Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Grownup Update: May 2013

-I don't know if I've mentioned it here or not, but Abe switched jobs in November.  He left his part-time job at the public library and become a full-time mortgage document compliance specialist at a company called Docutech.  It makes us both very happy to have him positioned in a place where the work is challenging and his skills and work ethic are appreciated.

-Abe's getting a full-time position has enabled me to scale back my hours at my own job.  I'm now working 28 hours hours a week and the reduction in hours has made it so I can be home most days by 2:30 or 3:00.   This has given me more time to focus on my role as a mom/homemaker, which has been lovely.  I feel soooo much more balanced.

-I've recently become addicted to Jillian Michaels workout videos.  I did 30 Day Shred and am currently working on Ripped in 30.  They are AMAZING workouts and I can always motivate myself to do them because they're only 30 minutes long.  They make me feel strong and energetic and healthy, and I like them so much that I haven't been able to talk myself into switching over to my usual summertime running regimen yet.  I also just love Jillian, who gives great motivational speeches during her workouts and is never irritating like Denise Austin.  I also have a secret love for her (admittedly melodramatic) reality TV show, Losing it with Jillian.  

This was all made possible by my co-worker B.J., who for years has been demonstrating the various exercises Jillian "made" her do during her workouts, and whose enthusiasm for Jillian finally persuaded me to give 'er a try.  So thank you, Beej!

-Abe and I recently celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary.  Abe came home from work one day with a white rose and a little potted succulent plant named Herbina (reminiscent of our first cactus, Herb).  Just as I was about to ask what the occasion was, he said, "Happy Anniversary!" And so it was!  But I had totally spaced it.  However, a few weeks later we really celebrated by spending three luxurious days and nights in Lava Hot Springs.  Thank you to my parents, my sista, and Briar for watching the kidlies so we could be freeeeee for a few days.

-Also, in March I turned thirty.  Thirty is just not as old as it used to be.  I have been having a mild crisis regarding whether or not I'm fulfilling my life's purpose (vocational path, number of children, etc), but other than that, I'm digging being thirty. I like it a quite a lot, actually.  It makes me feel solid, grounded.  I think my thirties are going to be good.

Here's the birthday poster Briar and the boys made for me while I was at work.  :)  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Some Recent Quality Improvement Activities (or...The Return of the QIA)

You may remember back in '11 when I went through a phase of documenting everything I did to improve the functioning of my household?  I would link you to some examples but I'm too lazy.  Anyway, I swear I've done things between then and now, but I lost my documentation fervor.  However, I have recently implemented three changes of which I am proud.  They are:

1)  Recycling!  My guilt levels decreased by approximately 37% when I finally got this going.  Self-recriminating statements have also taken a significant dip.  And I am here to tell you: it's EASIER THAN IT LOOKS!  I know many of you are from more forward-thinking areas, places that have had curbside recycling programs in place for years, but here in rural Idaho, they are harder to come by.  But I finally made a call, found out that it was ridiculously cheap ($5/month!), purchased some stackable recycling containers (also available on Amazon), and stopped unnecessarily clogging up landfills.  For those of you in Southeast Idaho, call Curbside Recycling for more info!

2) Routine Charts!  This is one I have had in place for a while.  I created it because I wanted Soren to be able to go through his morning routine without me prompting him every step of the way.  Each thing he needs to do in the morning (ie, Brush Teeth, Comb Hair, Complete Homework) is represented by a picture and words on a card.  The cards are attached to the chart by a little piece of yarn.  When he completes a task, he flips the card over so we know it's been taken care of.  Not gonna lie: there is still quite a bit of prompting, even if it's just, "What's next on your chart?", but at least he knows what he's expected to do before he's allowed any special privileges.  I had initially made "AM" and "PM" charts for each of the boys, but the chart is way over Liam's head and I found that the evening one was more of a hassle than just hustling the boys through our evening routine, so we mostly just use the AM one for Soren. Our chart is obviously oft-used, and it wasn't really that gorgeous to begin with, but I'm sure you supermoms out there could make something beautiful-er if you were so inclined.  Anyway, I share this purely because it's been helpful for us and I like to share any tiny little shred of light that I've had shed on this mysterious adventure called parenthood.

