Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Before and After

After 3:00 on Wednesdays is when things really get started at our house. This is quite unfortunate since I'm ready to wind down around 5, maybe get in my jammies at 7, and be asleep by 9. (Like that ever happens!)

After 3:00 on Wednesdays I'm managing the after school feeding frenzy while getting ready for cub scouts at 4. By getting ready I mean gathering whatever I may need to take, making sure Elizabeth gets her dance clothes on since a carpool picks her up for class while I'm gone, and reminding Will about 1000 times to get his scout shirt and book. (I'm Will's "den mother," but my friend who is the other den mother hates that matronly term so I think we're just "den leaders." In any case, we're busy herding and training Webelos every Wednesday afternoon.) Rachael also manages to throw a royal fit every time we are walking out the door, or at the very least needs to suddenly use the ladies room. 

Today was especially hectic getting out the door since I was bringing all four kids with me. Kate was helping us by "working" the 50 yard dash station, so everyone had to come along. (Elizabeth took it upon herself to be the DJ, blasting the CD "Scout Camp" from her hot pink boombox while donning a little ballet outfit.) Immediately after scouts we took Elizabeth a bit late to her dance class, then rushed home so I could make some dinner (tilapia, red potatoes, and asparagus) and stuff it in everyone's mouths before sending Will off with his friend to his soccer game and then picking Elizabeth up again. I fed and changed Elizabeth, tried to clean up a bit, dropped Kate off at the church for her youth activity and then headed over to Will's soccer game. Rachael had another predictable royal fit as we were going out the door because we weren't going to "the green park"--I still don't know what she was talking about--but we were the last ones to leave the soccer park after 8pm because she wanted to go down the tornado slide "just one more time." 

Meanwhile, Brandon is still hacking away, sick and tired, but after working all day long he stopped in just briefly around 5:15 to change, eat and head over to his first Bishopric meeting. Afterward, he and the bishop (who used to play football for BYU) ended up playing ultimate frisbee and tag football with the youth--oh man, is he going to hurt tomorrow! After bringing Kate home, he immediately left again to meet some nice poor lady at his office who needed emergent help urinating. (I'm sorry folks, but that's what he does, and if you ever lose the ability to relieve yourself you'll be glad for someone who does this unseemly job!) He got home after 10pm, so while I can't complain, getting everyone in bed by myself after all of that wasn't my favorite. (And if you think getting a small child to bed is hard, try a teenager!) 

So while the after 3:00 stuff came off pretty well, it's what happened before 3:00 that was the real highlight for me.  

At long last, Saren, Catherine and I finally got together for lunch to talk about the Power of Moms book. As an added bonus, April was in town for the taping of a TV spot she and Saren did for Studio 5 that will air on May 9th in conjunction with Mother's Day. The website is really gaining a lot of momentum and we hope the book will help spread the word even more. (April and Saren are the co-founders of The Power of Moms website, and Catherine is a fantastic writer that contributed to the book.) We all brainstormed titles (okay, April brainstormed crazy titles while the three of us stared into space, thinking) and talked about other details related to getting this project over the finish line. More than anything, it was just FUN to get together with these great, inspiring women to talk and laugh, eat, and laugh some more. I could have spent another ten hours with them. Easy. 

We had to document the momentous occasion of us all gathering together in person rather than communicating from behind our computers in the middle of the night:

Speaking of which, I have GOT to go to bed!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I'm crazy for pre-schoolers. I've always said that if my children could just come out as toddlers or pre-schoolers I'd be willing to have ten more. (Or if I had an Alice. I could do anything if I had an Alice!) I don't do the infant year very well. I survive, they survive, and that's about the extent of it. 

But pre-schoolers are a whole different story. (Just a categorization for her age group of 3-5 years old, she's actually not even in pre-school.) What I love about this age is that they are still cute, chubby and cuddly like babies, but way more independent and verbal.  (Less dependent, more able to communicate=happy mommy.) And because of their new command of the English language, pre-schoolers say THE DARNDEST THINGS! This is the age when you want to have a post-it note and pen handy at all times. 

Following are some of my current favorites that I actually had the sense to write down.

