Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Some thoughts on mothering...

**I started writing this post on Mother's Day, and am just now finishing it, but I still really wanted to share it.**

I have had a wonderful Mother's Day today.  Not because I had breakfast in bed (because I didn't), or because I had the day off to relax and do nothing (because I didn't), or because I got flowers (because, again, I didn't), but because I mothered, and I enjoyed it.  Loved it, actually.  I always love being a mother, but in all honesty, sometimes it's hard to find joy in the everyday ins and outs of mothering, but today I felt it.  A lot.  And it made me happy.

I read books, got on the floor and played with and tickled my boys, I talked to my boys, I hugged and kissed them, and sang with them, and laughed with them.  It wasn't a perfect day behavior-wise, but I didn't mind, because these boys I have are amazing, they're mine, I love them, and guess what?  They love me!!!!  They really do, and today I felt it.

Lately, I've been feeling inadequate as a mother.  Shocking, I know.  I am pretty sure that every single mother in the world feels this way at one point or another.  Well, lately, I've been feeling it all. of. the. time.  Like, every single day I feel bad about myself.  The other day I saw my friend on the subway when I was out by myself for a couple hours, and I said something like: "I feel like I am never doing enough as a mother.  Am I just going to feel like this forever?"  I can't really remember what she said in response, but I remember that it gave me the impression that she didn't feel this way all of the time, which instead of making me feel jealous, made me feel hopeful, and made me think about what I could do to not feel this way.

One of the things that I think about a lot in regards to my children, is what I do with them every day.  The activities we do, or rather don't do, especially when we are at home.  I beat myself up so much about not home-schooling them, or not doing lots of crafts or creative activities with them, when in reality, none of those things really appeal to me, and when I do them with my kids, it's not usually fun for any of us.  They last about 5 minutes with a craft and while home-schooling sounds so great in theory, when it comes down to it, it actually just sounds really horrible.

I think part of it is that I feel like if I'm not busy busy busy, all day long, then it means I'm not doing a good job as a mom.  But I am starting to realize that that is just not true at all.  That it's often in those calm moments, that we experience the most joy and fulfillment with our children.  I tried it out a little bit this last week, where I tried to "just be" as a mom... snuggling and talking with my kids more,  listening to music with them, saying "yes" to reading a book with them more often, giving them {real} hugs when they ask for them, pausing to give them a kiss and say "I love you"... they're all really natural and simple things.  I'm not forcing it, I'm really just following my kids' leads, doing the kinds of things that they want to do.  And you know what I realized?  Pretty much all they want to do is be near me.  Sometimes they want me to do something with or for them, but a lot of times they just want to sit next to me or be in the same room with me.  It's a simple thing, but it clearly means a lot to them.  I have found that Sayer becomes quickly agitated and upset when I don't answer him right away, or do the thing that he has asked me to do 5 times already, because he has learned that that is what he has to do, to get me to do the thing he has asked me to do.  Often because I'm distracted doing something unimportant.  They just need attention and acknowledgment, and not even constantly, if we give it to them consistently.  This week, while I was trying to "just be", Sayer was so much more calm and happy, because he felt loved.  We did fun things spontaneously, because I wanted to do them.  And you know what?  It was fun!  For both of us!  Then it clicked (after only 5 and a half years of being a mom)... that the things I do a lot of with my kids, should be things that we enjoy! (duh)  It doesn't have to be what everyone else is doing.  It doesn't have to be crafts (thank goodness--I think I genuinely used to enjoy crafts, but living in NYC has changed that. It's because of the domino-effect that happens whenever we have to get to something that is tucked away in a cupboard or drawer... you move one thing and it makes everything else fall... this is what happens with my craft supplies)!  It doesn't have to take a lot of preparation or require a lot of supplies.  For me and my kids, it means saying "yes" more to the things they ask to do with me, like pouring and stirring ingredients into a bowl, even if it means that it will take a little bit longer, and require a little bit more clean up.  I know it sounds simple and silly, but I can't tell you how much peace I felt when I finally had this realization... that we each, as mothers, need to find the things that we are good at, that we enjoy doing, and that they enjoy doing, and do those things with our kids.

I read a really wonderful talk by Patricia Holland on Sunday (Mother's Day), that I gained a lot of insight from.  It basically talks about finding our "inner divinity", or what makes us individuals and unique and special in God's eyes, and moving forward with that, instead of getting down on ourselves for the things that we are maybe not as good at, or don't enjoy.  She gives a series of steps to implement in our lives to reach that "inner stillness", where we can feel confident in ourselves, and as a result of that, be able to be genuinely happy when other women accomplish things in areas where maybe we haven't.  There was really so much to it that I couldn't possibly do it justice, but it was a great article and I highly recommend it.  I have continued to think about it a lot during these 2 weeks since I have read it.

