Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Getting Ready for 2011

We're spending this week getting our house de-junked and totally ready for the new year.  It's a huge process, but it absolutely invigorates me to see clean shelves and closets.  My mind can breathe!  Our de-junk goes something like this, if you'd like to try it:

(1) Pick one major room each day, plus maybe a little cupboard/closet/bathroom (so you can have the whole house de-junked within a week).  If you're balancing a heavy workload, a full-time job, or lots of little ones, it also works to pick one major room each week and space out the process a bit more.

(2) Plan to stay home every day in your pajamas, if you have that luxury.  Shower in the afternoon once your room is dejunked . . . it's good motivation to get your work done.  Serve quick meals for dinner. 

(3) Get your whole family involved in the process.  My husband doesn't love de-junking, but he's very good at it, so he works with me as much as possible.  I'm usually the one who does it, though, because he has a tendency to throw everything away.  :)  My children will help take out trash, sort toys and art supplies, and run things to their "new homes," but mostly they play and color and come in and out to ask me questions once in awhile.  They like seeing all the "new things" that have been hiding deep in the cupboards.  It's a party.

(4) Go around the designated room systematically, emptying every shelf, cupboard, drawer, etc.  Toss/donate/relocate everything you possibly can, and put back only things that are beautiful, useful, or really special.  Jot down anything you need to buy or do to make that space more functional.

(5) Once you have that space clean, teach your children how to keep it that way (they can usually keep it nice for at least 30 minutes), and then dance around the room to your favorite music.  Open each drawer at least three times so you can "ooh" and "ahh."  Celebrate the fact that you have conquered one portion of the mess.

(6) Repeat until the whole house is beautiful.  You will feel like your square footage has doubled, and you'll feel excited about life, and you'll walk around your house thinking that it is heaven.  (For detailed instructions, my FAVORITE book on this is "It's Here . . . Somewhere.")

(7) If your children are anything like mine, they don't naturally keep things clean.  That's okay, though.  They can learn to pick up after themselves, and when the house is de-junked, it's easier to keep on top of the mess.  One or two things "out of place" are much more manageable than 115 things.

We've finished the master closet, the kitchen, the pantry, the laundry room, the garage, and the children's rooms, and now we're going to tackle our office, our master bedroom, the bathrooms, and the living room.  It is SO worth the effort (and think of all the things you can donate to charity!).

The challenge I'm having right now, though, is that in the process of taking care of my home and family (and potty-training Spencer . . . YAY!!!!), my heart is hurting over all the things I simply can't do. 

I know there are millions of discouraged mothers out there who are living in tough circumstances.  I wish I could alleviate their burdens, visit their homes, give them hugs and shoulder massages and tell them, "You can do this.  Don't get down on yourself.  Don't doubt yourself.  All this hard work is making you stronger.  You have so much to offer your family and the world." 

I know there are children living in situations full of abuse, poverty, and neglect.  I wish I could take care of them all--or even just a few--and give them a home and family where they could be loved and adored. 

I know there are political campaigns going on that need support, people struggling with illiteracy, and homes sinking in mud from our recent California flooding (my husband helped dig around a practically-destroyed house for several hours yesterday).

Even though I know I can do many "good" things in the world, I'm just going to take it one step at a time.  I'll get my home clean and organized, I'll help my children to grow, and I'll involve them as I move on to more projects within my community.  I'm also hoping that as I help mothers get organized through Mind Organization for Moms, we can all reach out a little more--thereby multiplying our efforts.
And now it's time for bed.  I've got lots of de-junking to do tomorrow.  :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Are You Ready for Christmas?"

In the days and weeks leading up to December 25th, we often hear this question.  Initially, I ask myself if I've finished my shopping, if I've sent out my Christmas cards, if I've stocked up on our favorite treats, and if I've delivered the last of our "neighbor gifts."  But this Christmas, I'm thinking about it a different way. 