About twenty times a day (not an exaggeration) Rachael says, "Mommy?" "I wuv you." It's the most adorable thing ever! I positively HAVE to get it on video sometime with her little lisp, her big eyes, her tone of voice . . . 
If she's wearing something with a hood, she asks me to put up her "neighborhood."
She calls her forehead her "fork head," socks are "slocks," and spiderwebs are "widerpebs."
Instead of teeth she says "toofes"and her pro-nouns are all messed up--instead of "she is downstairs," she says, "her is downstairs." 
Her special blankie has evolved from "gami" to "gempi" to "bempi" (which, incidentally, means "constipation" in Japanese . . .) to "glempi" to it's current title of "glempit." 
Aren't pre-schoolers great? 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wild, Wild Weekend

Family style wild.  It's all just par for the course, nothing more than most families deal with all the time, but I still like to record this stuff every once in awhile so that someday when my weekends consist of Bingo tournaments and square dancing I can look back and appreciate this time of life for what it was. (And maybe offer to babysit my grandkids for a bit if they live nearby!)

Friday afternoon/evening: finished writing this post while the kids goofed off, took Kate to her piano lesson, Will to his soccer practice, picked up some Dominoes and went home to play Apples to Apples. (Man, do we ever get heated when we play that game! In a fun way. My kids should all join the debate team when they get older.)

Saturday: Brandon and I attended the nearby temple together VERY early, I took Will and Elizabeth to piano, Will to his soccer game, then Kate to a group harp lesson while I went to the grocery store with the little girls and Brandon took Will to get his hair cut, then I took all three girls to the second hand store to drop some things off and buy Elizabeth a wallet she was just dying to get for $1.50. Tacos for dinner, and Brandon and I ran a couple of errands before getting him in bed early because he was SICK!

Sunday: in the morning I had choir practice for a performance later that day, Brandon was made the second counselor to the new bishop in our congregation (kind of like one of two vice presidents?) during the same meeting as the choir performance, I made a big yummy Sunday dinner of roasted chicken, garlic roasted red potatoes, and strawberry spinach salad, then I helped Will do his "Star of the Week" poster since his birthday is coming up this week (I love to celebrate my children, but I have to admit, I DREAD those darn posters!), cleaned up all my messes, got everyone squared away while telling Brandon to get in bed early, and put some overnight oatmeal in the crockpot. (SO excited to try this! I love oatmeal, but my kids only want to eat the disgusting, sugary instant stuff. I'm determined to find a healthy recipe they will like, and I hope it can be in the crockpot the night before, because mornings are not my thing.)

Some pics:

The new bishop is the coolest Polynesian guy, so he had leis for the outgoing leadership as well as the incoming. (You can't tell, but he's really sick--did I mention that?  He may even cancel his clinic tomorrow.  I think that's a first.)
 My beautiful chicken.  Make it next weekend.
Rachael's latest obsession. When she's in this costume, she IS Winnie the Pooh, talks in a low voice, and insists on calling me "Allyson Reynolds." (Is this the cutest picture EVER?)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bathroom Duty

The kids' bathroom can get pretty nasty as you can imagine.  Most children aren't too terribly conscientious about cleaning up after themselves, especially in the bathroom. (And I'm not a mom that follows my able-bodied children around cleaning up after them, so by Saturday that bathroom may need some serious help.) But everything changes when you've got bathroom duty. Suddenly, the bathroom is so noticeably gross and disgusting, that THIS is what you have to do to help you get through the job: 
Looks to me like he did a pretty good job.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New and Improved

Check out the new website!  Doesn't it look SO GREAT!?  If you're a mom, you really should sign up for the bloom game, start a learning circle, or even attend a retreat. (And if you have any inclination whatsoever to write, please submit an article!)

I just love The Power of Moms. We get so much positive feedback from mothers that it makes it all worth it.

At least "like us" on Facebook, okay?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Weight Loss

Well, I just lost about 20 lbs. of stress weight. Aaaaaaaaaah.

I really, really enjoy writing. For me, crafting something for someone else to read that is both coherent and engaging/entertaining to read is just pure fun. (Partly because I do 90% of my writing in bed in my pajamas and I have the luxury of thinking things through. Slowly.) Doing a "live" presentation is a whole nudder story. You have to have your head on straight enough to be able to look like the stuff is rolling easily off your tongue, you can't stop to think and shuffle through notes or you're going to lose people, and you'd better not show up in your pajamas or wear a cute new sweater that shows your nervous, underarm sweat rings! (That's what happened tonight.)

