Elephant in the Dark

I truly enjoy reading books with my children.  This should come as no surprise after my Read to Your Child post.  Picture books with a good message are my weakness.  One of my favorites is a Cautionary Tale of Flattery called The Spider and the Fly.  On my last trip to the library, I had the pleasure of finding Elephant in the Dark.  Prior to reading it, I knew nothing of this book nor the story it was based on, which is commonly called “Blind men and an elephant.”  It’s truly a fascinating perspective, and ironically, once I explain the gist of the story, it has several different interpretations.

There are several variations of the story, as I’ve learned from my Google research.  Seeing as how the version of Elephant in the Dark by Mina Javaherbin is the one that piqued my interest, I’ll summarize her version the best I can.  The story begins with Merchant Ahmad, who brings a mysterious creature back from India.  The news spreads in the village and everybody wants to see the creature, but Ahmad is too tired from his journey, and explains that it is too dark in his barn to see the animal at this time.  The villagers, not taking no for an answer, decide to sneak into the barn and take a look for themselves.  One by one, they go in, and each of them touches a different part of the elephant (a tail, a tusk, a trunk, etc.).  Since they each only touched one part of it, they come back out reporting the creature was like something completely different from what another person had declared.  Then it reads, “All day long they called each other names and fought to prove each other wrong.  Into the night no one listened, but everyone shouted and shoved.”  Then, the next day Ahmad awakes and takes the creature to the river, which we now see is an elephant, but the villagers are still too busy fighting to see the creature appear.  The last line reads, “And no one noticed they each knew only a small piece of the truth.”

Elephant in the Dark

As I finished reading Elephant in the Dark, I concluded that every adult needs to read this book.  My Facebook has become so cluttered with who’s right and who’s wrong, that it’s disheartening.  I realize you already heard my rant on this topic in Accentuate the Positive, but this book just brought it to the forefront of my mind again.  It also reminded me of this quote I read by the US Secretary of Agriculture and 13th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ezra Taft Benson.  He said, “Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right.”  Religious or not, the idea that being right is more important than the whole truth gets us nowhere as a society.

Sometimes I feel bad that I don’t have an adamant opinion on all things.  Starting this blog made that more evident in my life.  I knew if I had a more extreme opinion on a matter, I could draw a larger audience.  Shock factor sells, right?  At first I thought I was just too ignorant to form an opinion on hot topics.  Then I realized, it’s that I can see where others are coming from, for the most part.  I’m not perfect in this way by any means.  But I would like to believe that I don’t just go into the barn, feel one part of the mysterious creature, and assume I know all based on that single instance.  I have opinions on all sorts of things, don’t get me wrong, but I also understand that it’s my opinion.  Some of my opinions have facts to back them up, some don’t.  The last thing I want to do though is ever express my opinion in such a way that demeans somebody else’s viewpoint.  I don’t want to fight about who is right.  I’m okay with learning more about the whole creature.  But, I’m also okay with being considered wrong in someone else’s eyes.  On that same note, I’m also okay being wrong in my own eyes.  For me, it’s not about who is right, but what is right.  Because of that thinking process, I’m not afraid to learn more.    I want to understand the whole creature.  Period.

I love one of the interpretations of this story, made into a poem by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet,which Elephant in the Dark is based on.  Rumi’s poem ends with, “If each had a candle and they went in together the differences would disappear.”  I think of that line and wonder what our world would look like under those circumstances.  I imagine, as it pertains to this story, we would all be unified in understanding it was an elephant, but we would still have our opinions on the creature.  Perhaps one person would find the elephant ugly, and another would find it breath-taking, but both would agree it was an elephant. Neither person needs to be wrong in their feelings towards the elephant.  We can respect differing interpretations of the creature, while simultaneously agreeing that there is a greater truth that there is no disputing.

Oh, how I hope I was able to express my feelings on Elephant in the Dark and it’s greater meaning.  The concept was over my toddler’s head, as I read the book to him.  But, I’ve found myself reading it over and over on my own.  There is much to take away and ponder about this story.  Take a moment and reflect on the story, if you have some time.  I would love to hear other’s feelings on the matter.


Screen Time Guilt

My three-year-old had his annual check-up a few months ago and they handed me a form to fill out about his development.  I knew they would have a question about his amount of screen time and I knew I did not want to answer it honestly.  The question was specifically worded like this, “Do you limit screen time for your child?”  My husband was next to me, as I was filling out the form.  He said, “Nope.”  I said, “Yes, I do.”  Granted, I don’t limit it as much as I should, but if I have to hear twenty billion times a day, “Can I watch TV?” then that means I have taken some measures to limit it.  Of course, we still got “the speech” about too much screen time from our pediatrician, since I fessed up that it was more than 2 hours a day.  I get it.  I really do.  Too much screen time is bad for our children (and ourselves), but I’m tired of the screen time guilt I feel every time I say ‘yes’ to the TV or iPad.  Frankly, I’m tired of the guilt that I feel for every shortcoming I have as a mother.

