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Spoiled? Yeah, but so what?

{The amazing Brili giveaway is almost over! The routines system from Brili has revolutionized our mornings and bedtimes. Don’t miss your chance to win an unlimited license!}

I do a lot of my writing work in bed in the mornings. While my husband feeds everyone breakfast, I furiously tap away at my laptop, trying to get as much work done as possible before he has to leave for work.

And every morning at about 7:30, my bedroom door swings open with a crash, as little Rex confidently marches in with a huge grin on his face. “Mama!” he shouts, throws his hands in the air, and rushes over to the bed where I scoop him up and ask about his dreams from the night before.

Oh, the sweetness. This boy is bliss.

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At night, when I zip up his jammies, I stop at his round tummy and ask if he wants to finish. He nods, then with a shy smile gingerly takes the zipper and pulls it up to his chin, watching me to make sure I’m paying attention to his skill the entire time. If Daddy happens to be in the room, he shyly glances from Mom to Dad, Mom to Dad, making sure we both know how amazing he is.

Once the zipper reaches his chin, he gives a sigh of relief, then throws his arms around my neck while I shout, “You did it! You did it!”

How long will this ritual last? It’s pure joy right now.

When I carry him in my arms, he reaches for my fingers under his legs, and holds on tight. “I love holding your hand,” I say. He grins.

He willingly and happily holds his sister’s hand in the car.

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This boy is happiness.

He dances his heart out, raising his hand in a gesture while inviting all the family members to “Come on!” At a recent wedding, he danced with all the girls he knew, happily clapping and spinning to the beat.

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He even danced with a girl nobody knew.

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This boy has everyone wrapped around his little finger.

And we’re all just fine with that.

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When I was young, our family would spend a week or so every summer at my grandma’s house in Idaho. She lived on a road with just a few other houses that were spaced by several acres. Her own white farmhouse was on acres and acres of land, which she rented out to a farmer for his cows. I would spend the first day or two of our visit wandering around her property, marveling at the outhouse still standing, looking for interesting rocks in her gravel driveway, searching for stray cats, and talking to the cows.

As thrilling as all that sounds, I’m sure you’re baffled to learn I would quickly grow bored.




One summer, my brothers brought their baseball gloves and spent a good deal of time playing catch under the Idaho sun. I had recently learned how to use a glove, and begged to play — but there was never a glove for me.

One hot day that summer, everyone was lying around the house doing nothing. The gloves were free, so I grabbed them and went to each of my brothers, asking them to play with me.playball

One by one, they turned me down. The prospect of standing in the hot sun with an 8- or 9-year-old who had only recently learned how to throw and catch a ball was simply not enticing enough for anyone to take me up on my offer/pleading.

I was devastated — and more bored than when I started, because the hope of fun had now been dashed. So I went off to sulk somewhere.

Not too long after, my brother Ryan, having had a change of heart, found me and tossed me a glove. I was elated! We went outside and threw the ball around for a while, as he patiently taught me better form.

Six years older than me, Ryan and I never shared many of the same interests, but he often took time to patiently play games with me. I can now see how tedious it must have been for him, but at the time I was just thrilled to have attention from someone while I was doing what I wanted to be doing.

As a parent, that game of catch memory often comes back to me — typically when I’m in the middle of something and am trying to shoo a child away, rather than stopping and giving them what they’re asking for.

I don’t always heed the memory, but when I do, I find a greater reward than I would have had from finishing the important task I was working on.

An Easter Egg Hunt

Yesterday, my husband and I were elbow deep in dinner preparations when 4-year-old Emma approached and asked us to find the Easter eggs she had hidden in the family room. We were having company over in a short time, the table wasn’t set, dessert wasn’t prepared, dinner ingredients were in every nook and cranny of the kitchen. We were stressed.

But as she asked, I saw myself standing in my grandma’s Idaho backyard, awkwardly throwing a baseball to my bored-but-pretending-to-enjoy-himself older brother.

And so I set down the frosting for dessert and went on an Easter egg hunt.

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It was quick. Emma had only hidden two Easter eggs, but she was positively giddy as I searched for them. Bouncing up and down, laughing, and covering her mouth to keep herself from revealing secrets as I walked past but didn’t see the hidden eggs, she was having the time of her life in that brief moment.

And so was I.

If I hadn’t participated, I would have missed her adorable giggle when I found the Easter egg in the bookshelf; I would have missed her proud smile when I opened it to reveal it had been stuffed with a gift of play-doh.

And I can tell you exactly what would have happened if I had decided to put her off, like I so often do: She would have grown grumpy and restless, and would have followed us around to beg us to play while we would have continued to shoo her away. She would have started picking fights with her sister, and everyone would have ended up angry and punished for bad behavior.

But less than two minutes of my time made her the happiest girl of the afternoon — and it lifted my own spirits as well.