It was no big deal really, just our church's annual dinner to celebrate the 169th anniversary of the women's organization--the Relief Society. A pretty casual affair, but I don't take other people's time lightly. If someone is going to bother to come to such an event on a busy weeknight for dinner (okay, that's the main reason people come) and to hear someone speak, I want to make it worth their while. (Which is why I also brought a delicious chicken tortilla soup--in case the speaker was bad.)

But I put off preparing for too long, thinking I would just do some of my old stuff from those BYU-Idaho motherhood classes, and then I started to realize too late that I really should focus more on the history of the Relief Society since that was the whole reason for the gathering (duh!), so I basically spent the last couple of days scrambling like crazy to put together a 1/2 hour presentation on 19th century pioneer women of all things (not my usual gig--I am NOT a historian), trying to make it both relevant and entertaining for the 21st century ladies. And as much as I really enjoy it once I'm up there, and even though it's super satisfying once it's over (especially if I feel like it was well received), holy cow do I ever get stressed out leading up to something like that. Underarm sweat rings stressed.

(Which reminds me that I'd better get preparing a little earlier this year for BYU-Idaho.)

But it's over, I'm 20 lbs. of stress weight lighter, and I learned gobs about the history of this wonderful organization and the amazing women that basically founded this state and the now world-wide organization of the Relief Society.  Did you know that Mormon women were the first to vote? And that a bunch of those pioneer women went back east to train to be doctors, then came back to Utah to open the first hospital in the valley with the first all-women board in the nation? Lots of cool stuff you'd never guess since most people just assume they were a bunch of subjugated polygamists chasing their 23 children around.

In any case, it's over, and tomorrow I will be cleaning up the mess that results when Mother tries to do anything other than maintain status quo. Have you heard/read that hysterical story about the husband who comes home from work to find the house in a total shambles, kids running about willy nilly, and his wife in bed in her pajamas reading a novel? When he asks her what is going on, she simply replies, "You know when you come home after work and ask me what I did all day? Well, today I didn't do it!"  I LOVE that!  It is so true. The harder I work to have everything running smoothly at home, the more it looks like I did a whole lotta nothing all day. SO ironic!  Well, today all I did was get my presentation ready and it is showing on the homefront.  (Bless Brandon's little heart, he's so supportive and seriously doesn't complain at all . . .)

Let's end with some fun pictures:

Rachael--is there anything cuter than the bum of a three-year-old?
 Elizabeth--"IbeleeIgafla!" (An inside family joke meaning, "I believe I can fly!"):
Will--getting down to the last of a gobstopper he purchased LAST FALL at Cornbelly's. Sometimes he takes it with him places, sucking on it intermittently and setting it down who knows where. Is that SO almost ten-year-old boy and SO disgusting? (And are you proud of me for being so laid back about it, or shocked that I let it carry on?)
Kate--never too old to blow bubbles.
A little something added to the handle of my nightstand: 
Isn't childhood great?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March Madness

One day we might have this: 

And then a few days later we might have this:

People tell me that it may still snow again, and I know that's a real possibility, so I'm hanging onto the warm and sunny days when they come around. Mostly it's been overcast and 40's-50's with the "dun colored heath" dominating the landscape. Not my favorite.

The sunny pictures are from a day when Elizabeth was home "sick" from school a few weeks back. I'm pretty sure she was totally faking, but for whatever reason it seemed like she needed a "mommy day" at home being "little" with Rachael. This happens so infrequently, I am totally happy to indulge. The thought of a day at home with two cute little girls playing together is right up my alley. Am I bad?

But back to March Madness . . . the schizophrenic nature of the weather is enough to drive me MAD!  I just want spring to get here already and STAY PUT!

Did you really think I was talking about basketball? I'm sorry to say that I've never even seen Jimmer make a basket. We really are sport viewing LOSERS!

But who wants to talk Brandon Davies and the BYU honor code? I am alumni after all. Isn't it fascinating?

For even more stuff to think about, click here and here.  I am POSITIVE I would be "happier" (as defined here) without children. But if you consider the greek definition of happiness as mentioned near the end of the second article . . . now that's a different story.

