Friday, September 12, 2014


I have decided to consolidate all of my blogs into one.

My new all-in-one blog is called We Live After the Manner of Happiness, and on it I will frequently write short and sweet posts about a variety of topics, including Self Education, Motherhood, Homeschooling, the Gospel, and Healthy Eating.

I may still post here on occasion, particularly if I have a longer post I wish to write, but I hope you'll follow me there, since my new format allows me to be far more consistent in my posting and more flexible in my topics.

See you there!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hard days...

Some days are just HARD.  I mean back-breaking, losing-your-mind, on-the-verge-of-tears all-day-long kind of hard.  Sometimes those particularly hard days string together into weeks and those weeks into months and occasionally even those months into years.

I hate to admit it, but the last two years have felt that way to me.  I was suffering from what I view as prolonged post-partum depression after having C, and during that time I'm afraid the good days felt like the exception instead of the rule.

That is why the last three months have been such a miracle for me.  It has felt like I have finally broke to the surface of my sea of depression and I am finally breathing fresh air again.  I am enjoying my life.  I feel in control.  I feel grateful, and I feel truly, deeply happy.

Feeling this good for this long has been beautiful and miraculous.  My house is clean, my days are productive, and my mind feels clear.  It's no wonder I panicked when I had a bad couple of days this weekend.

Last Thursday I forgot that I had jury duty.  I was supposed to call in Wednesday night to find out if they needed me, but I spaced it.  I didn't remember until 7:30am the next day, at which point I made the phone call and was told I needed to be at the courthouse in an hour--no exceptions.  Never mind that I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old and am QUITE pregnant.

I called my husband who was at school already though not in class and told him that I was going to have to come pick him up so he could watch the girls and drop me off at the courthouse.  I put shoes on little feet underneath pajamas, tore them away from their breakfasts, and was pushing them out the door when I discovered that I didn't have the keys.  My husband did.  They were still in his pocket even though the car was home with me.  My stress level went up ten notches.

I sat down.  What to do...

It was now eight o'clock and I had neither a babysitter nor a ride.  I contemplated just not going.  What else could I do?  But I had an inkling that there were pretty negative consequences for missing jury duty, even when you have a really good reason.

Luckily this story has a happy ending.  I saw my friend walking back from dropping her daughter off at the bus stop and I was able to ask her to give me a ride while her husband watched my kids.  I made it being only five minutes late.  In the end, the trial was declared a mistrial and I got home by eleven-thirty or so.  I am SO grateful for her and her husband's willingness to serve me on such short notice and such unique circumstances.  Turns out, I would have been charged $500 had I not showed up!

Even with the happy ending though, this chaos and unexpected anxiety threw off the rest of my weekend big time.  I spent the rest of that day making cupcakes and soup for a Halloween party we had that night.  I gave myself the next day off to recover from all the hectic-ness of the previous day and subsequently entirely forgot about a doctor's appointment I had.  Saturday and Sunday were full of family functions and Stake Conference.  By Sunday night, (probably due to all the stress,) I started having some really intense contractions.  This had me very worried.  (It's definitely not time for baby brother to come yet.)  They tapered off in intensity but kept me up all night.  I was worse than a zombie yesterday morning from the sleep deprivation, and for the first time in the past three months, I had me a solid sad-cry.  (I have had plenty of happy-cries and I always welcome those.)

So yesterday was a hard day, . . . a REALLY hard day, . . . a dark day, if you will.  It got me thinking about the last two years, and I felt myself bracing for a dip back down into the deep.  But last night I had a relatively good night's sleep, I woke up before the girls and studied my scriptures, and today turned out to be better--much better.  I don't feel so worried anymore.

My take-aways:

1.  Sleep deprivation is my emotional enemy.
2.  When I'm feeling blue, there are things I can do.
  • turn on a light
  • turn on some music
  • clean up the mess
  • take a shower
  • get dressed
  • go outside
  • talk to someone
  • change my diet
3.  I like to be in control, but sometimes I just have to go with the flow.
4.  Elder Uchtdorf taught, "It is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Mother's Love

"Pure love is an incomparable, potent power for good. Righteous love is the foundation of a successful marriage. It is the primary cause of contented, well-developed children. Who can justly measure the righteous influence of a mother’s love? What enduring fruits result from the seeds of truth that a mother carefully plants and lovingly cultivates in the fertile soil of a child’s trusting mind and heart? As a mother you have been given divine instincts to help you sense your child’s special talents and unique capacities. With your husband you can nurture, strengthen, and cause those traits to flower."