She just wanted her idea to be taken seriously.

A Ladybug Club Meeting

8-year-old Lydia posted a sign-up sheet for the Ladybug Club outside our bedroom door a couple weeks ago. After we all followed her instructions to add our names to the club list, she informed us we would need to attend the first meeting.

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Every day, we put it off because it honestly sounded like more of an interruption in our busy day than anything else.

Finally, on a weeknight when we were all tired, she begged again for us to have the first meeting of the Ladybug Club. I remembered the fun I had on that hot Idaho day so many years ago, and reluctantly agreed to participate in the Ladybug Club meeting.

Lydia beamed as she ran to gather supplies, gaining momentum and enthusiasm as she scurried around the house shouting instructions on what we, as the attendees, should do.




After she had prepared, she invited us into her room.

“Welcome to the first meeting of the Ladybug Club,” she stood and said as we walked into the room. Then she gracefully gestured to her dresser: “There’s water for everyone on the dresser. Help yourself.”

We each sipped water as she led us in a discussion about how to protect the environment (we decided we would pick up trash outside) and several other agenda items I no longer remember now.

While I can’t remember the details of the conversations we had, I do remember how proud and grown up Lydia was as she took control of the meeting she had organized herself.

We actually enjoyed ourselves at the Ladybug Club meeting, and Lydia felt important as we valued her plans and ideas.

Everyone went to bed happy that night, and my husband and I learned something new about our oldest — she’s quite capable.

Had we continued to put it off, she would have grown increasingly frustrated with us. What’s more — she would have felt as if her ideas aren’t important.

Paying Attention Isn’t as Easy as It Sounds

When my children were babies, I had grand dreams of guiding them to self-confidence and greatness by teaching, coaxing, loving, and playing with them. In my dreams, there was always plenty of time to teach the appropriate lessons and dote on my obedient children. Nobody was ever fighting, and nobody was ever tired.

The reality is a bit more difficult than I imagined. Responsibilities are heavier than expected, and children are more tiring than I knew. Personal space is more important than I ever knew it could be, and childish games are really dull.

Children do gain self-confidence from teaching, coaxing, loving, and playing. But the trick? Most of that ends up taking place when I would rather be doing anything else.

The happy twist? As soon as I give in and shower my time and attention on my children, I find that it’s actually the only thing I want to be doing. Funny how that works.

{Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to enter the Brili giveaway! Brili has truly helped us enjoy our children more!}

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{Have you entered to win the most amazing routines system for your kids? Life-changing! Do it now, and come back to read about my annoying, but adorable toddler!}

I don’t know how they do it.

Toddlers exhibit the most annoying of behaviors, and we all love them for it! And we don’t just love them for it… we adore their actions, and beg them to continue!



There’s just something about their cute little bodies and voices; their awkward balance and movements.

I could stare at my toddler and not get bored (or annoyed) for hours.

It’s truly the golden age of childhood.

If anyone else insisted on acting like toddlers do, we would quickly find a way to stop spending time with that person.

Case study #1:

Rex wants to copy his sisters all the time, no matter what they’re doing. Even if he doesn’t understand it.

4-year-old Emma was performing an elaborate choreography, involving standard jumping jacks, jumping jacks on the floor, a lot of rolling around, and several declarations of, “WATCH! MOM! WATCH!”

Rex watched Emma for a brief moment, and then quickly gleaned onto that magical word: WATCH.

“WATCH!” he shouted. So I turned my attention to him.

He did nothing.

“WATCH!” he shouted again. Again, I looked directly at him.

Again, he did nothing.

This went on for quite some time. And because it was so darn cute, I just couldn’t stop the process.

If my husband did this to me, I’d throw a pillow at him.

Case Study #2:

At dinner the other night, everyone was talking a mile a minute, competing for everybody’s attention. My husband and I were trying to cover some calendar items (After eight years of parenting, we still haven’t figured out you can’t talk calendar at the dinner table when babies and toddlers are present.) and the girls were getting increasingly angry with each other as they talked over one another.

And there was Rex, sitting in his high chair calmly repeating the negative of that ages-old childhood conversation: “Yes-hahuhh.” “Nuh-uuhuhh.”

While shoveling chicken in his mouth, he stated over and over again, “Nuh-uuhuhh. Nuh-uuhuhh.”

When we finally noticed, we laughed. His chanting only became louder and more consistent.

If my daughters had been repeating that most annoying sound, I would have nipped it in the bud after one go-round.

Case Study #3:

Lately, Rex has been wildly babbling as loud as he can. He’s an excellent talker, and is able to communicate in full sentences. But when someone else is having a conversation, he gets flustered at the attention directed away from him and starts babbling incoherently.

He especially likes to do this in tight, enclosed spaces — like the car.

