Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Any Advice On Raising Teens?

I've written a few posts earlier this year about my oldest child turning 12, him entering his last year at elementary school, and just the fact that my little children, aren't so little anymore.  But is wasn't until this past week, that it really hit me.  My 12 year old is trying to become more independent, and I kind of don't like it.  

I'm realizing now that I need to wear different hats; not the just mother of preschool, elementary school age children hat, but now the hat of the mother of a pre-teen.  I am by no means the best parent out there, there are plenty other mothers scoring higher points than me... but I can honestly say I feel like the choices I've made in raising my children so far, I am comfortable with.  But now?  I'm not so sure.  I hope the way I'm raising this pre-teen of mine will prove  to be effective as he grows into a full blown teenager, and then a man.  (I should clarify right now, I am not excluding my husband in this at all, we try to make all decisions together, but for the purpose of this post, I am speaking for myself.)   

I want desperately to keep my children from encountering anything that will pollute their mind, such as pornography, which is EVERYWHERE!!!  It doesn't matter where you look..... the magazine stand, the phone, ipod, computer, movies, television, music.  Where ever you turn, it is there, lurking to find you, to get you addicted, to destroy families, relationships.  It is not something that was as evident when I was a teenager, as it is now.  That scares me.  Yet, I cannot keep my children immune from the world, and to technology. And it's not just what can be found on the internet, but also in a drugstore, or someone's pocket.  It's drugs and alcohol too.  I don't want my children near ANY OF THAT, for any reason, at any time, with anyone.  Oh, and then there's the sexual promiscuity that they don't need to be any part of too.  The list goes on and on, doesn't it?

I'm sure many of us would love to keep our kids in a bubble, so they won't be confronted with any of the above mentioned activities.  But we cannot live like that, nor would I want to.  There is much to be learned IN this world, but that doesn't mean we need to be OF it. At least the drug induced, sexualized part of it.

I heard a great quote the other day in church, while listening to a young man speak who had just returned from his 2 year voluntary mission for our church.  I can't remember who actually said this, but he had quoted it. (This is not word for word, but sums it up.) "When a choice is to be made, the time of preparation has passed."  I just LOVE that.  It is absolutely true. When that kid offers my son drugs, or a drink, I sure hope he will automatically say, "NO!" because he's been taught all these years to stay away from it.  I hope that if he ever happens upon a questionable site on the internet, that he will get off whatever it is he's looking at and never go back because he simply knows that ANY of that junk is NO GOOD.  I hope that when these temptations arise, that he will be able to withstand them.  And I hope that I have been a good enough parent to instill in him the desire to do what is right.  That's not asking for so much, is it?

Would it be easier to just ban all technology from my kids until they turn 18 and then say, "Well, you're on your own, hope you survive?"  That might be the right route for some, and that's for each parent to decide, but I can't do that.  So I guess my purpose in writing this post was to just get this off my chest, that we parents need all the support we can get while raising teenagers.  What have YOU done that you feel has worked for you and your family? Or, the other way around, I suppose too.

We all need each other.  It's a big, wide world out there, and our kids are going to be a part of it regardless what we do. I just hope I've armed them with the right standards and values to protect them from the many darts that will come their way.

Friday, November 18, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude

There have been a few posts/comments made lately on Facebook about how we should just take one holiday at a time, about getting through Thanksgiving before we dwell on Christmas. That somehow Thanksgiving gets over shadowed when we start to do our Christmas shopping in early November, or if we listen to Christmas music around the time we put on costumes and  infect our bodies with candy galore. 

My blog post isn't going to be about defending my  joy of listening to Christmas music weeks before Thanksgiving, but rather, how if I fill my life daily with gratitude, then when the time comes for us to stuff ourselves silly with turkey, sweet potatoes and pies, we won't have to search far and wide to figure out what we're grateful for, we won't feel like this is the only time of year we really do think about the many blessings we have.