Here’s the deal.  I’m working on my 50 Fabulous Summer Bucket List Items along with the twenty additional ones I have that are location specific, and we are flying through them.  We’ve been to a rodeo, had a water balloon fight with some 30+ kids, gone on several picnics, gone camping, visited a fish hatchery, attempted letter-boxing (couldn’t find it), gone on a surrey ride as a family, had a lemonade stand and a garage sale, hosted a talent show with friends, drawn sidewalk chalk drawings, played board games, gone to our local outdoor swim facility, eaten snow cones, taken a trip to a local lake, played at a water splash pad, been working on our library’s reading program, gone to the $1 movies at Regal Cinemas (saw Annie, which was really quite enjoyable), gone swimming at a friend’s pool, built an indoor fort, and my daughters are in the middle of writing and illustrating their own stories, among other things.  Yet still, they probably average 4-5 hours of screen time everyday.  Depending on when they wake up, they sometimes get two hours of TV time before I’ve even rolled out of bed.  It’s terrible, I get that.  But I feel like a Cruise Entertainment Director and sometimes I just need my kids to sit and chill and not fight.  So, why must I feel the screen time guilt every time that happens?

Screen Time Guilt

Is there an escape from said guilt?  Because I imagine even if I just let them veg out with a screen for only two hours, I would still feel guilt for those two hours.  I feel guilt every time that I am not 100% engaged with my children.  I’m really good at this whole guilt thing, apparently.  I get that I am going to miss these days.  Actually, my eldest is already old enough that I do miss those days when she was a baby and it was just her, and she was my shopping partner and listening ear when I talked to myself in the stores about the products I planned on buying.  I already miss her chubby little hands that looked like they had been screwed on her arms since she had a huge crease between the two.  I already miss how she would say “Hokey Pokey” instead of Pinocchio.  You see, I get that time flies.  It’s racing faster than I can process.  But sometimes, time drags.  It drags on those days when I just don’t feel well, when my husband works long hours for days on end, or when my children bicker endlessly.  And on those days, which is most days at least one point in the day, screen time sounds lovely.

All that being said, I do turn off the TV and make my kids go fight about what to play with each other.  Even worse, I make them clean up their messes.  Their messes that obviously prove they are not having screen time all day or else the messes wouldn’t be there in the first place, right?  My house is too much of a disaster from children’s items for my kids lives to be entirely dedicated to screens.  Is it odd that the mess gives me a bit of relief as it is an indicator that my children still know how to imagine and create?  Or the paper scraps?  Oh my heavens!  The paper scraps around my house.  I’m convinced there is a forest missing somewhere due to my girls alone, and yet the screen time guilt remains.  You see it doesn’t seem to matter how much I do to keep my kids busy or what they do to keep themselves busy, at the end of the day, I just seem to focus on the hours of screen time they should not have had.

The real reason that screen time guilt hits me, is because I know they’re missing out on stuff, just like I’m missing out on stuff when I spend hours checking (and re checking) social media.  I get that we have less time to engage with one another when I so quickly say ‘yes’ to screen time.  One Sunday, a couple of weeks ago, I was frustrated as I looked around and noticed that every family member, aside from my baby, was on a screen.  That’s not the type of life I want to live either, y’know?  I made everybody get off their screens and talk to each other.  I realize that I don’t do that enough.  And that is where the guilt comes from.

So, dear readers, help me out.  How do I rid myself of screen time guilt for the times that we all just want to veg?  And how do I better moderate the screen time use so that we don’t miss living life to the fullest?  Before I open myself up to judgment, please consider that my baby still takes two naps a day and my three-year-old cannot engage with someone else without screaming at the top of his lungs at some point, whether it be in frustration or happiness.  He is loud.  So, half the time the TV is on as a tool to keep him quiet and the baby sleeping.

My daughter’s annual check-up was just last week and I had to answer the same question.  This time, I told the pediatrician, “She is on a screen more than she should be and less than she wants to be.”  That answer didn’t suffice the doctor either.  I was given “the speech” again.  At the next check-up, I want to answer the question with more honesty and less guilt.  Can I have both without removing all screens from our home?

Your Life is an Occasion

For the past few days, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a bit of a slump.  I couldn’t seem to pinpoint it’s origin until a few moments ago.  I think what it comes down to is that I’m bored with the wash, rinse, repeat cycle of life right now.  Are you familiar with this cycle?  Of course you are, especially if you’re a parent.  I know I’m not alone because I saw a meme just today that read, “Do you want to know what it’s like to have kids? 1. Gather everything you own.  2. Throw it all on the floor.  3. Pick it up. 4. Repeat for infinity.”  I’m not sure what’s exacerbating the issue, as it’s not like I’m a new stay-at-home-mom.  Perhaps the combination of increased time indoors due to colder temps, or the stage of my six-month-old’s eating habits (feeding baby mush gets tiring), or the fact that my to-do list seems to be never-ending (even worse, at times, never-starting)?  I can’t say that I know for sure, but the only thing that’s going to change it is my attitude, which brings me to Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.