So there we were, driving along, attempting a conversation, when Rex started in on his attention-grabbing babble. “Ah-ga-ha-ba-la-ga-ga!”

We spoke louder to understand each other.

“Ah-ga-ha-ba-la-ga-ga!” Then suddenly, he interrupted himself. “Oh! A car!” Then immediately back to: “Ah-ga-ha-ba-la-ga-ga!”

And on and on it went.

If a friend had been doing that on a car ride, I would have asked her where she’d like to be dropped off — immediately.

How do toddlers get away with such behavior?

I don’t know, but I’ll let it happen for another year — at least.

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“DOUBLE TIME! RUN” I shouted like a drill sergeant as my 8-year-old slowly plodded up the stairs, almost late for the bus.

She stopped and turned. “I can’t run on the stairs or else I’ll trip and fall and hurt myself and I just can’t run and why are you always telling me to run?”

So help me. Why was she stopping to give me this pitiful, lengthy excuse?

“Don’t stop moving!” I shouted (but a little quieter). “No more talking! Get your teeth brushed! The bus is going to be here soon!”

Tears, tears, tears. And slower movements.

Are you kidding me?

Every. Single. Morning.

The afternoon homework/practice time is similar. And bedtime? I’m sure you can guess.

My daughter is easily distractible. She is not prone to hustling unless the end result is something she is interested in. We’ve tried several methods to help her get ready on time, but most methods quickly get tossed and we end up resorting to the old standard: YELL, CRY, YELL.

Most mornings end with a hasty hug and apology so she doesn’t get sent off to school feeling terrible about herself. (Although, I’m never sure if the hug can undo the yelling that transpired moments before.)

You can imagine the toll this all takes on our relationship. Sigh.

An Attempt to Solve the Problem

The most successful method we tried involved a timer. I made a chart with a box for each required task. Each box had a set amount of minutes. She or I would set a timer, and she would hurry to beat the clock.

It worked about 50% of the time. The method required me to check in and monitor her progress, and it still required a lot of reminders from me – reminders which were, of course, unwelcome. Hence the resorting to the yelling.

The Actual Solve

That’s why I was so excited to try the kids’ routines system from Brili.

It sets your kids up for success by putting them in charge of accomplishing their routines. Sing praises, ring the bells – I don’t have to nag?

Can’t be true.

But it is.

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How the Brili System Works

Brili lets you design three routines for your child. I picked morning, after school, and bedtime. You can select from the app’s library of tasks, or add your own.

You then set a time limit for each task. The tasks in the library already have a time limit, but you can adjust them if you need. You can set an end time too, which is especially helpful for the morning routine.

And then you’re done!

You hand the phone or the iPad or the Pebble watch (the app syncs across all your devices) to your child, and walk away.

And magically, your child gets ready on time.

I’m serious. It works.

Brili is kind of like a beat-the-clock game. The task of the moment sits in the center of the screen with a bar that shrinks and shrinks as time goes on. There’s also a minute countdown timer. Kids can easily glance and see how much time they have left.

When they complete the task in the center of the screen, they swipe the task away and start on the next one.

If they go over time, they can see the effect right away as their playtime at the end shrinks. Motivation! But if they move extra fast, they can catch up. And it’s Brili telling them this – not their mamas!

Brili in Action

On our first morning, I handed my daughter the iPad and walked away to finish up a couple things. I expected to help her, and was just getting ready to do so, when she came to me completely ready and announced, “I have 22 minutes of playtime!”

Shut. The. Front. Door.

No rushing? No tears? What the heck is playtime in the morning?

Yet there she was, playing Shopkins with her sister while I stood dumbfounded and unsure of what to do with my yell-free free time.

I backed quietly away, and finished getting myself ready! How about that?

Instead of a quick hug and apology as we headed out the door, my two daughters and I had a long, giggly hug on the front porch. It was unreal.

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The next morning was the same. And the next.

And you guys – BEDTIME.

I know I’m not the only one who dreads bedtime. By that point, I’m exhausted – and any antic that delays the moment when all heads are quiet in their beds can throw me into a regrettable rage.

We started using the Brili system while my husband was out of town for two weeks, so you can imagine how chaotic and frustrating bedtime was going to be. Spending all day on my own, getting through the witching hour with no relief, and then making it to bedtime was honestly giving me anxiety.

But with Brili, the kids were ready in minutes.

MINUTES.

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And what’s more? They were happy.

And I was happy.

So happy that I laid down next to them and read them stories for a half hour. This is something I always want to do, but typically have no energy for.

And a Clean House to Boot?

Not only that, but I built in a lot of tidying into each routine. The kids race the clock to get their floors clean, clean up toys in the living room, clear off the counters, and more.

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So not only was I smiling at the end of the day, but my house was already clean when I walked downstairs after putting everyone to bed.

