Sunday, May 25, 2014


Written months ago, but always true:  

I get tired of falling short in so many things I want to do.  Many of them I can just let go of--they aren't important (such as being a great dancer).  Many I postpone--they can wait (like figuring out how to decorate my living room).  But many things that I fail at matter.  If I mess up my parenting, I don't get another chance with that child.  If I am not kind to my neighbor or my family, those relationships are damaged.  I feel surrounded by people constantly judging my efforts and telling me how badly I'm doing (from the dentist to the schools to church to well-meaning family or friends).  My housekeeping and my discipline and my fashion sense and my priorities and my health and my faith and my choices are all lacking.  It gets discouraging.  Trying today is hard when I tried yesterday and the day before and the day before only to still not have made any visible progress.

And so I was reminded about grace.  BYU magazine a while ago featured a talk given by Brad Wilcox on grace that I really liked.

"In all of these cases there should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Cor. 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13)."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Boston Marathon

(For Hollywood.  Looking up Heartbreak Hill.)
On my trip to Boston, I was lucky enough to get to spend some time watching people run the Boston Marathon.  We hung out at mile 20.  The atmosphere was like a really long, really inspiring parade.  The sense of triumph and perseverance was intensified as so many remembered the bombing last year.  A few pieces of the experience continue to inspire me.

On the other side of the street from us were four college-age young men.  As the runners passed by, they would find one whose name was visible (on their bib, or arm, or shirt) and start chanting the runner's name loudly until the he or she responded.  At which point they would cheer.  A few minutes later, they would find a new target.  I loved the enthusiastic, personal way they encouraged strangers to keep going up Heartbreak Hill.

During the half hour or so we watched the runners, we saw runners with one or two prosthetic legs.  We saw a man who seemed to be eighty.  The amazing diversity of people willing to run for 26 miles was astounding--old and young, male and female, so many different people.  If they can do that, surely I can do some of the only somewhat hard things I am avoiding.

There was a man who rode past on his bike cheering on one of the woman runners at mile 20.  My guess was that he was riding the whole way with her, encouraging her in this great endeavor.  I loved that show of caring.  And then there was the couple who ran past holding hands.  I wish I had a picture.  It didn't matter who was the faster runner.  They were in this together.

At one point, a two runners came the wrong direction to the side.  The man escorted the woman, who was limping, past us to the medical tent behind us.  I love that she was more important than his time in this big race.

I came away understanding better why the Boston marathon means so much to people.  It is truly an amazing experience.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fenway Park

I spent a few days in Boston recently.  As part of my adventure, my delightful brother, his fabulous wife, and I went to a Red Sox/Yankees game.  We questioned the wisdom of our choice as the cold rain fell in the afternoon.  By the evening, though, everything had dried up.  

And then the Yankees pitcher was thrown out of the game.  I'm so glad we braved the cold and went.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On being a righteous mother

Over the last few years, I have been searching for the principles behind righteous motherhood.  I wanted to understand which parts of everything I do were vital and non-negotiable and which parts were nice if they fit.  So far, I have found three characteristics that describe to me the mothers I know who I respect and admire, with all their variety.

1.  "What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else."  (M. Russell Ballard, April 2008 General Conference)

A good mother loves her children.  They are one of her top priorities.  This doesn't mean she never does anything else.  It means that she makes sure that what else she does fits with her children's needs.  When she can't be with them when they are small, she makes sure that whoever is in charge will take good care of them and love them, whether it be a neighborhood teenager, a nanny, a grandma, or a daycare.  She makes sure that her children have the food they need, whether it be homemade, allergen free, carefully screened food or school lunch or something quickly picked up on the way home.

2.  "The righteous are whoever are repenting, and the wicked whoever are not repenting."  (Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon, p 474)

I love this beautiful idea.  In many ways, it sums up my experience with the Atonement and with Christ.  In my life, the important thing isn't whether I'm doing everything right, it is whether I'm turning towards Christ.  He can fix any and all of my mistakes, but He will not force me to come to Him.  As long as I keep working and trying, it is ok to keep failing or keep falling short.

This applies to mothering.  It doesn't matter if I am a good cook, or am an amazing saver, or can throw birthday parties every year.  It doesn't matter if I struggle with depression or health or finances or testimony.  It doesn't matter if my marriage is rocky or my family is dysfunctional.  What matters is that I am teachable and keep trying.  As long as I don't give up and keep doing what I know how to improve and stay willing to change when I realize I can be better, I am a good mother.  As long as I let God into my mothering, He can work miracles.

3.  "We prayed and pleaded to know what to do. The answer that came was clear: 'It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.'"  (Linda S. Reeves, April 2014 General Conference)

As a mother, I am bombarded by opinions on where I should spend my time.  Often it seems that everybody wants a part of my precious time with my children.  Especially because my influence with my kids is so strong, others try to tap into it.