When I was in high school, my mom spoke in our church meeting about being "ready" for Christmas.  She said that even though she might not have all the "things" prepared, she is always ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  She challenged all of us to focus on the purpose of the holiday and the love that our Savior has for us.  Are we "ready" for Him?

This year, I decided I wouldn't let stress enter the holiday season (you can read "My First GTD Christmas" guest post on David Allen's blog here).

We didn't send out Christmas cards (hopefully next year!), we didn't put out all the decorations, we didn't start the 53 traditions I have in my "Someday" folder, and we didn't make it to all the parties that we ordinarily love to attend. 

I know for some people, our Christmas probably looks like a failure.  What?  No lights on your roof?  No matching Christmas outfits?  No ornament exchange?

Christmas traditions are great things, and I'm looking forward to many years of magical family memories centered around this special holiday, but I've had to put my sanity first this year, and I simply can't do everything. 

My husband and I have had a lot on our minds these past few months, and our three-year-old likes to scream a lot.  Our schedules have been filled with a variety of responsibilities with our family, work, and church, and some great new opportunities have opened up at The Power of Moms (publishing a book, writing for Deseret News, marketing the Mind Organization for Moms program I put together . . .). 

To compensate for all this, we've slowed down in other areas.  We're still doing what we can to reach out and help others this season, we're singing hymns around the piano with our children, we're sharing our feelings of love for God, and we're reading the scriptures together each day.  We've also made time to decorate a tree with our homemade ornaments, make "candy cane airplanes," let the children buy gifts for each other at the dollar store, and send little packages to the grandparents.

This Christmas won't be memorable because of our photo ops.  It won't be memorable because of our travels.  It won't be memorable because of all the "big ticket items" our children got for Christmas. 

This Christmas will be memorable because the Lord is absolutely taking care of our family, and our love for Him has grown.  Sometimes I wonder how we're going to "pull all this off."  I know I'm not as smart as I need to be, and I know I need to be refined in MANY areas of my life, but at the same time, I feel such love and support from the Lord. 

Today, as I was driving our children to church (we meet Daddy there because he has other meetings), I was having a hard time dealing with the fussing, tattling, whining, etc.  I do try not to cry in front of them, but the tears came too easily.  My three oldest children could see my distress, so they opened their scriptures and each sweetly shared a verse with me--as a way to apologize for their behavior and to try to cheer me up (Alia found a verse about "weeping").  When we got home from church, my girls put sliced cucumbers on my eyes, rubbed lotion on my hands and feet, and sent me to bed at 6:30.  I am so, so grateful for those tender mercies (I did finally stop crying).

We've got a busy week ahead of us--with excited children who seriously don't notice how much we're "not" doing--and although it might seem like the holiday festivities have escaped me, I really am ready for Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Officially Entering "The Blog World"

My love for reading and writing blogs is completely unexpected.   I just never pictured myself in this world.  Maybe it was because I didn't like the sound of the word "blog."  Maybe it was because I wanted to focus on "real life" and not spend too much time online.  Or maybe it was because I didn't quite understand what's actually going on out there in cyberspace.

Well, the more I've learned about "Internet Land," as Sarah Turner calls it, the more I want to organize the way I learn from other bloggers.  I keep finding incredible blogs out there, and I think, "Ooh, I want to come back and check this one" or "I bet if I met this person in real life, we'd be friends."

So I have some questions for those of you who are more familiar with blogs than I am:

(1) How do I put all the blogs I love onto one list that I can check?  Some blogs have a "Follow" option, but others only have an RSS feed.  I admit that I know very little about this process.  I have used Google Reader, but it's not very "fun."  No pictures, etc.  Is there anything better?

(2) How do you decide which blogs to include on your own blog sidebar?  Should I categorize them by "People I Know in Real Life," "People I Want to Know in Real Life," and "Communities I Like?"  I would love to have all my favorite blogs right here on this site.  Any suggestions?