Oh. I must tell you this was also during a week in which the dishwasher was broken.

No dishwasher. No husband. No patience?

Nope.

Plenty of patience. Plenty of clean spaces. Plenty of happiness.

Is it Worth the Money?

Now here’s the thing: If we’re talking apps, Brili Basic is a teeny bit pricey. It’s $6.99 for Android and $8.99 for iPhone/iPad (recently lowered from $14.99!) You can also purchase Brili Extra, which provides you unlimited routines, voice prompts and multi-kid monitoring for $49.99 a year.

But listen to me when I say it is 100% worth it. If you have a kid who struggles to get ready on time; if your relationship with that kid struggles… Brili can fix it.

Listen – I do not spend money.

Let me repeat that: I DO NOT SPEND MONEY. On anything. Seriously. I buy the basics and that’s it. (It’s a sickness. I’m working on it.) In fact, that’s why I never, ever do sponsored posts – I can’t think of a single thing I would encourage my readers to buy. (Well, except peanut butter M&M’s. I’d sell my soul to MARS if I could eat peanut butter M&M’s every day.)

But even though I received Brili Basic for free in exchange for this post, I would have paid the $8.99 (or the original $14.99) for Brili just for one day of this happier experience. I truly would have. $8.99 is a lot for an app, but it’s absolutely nothing for an improved relationship.

ADHD and the Inspiration Behind the Design

Pierre Seguin designed this app with his son who has ADHD in mind, and it is absolutely brilliant for a child with ADHD. In fact, Seguin’s son is the tester for every feature of the app, and it shows.

Kids with ADHD dawdle more than the average kid. They get more distracted. Their emotions are more intense – which is a terrible recipe for getting ready. It’s aggravating to send your child upstairs to put on socks and find her 15 minutes later moving her light switch up and down because she likes the shadows the movements create. I’ve said many things I wish I could take back during these moments. (And she has, of course, reacted accordingly.)

But since we’ve been using Brili, we’ve had ZERO angry moments during our routines.

In addition, kids with ADHD are slower to develop responsibility for things than their counterparts without ADHD. This app puts the responsibility literally in their hands, and it’s easy for them to rise up to what’s expected of them. You should see the proud smiles on my daughter’s face.

And the things I’ve heard her say?

“I need to hurry because I have a timer going here.”

“I gotta hurry, but still do a good job.” Um. Say what? Did she really say that?

Great for All Kids

My daughter without ADHD does well on the routines as well. Even though she’s more easily focused, she’ll still fight during certain routines.

But this removes the fights.

Guys. IT REMOVES THE FIGHTS! (YES! I’M SHOUTING!)

Enter the Giveaway!

And I’m so excited because one of you will get an unlimited Brili lifetime license for free! That’s right. Pierre is giving away Brili Basic to one of my lucky readers so you can experience the improved relationships and the relief at watching your child excel and take responsibility. Don’t have kids at home? Enter anyway, and give it to your grandkids if you win.

All you have to do is use Rafflecopter below to:

        1. Go to Brili’s website and sign up for the mailing list.
        2. Leave a comment below telling me your biggest routine frustration with your child. The funnier, the better – I like to laugh.
        3. Extra entries available for visiting Brili’s Facebook page and following Brili on Twitter.
        4. Remember — use Rafflecopter below for all entries! (If you’ve never used Rafflecopter before, click the button below and it will guide you through the easy steps to enter!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway will run until April 30, and Rafflecopter will choose one of you lucky parents to experience life-changing results. Totally serious when I say life-changing.

 

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Puzzling Toddler Pigtail Problems

“Oh no! We’re gonna blow away!” I remember saying to 2-year-old Lydia on a particularly windy day. We threw our hoods on and huddled our heads together as I carried her to the car, pretending it was all a great deal of effort.




The next time we went outside, she felt a little breeze and panic immediately plastered her face.

“Oh no!” she shouted and reached her hands to her pigtails, where she held on for dear life.

I laughed and asked if she was worried her pigtails would blow away. She held on tighter and nodded.

“Don’t worry!” I tried to reassure her. “Your pigtails are safe on your head.” A skeptic since the day she was born, she didn’t believe me. And her hands stayed put — right up until we went indoors.

I thought it was a funny one-time thing, but it turned out to be something that would follow us around for several months. Like a cute, little, conditioned dog of Pavlov, any time she ventured outside, her hands immediately went to protect her precious pigtails.

Outside began to be a miserable place for all of us because she was so encumbered by her pigtail protection that she couldn’t focus on anything else — which upset her greatly. She wanted to run freely; she wanted to pick up rocks — but she was duty-bound to take care of the little bursts of hair sprouting from her head.

At the time, I wrote for a newspaper, and was working on a little feature story about the history of crossword puzzles on the sidewalks of Sugar House, Utah. I needed a picture to accompany the article, and my editor suggested I incorporate my daughter with the crossword puzzles for an interesting picture.