Have you seen Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium?  I don’t understand why the film has such a low rating?  As far as kids movies go, it’s quite endearing.  I only recently had the opportunity to watch it.  I don’t know how I’ve managed to not see it until now, as it’s been out for almost 10 years.  I wish I could say it’s because my children hardly watch TV, but that’s hardly the case.  I digress.  The movie has a line that struck both my eight-year-old daughter and I as powerful.  In the scene, Dustin Hoffman, who plays Mr. Magorium, is saying farewell to his assistant, played by Natalie Portman.  In his final goodbye he tells her, “Your life is an occasion.  Rise to it.”  And so it is.

I need to rise to it.  I need to make my life more than wash, rinse, repeat.  Don’t get me wrong, I get that life is made up of such things.  But the only way it’s going to be more than that is if I rise up and do something more.  Then the question remains, “How?”  How does one rise to the occasion?  If we take an actual occasion, such as a birthday, then we get ourselves spiffy,we eat our favorite foods, we spend time with loved ones, and, if we’re hosting a shin-dig, we pull out our coordinating paper plates and napkins.  Not gonna happen.  My daily life is going to have to be a different type of occasion.

I’ve pondered much on what I’m seeming to miss these past few days.  I thought if I turned the word “rise” into an acronym it might help me in the future, should I start to slip into the doldrums again.  So, here it goes, my best guess at what I need to make my life an occasion, or rather, make the most of each day: R – recommit; I – initiate; S – savor; E – evaluate.

This is the biggest one for me right now.  I’m sort of floundering lately.  I need to recommit myself to productivity.  For example, right now I have things around the house that have been sitting on my To-Do list for so long that I’ve stopped taking them seriously.  I look at the list, rationalize why now isn’t the best time to do such a task, and return to my mindless social media scrolling.  The killer is that even though I think I’ve escaped the chore, the weight of not doing it is so heavy that it’s taken away from the joy I could be feeling had I accomplished the task.  You may be thinking, “but aren’t chores a part of the wash, rinse, repeat cycle?”  They are, you’re right.  But maybe if I recommitted to their value in my life and adjusted my attitude, then I could escape the feeling of captivity that I’ve been associating with the endless cycle?  My baby step on this item is to recommit by doing 15 minutes of an activity today that I’ve been putting off from my list.  My hope is that I will feel better for having accomplished something beyond knowing what a random person “liked” on Facebook today.  I chose a 15 minute increment because my Mom used to say to me, “I can do anything for a short amount of time.”

This one might be different for everyone.  When I think initiate, I think of an activity that is most therapeutic for me, which is spending time with loved ones.  Others may need to initiate an outdoor activity or a workout into their day.  I admit, I should probably initiate more of those activities as well.  However, I personally benefit most from the relationships in my life.  I feel edified after spending time with my loved ones as we talk about matters of everyday life.  That’s what I need to initiate.  A text, an e-mail, a phone call; these things initiate opportunities to strengthen my relationships; which I deem as one of my highest priorities.

When I think of savoring something, I imagine having to slow down to do so.  So, the S in R.I.S.E. may be interchanged with slow down, if you so choose.  I did look up the word though and there is no connection with savoring requiring time to be fully accomplished.  In fact, my favorite definition for the word was, “to give oneself to the enjoyment of.”  We could stop with the letter S and call ourselves good.  That is what I need right now.  I need to give myself to the enjoyment of life.  Prior to looking up the word though, I intended for this to be a reminder that I need to slow down and take in the beauty I do have before me.  I can choose to focus on all the dishes in my sink that I will have to wash all over again tomorrow or I can savor the moment that my boys play on the floor together or my girls come in the door from school giggling about their days events.  Granted the floor playing isn’t always peaceful and my girls sometimes come in the door distraught from their day, but inevitably there are a couple moments each day that, if the appropriate background music could be added, would be suitable for the last couple minutes of Parenthood when life seems to be savored more fully and everything seems right in the world.

::COMMERCIAL BREAK:: Speaking of Parenthood, I certainly took the time to savor their series finale last night.  It was so good.  I’m going to miss that show so much.  I almost didn’t want to start the series finale because I knew it would come to and end and I wasn’t ready.  It reminded me of when I’m reading a good book and I can’t put it down, but I try to slow down my reading just to prevent it from ending.  ::BACK TO YOUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING::

When all is said and done, evaluating is key.  I knew something was afoot with me all week.  Moments of anxiety were happening for no particular reason and I just seemed to have a bit of a cloud over me.  I’m still not sure I know exactly what triggered the feelings, but I’ve never been afraid to evaluate my situation to find out.  I like playing devil’s advocate with myself.  I tend to learn a lot of “not-so-pretty” motivations behind my actions and behavior sometimes, but I think it’s important to face the “not-so-pretty” in an effort to make one’s life something more.  The sooner you can understand yourself, the sooner you can begin to fix the kinks you may be facing at the time.  I’ve learned that my comfortableness in evaluating myself is a strength that has brought me great peace.  It’s been so valuable that it’s one of the motivating factors behind this blog.  As we evaluate our personal needs and desires, we can begin moving forward in obtaining them in a healthy manner.