(3) Is it weird to have a "Following Gadget" on my blog?  Do people want to publicly follow me, or does it look like I'm just trying to get attention?  I personally like to follow other people's blogs, and I think it's a fun way to be part of a blog-community, but I don't know if that's the general consensus out there.

(4) Anything else I need to know?  Can I follow your blogs?

And two more tidbits before I sign off: 

  • Joanna from Creating Better Habits has a Mind Organization for Moms giveaway going on for us here.  (We'll also have one soon from Jodi at What Makes Mama Smile and another from Learning Mommy.)
  • I have a couple of blog posts up this week on our Motherhood Matters blog at Deseret News.  There's one on Optimism here. And one on Organization here.  We'd love you to be a part of the conversation over there.

Thanks for your ideas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thinking Right

Today my focus is on "thinking right."  I'm reading the book, "As a Man Thinketh" by James Allen, and it it absolutely beautiful.  You can find a few of my favorite quotes here.

For some reason, it's extremely simple not to think right during this time of year--with all the party-planning, shopping, making of cherished family memories, and trying to capture the right spirit of the season--on top of the normal work/home responsibilities we all have.  Does anyone achieve 100 percent peace and serenity in December?

I started feeling a little frustrated this morning, but then this little guy came over to comfort me.

He wanted to lay down by the fireplace and eat a granola bar, and he wanted me to sit right next to him. 

"I wuv you," he whispered.

"I love you, too."  I whispered back.

"Do you have pooky spots on your pajamas?"  he asked.

"Yes.  But they're called polka-dots."

"When you was a little boy, you call them pooky spots too?"

"Well, I don't know what I called them when I was a little girl, but pooky spots is a good name."

Then I leaned over and kissed him about a hundred times, and he LET me.  We talked a little bit and laughed as he tried to "hug me with his feet," and now he's off playing, and I'm getting back to work.

I've just been reminded that "thinking right" involves focusing on the moments.  I can't get caught up in the worries and all the things that go wrong.  There are too many opportunities to savor the life that's around me.

"Thinking right" during Christmas is easier for me if I remember why we're celebrating.  The purpose of Christmas is to remember and draw closer to Jesus Christ--not just for the month of December, but for the whole year.  When my thinking is directed toward Him, when my faith in Him is unshakable, and when I listen to His voice as I decide how to use my time, I feel the peace, serenity, and beauty that this season is designed to bring.

So today I am going to do all I can to think right--to focus on the moments I get to live, and to remember that all the joy, love, and purpose I could ever want in life comes from the Lord.  He really is the Prince of Peace.

What helps you "think right" and keep your focus during the Christmas season?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trying to Balance

There are hundreds of choices for each of us to make each day that determine how we spend our time.  Do I clean up the kitchen right now or go play basketball with my family in the backyard?  Do I turn on a movie or finish organizing my closet tonight?  Do I get up with my alarm, or do I press snooze a few time?  It's a constant struggle, but I'm doing my best to balance.

This photo (of balanced rocks) was the basis for my blog post on Deseret News' Motherhood Matters blog yesterday.  I'd love to read your comments over there.

Now I'm on my way outside to play some basketball.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"I Am His Daughter"

For the past three summers, I've had the chance to teach at Especially for Youth, a fun, inspiring conference put on by Brigham Young University for youth ages 14-18 to help them increase their faith in Jesus Christ.  My experiences at EFY are some of my very favorite memories, and I can't wait to go back.

Each year, they record a CD, and I usually keep it on in my car, but Spencer shoved two CDs into our car stereo at the same time, and now we have to have the entire thing taken apart.  But before that whole fiasco, I heard this song on the CD, and I absolutely loved it.