I didn’t think of the consequences when I put her hair in pigtails that morning.
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‘Twas a frustrating photo shoot, indeed.

We ended up with one or two pictures with hands off head, but she was so bothered by the lack of hair protection that I couldn’t get her to look at the camera.

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Such is life?

I learned my lesson, and made sure to never scare another toddler about being blown away in the wind.

I wonder, however, if it’s something that’s just in my children’s DNA…

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Protecting the items on your head: Not an easy job, but some toddler’s gotta do it.

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Does Experience Make You a Better Mama?

From the kitchen window, I glanced outside to count the heads of my kids playing in the backyard.

One, two… where was three?

A visual sweep of the yard directed me to number three, toddler Rex playing in a pot of dirt — elbow-deep.

“Hmmm…” I thought, as I popped a peanut butter M&M in my mouth. “Should I go out and redirect him somewhere else?”

I snagged another M&M, and then decided, “Nah. The kids are fine. Mama needs a minute.”

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{There was a bath that night}

Much like a near-death experience causes one’s life to flash before one’s eyes, I suddenly saw the old me lined up next to the current me. I’m a different mama than I once was.

I would never say I was an uptight mama in the beginning. In fact, 8 years ago, the dirt wouldn’t have bothered me — much. But there would have been a couple differences:

  1. I would have been right by my child’s side instead of watching from the house.
  2. I would have already placed the pot of dirt out of reach so my little one would never have even seen it as an option.

I was just far more vigilant.

I see articles all the time about the funny differences between how you parent your first child and your last child. I love these articles because I completely relate.

In my eyes, my first child was terribly breakable and in constant need of watchcare. For example, I would hold her hand while she walked up to a slide… and while she rode down.

Contrast that to the other day when our whole family was at the park: My husband and I didn’t even register that our 1-year-old had figured out how to climb the steps to the slide and get himself down (with a loud “Woooo-hoooo!”) until he had done it two times!

I felt my first child needed to be taught all the things — and all right now. I spent a lot of time and money in pursuit of educating my first child on all the wonders of the world. I was by her side all the time.

And I loved it.




Each child has forced me to relax more and more. I can’t be so vigilant, and I can’t devote so much time to each activity in each child’s day. There’s just only so much energy one can expend on fretting over children. The more children you have, the more you have to let go of the frets.

And I love that too.

Is a More Experienced Mama a Better Mama?

Whenever we notice differences that span years and experience — mother of first child vs. mother of last child, mother of one child vs. mother of three, mother of infant vs. mother of preteens — I think we try to assign value (i.e. I’m better now because I have more experience, or my ignorance back then is so laughable!).

I’m a different mama now (I think). But am I a better mama? Are we all just schmuck mamas when we start out?

Through experience, I’ve learned to determine what really matters. I’ve learned I don’t need to waste my precious energy on standing at attention by my toddler’s side to make sure he doesn’t get too dirty. I’ve learned I can let my child navigate the playground successfully even if I’m more than an arm’s length away.

But am I better?

Is it better to be seasoned and in a place where I can look back and laugh at some of the measures I once took; the fears I once had? I was so concerned with teaching my oldest child. I feared I didn’t have enough time to teach her every story, lesson, fable, and rhyme. What if I missed something important? What if I didn’t teach her enough math? She had to know her ABCs by the time she was 18 months old, or she would never learn to read before kindergarten. Right?

And she needed to know how to share, to reach out to others, to show sufficient gratitude… and all before 3. Because, otherwise… what would happen?

I have since learned that kids learn. They pick up on everything. Formal teaching is incredibly valuable, but not the most valuable item on a mama’s to-do list.

So Am I Better Now?

No.

The mama I was before is so crucial to he mama I am now. I needed to spend those early days hyperfocusing on teaching so I could learn what was important to know. I needed to be by my toddler’s side every step of the way so I could see what toddlers can do. Now, I can sit back a little and let nature happen.

The mama I was and the mama I am now are the same.

New mamas learning the ropes with their first child are not naive. Buying a wipe warmer may seem silly in hindsight, but before that baby is in your arms — and after — everything is a flood of learning and doubting. It makes sense that we absorb more than we need to in the beginning; that we worry over more than we’ll worry over later.

I was mocked for many of my strict sleeping and eating theories when I was a new mama. And as I went along, I relaxed with each child, but I never abandoned my theories — because I found they worked for me.

New mamas know what’s up — even though they’ll know more about what’s up later.

The vigilance and concern over every detail in the beginning is so necessary in the journey of motherhood. It’s a rite of passage we all must pass through before we can get to the path that suits us best.

We all find our path our own way, and every bit of that path is equally important — even the first, well-measured, carefully-calculated, ferociously-fretted-over step.

