Thursday, July 31, 2008

Parenting power: Building your nest- part one

As many of you know in my pre-mom years I taught parenting at BYU and early childhood studies at Ohlone College and because I miss it, you my blog readers will be the recipients of much unsolicited advice here in a series called parenting power. Because as parents you do have power (although not absolute) and you can actively make choices about things that will shape your children .
My favorite college class was Introduction to Child Development (a class I later went onto teach) I took this class my first semester my freshman year at BYU and my teacher was Dr. Scoresby. He had a masterful way of taking concepts and helping you see them in everyday. His lectures were always so interesting, entertaining, and practical (if only my students said the same thing about my classes). You always came out smarter. Four years later, he was my professor in a tiny 6 person grad school class on emotional and moral development. One day I ran into him across campus and he told me he was going to give me "best advice" as I was then still single and had much of my life ahead of me.
He told me that after I got married I needed to build this sort of nest or web for my children. I needed to get involved and form all of these relationships in the community, in church, with friends. This environment in which your children can grow and develop, an you as an adult can be supported in a healthy moral environment. A place where you help set and moderate the moral tone. An environment/network where others shape and influence your children. I know this kind of sounds like the old Hilary Clinton "it takes a village", but philosophically it is grounded differently. It's not everyone else being responsible for your choices, and raising your children. It is you actively creating and inviting others to help build and shape the rising generation.

Children especially teenagers need to know the expectations others have for them and that those expectations are the same as the ones their parents have. They need models of service, they need models of what it means to be a responsible man and a good father, and what it means to be a strong woman and loving mother. This is the exact opposite of what our society teaches, questioning all authority, and not being beholden to others expectations, and certainly not letting anyone who isn't your parent "tell you what to do", by all means do your own thing. This is why a lot of kids are struggling today. They need other adults to cheer them on, to tell them to shape up when they need it, to let them know they are special, to help them make wise choices. To help them feel unique and appreciated in a truly personal way. Then need a moral network that actively teaches them what helps or harms.

As our children grow up and try to "find themselves" and try taking on more and more adult roles they will be most influenced by their family of origin and all the people intimately interwoven in their sphere of influence. These are the models they will draw on. To develop these relationships we have to nurture respect and trust of these kids, by respecting their time, their ideas, and individualizing our attention to them.

Our homes need to become sanctuaries not only for our own children but for others, a place when they will be loved, and a place when there will always be guided on the way to happiness (which still means a place of limits and expectations). We need to open our homes to create these intricate webs of influence for our children. To help them see where happiness comes from. To create a society of empathy and altruism.

So think on this topic a bit and we'll come back to it later...
My thanful 3 for today
1. thinking about sillier times
2. watching hopkins last night (only 1 more episode left- sad)
3. my boys jumping around the famliy room


We have our July winner thanks to number generator- The Jorgensens- they were the last comment before the deadline! I have to tell you this is so fun- I was just planning to do 3 giveaways this summer but I think now I'll have to do more- I am such a sucker for giving!
1. painting
2. kids being excited to make stuff
3. macadamia nut clusters

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Summer of Orange Julius Chapter 2: OJ takes to the Road

To read more of my Orange Julius adventures click here and for the infamous orange Julius recipe click here...

Today I decide to be the cool mom and surprise my kids with a run to dairy queen and their favorite library in a neighboring town. I also figured I'd throw in a stop to my favorite consignment shop- because after all I am thrifty mama too. I went to get the stroller out of the trunk of my car and was unepectedly greeted with gooey orange slimy nastiness filling the trunk of my car. What could this mystery liquid be? Well as I began removing other items from my trunk I found a totally disintegrated can o' orange juice. I began to piece together how this went down. Obviously an errant can of frozen orange juice strayed from it's highly quality walmart plastic shopping bag on the journey home from the store Friday. It hid steathily and undisturbed under the Arrow map of Metro Boston where it was subsequently smashed by a laundry basket full of supplies that I hauled to a baby shower Saturday. Due to this bodily trauma it began to leak it's precious contents all over the trunk of my van. Where it would remain permeating the crevices of the trunk bed until Tuesday morning when it was discovered in a parking lot by me unsuspected smart mama. I performed basic triage with the help of dry wipes and a box of Kleenex and a spare diaper somehow ( not a day to leave the wet wipes at home!). When I finished I had to perform triage on my own sticky self in the Homegoods bathroom!No I did not take pictures- some things are too graphic to be shared- we try to keep it family friendly here! Thankfully my van has a plastic bed liner and although this task clearly falls on my husbands side of the marital contract which is all things: dirty, heavy, sweaty, smelly, or generally gross but this was an emergent situation, it could not wait. So here is me power washing out the bed liner.
Fatality of the Day- One arrow street atlas of Metro Boston- RIP
Find of the Day: For our resident hornets-- a trash can full of sticky OJ concentrate coated paper towels!
Quote of the day- "No wonder it smelled funny in here!"ss#1
Lucky Winners of the Day: Our friends Chris and Laura who had previously reserved our van for an airport pickup run- Who recieve the complimentary OJ fresh scent- usually I charge extra for aromatherapy.
1. a hose to clean with
2. the smell of mint brownies (and my son suggesting we use them as an air freshener)
3. bargain finds