Sometimes when I need a reminder that my life has a specific purpose and that I am supported by God, I play this song again and again.  My daughters have started humming it while they walk around the house, and I hope the message is sinking in.  It's been a huge blessing to me, so I thought I'd share.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Moments vs. Reality

My reality tonight wasn't pretty.  Three of my four children were in tears at bedtime (for various reasons),  I couldn't figure out how to stop worrying about some personal issues that have popped up, and, as I looked back at my day, it seems that I literally ran in circles without accomplishing anything (and I'm the Mind Organization Mom!).

What's hard about the blog-world (or even the Internet, in general), is that we capture moments, but not reality.  Unless I'm actually in your kitchen or living room, I can only guess what your life is like--and I usually guess wrong. 

We compare ourselves to visions of perfection (and sometimes try to replicate those images in our own homes), and then we get frustrated when it doesn't turn out as planned.

For example, I watched a cute video on my friend Shawni's blog last night.  Her children were dancing in the kitchen while they cleaned up after dinner, and it looked like so much fun.  See?

My children have been great at picking up their "zones" each night, and we do work together throughout the day, but we don't usually do dinner clean-up together.  After watching this video, I thought I'd give it a try.

It didn't work out.

One of my children had been going straight for 13 hours and, being overly tired, started sobbing in the middle of the table-cleaning.  Spencer was still eating his corn, and he didn't like eating the "ends," so he went from cob to cob, just eating the "middles."  Our phone kept ringing off the hook--important calls we had to take--and then since my husband only had 15 minutes before he had to leave for meetings, he wanted to hold me on the couch (which I LOVE), but then the kitchen clean-up fell apart because the jobs weren't clearly defined, and I wasn't in there to supervise, so I ended up putting everyone to bed and just cleaning up all by myself while I cried.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because I'm ultra-sensitive about giving a false representation of my reality on this blog.  My real goal here is to be helpful to other moms.  I'm not seeking compliments.  I'm not trying to live my life for an audience.  I simply believe in the power of moms, dads, children, and families, and I want to do whatever I can to be useful.

I wrote up this post a few months ago and included a video of a Perry dance party. 

This was a moment--a happy one--but it's not my reality. We don't dance every single day. I'm often in my pajamas until noon while I juggle computer work and my little Spencer.  Sometimes I don't think motherhood is "fun."

So my goal is to enjoy my good moments, stop worrying if I can't replicate others' good moments, and try to learn as much as I can from the chaos and wonder that is often my reality.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  What helps you to focus on your own sweet moments and not feel frustrated when your "reality" doesn't seem to measure up?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Podcasting with my Girls

These are my two daughters, Alia and Grace:


(This photo was taken on a day they wanted us all to match.) These cute little girls ask every day if they can help with The Power of Moms, and/or work on The Power of Kids (with Saren's children).

Sunday morning, while the boys were playing upstairs, we gathered around our kitchen table and recorded our very first podcast together.  We had such a good time that they're already planning podcast #2. 

Click here to go to our podcast page at The Power of Moms

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Feeling Excited for Allyson

I've got to get back to deciphering the Power of Moms Writing Contest results, but I had to take a second to introduce you to my friend Allyson Reynolds.


We met through email almost two years ago when she started contributing to The Power of Moms.  Her essays were amazing, and I was dying to get to know the woman behind the words.  I think we've emailed each other hundreds of times since then, and in the process, we have become dear friends.

What I love about Allyson is her passion to strengthen families, her down-to-earth nature, and her willingness to do scary things.  She's written features for our site, provided material for our Learning Circles, presented at a Power of Moms Retreat, and taught at BYU Idaho's Education Week.  Today she's featured on Deseret News for her first column on "Motherhood Matters."

None of this is easy for her.  She stays up late and gets up early to accomplish these things.  She taught at BYU Idaho just a couple of days after moving her family across two states.  She devotes her life to her husband and four children, yet she makes the time to uplift the mothers around her.  I was just feeling excited for her today and wanted to share.

(Click here for Allyson's blog.)

There are so many incredible women that I get to work with--I think I'll start featuring them more often!
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