Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ah, Parenting... a humbling experience lately. Coren is right at the age where he now understands what Mom does and does not want him to do; and the age where he's discovering he can either do or not do what Mom wants him to do. A tricky age.

A few examples from this last week:

The minute I tell him not to run out into the street, into the street he runs as fast as he can go (which is surprisingly fast these days... not to mention I've gotten significantly slower). And he usually runs straight into the path of an oncoming car. Of course.

I ask him to come over so I can change his diaper, and he climbs onto the couch, giggling, and crawls to the other end, because he knows I'm too tired to get off my rear end and get him. This one is actually not bad--more of a game for both of us than serious defiance.

Today, my favorite--after I told him about 13 times to leave the paint alone (sending him out of the room nearly half of those 13 times), he drops a nightlight into the paint, then onto the carpet. Now his carpet is pink. Fabulous. That one nearly sent me over the edge.

But this really is not a surprising development. When kids are discovering their agency, it's only natural to experiment with it, right? Test limits (or parents, at least) and see what happens. This I have been expecting. What I wasn't expecting is how directly his little moments of free will show me my parenting flaws. I have had to apologize to my little 18 month-old more often this last week than in the entire 17 previous months of his life. A humbling experience. And at the same time, one I am grateful to be passing through (though it's not easy or fun necessarily)--first, because my son is so forgiving. And second, because I am learning that even parents should never be above admitting our faults (which are my case, anyway). And I can see exactly which areas of my personality need some scrutinizing and improving. Good to know.

And on the flipside of the parenting coin, this week has also given me a treasure trove of tender moments with my same sassy son... Isn't it nice to have the bitter and the sweet? Opposition in all things really is a perfect idea.

Some favorite examples of these tender moments:

Coren running around the house, calling out "Honey!", as he tries to find Daddy.

Any time he hits his head or smashes a finger, he immediately comes to me to kiss it better--and he makes me kiss it over and over until I get the exact spot that was hurt. Where do they learn things like that, that Mommy's kisses make crashes better? I don't think we teach them that, do we? I don't remember teaching it.

His newfound love of running--he has to do at least a dozen laps across the upstairs every night before bedtime. As a perk, it also helps wear him out right before bed. Yeah! And it's always a joy to watch his loud, lumbering run--absolutely no grace whatsoever. Maybe he'll find some later on.

His super excitement whenever we start to sing Popcorn Popping or Itsy Bitsy Spider. He can't wait to go through all the hand motions, and every single one is seriously intense! So great.

Isn't parenting a ride? One minute they're cracking us up, and the next we are restraining ourselves from putting them up for adoption on Craigslist. What a ride! And I must be enjoying it, because I'm near the front of the line for ride #2... just a few more weeks!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Conference Highlights

I just finished reading through all of the General Conference talks this week (for those unaware, General Conference is a semi-annual televised conference where we get to hear counsel and testimony from our prophet and the other general leaders of the church). I am always impressed by how many of the talks seem to have been written for me--just the things I need to hear and remember for the next six months. So here are some of the highlights from the talks this year, the parts that really jumped out at me, for myriad reasons, probably. Obviously, you just don't get the full effect from one little excerpt of each talk, I know. And I realize the things that some of these quotes will not have made the same impact on the rest of you. But, since this is my journal, here are my thoughts and impressions:

On his talk about the priesthood: "I include the sisters because it is crucial for everyone to understand what is expected of the brethren. Unless we enlist the attention of the mothers and daughters and sisters--who have influence on their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers--we cannot progress. The priesthood will lose great power if the sisters are neglected."
-Boyd. K. Packer, "The Power of the Priesthood"
-It's always good for me to be reminded of the influence I have on my husband... especially when I feel like he's always the one lifting me up. It really is reciprocal. And I just need to remind him, on a daily basis, of what a wonderful man he is, of the power he has to guide and protect our family, and how grateful I am to him that he uses that power with such gentleness and love.

"Women should be women and not babies that need petting and correction all the time. I know we like to be appreciated but if we do not get all the appreciation which we think is our due, what matters? We know the Lord has laid high responsibility upon us, and there is not a wish or desire that the Lord has implanted in our hearts in righteousness but will be realized."
-Julie B. Beck, "And upon the Handmaids in Those Days Will I Pour Out My Spirit"
-It's just really good advice for any mother to remember, as much as we don't want to hear it sometimes. So my 18 month-old doesn't tell me thank you for changing his diaper. So what?! He loves me, and shows me in a dozen other ways every day.

"Hope comes from faith in Jesus Christ. He has already overcome the world."
-Wilford W. Andersen, "The Rock of Our Redeemer" (emphasis added by yours truly)
-This one statement, for some reason, was incredibly powerful to me! I forget all too often that I'm not slogging through my trials and battles alone--Christ already went through them, and He already conquered them. If I let Him, He will guide me through them as well, and I can lean on His expertise, instead of my own human failings. Isn't that something to remember?!

"Parents must bring light and truth into their homes by one family prayer, one scripture study session, one family home evening, one book read aloud, one song, and one family meal at a time. They know that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily parenting is among the most powerful and sustaining forces for good in the world. The health of any society, the happiness of its people, their prosperity, and their peace all find common roots in the teaching of children in the home."
-L. Tom Perry, "Mothers Teaching Children in the Home"
-Ah, so our family foundations aren't built in a day?... So good to know, especially when they're still so young that they could care less about holding still for scripture study. It's getting in, on some level, day by day. I love that. Makes the task of mothering much less daunting.