So, today is a new day.  Wish me luck, as I R.I.S.E. to the glorious occasion that is my life.

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Actively Engaging in Relationships

The following post was originally published on Over the Big Moon earlier this year.  I was still pregnant at the time.  This is a perfect post to piggyback last week’s post on being Purposefully Kind.  Reading this post again reminded me how I need to recommit myself to this endeavor.

The larger portion of the year 2010 was a particularly difficult time in my life.  Feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness were all too familiar to my daily routine.  One day in February
of that year, a small package arrived in the mail addressed to me with the return address containing my own address and the sender’s name noted as Secret Friend.  Inside was a little note and a package of Godiva chocolates.  I don’t do well with mysteries, but I did quite well with the delicious gift.  My spirit had been lifted in that moment.  I tried to get to the bottom of who the sender might be, but could not figure it out.  Then March came around and I received another package in the mail sent in the same fashion.  I was so touched and still so mystified.  I even started to analyze the handwriting with other cards I had received in the past.  I remain stumped.  Then April brought a spiritual message and May brought a thoughtful gift for Mother’s Day.  The remaining months of 2010 were each filled with a package or note being sent to me from my Secret Friend.  Then in January 2011, my final package arrived informing me that my year with my Secret Friend had drawn to a close.  I never did figure out who the sender was; although I have an inkling.  What I do know was that I looked forward to those arrivals.  I felt of the love this woman had for me in a time where I felt so unlovable.  I felt the joy that comes from friendship and small acts of kindness.

The treasured gift of friendship and our role in nurturing those relationships is what I wanted to share today.  This has been at the forefront of my mind, as I am homesick for many of my friends who live far away.  Plus, as I have been struggling through the roller coaster of pregnancy emotions, I have realized again how crucial friendships are in my life.  Sadly, I have done little to nurture those friendships that bear the burden of being long distance.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve lulled myself in to believing that following people on Facebook and Instagram is sufficient in keeping a friendship alive.  As I’m sure you know, this is not the case.  Nurturing friendships requires more than observing another’s life through what they choose to share on social media.  However, at the same time, it may surprise you the impact you can make in a friendship through even the smallest of acts.  The operative word being acts.  Nurturing a friendship, or relationship of any kind, requires action.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but perhaps a reminder to actively engage with our friends is needed.  I know I need it.  Having moved out of state a year and a half ago from everything I had ever known, I have watched as friendships have slipped by the wayside.  I’m quite familiar with the three types of friends we encounter in life – those we have for a reason, those we have for a season, and those we have for a lifetime.  The thing is, I have a lot of lifetime friends that I have failed to actively engage with since moving away.  It’s not in my nature to do this, so it’s been disheartening to me.  Part of me wonders if I’ve stopped nurturing these friendships out of pure laziness or out of protecting myself (you know how sometimes connecting with somebody makes you miss them more)?  Regardless, I’ve learned that not only do I need these lifetime friends in my life, I want to feed these relationships in the same manner that I have been so richly blessed – with surprise packages, thoughtful texts, a shoulder to cry on, or a phone call just because.
The beauty of a friendship is that nurturing it doesn’t have to be filled with grandiose things.  Oscar Wilde said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”  How true that statement is!  I had the pleasure this past week of catching up with one of those above mentioned lifetime friends.  It seems silly to think that a phone call qualifies as an act of kindness, but boy did it fill my heart with more joy than I anticipated.  I laughed so freely as we went on and on about all the craziness of life.  How grateful I am that we had a moment to actually talk rather than merely intend to call one another.  I was also blessed to receive a call from another friend who lives miles away, though we did not have the opportunity to catch up, who just wanted to chat.  I felt of the love of these women despite the many miles between us.

I think what it comes down to is that things have been rather tough for me as of late.  This pregnancy has not served my emotions well.  And I’m learning how blessed I have been to have such beautiful friends placed in my life to help lighten my load and increase my joy.  These friends, whether they know it or not, are re-inspiring me to actively engage in the world around me.  Each kind gesture brings me the same feelings of love that I felt with those monthly packages I received back in 2010.  I want to be better about returning that same joy and hope to friends and family.  I’ve grown tired of caring for relationships superficially.  So, please share with me those acts of kindness that you have either given or received that enriched your relationships.  My goal is to engage more fully with the many wonderful people that have been placed in my path.
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A Perfectly Imperfect Life