I do not believe most of think that way, but I AM trying to think about my blessings on a more consistent basis, and recognize them when they come, and not brush them under the rug. One of my very favorite talks given about Gratitude is by Thomas S Monson, titled The Divine Gift of Gratitude.  He is quoted saying... "We have all experienced times when our focus is on what we lack rather than on our blessings. Said the Greek philosopher Epictetus, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”  I can consider myself one of those such individuals who has, at times, focused on what I lacked, rather that what I had already been blessed with.  It is something I need to remind myself of often, that it takes a conscious effort, as he has stated in this talk....  "A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don’t get around to it. Someone has said that “feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."

My very favorite statement in this talk is..... "My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven."  Doesn't that just make your heart swell?  Oh, to live my life in such a manner of daily gratitude as to be able to "touch heaven".  I have a long ways to go.

I think one of the reasons why I enjoy singing so much, is because for me, it is expressing a form of gratitude to my Savior for all he has given me, whether it be triumph or trial.  Words put into song, somehow, feel far more reaching to heaven than my measly words alone could express. 

For the second year in a row, I have posted  daily on Facebook things for which I am grateful, during the entire month of November.  Many of my FB friends have done this as well, and it has been so neat to see all the different things/people/circumstances for which people find themselves grateful for.  It has made me contemplate more on what I have, rather than what I lack.  Many of the posts have been great reminders to me, that 'Yeah, I'm grateful for that TOO.'

There have been times in my life where I've kept a gratitude journal. Sometimes I kept it for weeks, sometimes for months. I haven't been the best at being consistent at it. They say it takes 30 days to form a habit and keep at it. I need to work on that one again.  But I remember when I did do it, that I would write down each and every day, all that I had to be grateful for, for that day.  It really made me think about all the little things that may not be as obvious as the bigger things.  I really need to start doing that again, maybe I'll be closer to touching heaven.

I know that my blessings far out weigh whatever I might think I lack.  Some of the obvious, bigger things, for which I am grateful include my husband, children, home, my church/faith, my parents, siblings, the beauty of this earth that was created by a loving Heavenly Father, food, clothing, vehicles, modern day conveniences, and the list could go on and on. 

I am also grateful for every trial I have endured in my life, because I know that those trials were made to encourage my growth, and give me a deeper understanding of God's love for me.  I would not be who I am today, if I did not travel through the pain of losing loved ones, of dealing with struggles throughout my life, whatever they might me.

For me, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas, if we didn't have Thanksgiving, and vice versa.  I love this time of year. Our hearts become softer towards others around us, we are more inclined to reach out to those less fortunate, to those who are needing more love in their life. And for that, I am grateful for all that I have, all that God has blessed my life with, and my goal is to try to live as if "Thanksgiving" were a holiday, every day, that I might close the gap between my reaching arm and heaven.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Song Of My Heart

I could never just pick "one" song that touches my heart more than any other.  If ANYONE knows me, they know how much I love music, how much I love to sing.  I have so many "favorites" in so many different genres.  And oft times I'll hear myself saying, yet again... "This is my favorite song".  But why only have one? I have tons!  

(Excuse me while I take a blog break..... my nearly 4 year old Hailey has asked for a pedicure, and I must give in... don't want to miss out on these precious childhood years that are passing all too quickly.  Be back in a jiffy)

Okay, back.  Where was I?  Oh yes... my many favorite songs.  I'm not going to bore you with the particulars of what I like and don't like.  But I will say, if you were to ride in the car with me, you'll find my radio stations tuned in to country music.  Never listened to country  music until I went away to Ricks College, in Rexburg, Idaho.  Couldn't stop listening from then on.  If those stations start to bore me, I'll tune into one of two Christian radio stations in town.  Other than that, I love a variety of show tunes, and gospel/Christian music, and I can't get enough of Christmas music.