"In the end, the central purpose of all scripture is to fill our souls with faith in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ--faith that They exist; faith in the Father's plan for our immortality and eternal life; faith in the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which animates this plan of happiness; faith to make the gospel of Jesus Christ our way of life; and faith to come to know 'the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent' (John 17:3)."
-D. Todd Christofferson, "The Blessing of Scripture"
-There it is. Need I say more?

"Someone said once that true love must include the idea of permanence. True love endures. But lust changes as quickly as it can turn a pornographic page or glance at yet another potential object for gratification walking by, male or female. True love we are absolutely giddy about--as I am about Sister Holland; we shout it from the housetops. . . Love makes us instinctively reach out to God and other people."
-Jeffrey R. Holland, "Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul"
-I always, always love Elder Holland's talks. I love that he is forthright and unapologetic about his strong words. But this especially won my heart because it sums up everything I feel for Chad--everything he makes me feel! And I am sad for those out there who confuse love with lust, who can't get this. Who think, like Elder Holland mentioned, that if their fire is low, it must mean they need to move on to someone else. No! Absolutely not! If that is the solution you choose, you will be sadly moving from person to person the rest of your life, unfulfilled, never attaining the enduring, giddy love that is so possible and world-changingly wonderful (thanks to husbands out there like my Chad)!

"'Our family's faith is in Jesus Christ and is not dependent on outcomes.'"
-Dallin H. Oaks, "Healing the Sick"
-I sort of want to write this in giant letters on a poster and hang it on a wall. I hope my children grow up understanding this fundamental, all-important principle of faith. That we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of whether we lose mothers, go through long illnesses, lose jobs or houses, suffer unjustly from the persecution of others, etc. Faith in Jesus Christ grants us the grace to move through all of those things, but only if it is founded on Him in such a way that, even when prayers are not answered how we wish, we know He is still with us, and it is His will that we strive to do.

To the young men of the church: "Satan would have you think that you are too young or that there are too few of you to do significant things with the Aaronic Priesthood. None of that is true. God's words to Moses are for you today: 'Behold, thou art my son;. . . and I have a work for [you]' (Moses 1:4, 6). He has given you His power to do great things. As you fulfill your duty to God, you will strengthen and bless your family. This is your greatest priesthood duty."
-David L. Beck, "The Magnificent Aaronic Priesthood"
-I am blessed to come from a father who is a wonderful priesthood holder. And the same goes for my father-in-law. However, this warmed my heart because I thought of my brothers, also great men of God, who I hope truly understand this as well--that they are capable of great things in the hands of the Lord. That their righteousness blesses our family as well. And I want my son to understand this as he grows--that he too is a force for good in our home, alongside his righteous father. Love it! Great words!

"Nevertheless, without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace."
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Continue in Patience"
-Yep, hard words, but great words. True words. I need to work on this.

"Throughout the world and among the membership of the Church, there is great joy and great pain. Both are part of the plan. Without one, we cannot know the other. 'Men are, that they might have joy' (2 Nephi 2:25) and 'for it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things' (2 Nephi 2:11) are not contradictory; they are complementary."
-Donald L. Hallstrom, "Turn to the Lord"
-I can surely say that I have learned this lesson... and life is truly felt deeper and lived more fully when this lesson has been learned. The sorrow of life is there to make the joy that much more deeply joyful! To live on the surface of life, where things are calm, where is the feeling? Do I understand the majesty of the mountains better from the plain or the deep valley? Depth gives life dimension, so give me depth! Difficult as it will be at times. The great joy that follows is worth it! (Having said that, this is not an invitation to the Lord to start giving it to me right now. I'm just acknowledging that it has come and it will come. That's all.)

"Second, we must become worthy examples. This is also a process. If we want our children to come to Christ so that they might see His face, it is important that we seek to see it as well. We have to know the way in order to show it them. We must put our own lives in order so that the children can look to us and follow."
-Cheryl C. Lant, "That Our Children Might See the Face of the Savior"
-Good reminder for me. How can I teach a child that which I don't know/do myself? Do my words, or do my actions, speak louder? What example does Coren see on a daily basis? What kinds of choices does he watch me make? What is it teaching him? What do I want to be teaching him?

"As President James E. Faust said: 'There is no greater good in all the world than motherhood. The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation.'"
-Bradley D. Foster, "Mother Told Me"
-Amen! Thank you, Mother!! I am working on it.

"President Thomas S. Monson stated: 'I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish--and in effect save their lives.'"
-James B. Martino, "All Things Work Together for Good"
-Isn't this so true? I know that the weeks that feel most fulfilling to me are the ones where I got out of my house and helped someone, where I served my husband and son with more love and enthusiasm, where I helped babysit or clean or whatever... where I did something that wasn't centered around me! And it feels wonderful! Even those times where we think we don't have time, doesn't it always work out anyway? And we feel so much better about life when we've done it, whatever small act of service it happens to be!

"To fathers and mothers. . . my counsel is to speak more frequently about Jesus Christ. In His holy name is great spiritual power. 'There [is] no other name given nor any other way . . . whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ' (Mosiah 3:17)."
-Neil L. Andersen, "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus"
-Again, enough said. I need to tell Coren more about the Savior--I need him to know that I know who Christ is, and how important He is to me and to us as a family! That He is the center of everything!

"Trust in the Lord's promise: 'Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest' (Joshua 1:9)."
-Ann M. Dibb, "Be of a Good Courage"
-There it is. God is with me wherever I go... even in raising 2 kids instead of just one. It'll be okay.

(You can find all of these talks in their fullest in the May 2010 Ensign of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or on . . . I'm an English major, I have to cite my material. :)