3) Dinner!  But first, a confession:  I totally suck at controlling meals in our home.  It's pretty much a snack fest from dusk til dawn around this place, with the kids' preferences weighing in too heavily on the food selections we make.  Hot dogs again?  White bread and cheese again?  Cereal again?  Scrambled eggs again?  Bananas again?  More candy?  Oooooookaaaaayyyyy.   Guilt seizure.  I was cooking meals but people would kind of come and go, eating when they felt like it, myself included.   Also, I was a little mortified to discover that we hadn't really taught our kids any table manners.  

So, to begin to address this issue, we had a big Family Home Evening about table manners and table-setting technique, and I've been doing this hog-wild crazy thing where I cook an evening meal, set the table, and we all sit down and eat together.  And so far, it's been a success!  Mealtimes are more pleasant, the kids seem more amenable to trying what has been prepared, and we all have a chance to practice our manners.  Plus, I get this crazy high feeling from having identified a problem and figured out a way to correct it.  

My plan is to keep working on this, using meal planning to help create a little better food structure here in the Skousen household.  

Next Up in the QIA queue (not necessarily in this order):  Potty-training Liam, night-time potty-training Soren, putting an end to whining and badgering, increasing prompt obedience, working on helping Soren stop and think before acting, cope with disappointment, and focus on following through with tasks without getting distracted.  Also figuring out what's wrong with Liam's digestive system.   And working with him on language development. And I'm thinking about implementing a new set of rules (Be Respectful. Be Responsible. Be Obedient.) and bringing items of concern to Family Home Evening for discussion/solution brainstorming.  

Anyway, it seems like raising children is a little bit like sailing on a leaky ship.  You plug up one leak and two more spring up.  But I just keep reminding myself that I haven't failed if I'm still trying!    

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Heart Facebook

I don't know why everyone's gotta hate on Facebook all the time.  I mean, sure, it can be a time suck and a gateway to adultery and an awkward forum for family feuds.  Yes, it's irritating when people confuse it with Pinterest or insist on re-posting grammatically egregious and broadly stereotyping statements about life or relationships.  But these things aside,  Facebook has its merits.  So many merits, in fact, that I'm going to put myself out there and say that I like Facebook.

And this is why:

It actually helps me connect.

Facebook makes it possible for me to know when someone in my neighborhood is sick, or just birthed a child, or had an embarrassing incident with their kid at the grocery store that I can SO relate to. When you're running into acquaintances and casual friends in the real world, and you exchange pleasantries, there's not usually time or context to remark that you're trying to be better about gardening or that you thought it was so cute when your kid fell asleep while eating dinner last night or that it was so awesome when your husband surprised you with flowers or that you think Obamacare is the best thing that has happened to America in a long time or that your dad just developed a weird rash under his left elbow and you're worried it might be something serious.  But that is JUST the sort of content that shows up on Facebook.  And that content provides little glimpses into who people are, what's important to them, what's going on in their lives, and how they perceive themselves.  It's way more meaningful than, "Hey!  How are you?"  "I'm fine!  How are you?"  "Good!  How's work?"  "Good!  How are your kids?"  In fact, Facebook makes it possible for you to extend these real-life conversations into more meaningful territory.  Whereas in Before-Facebook Land, after exchanging greetings you might stand awkwardly for a moment and then be like, "Well, it was good to see you!  Bye!", now you can say, "I saw on Facebook that your kid threw up on you during dinner when you had company!  That has totally happened to me, too.  So embarrassing.  Are you guys sick?  Can I bring you some chicken soup or Gatorade?"  It opens the door to real conversations.  Real connection.  And real service.