-- Elder Scott

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Flower Garden

A mother is like a gardener.

Her responsibility is to nurture her little flowers, to help them to grow.  She can't force it; she can't make them come up faster or sooner or bloom bigger or be a different color.  What she can control is their environment.  She chooses a fertile piece of ground, tills it, weeds it, fertilizes it.  She plants the flowers the proper depth and distance apart.  She waters them, makes sure they get enough sunlight, and takes precautions against animals and insects that could harm them.

And then she waits.  The growing is ultimately up to her little flowers.

It takes an enormous amount of faith to simply do your part and leave the rest to God.  But, oh!  What joy you feel when you see your little seeds sprout, and grow, and eventually flourish and bloom!  Nothing compares.

I've thought a great deal about all the different components of nurturing:  feeding, bathing, comforting, teaching...  And something that I keep coming back to again and again is the fact that homemaking--the acts that comprise the making of a home; the creating and upkeeping of the home environment--are nearly as crucial as the work we do directly with our little ones.

It is so easy to feel not only overwhelmed but even apathetic about housework as a mother.  When I sit and read with my girls I feel so fulfilled.  The benefits seem obvious and almost immediate in terms of building relationships and sparking interest.  But as I contemplate attacking that stack of dishes or pile of laundry, it's far more difficult to imagine the positive outcomes, for they are far more subtle and complex.

I think it is easier to realize the impact we make by our hard work when we consider what would happen if we failed in that regard.  Imagine living in a home where the dishes, the laundry, the cleaning was never done, or else procrastinated to the very limit of what we could stand.  For one thing, your little ones would likely get sick far more often.  For another, your things (whether they be toys, books, movies, electronics,) would pile up, get lost and be useless to you or else end up broken.  Think of the money that would be wasted in your attempts to replace things, or avoid doing work such as paper plates and utensils.  Think of the arguments that would inevitably result from the chaos in the home.  Consider your stress-level in that situation.  How effectively could you teach and raise your children in that environment and atmosphere?

This is obviously an extreme example, but I propose that these negative results come by degrees according to our willingness to be attentive to the cleaning and housework that at times can seem so menial.  In other words, if I do fifty-percent of the work I know I should be doing, I might expect to have half of these negative outcomes.  Maybe we argue half as much, lose half as many toys, waste half as much money...

Now, I'm not promoting perfectionism here.  Life gets messy, and I have no problem with my house looking lived in throughout the day.  But I think that common sense can guide us when it comes to determining what is acceptable and what is not in terms of our household responsibilities and expectations.

For me, housekeeping is equatable to the weeding of my little garden.  No matter how much I focus on my flowers, if I haven't provided them with an environment that is conducive to their growth, my success can only be limited at best.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Every now and then I have these moments of extreme clarity, when I realize:  Wow!  I actually have a living being growing inside me!  What a miracle!  It is a few-times-in-a-lifetime (if you're one of the lucky ones) experience.  I feel very blessed.

I try hard to hold on to that perspective and remember it always.  But it can be hard. Life gets in the way.  There are other moments when I find myself wishing away the next few months before baby brother gets here; pregnancy can be pretty miserable and exhausting at times.  But so can being a mother of a newborn, or being a mother of a toddler, or of a preschooler, or a house full of grown-up kids for that matter!

I know we hear it often--so often that it has almost become cliche.  But we can't afford to wish our lives away, especially not as mothers.  Because the truth is that these next few months--not to mention the next few years and decades--are going to fly by.  This is said so often because it is a powerful and universal truth; life is short and precious.  Use it wisely.  Appreciate it fully.  Enjoy it thoroughly.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Personal Discipline Manifesto

Every so often--probably about every month or so--I find that I need to step back and take a refresher course on the fundamentals principles I have learned about discipline.  These ideas are simple really, but somehow they are also really easy to forget and mess up.  I believe these principles are universal, but this list is far from complete.  If you have any to add, I'd love to hear them!