My children hear me singing daily, whether I embarrass them or not, I have no idea. I do try to contain myself when their friends are over.    But one thing I have done nightly ever since my first born entered into the world, was sing to my children at bedtime.  Believe it or not, my 12 & 10 year old boys, who share a room, still won't go to sleep unless I've sung to them. (I'll have to make sure they don't read this blog post, don't want to embarrass them, not that they read these anyway, but you never know.)  I love that my voice is the last voice they want to hear as they drift off into dream land.

I have been blessed in my life to be able to share my love of music on many different occasions; funerals, weddings, in various church congregations, church activities, and in choirs. And I can say first hand that the person that benefits most is myself.  Currently, in my church, I am the music leader for the children ages 3-11, and I get to help teach them many songs for nearly two hours each Sunday. I love this job.  For the most part, the children want to learn, they want to express their feelings of the gospel through music, and also just sing for the plain fun of it.  It is NEVER a dull moment with these kids each and every week.

I have the opportunity right now to be involved in two choirs, one for our church congregation, and the other as a seasonal choir, getting ready for Christmas and an upcoming concert.  I love  this time of year, when I can start singing these beloved songs about our Savior, in October!!!  Just last week, I had the opportunity to sing in another congregation, not my own, with a friend, then sing in our choir in our congregation, be with the children for two hours singing, went to choir practice after church, sang at a fireside, and then stayed for another choir practice. I had a headache when I came home, from the long day I had just endured, yet my heart was so full of appreciation for music in my life, and the feelings I get when I sing, or hear beautiful music.  Music can speak to the soul, like nothing else, I believe.

My husband likes to joke that he has a rich voice... that he's "well off".  I can attest to that.  I have often thought, and said to him, "Oh, if only you could carry a tune, then maybe we could sing a duet together.... how totally cool would that be?"  In fact, he likes to tell people that we met in choir at church..... as he figured that was a good place to meet girls, not that he could actually sing.  He was actually interested in another girl who had a gorgeous soprano voice, but then fell for me, an alto.  

I remember being in labor with McKenna.... it was nearing the end of October. One of my favorite Christmas CD's was  Winter Solstice, given to me by one of my sisters. It's all instrumental, just absolutely beautiful.  Anyway, we had brought that CD for me to listen to while in labor, and it has been the CD of choice for each 4 labors after that.  I can't have a baby without that CD. (Well, I'm not having babies anymore....)  Kind of like, I can't clean the house, and I mean a real clean, with all the kids, without blasting "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat".  And kind of like John not being able to do any house remodel without the company of Taylor Swift.  But that's ANOTHER story.  He SAYS he just like her songs.  Uh huh... yep, whatever hon.  Whenever I hear songs from the movie "Titanic" my thoughts are immediately turned to my baby girl McKenna..... that movie came out right after she was born.  Whenever I hear songs from the late 80's early 90's, my high school years come up to memory.  I wonder now how those songs got to be so popular, but I will say, THOSE songs, back then you could DANCE to.  I'm not a fan at all of what our teenagers have to listen to these days.  Songs, like smells, when heard after a long period of silence, bring up many emotions, some good, some not so good, but music truly can have a lasting effect on us all. 

I really have no idea why I'm blogging about this..... except for the fact that this time of year brings out more opportunity for listening to music, and for me to sing more.  I love it!  Some people can't STAND to listen to Christmas music even two weeks before Christmas, and some of us start it, well, let's just say it's not quite fall yet.  Good music, especially Christmas music, can bring out the best in each of us.  Listening to those precious songs about  Christ the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, a winter wonderland, a red nosed reindeer, a white Christmas, a Silent Night.  I guess my hope and prayer would be, that each of us take the time to listen to these beautiful songs, let them fill our hearts with peace, joy and happiness.

PS.... a big thank you to my mom, who filled our home with music through her own voice, and through the stereo, and choirs, etc, etc... which instilled a love of music for myself.

And on that note..... I'll end it there.