get it?

Lest you feel forgotten my fellow blog friends I am doing a terrible job keeping up with all my blog reading/posting this summer- so please don't feel forgotten or unloved I am just way way behind on my reading!

So lately joking silliness has been the contagion of the summer for my 2 biggest boys... Love of jokes is a classic middle childhood developmental thing- It's kind of funny to watch!

here are some of my seven year olds jokes:
What can you serve but never eat? (a mission)
What is an octopuses garden? (sea weeds)
What is a grams favorite snack? (graham crackers)

my 3 yr old made his contribution with his
"look mom a flying saucer!"
1. some one on one time
2. a nice shower
3. friends

Friday, July 25, 2008

I'm watching hopkins

I love Thursday nights because I get to watch Hopkins, a six part series following Dr's and patients at Johns Hopkins. I love it because Hopkins is "my hospital. Exactly ten years ago I was there doing my clinical hours as a child life specialist. As I watch the episodes, I see all the familiar signs, glimpse the halls I walked through hundreds of times, see doctors I used to pass in the hall, or even those whose surgeries I stood in on. Even though the patients are not the same, they are familiar. The faces may change, by the diagnoses, the issues, the challenges of life in a hospital repeats itself. I don't mean that in an impersonal way. Some patients and families are unique and will always stand out. Others you don't even remember a week or a month later, they kind of just fade into your general experience and remembrance. What is always familiar is the role you play as a provider of care. A flawed person, busy with the details of your own life but simultaneous involved and importantly intertwined in the fabric of another person's life. No, medicine is not just a realm of pure altruism, everyone has their own motivations, but in the end
there is a fascination, or a desire, or an addiction to fixing that runs common.
The show reminds me of life and death, the universality of struggle and tragedy. It is about our humanness, something I don't think we have enough reminders of. I tell my husband often working around all sorts of medical issues, you kind of accept sooner or later you or your child will be "that patient". You will be the one getting the diagnosis, making the treatment decisions, the one sitting in the chair waiting for someone to come talk to you. I was reflecting on this today as I dropped off a painting for an Auction Event for the medical center foundation that supports the NICU where my ss#3 baby was after he was born. I remember the tears just rolling down my face 8 months ago when He was that patient. And I was digesting all the potential outcomes for my little son. I was all the more emotional because I didn't just hear the words the doctor said but I saw the faces of patients I had know who had travelled those "outcomes" in my previous experience. I could see those kids so tired of it, the endless weeks and months of living in hospital, of parents in chair beds, and cafeteria food, and the microcosm of a hospital room that can easily become the better part of your universe. At least in your care and attention.
I miss that daily challenge, the science, the learning, the creativity, the problem solving, the way you become involved in people's lives in meaningful ways. Whenever I am in a hospital I find myself wanting to linger. I think its because part of me knows I can do good there, in some room somewhere I could be doing something to help. Sure I could call the numbers on the recruiting postcards that come each month, but I chose my life as a mom of three boys, because my boys need me and I need them. Still there is a part of me that will always be at home in a hospital. If I had a a thousand lives to live, I'd know spend at many of them there.

So if you haven't seen it, go watch all the episodes at (I do occasionally, okay a number of times each episode, wince at a few of the comments, obviously a child life specialist did not figure highly in the dialogue) but you can look past that! Of course for the sake of ratings, they chose to focus on flashy things like heart transplants, but man I am sure me hosting Hospital Bingo via closed circuit TV almost coul have made the cut.
1. a healthy baby
2. being able to support good causes
3. being a "care provider"

father and son

Thursday, July 24, 2008

a "green" hairdryer

My 7 yr old never stops...thinking, talking, or coming up with a billion different ideas. Usually these are related to science... this morning he informed me that he had an alternative power hairdryer. Which in his words "was not highly efficient but would require absolutely no electricity." So if your power goes out, your hairdryer breaks, or you are traveling in the bush away from the modern conveniences of life let me recommend the balloon air release method as captured here.