1.  Establish and maintain a close and loving relationship.  Your relationship with your child sets the tone for your discipline.  When I find myself struggling with naughty or grumpy children, the first thing I ask myself is, "How much time and attention have they gotten from me today?  How have I been treating them lately?"  Too often the answers aren't positive.  Before I start throwing fits of my own, I take time to tell my girls how much I love them, snuggle with them, maybe read together a little, and listen lots.  When we have a good relationship with our kids, they trust us and want to please us.  This gives them much stronger and more positive incentives to listen and obey than fear or force.

2.  Speak sweetly.  In accordance with the first principle, I have learned for myself the absolute necessity of speaking to my children in a soft, sweet, and gentle voice.  I'll be honest here:  I struggled with this concept for a long time.  I was the mom that was demanding, ordering, yelling, and arguing with my kids all the time... and this was when she was two!  I was the mom that would hear other moms talking in that sickeningly sweet mommy voice and I would roll my eyes and think, "How is that ever going to get them to listen?"  Well... I've repented of my ways, and here's why: just as my relationship with my kids sets the tone for their discipline, the tone of my voice sets the tone for our relationship.  When I used my angry voice all the time, I found that we were always at war, always at odds.  My daughter saw me as her enemy and she was inclined to either be afraid or rebel.  Neither of these were the outcome I was looking for.  In addition, I found that when I started talking sweetly to my girls, I suddenly had the capacity to have a danger or warning voice.  When mom uses that voice, they know I'm serious--that I really mean it.  But in general, I've been pleasantly surprised by their willingness to obey when I speak kindly but firmly and with clear expectations.

3.  Make sure everyone is well-fed and well-rested.  Again, if you find yourself with grumpy, whiny babies, and you feel your patience running thin, stop and consider whether both you and your children have eaten recently enough, and especially whether any of you might be suffering from some sleep deprivation. So many times when I thought my discipline world was falling apart, the solution turned out to be as simple as adjusting some bed-times or nap-times.  Be sure to check often how much sleep your child should be getting for their age and plan accordingly.  Don't take too many liberties or mess with their schedules or routines too much.  Be as consistent as you can as this will help them to sleep better in the long run.

4.  Start the way you mean to go on.  This is one of my all-time favorite discipline principles.  By now you've certainly caught on that to me discipline is far more than just punishments and rewards.  Discipline is about all of your interactions with your child, especially the ways in which you teach your children right from wrong and how to obey.  In fact, the root of the word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina which means "instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge," (source.)  So as I consider my own discipline habits, one of my prime concerns is whether I am making choices today that can be continued and sustained into the future.  I establish routines that are particularly framed so that they can change as little as possible over the coming months and years as our family changes and grows.  I try to make all of my decisions for my children based on this same criteria even when they are newborns.  It has served me well; consistency is a parent's best friend, so of course principle number five is...

5.  Be consistent.  Okay... so maybe this principle could have been combined with number four, but my separating it out hopefully indicates just how key I believe consistency to be for the well-being of your family. Now, this is not to be confused with rigid inflexibility.  I hold the virtue of flexibility right up there with consistency.  But there must be a balance.  To me, this idea is best illustrated by the difference between no-plans, routines, and schedules.  In a no-plan world, everything is in chaos.  Anything goes.  Nothing can be counted on.  This is frustrating and confusing to little ones who I believe recently came from a place of perfect order.  Their brains are working incredibly hard to make sense of the world around them, and they can best achieve this when activities are repeated in roughly the same order every day.  This is the beauty of routines.  Schedules are on the other end of the spectrum, with everything being planned into a particular time-slot and rigidly held to for dear life.  This is not healthy because we feel like failures every time something falls out of place, which it will--probably everyday.  Besides, your children have no concept of what time it is.  Consistency means deciding what is most important to fit in daily, when it makes sense to do it, and then following through everyday in essentially the same sequence.