Am I a better mama now that I have more experience?

No. I’ve always been a good mama. I’ve learned better-to-me ways of doing things, but there’s no reason to look back at my early days and laugh at myself. Those days are what gave me the freedom to relax now.

I loved them then, and I love my days now. And 8 years has taught me I still have a lot to look forward to — and a lot to smile about as I look back.
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Hilarious 4-Year-Old Conversations Part 2

As I’m sitting down to tell you about the hilarious exchange that took place between two 4-year-olds at my house today, I can’t help but experience a bit of déjà vu. A quick look told me I’ve written about this topic before — four years ago, when my oldest was a 4-year-old.




Seems 4-year-old conversations are just generally worth laughing about.

When my 4-year-old Emma and her friend Emily play pretend, they constantly change what’s happening.

“And then a horse came over.”

“And then there was a rainbow.”

“And then our parents died.”

This last one, the death of parents, is a favorite theme of theirs. If I didn’t pretend this when I was young, I’d be worried. But I distinctly remember pretending my friends and I were abandoned and on our own because of the deaths of our parents. Must be some sort of independence thing.

Every story from these cute little innocents somehow leads to the death of a parent.

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I was laughing so hard all on my own as I listened to them talk at lunch today that I had to start writing down their exchanges.

First, Emma began to hum Jingle Bells, using her hot dog bun as a trumpet.

Then Emily sang along, “Old MacDonald is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!” she belted out.

When Emma arrived at that part of Jingle Bells on her turn for a solo, she sang confidently, “Whatever whatever whatever is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!”

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer was up next, and Emily was taking the lead vocals. “Had a very shiny nose! (Like a light bob!)”

Emma laughed hysterically about the light bob, and so Emily began trying out different versions. “A light ball? A light bowl?”

“No, it doesn’t say anything like that,” Emma stated authoritatively, and the matter was dropped.

Everything was silent for a moment and I took a second from taking notes to glance over at baby Rex who was also playing his hot dog bun like a trumpet. When everything was calm, he seized the opportunity to shout, “JINGLE BELLS!”

He then continued to shout JINGLE BELLS over and over while Emma picked up her horribly wrong version of Rudolph and Emily began her one-sided discourse on the accuracy of “light bob” once again.

“I’m sitting half to Emma,” Emily suddenly told me, and the singing stopped abruptly.

“Huh?” I asked, my mouth full of peanut butter sandwich.

Emma jumped in to clarify, and I was eager to understand. “No, you’re sitting corner to me,” she said.

I gave up understanding and took another bite of my sandwich.

“NO, your mom is sitting corner to you,” Emily said to Emma. “I’m sitting half to you.”

They apparently agreed, because silence entered the room once again as they chewed their food.

“I had cupcakes at my party,” Emily began a new thread.

“I know. I was there,” Emma said in a know-it-all tone.

“Was the cupcake good?” Emily asked.

“I don’t know. I didn’t had a cupcake. I just had ice cream,” Emma said assertively, licking her fingers.

“Was it good?” Emily really wanted to know if the treats at her party were satisfying.

“Yeah,” Emma assured her.

And then, Emma one-upped Emily: “I had my birthday before yours.”

“No,” Emily said.

“Yeah,” Emma said.

“No.”

“Yeah.”

“No.”

“Yeah.”

“No.”

“My dad doesn’t like bananas,” Emma changed the subject — just like that.

“Why?” Emily wanted to know.

“They make him sick,” Emma patiently explained.

“But they don’t make you or Rex or Lydia sick,” Emily persisted.

“Nope,” Emma responded. “They’re healthy for you!”

The girls giggled.

“But he was a snake,” Emily said.

{Say what?}

“But he was a nice snake,” Emma clarified.

“But a bad guy shooted him,” Emily changed the story.

“Yeah,” Emma agreed.

They both giggled.

See? The pretending always leads to the death of a parent — even if the parent suddenly morphed into a snake along the way.



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Communication.

I stayed up late finishing The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan the other night. It was one of those books that will stay with me for a long time, and I just had to tell the author. So I sent her an email to compliment her excellent storytelling and writing skills. 

I was absolutely delighted when she responded to my email to thank me!

It was a lovely experience, and over the past eight years, I’ve had more and more of these lovely experiences in communication as I’ve worked to see the good in the world more than the bad.

You see, I used to find fault everywhere. I worked in the service department of a car dealership, and was yelled at on a regular basis. When people didn’t like the price of their repair, I was the one to hear about it. If a service hadn’t been explained adequately, the surprised frustration would be directed at me.

I became a very angry individual, and I turned that anger to customer service representatives in my life. If my phone bill was too high, I was the person who yelled at the voice in the call center. I scheduled meetings with the apartment manager to angrily complain about noisy neighbors. No excuse was good enough. I was always right.