10 points for creativity!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Smart Mama Presents: Stewardship

As part of a series on our family values, I will highlight each of the 9 values we have chosen for our family. I'll share my thoughts on the value and why I chose it. Previously I highlighted Accountability.

Motto: We are grateful for all we have and use everything wisely.
Scripture: For unto whom much is given, much is required
Doctrine and Covenants 82:13

The dictionary defines stewardship as: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care. I chose this because our society is one of entitlement. The message it sends is "you deserve whatever you want" and "hey if it's yours a do what you want with it". I don't ascribe to this philosophy. Again I believe everything in life has a moral foundation and we can chose things that help or harm others. I believe all that we have is from God. We need to to stop and be grateful for all we have (as many people have far less) and do better things with what we have. I believe that he intends for us to go good with those things he has given us and not just serve ourselves. I don't believe because we have more we are better. I only believe one of the great tests of this life is to see if we can reach beyond ourselves and desire to even out the have and the have nots instead of simply making our lives as prosperous and comfortable as possible. Life has many commodities: Our talents, our opportunities, our education, our wealth, our prosperity, our earth. Everyday we deal in these things, we can squander them if we chose or we can use them wisely. It is our responsibility to do good with these things.

I expect a lot from my children because they have a lot. Maybe that sounds like a big load to carry but, I think the expectation is important. My children are growing up in a comfortable, healthy loving home with many many opportunities and unfortunately much of the world is not, and by virtue of those advantages, they have a responsibility to share and help. I believe we have an obligation to speak up and speak out and create a greater good. We don't waste our time, our money frivolously or on things that don't matter or just to keep up with the Joneses. When it comes to education, to living a good life, to making the world better, they cannot claim ignorance.

This is why we do things like kiva micro finance loans, and why we donate to various humanitarian causes. This is why we are involved in our community and our church. This is why we try to be thrifty and wise with our money, and make stuff from scratch, reuse things, and not get carried away in materialistic pursuits. It is why we learn about others and try to stop and appreciate more things we often take for granted.

For me I feel blessed to have had alot of educational opportunities, to have been raised by very good parents and by virtue of that I am expected to give back. I have seen so many places in countries around the world where food, education, shelter, clothing, medicine is not a given. Those experiences have really shaped my understanding and sense of purpose and obligation in life.

July Art Giveaway!

Yes, I have been delinquent (actually I forgot because I was away in the beginning of the month and didn't have access to my work to take pics and create a new slide show) so better late than never July's art giveaway.
How it works? Just post a comment on this post (by July 31st) and you're entered to win- All are welcome to enter! If you are the winner (selected by random drawing)- you get to choose one of the above 16x20" or 11x14" paintings! I will ship the painting to the winner anywhere in the US.
You can see more of my art on my gallerysite.

Good Luck!

xoxo smartmama

Monday, July 21, 2008

piece of the week- chain branch red

This piece is a cousin to this one I did a few years back. I love exploring a series. It is 24x24. I gold leaf the entire canvas face then paint over it- I have fun with this technique because I love how it plays with the transparency of the paint of reflective light. It is always different depending on the angle you view it from. I also love the warmth that the gold leaf adds. It also adds a warmth.
1. more new legos
2. orange julius that stayed in the blender
3. playing instruments at family night

Sunday, July 20, 2008

boys at play

nothing like a 90+ degree day and fountains outside the harvard science center to cool down in

luscious baby cheeks

I know enough already-- I do indulge in yet another post showing off my cute baby, his yummy cheeks and his fabulous lowlights!
1. dinner with friends
2. helping hands at church
3. freshly bathed children

Friday, July 18, 2008

Smart Mama presents: Accountability

As part of a series on our family values, I will highlight each of the 9 values we have chosen for our family. I'll share my thoughts on the value and why I chose it.
Motto: We make wise choices knowing every choice has a consequence.
Scripture: ...They have become free forever, knowing good from evil, to act for themselves and not to be acted upon. 2 Nephi 2:26
I chose this value because one of the things I want my children to understand that life is a long string of choices and you will always reap what you sow. I always remember a line from a song in the musical, My Turn on Earth that says "when you choose the very first step on the road you also chose the last". That phrase has always stuck with me. This is a critical concept. When you make a choice you ultimately chose a consequence (outcome). Those consequences are not just situational, but emotional as well.