“When you pause to think what children mean to you, of course they make you feel good,” he says. “The problem is, 95 percent of the time, you’re not thinking about what they mean to you. You’re thinking that you have to take them to piano lessons. So you have to think about which kind of happiness you’ll be consuming most often. Do you want to maximize the one you experience almost all the time”—moment-to-moment happiness—“or the one you experience rarely?”

Which is fair enough. But for many of us, purpose is happiness—particularly those of us who find moment-to-moment happiness a bit elusive to begin with. Martin Seligman, the positive-psychology pioneer who is, famously, not a natural optimist, has always taken the view that happiness is best defined in the ancient Greek sense: leading a productive, purposeful life. And the way we take stock of that life, in the end, isn’t by how much fun we had, but what we did with it. (Seligman has seven children.)

What do you think?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Tooth Fairy

Is there anything cuter than a little first grade girl losing her first tooth?  Not much. When you're six, it really is kind of a big "coming of age" marker.  What better indicator is there that you are transforming from a "little kid" to a "big kid" than the loss of your baby teeth? (Conversely, the eruption of ADULT teeth!)

Elizabeth has been waiting a long time to lose a tooth.  She's one of the last among her friends.  When the bottom two were found to be a bit wiggly at her dental appointment last fall she was ecstatic.  But it took awhile. Obviously.

It finally came out a few weeks ago while twisting it during an assembly at school. (The one where they had a Jazz player come for a special visit as a reward for winning the Jazz reading contest--again! School wide combined reading minutes over a month topped one and a half million! You read that right.)

And miracle of miracles, the tooth fairy actually came the first night, before Mom and Dad went to sleep!  I think that's a first at our house. The two shiny quarters are still in her purse.

A few pics of my little tooth fairy with her new smile:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

When you live in a place with four seasons, March is the ugliest month of the year. Winter is kinda sorta over, but everything is dead and brown, and there just isn't a whole lot to look forward to unless you are rich, retired and can take a trip to Cabo San Lucas. 

We're not there yet, so we use St. Patrick's Day as a nice diversion from our boredom, "dun colored heath" fatigue, and seasonal affective disorder. (However, other than wreaking havoc on our sleep schedules, Daylight Savings Time is helping with the lack of light.) 

What do you do for St. Patrick's Day?  

If I weren't still dragging myself out of bed at the last minute in the mornings, I would have made green pancakes or something cute like that, but I have a feeling the kids liked their Lucky Charms better anyway.  

Everyone made sure they had some green on so they wouldn't get pinched.

I made Shepherds Pie for dinner, an English dish, since England is close to Ireland. (We made corned beef and cabbage the first year we lived on Shamrock Drive in Iowa City, but it didn't go over too well. I've also tried making Irish soda bread--not worth the effort! Maybe next year I'll try some lamb stew. . .) 

Then there's our Leprechaun trap. Will made it in 1st grade and it's been coming out every year since. Unfortunately, we've never caught a Leprechaun, in spite of the enticing rainbow steps and dangling gold coin (hanging over the trap door).

When we lived in California, several families at church signed up to do "Secret Leprechaun," a fun tradition involving secret ding dong ditch missions dropping stuff off on the doorsteps of the other families. Stuff like green bagels, shamrock cookies, potatoes, Lucky Charms. That's the least of things really--people got REALLY creative. We finally got into the spirit of it the last year we were there and made an elaborate treasure hunt for our family the last night.

So that's what my kids expect now when St. Patrick's Day rolls around, so I bought 6 boxes of Lucky Charms on sale a week or so ago anticipating the kids would want to do some sort of "Secret Leprechaun" mission. While a box of Lucky Charms wouldn't cut the mustard back in California, I thought we'd start small here in Utah. We didn't even go under the cover of darkness. Elizabeth, Rachael, and her little friend dressed up in the stuff we collected over those years in California and just walked right up to people's doors with their sugary offerings. (Elizabeth was in a funny mood, wearing Will's shirt and calling herself a hippie.) 

 Then those two boys in the backdrop decided they wanted to get in on the action:
They delivered their goods to their friend's house a few blocks over, and on the way back apparently got a lot of attention and came home with candy and gold coins that people handed out to them. You can imagine how this went over with Elizabeth. (She has a MAJOR sweet tooth!) I'm pretty sure she started thinking she could work this holiday to be something like Halloween, and begged to go back out again, even though we were plum out of Lucky Charms.

