Monday, May 23, 2016

If You Are Kind, It Will Last Forever

Our wedding day seven years ago coincided with a motor cycle rally on the national mall in Washington, DC.  We were thrilled that so many motorcyclists turned out to help us celebrate and even let us pose on/with their motorcycles.  This picture now hangs in the garage of this motorcycle's owner omewhere in West Virginia!
Before our "sealing," or wedding ceremony where we pledged this life and the next to each other and received eternity in return, a white-haired, wizened Washington, DC temple volunteer whispered to us as we exited the elevator, "if you are kind, it will last forever."

Seven years later, we are finally unpacking all of the meaning of that simple phrase. When people marry a bit older, they have several more years of selfishness encrusted upon them.  The selfishness of singledom is inescapable - you live by yourself and for yourself.  Add two very ambitious careers and strong personalities to the mix, and the situation is only escalated.

I was 29 and Lance was 28 when we married.  I had just stepped down from the non-profit I had started, ConSource, to start school in England, and Lance was graduating from business school within two weeks and was already working full time helping to manage the assets of the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP - remember that??).

We lived on separate continents twice for a combined year apart and then together only part time, with me commuting between Oxford and London or New York and Philadelphia for another year of our first three as man and wife. Not a perfect situation for any couple attempting to deshackle themselves from three decades of singledom. Add to that two stressful careers, babies that wouldn't come and then did in quick succession, and intense health challenges.

In any event, due to a series of very fortunate and happy circumstances, the both of us are starting to learn the joy of service with no thought of return.  Turns out to be the very small and simple things that breed marital joy.  A kind answer, choosing their happiness over your next to-do, a quick and heart-felt, or a simple apology.

I am extremely goal-oriented, so much so that even if I am doing good things with those goals and serving the family, if I let my goals rule my spirit, I miss all of the little, and sometimes big means of making a real difference towards my #1.

Turns out that true love - the kind that always makes me giddy with a look or a touch by the noble man I call my husband- coupled with small acts of kindness is the stuff that dreams are made of.  Happy Anniversary, babe.  Here's to many more!!

Small Wonders

Our hiking class finished up today.  Here I am double deckered up to catch up with our friends.

* This morning as we showed Gideon pictures from our wedding anniversary, he said after being shown the above picture and a few more with motorcycles involving grandma throughout our wedding day, "Oh my gosh! That's crazy!"
* I love listening to Gideon wake Esther up.  I've mentioned before that Gideon is able to open her door and then unzip her sleep tent (previously his) to get her out of bed.  He'll usually say something like, "It's OK, sweety!  I'll get you up.  No need to cry!"
* Esther will now consistently unpack the groceries for me every week - take them out of bags and either hand them to me or put them where I say they go - counter, fridge (on bottom shelves), pantry.  She also knows the difference between throwing things away, which she does with her diapers, and recycling things.
* We are increasingly having Esther join us at the table.  For prayer, she'll either fold her arms or reach out for Lance's hand, as she sees Lance and I holding hands during prayer.
* We were able to meet an apostle on Sunday (in my faith we have the same organization that existed during Christ's time).  I explained to Gideon that we were going to meet with Jesus' friend.  He said, very slowly and emphatically, "Oh!! That's cool!" Upon meeting him, his big eyes were wide and reverent.
* After finishing the third (!) round of personal prayers with Gideon ("I want a BIG prayer!"), Gideon told me, "Stop! I wanted to feel the Spirit!" So we prayed again.
* Overheard: "My raisins have gluten free in them." "The tractor is cool, and the tractor is hot!" "Absolutely not!"
* Esther will often do something she thinks is praiseworthy (include strip down her diaper and throw it away, bless her) and then say "yeah!" or "hurray" or "tada" and then clap her hands.
* Gideon now sings the Snow Patrol chorus ad nauseum: "Tell me that you'll open your eyes" at various pitches and speeds.  Always brings a smile.

chickens, and pigs

And baby bison, oh my!

Sunday go-to-meeting finery

Last hike of the season!

She never lett almost the whole two hours we were there!


new (old) couch.  Any guesses what it is and when it was made?

"If you smile, I'll give you fruit snacks!"

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Three Reasons Why it's Important to Require Your Toddler to Do Chores

One of Gideon's chores is to help Esther along when the ground is rough.  He takes great pride in doing a good job.

I have had to catch myself several times the last week from preventing Gideon or Esther from helping me with various chores that were maybe a little on the gross/complicated side for a toddler.  Gideon was desperate to help me clean a toilet bowl, and Esther cleaning the rabbit's litter box.  

Then I saw the earnestness in their face, and decided to relax and let them help while still maintaining hygiene.  In fact, I have learned over the very short time I've been a mother that starting children on chores while they could still arguably be called a baby is incredibly important.  Here are three reasons why:

1. You capitalize on their eagerness.  Eventually, they won't be so eager to help - possibly once they are more useful.  But if you capture the momentum of early toddler eagerness- say, right when they start walking - they will be able to learn skills and establish patterns of helping before they are too independent to want to copy you and do what you are doing.