In a young child's world, this is critical for creating a sense of order and boundaries and helping children gain control of their emotions. If you chose to disobey a rule, there will be a consequence. Being happy and "free" comes from making good choices. Being sad, being restricted in the things you can do comes from making choices that hurt yourself and others and cause them to lose trust in you. This was the foundation for my classroom management strategy when I was a first grade teacher. When my students felt sad or upset by something that happened we'd go back and talk baout what led them to that point. I make clear the rules and expectations and carefully make your choice based on the outcome you would like. Its basically destination thinking. When do you want to end up? Then get on the road going there!

Parenting is a process of letting go, as our children grow up we give them more and more freedom to prepare them for the adult world. We have to really help them develop this sense of moral agency because it will ultimately be their guide. Children need opportunities to make choices and feel some pangs of regret. Children also need to make choices and realize the great outcomes that came from those choices. This is how children develop true confidence and realize they can trust themselves (critical to self concept). As my children grow up, I want them to understand that the they make choices in school will directly affect their career opportunities. The friends you hang out with will ultimately determine who they spend their time with, who they marry, the things they are involved in. If you chose to involve yourself in things that are destructive, risky, illegal, immoral, the unfortunate consequences of those choices will also follow (addiction, criminal records, unwanted pregnancies). Or simply put dumb choices bring sad consequences. Life has enough bumps along the way no need to add more! Likewise very deliberate good actions will bring good consequences.
One of the key words in the motto is wise choices. I want my children to stop and think about their choices. Weigh the options, identify good and bad, make your choice carefully and thoughtfully. In our world today there are so many messages and influences on our children. In our world of blaming others, "it's all their fault", absolving oursleves of responsiblities, and our overly therapeutic culture, teaching accountability goes against the cultural grain. However, I want them to understand that they are active agents controlling their destiny, their opportunities, and their happiness.
I teach accountability in the context of morality as defined as "what helps or harms others" we make choices everyday that help or hurt others. I believe we are responsible for the the impact we have on the lives of others.

key words (smartmama parenting vocab tags): accountability, choices, lose, gain, opportunites, consequence, be wise, freedom, options, what will happen if you do that?, how will you feel if you do that?, if...then
1. my kids enjoying creatures (thanks cj)
2. breakfast dinner
3. willpower

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Graff Family Values:Intro

A few years ago my husband and I decided to come up with our list of family values. I got the idea from my friend Jenn H., a masterful mom of 6 boys. We wanted them to become a part of our family culture. In graduate school one of my best classes was emotional and moral development. One of the concepts taught by my wise professor Dr. Scoresby was the important of teaching implicitly and explicitly. We have to define with words and then show with actions if we really want to teach our children. We hope these will become a part of the spoken and unspoken expectations to guide our children's lives in all aspects (spiritual, physical, moral, social, emotional). I wanted something to that would apply to them as they formed relationships, made decisions and commitments and went about the choices of everyday living.

This process actually took us months. We wanted things that would clearly communicate our expectations and hopes for them. Something to guide them in how they should "use up their lives". I also felt this underlying framework that would ward off eventual conflicts that arise between parents and children.

After my arduous selection of "the values" (wanting to encompass as many areas as possible), we then wrote mottoes/statements. We chose to phrase these as "we do" statements not "we try".

We then chose a scripture to accompany each one. The foundation of these values comes from our faith and beliefs about the purpose and meaning of life. We often use these as the basis of our family home evening lessons and hope that by the time our children have grown they will ahve internalized these ideas.

Currently they hang on the wall in our playroom (if you have been over recently you can tell the above photo was taken abotu 2.5 yrs ago when I finished the project- because the shelf of art is now heavy laden, stacked 3 deep with the childrens art work).
So do indulge me over the course of a few posts present all of our family values and more about each one.
1. a long nap for my baby
2. reading books with my kids
3. my husband finishing his talk so I can use the computer again!