I love being a mother, and am so, SO grateful for the many ways that it has pushed me and made me take good, hard looks at myself, and has basically forced me to learn and grow.  Our children are such blessings in mine and Nate's lives and I feel incredibly blessed to be intrusted with them.  It really is such a gift that I often take for granted, which is something I am working on improving everyday. 

I hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day and were able to cherish your little loves. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guess what?!!

 The title of this post is meant to be read in a high-pitched sing-songy voice, fyi.

I have a bad habit of waiting to post good news.  I don't know why.  I think I'm saving it up or something, like for a special day.  Well, that's stupid, and this morning I just felt like shouting it to the cyber world, because, well, it's super exciting...

We. Are. Moving!!!

Yep, moving up in the world.  We will be saying goodbye to our pathetic 500 square foot apartment that we have been squeezing into for the last {almost} 4 years and will be saying hello to a glorious 3 bedroom apartment.  I wish I knew the square footage, but don't worry, I will probably measure it when I get there, in less than 2 weeks!  Honestly I wish it were tomorrow.  I would gladly pull an all-night-er packing if it meant that I could get out of this hell hole.  Yeah, that's a little dramatic, I know, but that is honestly how I feel right now.  Our apartment looks like this
We can barely walk in our front door.  I did finally get rid of that huge box, though.]

We're grateful for all of the free boxes our friends gave us, but it is ridiculous how much space they take up!

This actually doesn't look that bad.  It usually looks worse.
It's more than a little bit ridiculous.  We can't get into the desk or closet in our bedroom and we have to move things to get into bed at night.  I want to start packing right this second, but am worried about where we are going to put all the boxes.  There is honestly not a single ounce of extra space.  Maybe once I get things a little more cleaned up it won't be so bad, but it's overwhelming to think about cleaning when there is just no where to put anything.  I think I'm going to start today though, just because I know packing always takes way longer than I think it will, and plus, I think it will help make the next week and a half go by a little quicker if I'm actually working towards my goal.  

So for those of you who don't know, Nate got a job here in the city.  He is working with the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, as kind of a project manager, I guess.  They are working on getting a text book out on the history of rock and roll.  Pretty cool.  The project is supposed to be about 2 years, so we {I} are hoping to time the ending of this job with the finishing of his dissertation perfectly. :)  We had been back and forth about leaving the city this summer to live in UT for the duration of Nate's dissertation writing, but then a few job opportunities popped up and we started to feel like leaving the city wasn't the right thing to do.  But our apartment has been just awful for awhile now, and I was feeling like I couldn't take it anymore {which was one of the reasons we were thinking about moving to UT}.  Our building is closing down next summer for renovations {which are badly needed} so we were going to move into a different apartment in the building- which would give us a change of scenery and a little more open-ness- for a year and then figure out where to go after that.  But one day a few weeks ago, I felt like I should go apply for the waiting list to a building that a few families in our ward live in.  They called me back shortly after to say that they couldn't give us a two bedroom because we had too many people and the waiting list was 2-3 years long, but, they had a 3 bedroom that they could offer us at a discounted rate, due to our income.  Um... ok?!  It all fell into place really quickly, we went and looked at it an hour later and said we wanted it right on the spot.  I couldn't believe how nice it was... real hardwood floors, lots of light, a normal layout, renovated bathrooms {1 1/2 baths!} and kitchen {with the fridge IN the kitchen!!!!}, 2 {2!!!} walk-in closets!  That is pretty hard {impossible} to come by in the city, at least when you're looking in our price range.  There are also closets in the hallway and in all the bedrooms.  We were still a little nervous about taking the apartment, as it is more expensive, and things are going to be tight, but we feel good about the decision and are hoping and praying that things will continue to work out.

Honestly, part of me still can't believe that we are going to have all these things in just a short time.  Living in a tiny, cluttered apartment with a teensy kitchen makes you a different kind of mother.  At least it has made me a different mother than I thought I would be.  I realize that subconsciously, I made a choice to let some of those things go, because it was just easier, but still, the fact remains that the space we live in makes things harder, especially when you have 3 crazy {seriously, they're crazy} boys right under your feet all the time.  I am really looking forward to having the space to be organized and uncluttered, and a kitchen that will help me be inspired to cook, instead of inducing anxiety every time I think about cooking a meal in there.  We will have space to put our nice new table along with chairs and a bench so that our entire family can sit down together for a meal at the same time.  I can count on both my hands the number of times we have had a family meal together, just because we don't have the space for it.  It makes me sad.  I know that things are not going to change over night, but I do know that it is going to help inspire me to be better.  I'm not really going to have any excuses anymore, so now is the time to start making changes and building habits that will hopefully last a long time. 