You know those moments when you’re yelling at your kids and the thought crosses your mind, “Wow, I hope the neighbors can’t hear me.”?  Oh yeah, that doesn’t happen to me either.  Well, what about when you’re tucking your kids in bed and you have to take your foot and kick the toys aside to create a path so that they don’t trip and fall in the middle of the night when they come running to you to report a bad dream?  Oh, you don’t do that either?  Neither do I.  I was just making you feel better in case that’s what you have to do in your home.  Surely you have walked around in your dining area after the kids have gone to bed only to step on a soggy Life cereal piece from breakfast that morning (or perhaps several mornings ago) and then taken another step and landed on a dry piece of Life cereal that has now scattered into a pile of cereal dust that you intend to ignore until a later time?  Duh!  Of course that doesn’t happen in my home either.  I was just checking if you were that mean, messy, and lazy.  I’m certainly not.  Psh.  I wish.  All of the above are real life events in my home.  They also happen to be events that leave me often feeling like I’m failing at this whole homemaking thing.

I have it on good authority though that I am not alone in the homemaking world of messes and chaos.  I know this because I recently posted the following Instagram photo and caption:

 Walked away from this mess two hours ago to work on getting 4 kids to bed. Just finished doing that and returned to this reality. Keeping it real.

I received comments from multiple women sharing that their kitchens looked the same.  But how am I supposed to believe them when I come over and their home looks more like this every single time?

Sometimes I get this idea that everyone has their act together except me.  Rational Sara figures this isn’t true, but Rational Sara also tends to take a leave of absence from time to time.  And when she leaves, Natural Sara takes over and the emotional beatings begin.

There’s a part of me that has always been insecure, but I wonder if social media has exacerbated the issue in my life?  I saw this quote from Steven Furtick that read, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”  That quote has been rolling around in my mind ever since.  I’m not wanting to see my Facebook feed filled with negativity or Debbie Downer moments, but I secretly love walking in to a friend’s home to find it less than perfectly orderly or to overhear a fellow mom grow impatient with their child, because it reminds me that I’m not alone in my inadequacies.  It makes me realize how important it is to be honest about ourselves with one another, especially among women.  Our lives are comprised of behind-the-scenes and highlight reels and we can’t have one without the other.  In fact, there also happens to be a stellar blooper reel in the Special Features section of our home.  I think it’s important to remember that a good life is not a perfect life.

Shortly after reading the above mentioned quote for the first time, I saw a Facebook status from a friend of mine.  She showed herself vacationing in Las Vegas with the comment, “Re-charging my battery to get through all the “behind the scenes” life moments.”  I simply “Liked” the status update, but what I wanted to say was, “Huzzah!  Thanks for keeping it real.”

I guess it’s not fair to blame social media completely.  I remember when I was a new Mom and struggling with Postpartum Depression, I kept all of the pain to myself because I figured surely nobody else had ever felt this low.  I had a narrow perception of inner turmoil at this point in my life.  Then one day, as I was sitting with some girlfriends from church, I alluded to the fact that this motherhood stuff was hard.  I didn’t confess how hard it had become for me, but enough that these women knew my heart.  They both were quick to say, “Don’t be fooled by what you see on Sunday.”  I don’t believe that they were implying that they feign perfection at church.  I think there point was that it’s easy to believe that everyone’s behind-the-scenes are jolly when you watch a family sit quietly in a pew while wearing their Sunday best.  I think this was the first time that I really began to see the uplift that takes place when we let our walls down and share our imperfect lives with others.  It eases the burden of loneliness.

And I think that’s just what I wanted to share today – you’re not alone.  You’re not alone in your messy, impatient, stressful, chaotic, and sometimes lonely, world.  I know this, because I am right there with you.  Obviously, I am not there holding your hand, but I am confirming any lies you’ve told yourself about how other homes are perfectly succeeding at homemaking and/or any other role as an adult.  And I’m sharing these thoughts to serve as my own personal reminder when Rational Sara decides to take her next leave of absence.

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Living in the Moment

I had the pleasure of attending the concert of one of my favorite bands, Dave Matthews Band, the other night.  It was my seventh time seeing them live, but this was by far the most intimate venue I had seen them at.  I had the opportunity to get up close to the stage.  And, as most excited fans would, I wanted to capture the moment with my phone.  Sadly, my phone had 1% remaining of its charge.  I snapped a few shots before I shared the news with my husband that my phone had died.  His response, “Uh-oh, looks like you’re going to have to live in the moment now.”  A woman standing in front of us overheard him and chimed in with, “Now you can enjoy the concert the best way.  Congratulations!”  Now, if you know me, you know I am often taking pictures.  My friends joke that I am the unofficial photographer for their families when we are hanging out together.  Mind you, I’m not good at taking them, but I do like to be able to catch the joy of the moment.  However, I get what my husband and this stranger were pointing out.  I do tend to get carried away and miss out on the beauty of just being in the moment.