Facebook has also helped me connect with friends I've made along the way, to keep tabs on what they're doing and where they're at.  And it has helped me connect with cousins on both sides of the family, helped me keep track of what they're doing, where they're living, the work they're doing, and how big their kids have gotten.

Facebook isn't perfect.  It isn't the perfect way to get to know somebody or keep in touch.  But it is a good way.  And, short of reordering society into a more tribal, sustenance-based structure and creating a much greater emphasis on hand-written letters, I think it's one of the best ways we've got.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cool Things You May Not Know About My Mom

1. My mom can be pretty scary.  She may not look scary here, but wait until she brings out The Flashing Eyes.  Then you'll run.  And cover your bottom. (I say 'bottom' instead of 'butt' because I don't want The Flashing Eyes to flash at me.)  

2. My mom is a teacher.  I always loved knowing that my mom was a person outside of her identity within the family.  She taught school for many years before she got married and had children, and also part-time on and off while I was growing up, so I have always thought of my mother as a teacher. A great teacher.

3. My mom is one of those people who talks to everybody.  She makes jokes with the lady straightening the rack in the clearance section of the store.  Grocery clerks tell her about their infertility problems.  She once attended a poetry slam because the guy who cleaned the building where she volunteered was doing a reading.  She has listened for long hours while a loquacious and deaf neighbor has repeated, at top volume, all of the injustices that befell her in childhood.

4. My mom was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis twenty five years ago, but she has never let that define her.  I recently heard someone describe a family member as being "chronically ill."  Curious, I asked what illness the individual was coping with.  "Oh, rheumatoid arthritis," my friend remarked.  For a moment, I was confused.  But my mom has rheumatoid arthritis, I thought.  And she's not chronically ill.  It's not like the RA doesn't affect her.  It sure does.  But my mom doesn't think of herself as ill or crippled, so neither does anyone else who knows her.

5. My mom is pretty much obsessed with tennis.  It's a random thing she picked up five, ten years ago.  She knows the names of all the big pros and follows the big tournaments religiously.  And when the Davis Cup came to Boise, you bet your booty that she and my dad were there, front and center.  On a somewhat related note, she is also a die-hard BYU sports fan.  She will listen to entire football games on the radio.  And more than once she has showed up to grandkids' birthday parties with headphones so she could tune into the action during a lull in the festivities.

6. My mom is a woman of faith.  She has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints her whole life.  She serves faithfully in any way that she is asked to.  She ensured that we had family scripture study and prayer every morning before we left for school.  She encouraged gospel discussion around the dinner table.  She sent both her sons on full-time missions for the church and all four of her children have been to the temple.

7. My mom is a reader.  I remember her bringing a book along wherever we went.  She read at sports practices and while she waited for us to finish up piano lessons and when we were camping and when we were not camping.  She read aloud to us on roadtrips.  She's belonged to a book club for probably twenty years now.  She passed that love of reading down to each of her children.

8. My mom is astoundingly emotionally healthy.  She doesn't have any neuroses.  She doesn't dwell on negative things.  She's not constantly wracked with guilt and anxiety like so many women are (ahem...me).  She's not manipulative.  She's not prone to wild mood swings.  (Though I will say that her forging her way through menopause while I simultaneously climbed the mountain of puberty was sometimes a little, um, strenuous...)  She's extraordinarily good at balance-- balancing activity with stillness, service with boundaries, work with play. Scariness with lovingness.  And that's probably what I'm the most amazed at--my mom's ability to be so totally loving and so totally in charge.

9. My mom is musical.  She loves music.  A lot.  She was so excited about The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat that I was excited about them too.  I recently spent a happy Sunday afternoon at her home, listening to amazing Mormon Tabernacle Choir tracks with her.  She plays the piano and also played the organ for many years.  Recently a little girl from church told my mother that she was her "piano hero."

If being born in a family is like playing the lottery, I totally hit the jackpot.  I'm so grateful for my parents, and on this mother's day, I am especially grateful for my mom.  Love you, Mama.


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