After I quit that miserable place, I had a lot of repairs to do on my soul. I had become angry with the entire world, and I had to soften.

I did it by reminding myself how terrible it felt to be yelled at for something that wasn’t my fault. And slowly, I was able to put myself in other people’s shoes. I became less angry on the road (He must not have seen me when he cut me off!), I joked around with customer service reps when I had to call about something unpleasant, I gave bigger tips when a restaurant was slammed and we consequently couldn’t have the service we would have liked.

It took a while, but I got to a point where very little could rile me. I saw the struggles of others, rather than the “damage” that was being done to me. I even remember realizing I hadn’t been angry for several months in a row.

I made time in my life for doing things like sending emails to authors.

And then my dishwasher broke.

Communication. Well, it wasn’t there last week.

It wasn’t there between my husband and me before he headed out of town, so I was left putting pieces together as I spoke with the warranty company and contractors.

It wasn’t there between customer service reps of the 5 different companies I had to repeatedly call. When the dishwasher installers found both an electrical and plumbing problem that needed to be remedied by separate companies, I thought the communication was there. I wrote down word-for-word what they told me, and I related it to the string of repairmen who traipsed through my house the next day.

Unfortunately, the communication was not sufficient enough.

And unfortunately, I was assigned a plumber with a very bad attitude.




Within three minutes of being in my home, I had to ask him to stop speaking rudely to me. You see, he was unhappy with the dishwasher installers’ diagnosis, and he took it out on me. He couldn’t find the problem they described because they used an incorrect word (not being plumbers, and all). When I showed him the notes and pointed to the offending valve, he threw his hands in the air and said, “Ma’am, I don’t know what you expect me to do.”

As if I was inventing some problem just to yank his chain.

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What does one say to a plumber in this situation?

Well, first one tells the plumber to stop being so rude. Then, one steps out of the room to cool off. Repeat half a dozen times because said plumber can’t speak a kind word to save his life.

There was much that transpired in my kitchen, but the end result was me taking my anger with the plumber out on the dishwasher installers’ receptionist on the other end of the phone.

How did I get there? I know how it feels to be yelled at over the phone. Why was I doing it to the poor woman?

But it didn’t stop there.

While I was on the phone, the plumber was chastising me about the valve the dishwasher repairmen had said needed fixing. “I’m just telling you what they told me!” I shouted while on hold. “Why are you arguing with me?

“Ma’am, I’m NOT arguing!” he argued back.

“GET OUT!” I yelled.

The problem was not resolved. I had been without a dishwasher for three weeks (I know, first world problems), so I headed outside to his truck where he sat so I could try and resolve the problem. Only, what came out was my mom voice complete with a pointed finger, “Listen here. You can’t speak so condescendingly to me.”

I guess he doesn’t respect his mama, because my mom voice did nothing. He fought and he fought and he fought. He spoke over me while I again tried to explain the situation, until he finally said, “MA’AM, I’M JUST A PLUMBER!”

“Yes, and I’m just a writer!” I responded. “That’s why I called a plumber to fix my plumbing problem.”

Communication.

It wasn’t there.

I still don’t know what he didn’t understand. A plumber from his company came the very next day and had the problem fixed in a half hour. He was courteous and polite, and even stood around to joke for a few minutes.

This is who I am, I thought while I chatted with the polite plumber. Behaving politely, brightening someone’s day — this is what I do now.

Did I communicate better with him? Was he just a nicer person? Was I kinder to him than I had been to the previous plumber? I’ll probably never know.

I do know my anger the previous day was shameful.

I can’t believe the work of eight years could be completely undone in one afternoon with a petulant plumber. Have I unleashed Pandora’s Box? Is this the new Rebecca — angry and indignant?

Does any of my good matter — if I can’t just be nice when the going gets tough? It was a valve. A shutoff valve that completely undid me.

Fortunately, much like a plumbing issue, things can be repaired with the right attitude.

I’ll start the repairs by calling the receptionist I yelled at so I can apologize for my bad behavior. Thank goodness for fresh starts.




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Play games as a family, they say.

It will be fun, they say.

Whoever *THEY* is really needs to just stop saying things.

Playing games with an 8-, 4-, and 1-year-old is pretty much the worst idea since before bakeries knew how to sell sliced bread.




We sent our oldest two over to the neighbors’ house for some eggs Sunday night. After we finished making cookies with the eggs, we sent the girls back to the neighbors with a sampling. The girls came back home with the game Trouble and told us we were allowed to borrow it for an hour.

You know this game? Trouble?

It’s one of those games where your game pieces circle around the board, racing to get back home first. Only, they can instantly be sent back to the start any time if another player lands on them.

This, of course, is what is supposed to make the game – what we call… fun.