Esther is in the "put it away stage" and is fantastic at quick obedience when I ask her to put toys away, throw things away, or recycle things.   Gideon's response time is less quick now that he is more independent and wanting to do his own will, but that negative inertia is not as great as it would otherwise be, I think, if helping were not the norm.

Just today as I explained that we were preparing for dinner guests and I needed his help, he would complete a task and ask, "what is the next thing that I should do?"  Melted my heart, but I know he's there because I have consistently expected his help at every turn.

2. It builds their confidence.  Gideon is very proud of his chore-related skill sets: taking diapers to the outside bin, protecting Esther from harm, putting silverware away once clean in the dishwasher, organizing his toys (I won't begin telling you about how he organizes the people on his toy bus by color order, in pairs, and carefully facing front...), taking off his shoes and taking off and putting on clothes that don't have buttons or snaps, and on and on.  He is visibly proud of himself, "I did it!" and loves to be praised for a job well done.  Although obviously much less verbal, Esther will perform her job (throw her diaper away, recycle something, put a toy or the groceries away) and immediately clap for herself and say, "yeah!" It's clear they enjoy the spatial learning and goal achievement inherent to chores.

3. You need the help!  I have a bit of a bad back, which makes the simple task of loading our washer and dryer sometimes very painful.  I was surprised when Esther began helping - and actually helping - to relieve my pain by putting clothes I identified in the washer, which was just at the right height for her.  Gideon probably saves me 30 minutes a day with his chores.  I attempt to do a lot with my days - we all do! - and any bit of help I can get is welcomed in helping me get a little bit of much-needed downtime.  Oh, and it's free!

How early have you started your little ones on chores, and what did you have them do?  How did they respond?  Upsides/downsides??

E helping me put the groceries away - don't know why the tantrum at  the end...

Small Wonders

* G has been working very hard at getting his daily "sticker points" so he can go to Wisconsin to see his cousins in July.  He prays for Jesus' help every night so he can go, and I'm pretty sure it's made a difference.  One aspect of getting a sticker at night is to not hurt Esther.  This is tough, because Esther can be aggressive, biting and pinching, at a moment's provocation. Anyone would react negatively to being bitten - I have.  But Gideon has somehow, over the course of his prayers, been able to temper himself such that when he is hurt, instead of responding, he will come tell me or just go on with whatever he is doing.  I've been utterly amazed by my little boy and his self-restraint.  I'm sure he is getting the requested help!
* We had the missionaries over for dinner on Mother's Day (one of two days they get to call home throughout the year - very exciting).  Gideon was the perfect little host, reaching for the olive oil, salt, random pill box, etc., asking if they wanted more or whether he could get them anything.
* Esther has become our resident stripper.  If we don't watch her carefully while in her diaper, next thing we know, she'll be in her birthday suit, diaper off and thrown away.  Maybe she's taken this job thing a little too far, but then, maybe we should also start putting on the diapers backwards...
* G will say things that evidence a wise little soul - "Daddy, what are you thinking about?  Esther, that's a beautiful dress." "Actually...." "My life is fun." [Giving Lance a hug while he is poorly] "Is that better for you?
* We try to get the kids to fold their arms for prayer, and Esther has just now started to do it consistently.  Except a mealtime.  She and G noticed that Lance and I hold hands when we pray, so Esther has started to hold our her hand for daddy's before prayer, and G has followed her suit with me.

Kissing frogs.

Yard saling.

I may have built it initially, but G has rebuilt many parts to it when Esther has unwittingly and invariably knocked down a big section. 
Apple blossoms.

Look who has joined us at the table.

Kisses at the farmer's market.

visiting the new kids next door.

This pic doesn't appropriately capture her udder glee.

Might become a jazz enthusiast.


Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Love Note to My Mother(s)

Grateful for these munchkins who have made me a mother

This Mother's Day week has led me to think about different mothering methods and its observed impact on myself.  In many ways, I am the product of my mother's methods.  I have also benefited from the methods of several women who have played various mothering roles in my life, as well as friends and family whose methods I have observed carefully (sorry - did you know you were being watched, did you??).

From my own mother, I was first inspired with what would become my life's work in constitutional policy, both domestic and international.  Her passion became mine and what a gift that has been! I became a lawyer in part because my mother had dreamed it for herself.

My mother sent herself to Europe as a young woman where she developed a taste for the fine arts.  I peered at the pictures she had collected in Paris and Germany displayed on our walls, heard tales of the opera in Venice and the choirs in Vienna.  I was driven to countless lessons and benefited from classical music continually piped into the home.  As a result, I not only developed a taste for music, but a talent for it.  I also developed a desire to create my own beautiful wall pictures and roam Europe like she did.  Little did I know I would spend four years learning how to appreciate and create fine art and another five living in and wandering Europe.  I am musical, but that doesn't translate into being able to think about music for my children.  It's easy to turn the radio on in the car, but keeping good music going while at home is a bit overwhelming for me, and it makes me appreciate my mother so much for always making it available.