6.  Let them have as much agency as is possible considering their age.  This principle avoids SO many head-butts in my house.  Instead of constantly ordering my four-year-old around, I try to remember to give her choices, preferably only two of which either is acceptable to me, and with the implied third option: making no choice in which case mom decides.  For instance, if she is playing and I want her to come to the table for lunch, (and especially if I know this is a normal trigger for a tantrum,) I ask her if she'd like to have her food right now or come and have it in five minutes.  When she chooses in five minutes, I set a timer and she comes when it goes off.  If she doesn't come when she has said she would, I let her know that I'll happily eat her food for her, or that lunch will be over in another five minutes and she won't be able to eat anything if she doesn't come now.  (See principle #8 below.)

7.  Pick your battles.  Some are worth it and some are not.  This certainly will vary by family.  You get to decide what really matters to you.  Does it really matter to me if my daughter leaves the house in terribly clashing clothes?  No, not really.  Does it matter if she talks back to me?  Absolutely.  I deal with the serious things and laugh off the rest.

8.  Natural and logical consequences.  When worse comes to worse--as it inevitably will--and you have to deal with disobedience, teach your children about consequences.  Teach them that there are both positive and negative consequences and that they get to choose which they would prefer to experience.  Whenever possible, allow natural consequences to take their course and teach the lesson.  If your child got hurt because they were being naughty, is it really necessary to punish them in addition?  If they don't finish their lunch the natural consequence is hunger.  Don't save them from their learning experiences, though it may mean having to cope with some tears and tantrums.  The great thing about consequences is that they can become the bad guy.  You can be gentle, loving, and concerned for your child, but you can't take away the consequences.  There are of course circumstances which require you to impose logical consequences, such as making them clean up the mess they made.  And at times there is nothing left to be done but resorting to a good ol' time-out.  (I nice rule-of-thumb is one minute per year of age and always have them sit in the same corner.)  Avoid spanking if at all possible.  I am a believer in spanking being reserved for the once-in-a-blue-moon last resort, especially effective when the child's disobedience could lead them into severe danger, such as darting into the road despite your warnings.

9.  Remember the difference between a no-no and being naughty.  Before the age of two I believe that disobedience hardly exists and that discipline is only found in the form of removing the temptation.  Around the age of two, when I see that mischievous look in their eye, I begin really enforcing what I have been teaching.  When my daughter pulls all the books off the shelf the first time, that's a no-no.  When she does so again the same day, that is naughty, and that calls for a consequence.  In other words, be understanding of the learning curve.  It's pretty steep for these little ones.

10.  Follow through.  Let your children know what the consequences are for certain actions, and then swiftly follow through when they test you.  If you fail to deliver when you have warned, you have in essence lied to them and they are going to struggle to respect or trust you.  On the other hand, when they learn immediately that you cleaning up the blocks all by yourself is going to result in the blocks being put up high out of their reach for a day or two, they are inclined to take you seriously the next time.  Again, as a parent we hate to listen to them cry and feel disappointed.  But you can feel free to be as sympathetic as you like.  "I'm so sorry that you can't play with those blocks now!  But you'll remember to help me next time, won't you?"

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Mother's Role: Keeping Sheep

This song echoes through my head day in and day out lately. It touches my heart every time.

Keeping Sheep

Music for WomenSubmitted Music

1. I have a little flock of sheep,

And they are mine to tend and keep,

And I must guard them ev’ry day,

For little lambs, when left alone, will lose their way.


2. So many voices say to me,

“A sheep-fold is no place to be.

Your time in there is dull and slow,

And lambs leave very little room for you to grow.”


3. Oh, If I ever start to stray,

Deceived by thoughts of greener pastures,

Remind me Lord, that keeping sheep

Will lead to happier ever-afters.

Will lead to happier ever-afters.


4. Oh surely there will come a day

When all the lambs have left my side,

And I am free to roam about,

And go exploring other meadows green and wide.


5. Yet something whispers in my heart

That when my sheep have left this pen

I’ll long to stroke their little heads,

To draw them close to me and have them young again.


6. So, if I ever start to stray,

Deceived by thoughts of greener pastures.

Remind me Lord, that keeping sheep

Will lead to happier ever-afters.

Will lead to happier ever-afters.


7. So while they still are in my care,

I pray that I will clearly see

These little lambs within my fold

Are tender gifts a loving Father has given me.

Text:  Lynne Perry Christofferson

Music:  Lynne Perry Christofferson