As the concert went on, I, the usual photo taker, grew irritated with the many people who had their phones up to take pictures or video almost constantly.  I found myself watching the concert through their phone screen versus being able to see the concert firsthand.  One woman even held up an iPad, not a mini one either, to take video.  Seriously, woman?  Even I know that violates photography etiquette.  I’m not saying I was suddenly converted by the remarks of my husband and said stranger, but I did my best to embrace all the wonder and excitement that was around me.  Still, there were a couple times I was wishing my phone hadn’t died yet.  This makes me wonder, is there a happy medium?  And, if so, where is it?

I find it funny that the time in your life that warrants the most capturing, which to me is when you’re raising young children, is when you have so little time to write down all the milestones and events in yours and their lives.  I want to always remember that my girls tell me, “Don’t wrestle any alligators in your sleep,” as part of our bedtime ritual.  They got this silly statement from their Dad and it still makes me smile.  I want to remember the tone and tenderness of the way my toddler simply says, “Thank you, Mommy.”  I want to remember the piggy noises my infant son makes.  I want to remember all of these things.  And I’m afraid my memory alone may not be sufficient.  So, I try to capture what I can.  And, sometimes when I get really lucky, somebody captures the moment for me, while I’m living in it.

Let’s be honest though, this isn’t just about me taking pictures.  This whole “living in the moment” concept extends to the overuse of social media and all the distractions it brings as well.  I am so bad about getting sucked in to catching up on people’s lives via Facebook and Instagram.  It’s really quite sad.  My silly task-oriented self feels this sick need to see every recent update before closing out of Facebook.  I have this silly fear that I’m going to miss out on somebody’s engagement announcement, or baby arrival, or health issue, or whatever the case may be.  Oh, how I need to work on this part of my life.  I’m assuming I’m not alone?  If I am alone, tell me how you do it?  How do you make a point to focus on the priorities and live in the moment?  Perhaps my excessive picture taking and social media checking is more rampant right now since I am smitten by the precious expressions of my newborn and feeding him every 3 hours, which seems to pass by faster when my phone entertains me?  Although, who am I kidding?  This issue is not a new one in my life.

So, what say ye, dear readers?  Any ideas on how to better live in the moment and simultaneously capture the moment?  Do you snap a few pictures and then hope your battery dies on your camera or phone?  Do you set a time limit for social media use (which I tried and failed at)?  Do you shut off your phone completely at the same time everyday?  I feel like I keep trying to find a way to let go and make the most of the moment and my time, but something keeps pulling me back in.

I tend to lose sight of the proper balance and I need your help!  How do I capture the moment without it preventing me from living in the moment?

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You Do What You Value

As mentioned in my previous post, I am working on improving myself as a blogger.  Part of that involves building my content on my own blog.  This is why I plan to sprinkle in some of my posts here that were originally shared on Over the Big Moon.  This particular post was from September of last year.  Here it is, in case you missed it!

Sometimes we begin and then begin again.  A couple years back, I received advice from my therapist when I was feeling particularly down.  She asked me what the top three things were that I valued most.  I told her my Faith, my family, and my friends.  She followed up that question with, “Do your daily actions support the things you value most?”  I knew instantly that my actions did

not match my values.  It’s not that I don’t give those three aspects of my life attention, but certainly not in a manner that would reflect it as my top three core values.

I’ll be the first to admit, I get sucked in to my smartphone, social media, and pure laziness.  I walked out of my therapist’s office that day with a goal to have my values and actions line up more appropriately.  Sadly, I quickly fell back in to old habits.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago.  A friend and I were discussing the pitfalls of social media and the smartphone.  We confessed to each other that we wasted far too much time on our devices and didn’t tend to our home and family like we ought to be.  We both decided to create goals that we could easily track.  We used an app (ironic, right?) called Habit Goal Monitor.  You can get it for free.  We plugged in our goals and revitalized our efforts to have our actions and values align.

Then this past weekend, as my goals were looking bleak, I saw this piece of paper hanging on a wall in my church building that read: VALUES – You do what you value.  You value what you do.  If you don’t do it, you don’t value it.

Hello, Not-So-Subtle Reminder, thank you for joining me.  I could easily have felt defeated at this point.  It felt like a reprimand.  I decided to look at it as a little nudge to begin again.  Pick up where I am and keep going.

In my effort to honor the things that I value, I am trying to have personal and family scripture study daily, I am looking up at my children more even when they are doing the mundane, and I am putting the phone down when there is an opportunity for personal communication with loved ones.
I had a moment this past Thursday where my values and actions were in sync.  I decided to act out the scriptures that I was reading to my kids before school.  They found it hysterical that their Mom was up on a chair trying to be as a Prophet speaking from a tower.  The result was a positive experience with my girls that they brought up throughout the day and even shared with friends. 

I don’t plan to act out the scriptures every morning, but seeing the impact that had on my children motivates me to create more opportunities like that in their lives.  I’ll stumble, of course.  But I imagine what kind of woman I could be if my values and actions were perfect reflections of one another.  If it feels as uplifting as it did that Thursday morning, then I will begin and begin again.