As a child, I memorized scriptures, learned how to cross-reference them with scripture "chases" against my siblings, enacted them, and engaged in daily and weekly family religious exercises focused on prayer, religious teaching, and scripture study.  It was part of the fabric of being an Updike.  I am learning how difficult - how much effort - that takes to create and do, and it makes me stand in awe of my mother and father who made it look so easy.

I also enjoyed picture-perfect holidays.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, July 4th -- complete with decorations, traditions, and special music.  It was pure mother-magic, and I again have been overwhelmed with the enormity of creating and sustaining traditions for my own family, yet again deepening my appreciation for all my mother did.

Finally, I was blessed with a childhood environment that was challenging intellectually.  Games and toys, books, and music, not to mention the schools in which I was enrolled, were all geared toward maximizing intellectual, cultural, and spiritual stimulation.  Incredible thought and mother-effort was poured into creating such an environment, and the difficulty of replicating that effort and the myriad purchasing decisions now has underscored my mother's love and service to me while a youth.

Then there are my other mothers.   Those who did not bear me and potty train me (heaven bless all mothers for this most awful task!), but who nevertheless mothered me in various ways and for certain lengths of time.

From my older sister Anjenette, my second mother, I have learned how to teach my children to sleep as babies, how to use the potty, how to sit still in church, how to travel, and so much more. Most importantly, I have learned how to work out and receive inspiration for the challenges of my children, as I so often watched her do with her nine (!).

From my Aunt Nancy, I learned how to invest time and resources into my nieces such that they were more healthy, loved, forward-thinking, well-versed in thrift shopping, and friends with each other.  I have learned these things and hope to be able to replicate them in my own children and nieces and nephews.

From Margaret Lazenby, I have learned how to enjoy my children, how to create a community network of mothers while family is so far away, and how to have charity for so many.

From Gail Ruzicka, piano teachers Lindy Taylor and Made Robertson, JaLynn Prince, and MJ Breinholt, Jean Cottam, Marcia Madsen, Cassidy Pinegar, and Natalie Call and so many others in my Washington, DC ward I learned how to be successful as a mother and in my career.

Sister Ruzicka specifically was the consumate homemaker (I mean, she made bread regularly and now has her grandchildren with her every summer - all of them - for a month) and incredibly interested and thoughtful in all my major life events (gifts, prayers, etc.) along with all of my siblings and so many more children not included in her own brood of well-cared-for 12 (!) while somehow simultaneously running a massive state organization and radio show that made most state politicians tremble, fear, and respect her.

From MJ Breinholt's experience in starting and raising her family while completing her Harvard PhD, I learned my current form of (and favorite) childcare- to work while my babes sleep, usually early early morning.

From Peggy Ducket, Mary Jane Babbel, Kathy Pullins, Janet Tanner Updike, Sally Barringer Gordon and (recently) Katrina Lantos Swet, I learned further that being nurturing as a woman - both in my own family and for mentees in the field - is not and should not be mutually exclusive, but can complement and make palatable and even welcoming the grit and tenacity to successfully pursue family and career dreams.  These women not only balance, but lift and nurture in all of their roles, and bless all they touch in the process.

Then there are my contemporary mothers who I have studied earnestly so far as distance and time have permitted- Sarah Jensen Clayton, Ena Fowles, CK Woolley, Tat Christensen, Holly Hinckley Lesan, Suz Hildebrand, Jacquie Allen, Kim Durfey, Mary Romney, Cali Carlin Sorensen, Julie Shaner, Jo Chesher, Paula Pattemore, Shelley Martin-Light, Donna Driscoll, Maxine Hughs, Cheryl Lauritzen Clark, Lindsay Toone, Aimee Toone Tingey, LeeAnn Akina, Eli Updike, MaryAnne Updike, Anne Updike, Rachel Updike, Camille Case, Mary Tanner, Melissa Eggertsen, Jamie Garlick (the last two are especially amazing hypnobirthing role models!), Lesley Colvin, Rachel Lambert, Rachel Hagen, Charlotte Steinfeld, Laurel Dougal, Gemma Hooson, Julie Taylor, Kristen LeGeyt, Margrethe Fjeldsted, Tiina Maughn, Molly Tanavasa, Sienna Larson, Katie Seirer, Dawn Wessman, Jamie Belnap Gabrielsen.  You may not have been aware of how deeply you have impressed me with your mothering skills and outcomes, and the ways I have sought to emulate your methods and success.

To all who have contributed to my method of mothering, I thank and honor you on this Mother's Day.

Whose mothering methods have impacted you, and how?