Monday, July 14, 2008

shrieking screams...

came from my mouth causing my husband and child to come running to the kitchen (okay maybe the scream was too much) but how else are you to respond when your three year old turns on your uber powerful new blender when the lid is off and the pitcher is full with a freshly made batch of orange julius...

frothy orange sweetness erupting wildly all over the kitchen

clean up efforts are in progress...happy family night!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

3 for me

I was tagged by my friend Emily, who I knew when I was in Grad school (who writes a very delightfully amusing blog) and will forever live in the smart mama hall of fame for carving hot dogs into hearts and sculpted the phrase I love you in hot dog for her boyfriend (now husband) after I taught a class on 101 ways to say I love you! in our BYU ward. So here it goes...

3 Joys:
Creating things- you know I always have my fingers in something around here. Nothing would probably send me into depression more than not being able to create. Here is my latest collage pieces.
People- My family, my friends, nothing makes me happier than being around people I love.
Teaching/Helping- I love helping people learn new things, solve problems, come up with ideas. You know my ultimate job is to be a professional brainstormer.

3 Fears:
The ice cream truck/man- Odd I know but true, I find the music disturbing and it evokes images of the bad child catcher in chitty chitty bang bang.
Snakes-- Unfortunately my 7 yo does not share my fear and frequently catches them and shows them to me. This is why i no longer trust him when he says close your eyes and hold out your hands.
Really tight spaces- The other day I was thinking about going through Hezekiah's tunnel while in Jerusalem-- though a long tiny windy underground tunnel - chest deep in water? What was I thinking?

3 Obsessions/Collections:
Children's books- I keep them stashed in almost every room in the house- hundreds and hundreds of them-I am afraid to to count for fear I'll tip into the thousands range
Sprinkles- I have quite a collection of sprinkles- at any given time I probably have about 30 kinds of sprinkles in my house at any given time.
Great toys- I love great toys, I am a sucker for great toys. good open ended toys and things like playmobils, legos, games, blocks don't get me started!

3 Random/Surprising Facts:
I like to be prepared- I like to be prepared for everything. I always like options- this is why my basement food storage my neighbors call the graff and shop, this is why I can redecorate a room simply from fabrics in my basement or throw a party without having to go the store for a single item, this is why my suitcases alwasy weigh the full 50 allotted pounds. I do not do well with scarcity.
I have recurring dreams almost once a week in fact that I am in school, college usually, and its the first day of class and i don't have my schedule and i am running around trying to find out my schedule so I know where to go. So "freud that" and get back to me w/ an explanation if you will.
I use 4 pillows when I sleep, crazy yes but i like to be perfectly sublimely comfortable (maybe this is why sleeping in amtrak doesn't jive with me?)

Tagged?: If you are reading this and blog- well you know the drill jump in!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

of torture and truth serum

On TV they always use these serious interrogation methods to get people to "cooperate". Well, I am here to advocate for positive interrogation methods. I just came from visiting with Jane, this wonderful massage therapist I go to when I am on vacation. As I walked out, after an hour of deep massage, I realized I didn't have a care in the world. If you had caught me at that moment, I would probably have given you whatever you wanted including: national security secrets, any of my earthly possessions, my bank information, and well children might even be are negotiable. Now as I divulge this weakness, I request that this tool never be used against me for my harm. If Guantanamo is looking for options, seriously maybe I should send them my suggestion.
1. a good massage
2. feeling totally relaxed
3. being mom to 3 great boys

what i want most

Vacation is a big test of priorities. Each day I have to decide of all the things I want, which I really want the most. Here is the list of options/priorities (in no particular order):

1. Sleeping in/taking naps- recouping from 7 months of not sleeping through the night.

2. Eating my favorite foods and trying new recipes (happy to report i have had a dq dipped cone, fresh limeade, ukrops donuts)

3. Doing projects for my parents- setting up some online stuff for them, redoing 8 flower arrangements, stocking my mms freezer with cookie dough.

4. Visiting my grandmother with 3 boys in tow, which is slightly like a three ring circus in the assisted living center dining room.

5. Taking time to be with my boys individually something that doesn't happen very often.

6. Catching up on a good book or movie, just relaxing and clearing my mind.

7. Spending time with friends (old and new)

8. Facilitating summer fun for my boys (library trips, swimming excursions, night bug hunts)

9. Shopping without 3 kids in tow

10. Exercising (sadly this has not taken priority over nightly homemade coldstone or strawberry pie!)

11. Planning new creative endeavors- some new paintings in the mix when i return home!

Have no fear- my weeks of luxurious relaxation will come to a grinding halt this week whn I return home and am once again in charge of all meals, all laundry, and all of life's grown up responsibilities.
1. bills bbq limeade
2. refocusing
3. shopping alone