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Forgive Me for What I Did Not Do

The other night, as I was snuggling with my husband and girls, my eldest told me that I spend too much time paying bills, being on my computer, and on my phone and not enough time playing with my family.  Her words struck me to the core.  I know she’s right.  Social media outlets are my weakness.  Half the time I check them out of habit and boredom more than interest.  It’s really quite sad.  The real heartbreak though is that I obviously failed to uphold my Testimony of Children goals I made for myself.

I think one of the problems is that I tried to track my media use in minutes.  I think I need to base it more on visits.  My new, and hopefully more realistic goal, is to allow myself three check-ins with social media.  I’ll save one for my morning, one for mid-day, and one for evening.  I’m sure this still sounds excessive to some, but it’s currently much more frequent than that.  In addition to managing my social media, I’m going to try to keep my bill paying and writing for times when it does not take away from family time.  For instance, all the kiddos are either in school or napping right now.  This is a perfect time to work on some things for me.

Since my eldest’s remarks, I have been more cognizant of my screen time.  But my short-comings on the matter came to the forefront of my mind again as I was saying my bedtime prayers last night.  I was reflecting on the things I needed to repent for in my day, when I realized that it was not so much what I did that I needed to ask forgiveness for, but it was more of what I didn’t do.  Checking Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are not sinful activities.  However, missing out on opportunities to nurture my relationship with my children is quite remorseful. 

It’s not just my children that I’m missing out on though, it’s life in general.  When I get feeling low, I tend to hide and withdraw from the world around me.  I base my connections on those that I can keep at a virtual distance.  I engage less with my children, my husband, and loved ones around me.  I isolate myself to protect myself.  Sometimes the cloud over me lifts on it’s own accord and sometimes I get a stinging wake-up call to encourage me to work harder at pulling myself out of it.  This time I think I owe my eldest my gratitude for helping me see that what I was feeling internally was inadvertently being felt by all those around me.

As I’ve been looking for ways to break free from my sluggish and blue emotional state, I’ve reflected on the fact that all the things that make me feel better are things that I don’t initially want to do.  Why is that?  I remember as a young teenager, I never wanted to go to church.  I would dread those Sunday mornings and drag my feet.  However, by the time I walked out of the church building, I always felt rejuvenated and inspired.  I came out feeling better.  It’s the same with exercise.  I hate to exercise.  I really, really do.  Yet whenever I complete a workout or even a simple walk, I feel more energized and optimistic.  

I feel the same way about playing with my kids sometimes.  I know that sounds bad, but I’m just not very good at playing.  I never have been.  Even when I was a kid, I was known for wanting to hang out with the adults.  Sure, I had Barbies and My Little Ponies, but I tired quickly of those activities.  My imagination is very limited for some reason.  I think that’s why the idea of playing with my kids doesn’t always sound appealing.  I enjoy my kids company and love to do stuff with them, but just sitting around a playing isn’t easy for me.  But, just as with church and exercise, I feel so much better when I get down to their level and play in their world.

So, in honor of my resolution for this Bright New Year, I’m going to try to bring the bright into our home by doing what doesn’t come easy to me.  I’m going to try to incorporate walks more, increase my time focused on spiritual matters and set aside more time to play with my family, per my eldest’s suggestion.  I’m beginning to see a pattern here that things worth working for are truly the most rewarding and fulfilling ways to engage in the world around you.

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Meaningful Traditions

I am a big supporter of traditions.  My Mom did an amazing job of having all sorts of fun things to look forward to at various times of year.  One of my favorites was our first day of school tradition.  When our first day ended, we would return home to the delicious smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven.  Those chocolate chip cookies were amazing.  My Mom used the Nestle Toll House recipe.  However, she must have added a heavy dose of Love in there, as they never taste as good when I try to replicate them.  Regardless of my abilities, I make chocolate chip cookies for my girls every year for their first day of school.

Another tradition that has been carried on in our home due to it’s memorable role in my childhood is my Mom’s Halloween Sugar Cookies.  I still have the cookie cutter she used.  It’s such a pain to use since it’s not just an outline cut-out.  It’s a cookie cutter that pushes in a darling little pumpkin face, which then gets covered up by frosting.  It’s such a shame that nobody can see the detail of the cutout, but I still use it because my Mom did.  I also still use raisins to make the Jack-o-Lantern face since that’s what my Mom used.  Even though most people prefer and suggest that I use chocolate chips instead, I stick with tradition.  I really am painfully loyal to the tradition.