The dentist wants me to spend 5 minutes morning and night teaching each child proper oral hygiene.  The French teacher wants me to spend at least 15 minutes supervising my children on French websites and to listen to French CDs in the car.  The speech therapist wants me to spend my time with Miss S focusing on her speech and talking to her in the "right" way.  The eye doctor wants me to spend 15 minutes with Young A strengthening his eyes.  The school teachers want me to supervise homework, reading with each child, reviewing spelling, checking on each assignment.  The school sends home papers telling me activities to do with my children and conversations to have with them and to get them to bed early, especially if there is testing going on.  The orchestra teachers want me to supervise my children's cello practice.  The piano teacher wants me to pay attention to each child's piano practicing and to help them do it right.  The primary at church wants me to listen to children's songs in the car when we go places.  The teachers at church want me to talk with my children about what they are learning at church.  The scouts want me to help my children fulfill the requirements to advance each year.

And then there is the public in general.  There are ad campaigns to get me to talk with my kids about smoking, or bullying, or drugs, or sex.  The library wants me to read 1000 books to my kids before they start kindergarten, to sing songs and nursery rhymes to the kids, and to support my kids in the summer reading program.  There are loudly voiced, strong opinions about everything from diapers (cloth vs disposable) to schooling (home vs public vs private) to activities (none vs some vs super busy) to working (stay home vs part time vs full time) to appropriate behavior (children should be seen not heard vs let them be kids) to food (from scratch vs from box vs from restaurant or organic vs affordable vs healthy vs what-the-kids-will-eat) to family planning.

Life is messy.  It doesn't fit into everybody else's expectations.  Every choice I make will offend somebody, especially every mothering choice.  This drives me crazy.  I love being told that most of it doesn't matter.  The only things that always matter are the things that help me and my family turn towards Christ and God.  Prayers and scripture reading and spending time together as a family are the way to build a foundation for my family that will hold us up through the weeks and months we slip into survival mode.  Prayers and scriptures are where we get the answers we so desperately need.  They are what gets me through the extremely difficult days (or weeks).  Everything else is negotiable depending on my family's particular needs and wants.  Most of us will be able to fit in much of the huge list the public throws at  us most of the time.  And many of those expectations are good for us and our children.  But they are not the essence of my mothering, they are simply the manifestations of it.

My current personal definition of a good mother is a woman who loves her children and the Lord, a woman who listens and learns how to become better and to meet the challenges of her life by turning regularly to God and then putting into practice what she has learned (even if only imperfectly), a woman who teaches her children to turn to God during both the easy times and the hard times.

I'm not saying that the many specific things mothers do are not valuable.  I'm a firm believer in reading with children and teaching them manners and providing them the tools to function well in society.  I expect them to learn to cook and clean and serve those around them.  I am saying that each child and each family and each year are different.  Most of us cannot do all we wish.  In this broken world, that is expected.  That is why we have grace.

I am surrounded by good mothers in my family and my neighborhood and among my friends.  They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  They home-school, public-school, breast-feed, bottle-feed, work at home, work outside the home, or don't "work" at all.  They have no children, one child, two, three, four or more children.  Some decorate beautifully.  Some clean well.  Some organize amazingly.  Some paint.  Some bake.  Some quilt.  Some run.  Some blog.  Some play tennis.  Some teach.  Some read.  Some travel.  Some are Muslim.  Some are Christian.  Some are Mormon.  Some aren't sure what they believe.  Some have lots of formal education and degrees.  Some don't.  All of them love their children.  All of them fail.  All of them learn and grow and change.  All of them do the right they know.  The Lord is working miracles with each of them.  And I love every one of them.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Happy day for Miss S

While I was traveling, the Professor introduced Miss S to the movie Frozen.  Since then we spend parts of most days watching the movie, or listening to the songs, or watching clips online.  This girl loves Elsa, Anna, and Olaf.  (During the Sacrament at church recently, she had to be carried out after loudly saying "watch Frozen Mommy's phone," and getting upset at the answer.)

Our elementary school recently had a carnival.  One event was "Meet Queen Elsa."  While Miss S didn't say much during the actual meeting, she has told me repeatedly since then about when Miss S and Elsa got their picture taken on Mommy's phone.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately, the MilkWe recently discovered Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman.  The Professor brought home this delightful book from the library a while back.  We read it aloud as a family over a few days.  The children were quite upset that we wouldn't let them read ahead.  

This is the tale of a father's fantastic adventure bringing home milk for his children's breakfast, as told to them when he returned.  As you can see it involves dinosaurs, hot air balloons, milk, and much, much more.  This has become one of my favorite read-aloud books.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.