Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Work Out for my Brain

This last weekend, I attended the 20th Annual ANWA Writer's Conference.  It was held in the fabulous Hilton hotel in Mesa, AZ. (The last time I went there was for my junior prom, remember that Trevor?)  I was able to share a room with 3 wonderful new friends which made the cost minimal so I splurged and stayed the night.
Some of the members of the Queen Creek Creators

There were classes on critiquing, editing, publishing, characterization, magazine writing, freelance writing, pitching and query letters and so much more.  I can't even begin to tell you how fabulous it was.  We mingled with agents and publishers, we ate some delicious food and worked on honing our writing talents.

I am ever so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful group of women who are as crazy about writing as I am.  I was in awe of meeting some of my favorite authors in person and getting to know them as friends.  What I came away from the conference was the confidence to move forward with my dream of publishing and even the possibility of doing a little freelance work and make some money while I polish my manuscript.

The ideas are spewing from my brain faster than I can get them down on paper sometimes and I have to take a break from what I'm doing just to regroup.  I have notes everywhere and finally got them organized last night so I can sit down and put them to paper.

I have decided that anyone can write a story, but it is the rare few who can go to the excruciating task of editing and revising, then editing and revising over and over again until it is perfect.  I hope to be one of those people someday.  In the meantime, I will plug away at my story and hope that in the end it will be an inspiration to others who read it.

ANWA Conference 2012 Roommates
Kudos to Mr. Mom who took Friday off work to take kids to the Dr., change poopy diapers, make dinner and help everyone get their chores done so I could come home to a somewhat clean house.  I am truly blessed.

Lastly, I am so grateful for the dear friends I made.  Not only are some of them published authors, they are just downright wonderful women.  I am grateful to be in their company and glean knowledge from their experience.

I'm already looking forward to 2013!  For more information, please visit www.anwa-lds.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Workout Wednesday - Kid Exercise

I took the kids to the park today even though it wasn't ideal weather.  I hate being cold and we had to wear jackets and it was so windy.  I sat on the park bench and huddled up, but the weather did not stop my children from taking off their shoes and socks to play in the sand.  They were desperate to play with their buckets and shovels I gave them for Valentines Day. 

It got me thinking about how serious I am about getting my exercise in every day or at least most every day and how grateful I am that they are seeing my good example of fitness.  But, am I doing enough to show my kids how important it is to take care of their own bodies?

Sometimes my children won't even walk a few blocks to go to their friend's house to play, they are always asking me for a ride.  What is up with that?  They complain about having to walk to and from school and it is merely around the corner from our house too.  I have been so tempted to tell them about how I had to walk to school when I was a kid and it was over a mile to get there and I had to cross a major road in the process, (should I add in the snow, uphill both ways?).  But I haven't...yet.

So, I have made a concerted effort to walk where I need to go if it isn't too far and don't have to carry much. My babies love to walk to the park, we play the cable boxes at our neighbor's house like bongo drums, we watch the birds drink from another neighbor's fountain, we discovered a bush full of bees yesterday and we just stood right next to it and stared at them working away, it was mesmerizing.  Sometimes we race from one corner to the next and sometimes we just walk really slow.  When I have my nephews over and we all walk together, I feel like a mother duck with all her ducklings waddling behind her.

It starts when our kids are babies, I told myself it was baby exercise when they would cry and I couldn't get to them right away.  It took away some of the guilt that I had when I couldn't soothe them immediately.  Don't get me wrong, I tried not to let it happen too often, but when I told myself that a little exercise for a baby each day was good for them, I felt better about my parenting.

 As soon as they were old enough to go to the park and play, I let them.  Yes, it was a dirty gross cleanup some of the time, especially when they are still slobbering and crawling, but it is important to their physical growth that they get the chance to explore and play.

Kid exercise involves running around, playing tag or even a simple game of duck-duck-goose, riding bikes, scooters, and skateboards.  Climbing and hanging requires strength in both the large and small muscle groups of their arms and legs.  They learn balance and coordination as they master the monkey bars or climb over the toys.  Even climbing up the slide the wrong way (when nobody else is coming down) is an exellent strength exercise.  Have you tried it?  It is harder than it looks.  These activities are also why I think recess is important in the elementary school years.  Don't even get me started on the social reasons to take your kids to the park.