That all being said, I think it’s important that we reevaluate the traditions we carry on in our lives.  I make my Mom’s sugar cookies using her cutout for half of the batch and then finish the dough off making cookies that are smaller and easier to produce.  I honor the tradition but I also strive to prevent the tradition from overwhelming me to the point of unnecessary stress.
Sometimes we risk traditions losing their meaning when we get carried away with them.  I’m not sure who is to blame for this epidemic of quantity and perfection over meaning and reflection when it comes to traditions.  My guess would be that Pinterest had a hand in it.  While I am a supporter of Pinterest, I fear many women feel this need to do every tradition, craft, and holiday treat posted on there.  I often become a victim myself.  I almost have to avoid Pinterest completely during the holidays to protect myself from feeling like a failure of a Mom for not doing Elf on a Shelf, the Advent Calendar, Gingerbread Houses, homemade Christmas ornaments, Secret Santa, Caroling, the 12 Days of Christmas, and the like in the course of 25 days.  I love traditions, especially the Christmas ones, but sometimes I feel like we overdo it and lose the spirit of the season or tradition.
Let me reiterate that I truly cherish traditions.  I baked the Halloween cookies, we took the kids to a real Pumpkin Patch (a first for me), we carved pumpkins, and we’ll be dining on chili, cornbread, and hot dogs tomorrow evening, per tradition.  I love providing meaningful traditions for my children.


But I wanted to remind readers, and myself, that we don’t have to do it all to prove ourselves in anyway.  Sometimes beginning involves minimizing and being okay with ourselves for knowing our limits.  I think Elf on a Shelf is a darling idea, but if I add that to my list of traditions, my children are going to wake up to one angry elf everyday in December.
As we continue through this fun holiday season, remember it’s okay to have your child come home with 20+ holiday goodie bags that other Moms made for the class when your accomplishment for the day consisted of getting your child to school with a warm jacket on.  Embrace the traditions that have real meaning to you and your family.  Begin letting go of the excess and treasure the simple traditions that beget warm memories rather than stress.
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A Testimony of Children

I’m a woman of faith.  The word testimony gets used a lot when discussing principles of Gospel Truths.  My very loose definition of the word is that it means we have a sure knowledge of something.  For example, I have a testimony of the power of prayer.  I know that prayers work.  I’ve seen the blessings there of time and time again.

Regardless of one’s stance on matters of faith, I think you can have a testimony of other matters.  I once heard a Mom say she wanted to have a stronger testimony of her children.  What a concept, right?  Imagine trying to learn and understand your children in such a way that you truly know them.

As a Stay-at-Home Mom, you’d think I would know all about my kids.  I’m with them constantly.  I know how they like their food, I know what shows they like, I know that they will whine and complain when I ask them to clean-up, and I know that going to the park still gets cheers from each of them.  I know them.  But, do I?  I want to know more about them.  Each of them.  Individually.

Recently, I’ve been so caught up in social media that I feel like my children’s lives are disappearing before my very eyes.  I want to know more about my kids than I do about the eating habits of people that I once knew vaguely in High School.  It’s pathetic really how I get sucked in to the social media world.

So, Step 1, we can have lots of fun.  Oh wait!  That’s New Kids On The Block.  Although, they may be on to something.  We’ll get back to their steps in a moment.

Step 1 – Monitor and time my social media activity.  I’m giving myself 30 minutes a day.  This might sound excessive to most.  However, if you knew how much I was really on these sites, you’d realize that this is a significant decrease.

I started timing myself today.  I used 8 minutes this morning.  Then, I was sitting in the line for gas (it’s illegal to pump your own gas in the fine state of Oregon) and instinct told me to pick up my phone and check the social media circuit.  The kids weren’t in the car so I figured it wasn’t taking away from anything anyway, right?  Then, I recalled an article that I read this past May called How The Smartphone Killed The Three-day Weekend.  It explained how constant media use is, “robbing our brains of critical downtime that encourages creative thinking.”

Creative thinking that I could be using to come up with fun things to do with my children.  Which brings us back to New Kids on the Block, we can have lots of fun.  I want to know what makes my kids laugh the hardest.  I’m pretty sure it’s when they have my husband’s and my undivided attention.  If that’s the case, I can so easily give them more of that and therefore more fun in their lives.

Step 2 – More dance parties.  My kids love them and they do a world of good for all those involved.  I know some of their favorite songs.  Maybe if I listen and observe a little more, I can figure out what makes each of those songs their favorite songs.  What is it that pulls them in and gets them grooving?

Step 3 – Individual time with each of them.  I don’t just want a testimony of my children.  I want a testimony of Abigail.  A testimony of Vivian.  A testimony of August.

Sometimes I forget that playing with my kids is part of my gig.  I feel like I should be cleaning and budgeting and cooking and tending to matters of the home.  I forget that playing with my kids is as much a part of me raising them as feeding them is.  Somewhere I misled myself into thinking that playing with my kids is me slacking.  I should be “working.”  When in reality, playing with my kids may very well be the most important thing I do with them all day.

That being said, I’m going to go play.  They’re outside my window making chalk drawings on the porch right now.  I think there may be a flower that needs to be drawn by this Mommy.

I’m going to go strengthen my testimony of my children.  Please share ways that you improve your relationship with your children.

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