that Elise's grades were her choice and she would have to accept the consequences of her poor choices.  I told them, and the school, that if she had to repeat 8th grade, or go to summer school I was completely fine with that.  Every time Elise complained about a teacher or class in school I cheerfully assured her that I'm sure she would enjoy them even more the second time around. So for months now I have bit my tongue,  not mentioned homework,  have cheerfully assured her how fun it will be to make friends with all of the 7th graders,   I have cried in my room in frustration and anger.  But our relationship has gotten better. She has been doing  her homework, and getting better grades.  She even comes out of her room and talks to us now!

 My reply:
 As a mother you attend many funerals....the funeral of the dream of having your child potty trained before age 3, the funeral of the dream of your home being always clean and tidy, the funeral of the dream of having children who all play two instruments.  But after you cry and bury your dream, you find a peace and calm come to you as you accept your children as they are and life as it is and your season of time as it is now in the present. 

You have to accept who YOU are, and bury the dream of being like someone else.  I just had to experience that AGAIN today as I sat in the airport waiting room wishing I looked like that lady over there, and that one just over there.

Satan wants us to be discouraged, depressed and down on ourselves.  Well, get thee behind me, Satan.  And get out of my daughter, Faith's way!  She'll bulldoze you to the ground and you'll be wondering what hit you.
Love you Faith,

 My son's reply:
In the words of Jeffrey Holland a few weeks ago:

"In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, 
in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.

So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who 
 serve with you… Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, 
imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be 
terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. 
And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in 
the divinity of the work. 
As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, 
it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels 
can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels 
include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving."

- Ammon

 I hope this has helped some of you. If you have additional thoughts, please add them in the comments. 

Thanks for reading, 



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