And that's how the party ended, the way they often end with children of young ages, full of tears and sorrow despite the wild fun.

The End.

P.S.  I got a nice email from my mom today thanking me for making her look like an idiot, since I alluded in my previous post to her former life as a soap opera addict when she clearly should have been doing flashcards with me.

I am hereby declaring to any and all people that will ever read my blog that my mother was the most industrious person you've ever met in your life. I have other very vivid memories of her weeding the garden before the sun was up, making hot and wholesome breakfasts in her curlers and house dress, canning food, sewing us girls matching dresses--she even made homemade Barbie clothes for crying out loud! Who would begrudge her a few minutes of soap opera viewing while folding laundry, especially since there was no Food Network or 24 hour news back then?

It's okay, Mom, I'm sure I was watching The Electric Company.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pre-school: the road to Harvard?

Today I: 

got everyone to school on time since the painful onset of Daylight Savings Time
did an ab workout for brides-to-be on exercise tv
finalized our plans for an anniversary getaway next month (minus the babysitter, minor detail)
signed Rachael up for pre-school next year
went to the dollar store and purchased enough supplies to make 24 hygiene kits to be sent over to Japan
harangued my school age children through homework and music practice
prepared and executed (with the help of my wonderful partner and neighbor) our weekly cub scout activity for a bunch of webelos (yes, I am a "den mother"--another post)
took Elizabeth to dance class after scouts and drove through our dream neighborhood to look at a house for sale with the other three kids before picking up some dinner at Kneader's
dropped Kate off at her church youth activity with the hygiene kit supplies 
looked in dismay at the condition of my house
bathed and did the bedtime routine with the little girls while Brandon cleaned up (yay!)
wrote this post for Deseret News tomorrow . . . let me know what you think!

(P.S. Brandon is sitting here reading his usual Japanese literature and just informed me that the uni I ate while living over there was not just sea urchin, but the OVARIES of a sea urchin. Lovely.)

Pre-school: the road to Harvard? 
Today I signed my youngest child up for pre-school next year. Being new to the area, I chose a school based on proximity and the recommendations of two moms I know and trust. That’s pretty much it. I didn’t investigate other schools in the area and grill them on their educational style and philosophy, nor did I make a spread sheet comparing and contrasting all the differences between said schools. Nope. I just kind of woke up yesterday and thought, “I’d better ask my friend who teaches at that pre-school if they have any openings left for next year. It’s probably time to sign up.”  
Why such a nonchalant attitude?  
My two oldest children went to the same academic based pre-school, run by a former kindergarten teacher who knew all there was to know to prepare them for that next big step. It was wonderful, and my children did really well. Both of them are excelling in their 4th and 7th grade classes. 
My third child went to a play based pre-school that believed the best preparation for kindergarten was learning how to interact with others socially. Did I choose this school because her needs and personality were different than my first two children? Hardly. We just moved to a different state, so I went with the recommendations of family members that lived in the area.
I admit I felt some concern about her academic future, especially since I felt very preoccupied with my two older children’s activities and another new baby at home. Unlike the early years with my first two children, I no longer had the time to invest in doing flashcards and fancy workbooks--Baby Einstein videos would have to suffice. 
So how did she do? Well, despite my negligence and all that gratuitous play time at pre-school, she’s by far the top reader in her 1st grade class. Go figure.
So for all the crazy grief mothers put themselves through worrying about whether the pre-school they chose for their child will catapult them onto the road to success or resign them to a life of bussing tables, I say: relax. It’s just not that serious.  
I am a firm believer that our children come hard-wired with specific gifts, talents and inclinations (some academic, some creative, some social), and the parents and the home environment have much more to do with where they take all of that than anything. (When I say home environment, I don’t mean mom doing flashcards.) 
And pre-school? In my humble opinion (and this is just an opinion, so you can go ahead and slam me with the research if you’d like), whether it’s play based or academic based, children are going to soak up all kinds of stuff. When you’re three, everything is a learning experience. 
So if they are so quick to learn, why not send them to a pre-school that will teach them to read as soon as possible? If that’s what you want to do, go for it! But if you don’t, I say not to worry about it. They’ll catch up soon enough with the toddlers reading Shakespeare, and probably even manage to go to college and get a job.   
March 14 New York Times article tells of a woman who is suing her daughter’s $19,000 a year pre-school because it didn’t adequately prepare her for the asinine entrance test required for the elite private school systems of New York City. The suit even quotes specific news articles as saying, “It is no secret that getting a child into the Ivy League starts in nursery school,” and “Studies have shown entry into a good nursery school guarantees more income than entry into an average school.” 
Wow. Really? Could it also be possible that the children going to $19,000 a year pre-schools come from a population of people that are already destined to make higher than average wages? 
My husband became a surgeon after attending public school his entire life. And while I’m no surgeon, I graduated from college and have learned to function quite well in society despite my own years in public school and even a total and complete lack of pre-school attendance. In fact, my most vivid memories during my pre-school years are that of playing in a laundry basket of clean clothes while watching “Days of Our Lives” with my mother. 
So how much does pre-school matter? I guess as much as you want it to. 