So yeah.  Just wanted to share that exciting news!!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

It takes a village...

I have a son, and his name is Asher.  He is a very sweet, smart, energetic, fun, happy and curious little boy.  He loves people, birds, penguins, playing outside, imagining, playing with toys, reading books, his brothers, chocolate, pasta, bread, playing in the water, watching shows about volcanoes and other natural phenomenons, potty talk, laughing, moving and jumping {a lot}, and so much more. 

I love him so much!

But he is hard.  It is a constant battle trying to figure out what to do with him, depending on what his current behavior is.  To be fair, for every rough patch, there has been a period of calm where he is thriving, being considerate and rational, and just a complete joy.  He really is a sweet and happy kid, he also just happens to have an iron will and seems to be determined to prove to me and everyone else that he is going to do what he wants, when he wants, and apparently, there is not a thing that we can do about it.  The biggest problem right now is school.  He has been giving his teachers a run for their money for 2 or 3 weeks now- being defiant about the rules and not seeming to care about any consequences that he may receive, or even caring that he is being rude and disrespectful to his teachers, whom he loves very much, I might add.  He doesn't seem to have regard for anyone's feelings but his own.  He's being purely selfish.  He's gone through phases like this at home as well, where nothing we do or say gets through to him.  At this point, he definitely understands what he is doing wrong- he knows how to behave in school, he knows what's going to happen if he doesn't, yet he doesn't care- he does it anyway.  I feel like we have tried everything... ignoring bad behavior, giving major consequences consistently, positive consequences for good behavior,  a loving and positive approach where we are working with him calmly and giving him chances to fix bad choices, talking and reasoning with him, explaining rules and why we have them, etc etc.  I've got his teachers calling me pretty much everyday, telling me his bad behavior and having me talk to him, talking to me after school...  I talk to them, brainstorm ideas, tell them a little about my experiences with this, but ultimately I look at them and tell them honestly: "I'm so sorry, but I'm not really sure what to do about this."  Because I don't.  I don't have the answer.  Do we just shrug it off, tell him we love him and tell him to work harder tomorrow and give him positive encouragement?  Should we be completely hard core and throw everything we've got at him?  Part of me thinks we should... he has got to learn that his behavior is not ok and that he is not in charge, at school or at home, and maybe consequence after consequence is the way to do that {although, it hasn't been working so far}.  But on the other hand, he's 5.  He's a boy.  An active boy who loves to run around and be silly and have fun, and both his teacher and I agree that we don't want to squash that.  And lets be honest, a 30 minute lunch/recess is not exactly cutting it for an 8 hour day.  Even I got more breaks than that when I was working full time.  It actually breaks my heart at the thought of a 5 year old little boy not being able to go to recess, participate in fun events at school, and even at home, as that is part of his consequence for being on red at school.  Should life be so tough for such a little kid?  What keeps coming to my mind as I am typing this is "moderation in all things", and balance.

We thought we had a breakthrough yesterday.  His teachers gave him lots of positive reinforcement, no negative attention, and he worked really hard and had a great day.  But then today, both his science teacher and his classroom teachers called me because he is back to being defiant and not caring at all.  He has to stay after school today and then I have to go meet with his science teacher (who in my opinion is a little too hard core) and she is going to tell me everything that he is doing and then look at me and expect me to be able to whip him into shape.  Sorry lady, wish I could.  Believe me.

To be honest, I'm starting to think that the answer might be to switch schools.  I have really loved Harlem Success for so many reasons... their method of teaching seems to be top notch and Asher has genuinely seemed to love it there, and I love, love, love his teacher.  He has learned so, so much and has had fun doing it.   But I often feel like their behavioral expectations for these little kids borders on unreasonable.  Especially considering the fact that it is such a long day and they only get one 30 minute break, which gets taken away from them if they are on red.  He has had rough patches here and there throughout the year, but for the most part he has done really well, and it's just been these last few weeks that he has really gotten out of control.  It's a tough call.  Something to think about.

I'm definitely thinking about it and praying about it, talking to people about it, and I would love to hear about your experiences with this.  Have you had a child that struggles complying with rules in school?  What have you done to remedy the situation and encourage them to work hard and do their best and to respect rules and teachers?  Please, I could use all the help I can get!