And to the under-10 crowd, sending another game piece back to the start is the highlight of their experience. It’s as hilarious as watching someone get a pie thrown in their face. Just imagine that playing out over and over and over and over and…

To the above-30 crowd, sending another game piece back to the start is an endless exercise in enduring misery with patience and a smile.

And after watching the pie scene – or having your piece sent back to start – for the umpteenth time, it’s possible that someone of my approximate age, gender, height and hair color might be ready to lose it.

Or so I’ve been told.

As if the déjà vu isn’t enough to send me (or someone of my approximate age, gender, height and hair color) to Insanity Island, there’s the attention span of children to contend with.

The girls kept forgetting it was their turn as if it was a competition to see who could be reminded to press the d*@# button the most times.

And then… the baby woke up from his nap.

“I wanna turn!” he shouted over and over and over until we let him press the button that rolled the die.

Once he got a taste of the satisfying pop of the button, his shouts of wanting a turn began to drown out any tiny glimmers of joy that may have been (but probably weren’t) remaining.

He soon turned his attention to other pursuits – namely, removing all the pieces from the game board. This, of course, resulted in shrieks of dismay from his sisters and exasperated declarations of “It’s ok, girls” from us parents while we attempted to put the pieces back in their correct places.

“GO!” we found ourselves shouting at the girls when it was their turn, trying our hardest to get this game over with as fast as possible.

“Maybe we should try and enjoy this,” my husband said after another shout.

“Eh,” I responded, refusing to commit to enjoyment, but deciding to try to at least pretend.

As I looked at our girls, who were oblivious to their surroundings and in their own worlds, I realized that at least they were having fun.

So I smiled a little bit. As frustrating as the slow-as-molasses pace was, half the family was having fun. That was worth smiling about.

Finally, finally, the game ended. (I won, by the way.)

We sent the girls back to the neighbors’ house to return Trouble, and they returned with the movie, Inside Out to borrow for the night. (We have very generous neighbors.) Much better choice for family entertainment.




We decided to turn the movie into our weekly Family Home Evening so before we watched it, we sang a wiggle song and said a prayer. (Mormon families, guys… Just go with it.)

The prayer summed up our frustrating but endearing evening.

4-year-old Emma shouted she would say the prayer, and began without waiting.

“Dear Heavenly Father, HEY! I WAS GONNA SIT THERE!!! THAT’S MY SPOT!!!”

She began to move her blanket to “her” spot while 8-year-old Lydia sat stone still, not giving an inch to Emma’s attempts to move the blanket. Silence filled the air as we sat with our arms folded, waiting for the prayer to continue.

Ryan interrupted her “prayer” and whispered, “Finish your prayer.”

“But that was my spot!” she shouted again.

“OK, I’ll say the prayer,” Ryan said.

“No, No, NO!” she shouted. “I WANNA SAY IT!”

Finally, she got her spot back, folded her arms, bowed her head, and said, “Thank you for our family. Amen.”

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Sunday Mornings and Baby Boys

The clock rolls over to 7:00 am, and one by one, they trail into our room and climb into the big bed. Baby Rex has been babbling since 6:30, and now that he hears his two big sisters mumbling about their dreams in the next room over, his babbles turn into angry demands to be removed from his crib.




Whichever parent is more awake stumbles out of bed, rubs eyes, and retrieves the appreciative baby — the big hugs are reward enough for getting out of bed first.

We all crowd back into the big bed, now-alert kids bouncing all over us parents as we try to turn our closed eyes into some sort of game.

But Daddy is too irresistible as a gymnastic mat, and soon all children are climbing on and bouncing off his back. Soon, he wakes up enough to toss a kid here, throw a kid there, and squeeze in a snuggle or two. I scoot to the edge of the bed to stay out of the fray and keep my eyes shut a little longer.

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Then suddenly Rex decides it’s time for everyone to settle down.

“Seep,” he says, and lays his head on a pillow while he closes his eyes in mock slumber.

Mom and Dad happily oblige by lying still and closing our eyes.

The sisters laugh and join in.

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But they can’t remain that way for long. Soon, they’re back to wrestling and climbing, which only makes little Rex more indignant.

He sighs loudly, gives us his famous stink-eye, flutters his eyes, pouts his little lips in frustration, and commands again, “Seep!”

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We’ve never had a baby like him. He’s as moody as he is handsome, but darned if I don’t just love him all the more for it. It’s not like he’s truly even moody. It’s a pouty act he’s somehow perfected in his less than two years on Earth. Maybe it has something to do with my fawning over his cute pouts, my imitating of his grumpy sighs.

I’ve heard sons hold a special place in their mamas’ hearts. While he’s still my favorite age, it’s hard to tell if my undying adoration of his grumpy expressions is because he’s a toddler — or because he’s my son.

Only time will tell.

But I think I’m beginning to understand why baby boys are the darlings of their mamas’ eyes.

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