QUESTION: What do you think? Does pre-school matter?
CHALLENGE: Tell me why I'm wrong.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Existential Allyson

I haven't been in a blogging mood as of late.  Obviously.

The fact of the matter is, despite my happy-go-lucky life of baking cookies and playing endless rounds of Candyland, I often find myself awake in the middle of the night for an hour or more worrying and thinking about all kinds of craziness. I bottle it up for awhile, and then eventually it all comes spilling out over Brandon, the conversation ending with me saying something like I said to him tonight, "You should have married a simpleton from Farmington." (I think that's a small farming community in Utah--no offense, it just rhymed.)

Some days (many days) I really do wish the only things swirling around in my brain were recipes, decorating ideas, and vacation plans. The requisite business of mothering four children and running a household does afford a nice distraction from thinking if that's what you're going for (that was me last week--I got a lot done), but sooner or later there are some things you just can't avoid. Existential things like the meaning of life, pain and regret, the purpose of suffering, and other equally light hearted topics most people would love to talk about at a dinner party with me. (This is classic "alone in a crowd" stuff.)

My sister has melanoma traveling around in her body, and now it's landed in her lungs. Not a great place to be--it's inoperable, and radiation and chemo are not options. What else is there to say about this on my silly blog? Lots actually, but this isn't the place.

Then the quake and tsunami hit Sendai--the place Brandon and I met, the place where we lived and worked as missionaries. It's hard enough to see that kind of devastation on the news without a personal connection, but when you do it changes your perspective a bit. And yes, gets me thinking even more.

There's other stuff too, but it's none of your business, and I can never discount the influence of OOCFHS (out of control female hormones syndrome) as well as the possibility of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I mean, I've been using my happy lamp, but it has been downright dreary around here! (Or, if you are my psychotically optimistic husband who quotes Sherlock Holmes, you would be appreciating the "dun-colored heath.") In any case . . .

Life is so fragile. Fragile, fleeting, and moving too darn fast!

I've been noticing lately that the longer you live, the more stuff that happens. (I know, profound.) Lots of good stuff, but hard stuff too. I'm starting to see why older people talk about youth like it's such a magical thing. Sure, it's hard to go through the awkwardness of the teenage years and the challenges of the transitional years when you go out on your own to figure out what to do with our life and who you're going to spend it with, but when you are young? Everything is still waiting to happen. There is nothing but potential and possibility--nothing rotten has happened yet.

And while I haven't had a whole lot of rotten in my life, I'm just having a hard time focusing on the good right now. Call me crazy, but I'm not very good at enjoying the bounty of my own charmed life when other people around me are suffering so much. You can really start to see where Mother Teresa was coming from.

Don't worry. Tomorrow I'll be back to Elizabeth's first lost tooth, Rachael's nightly "wubby" ritual, Will's upcoming birthday, and Kate's latest art project. That's what I like about blogging.  It freezes time, and selectively highlights the happy.

I know, I get it. Life really is good. Sometimes I just get a little bummed out for awhile.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Belated Love

My kids are already thinking about doing "Secret Leprechaun" and drinking shamrock shakes, but before the time runs away from me I wanted to post these pictures of my littlest valentine and the love notes we wrote to each other back in February. 

This really is a great family activity to do. I know it's a little on the cheesy side, but no one complained a bit knowing they were going to get 15 hearts of their own (3 from every other family member) with all the reasons they are loved.  

And let's face it, when you've got four kids and a busy life, Valentine's Day becomes more of a family affair than a lovers holiday anyway. (Not that we aren't trying. Our usual Friday night dinner date is on tonight!  I got a tip for a good restaurant from CJane.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bad Moms and The Oscars

I just sent this off to Deseret News to post tomorrow.  If you haven't been keeping up on our Motherhood Matters blog, now is your time to catch up!

The incredible shrinking dress sizes of models and actresses have been the subject of discussion for years as eating disorders and body image issues have proliferated among young girls. No one can argue that the images our daughters see on the screen and in print media don’t have on impact on their still developing psyches.
But what about images of motherhood? In a recent article on by Hollie McKay, she discusses Hollywood’s obsession with “bad moms.” For example, last year’s Oscar winner for best supporting actress went to Mo’Nique “for her chilling portrayal of a disgustingly abusive mom in the Lee Daniels drama ‘Precious.’” And this year? The same award went to another “bad mom,” Melissa Leo, who played a “financially-motivated, pushy boxing mother in 'The Fighter.'” Another nominee for the same award was Barbara Hershey, who “caused millions of eyebrows to arch for her interpretation of a psychologically questionable stage mom with an unnerving fascination with her daughter” in the academy award winning movie, "Black Swan."
McKay then goes on to point out that “bad moms” aren’t just popular in film.  MTV's “Teen Mom” attracts millions of viewers each week with its overabundance of bad mom behavior presented as entertainment for a young audience. TLC’s controversial “Toddlers & Tiaras” also routinely attracts over a million viewers a week with moms who primp and preen their young daughters to compete like show dogs. 
I felt a bit wistful as I read the next part of McKay’s article, wishing I could travel back to a time when “the first actresses to receive Oscar recognition revered motherhood, and their mothering roles were executed in a way which were noble and respected – Luise Rainer as the loving, uncomplaining companion in ‘The Good Earth’ (1937), Jane Darwell as the pragmatic, hard-working American Ma Joad in ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ (1940) and Greer Garson as the strong British wife and mother ‘Mrs. Miniver.’ (1942).”
But alas, here I am in 2011, the mother of three lovely girls, bemoaning the fact that I live in a time and place where extreme and despicable behavior is frequently used for entertainment and sometimes even lauded for being "real." And to bring motherhood into that genre of entertainment? It's just sad. Of course, no one is suggesting these examples of motherhood are good, but who can deny that their frequent showings won't have an impact? To me, the chicken/egg argument doesn't apply here. I don't care wether or not the behavior came before the movie/TV series, or if the movie/TV series encourages more bad behavior. Why focus on it at all? 

McKay quotes image and parenting expert Dr. Janet Rose as saying, “It is a shame that Hollywood doesn’t spend more time portraying the strength and heartiness of successful women, thus encouraging our girls to strive for such strength in themselves.” 
I couldn’t agree more. And “portraying the strength and heartiness of successful women” is one of the answers to the question, how can I minimize these negative influences? So good ahead and watch those old Oscar winners, push books with strong, confident heroines that love and revere motherhood, and minimize the negative by, well, minimizing your daughters exposure to denigrating media influences.  
At our house, there is an ongoing battle between mom and the screens when it comes to free time after homework, chores and music practice. It seems to be the “default” when my children are bored. They know they can flip a switch and be immediately entertained. Interestingly, I have found I am most successful in steering them away willingly when I engage them in an activity with me--wether it’s helping with dinner, running an errand together, or playing a board game. Our daughters want strong examples of motherhood, and they've got one right under their nose. 
I’d give you an Oscar for best supporting mother any day!  

QUESTION: What are your favorite TV shows and movies that put good, strong mothers in starring roles?

CHALLENGE: Take charge of the media influences in your home. Set limits not just on the amount of time, but also on which programs and movies are acceptable. Bonus challenge: make a long, researched list of those movies and TV shows with good, strong mothers in starring roles and email it to me! I'll publish it to the world! (I feel so powerful already. Thanks.)

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