Think about it and ask yourself if you are doing everything you can to develop a love of exercise in your children.  You are responsible for building that foundation now so that they will be more apt to be active when they are older.   Your kids might fight you on it now, but they will thank you for it later.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ANWA

I don't know if you have noticed my widget just to the left of this post, but it is for my ANWA writer's Conference coming next week.  I am so stoked.  I'm even staying at the hotel with my ANWA sisters so I can be there to enjoy every single minute of it.

Do you like to write?  Do you wish you were a better writer?  Do you have something to say and don't know where to start?

I'm not even talking about necessarily having your work published, but that would be a bonus, wouldn't it?  I  joined ANWA when there wasn't even a group in my area.  I got the newsletter every month and wished I lived closer to other women who enjoyed writing.  When I moved to Mesa, I was blessed to be a part of a fabulous group of women who met monthly and encouraged and supported each other in their writing.

I've made fabulous friends and learned tons about writing in general.  All I wanted to ever do was work on family history stories and get them written down.  Now, I write for a newspaper and I get paid!!  I even finished the first draft of a novel back in November.

Conference is a time to really get excited about my work and to learn new skills while spending time with others who love to write as much as I do.  Come join us for the two and a half days, or just one day!  For more information about the conference, click here. www.anwawritersconference.com or for more information about our organization for LDS women, click here.  www.anwa-lds.org.

You know you want to come hang with me and my writer friends.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Manic Monday - My children are not Farm Animals, really they are not

Sometimes I think my children are just really farm animals by the way they graze all day in and out of my kitchen.  The thought of wanting to eat at all times of the day is making me crazy.  I know most of the time it is just pure boredom.  Not because there isn't a million things to do around here, but because sometimes we are just lazy.

I realize that I may have contributed to the problem.  When I was in school, there was a lot of times when I said to them, "feed yourselves, I have a paper due in two hours and I just started."  Yes, we ate a ton of pre-packaged food, cold cereal and ramen the last few years.  Gross.  But it was mostly my fault that we got into some bad habits.

I will also admit that I sit at this computer and do NOTHING, a lot of the time now.  Yes, I'm checking my e-mails for the booster club stuff that needs done, sometimes I am writing that awe-inspiring blog post, working on my book or editing something for a fellow writer, but I waste a lot of time doing nothing.  So do my kids.

They stare into the fridge like something is going to move and they are just going to stand there and wait for it to happen.  Shut the fridge already, nothing has changed from the last time you opened it and looked inside.

I'm ready to do something drastic. I'm laying the groundwork right now as I have started planning out our meals and snacks and posting them on the fridge.  It has been heaven not having to wonder what to make (or merely set out) for their after school snack.  When it comes to thinking about dinner, I can pull stuff out of the freezer the night before or that morning and do a lot of the prep work throughout the day so I'm not in a rush to figure out what to cook.

Here is how we are starting small.  I don't like to call them rules, because they are merely a way of life, it is how it is going to be around here from now on.

Normal #1 - If you don't want what is on the menu, you don't get another choice.  Period.  I'm not a short order cook.  I try to vary it so that there isn't too much complaining, but after just two weeks of the menu being up, the complaints are almost down to zero on the days when they don't like the snack.  This is huge.  I hate whining.

Normal #2 - I am not doing your kitchen chores for you because your life is so busy and you have so much to do.  This is not negotiable.  I do a ton of the work to keep this house running and your part is to pitch in.  It doesn't mean that I'm not going to do something nice for you once in a while, to reward you for your efforts.  Just don't plan on it.

It is just a start, but like I said, I'm building the foundation for some new attitudes around here.  About every other week, I am going to institute a new "normal" to add to our routine.  This is the beginning of something great, I can feel it.  I'm more on top of my life now and I'm gaining back some of the parental control I lost while I was consumed with my education.  We're getting back to our "normal" ASAP.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I have a Gift Giving Problem

I'm like a scrooge when it comes to buying gifts, but I think I've discovered the reason why.

I'm too practical.

There is very little frill or froof about me and it dribbles down into my gift giving in-ability.  You see, I've never had a lot of money, you know, so I can just go buy "things" because I know someone would enjoy it.  I've pretty much always had to be a penny pincher (and let's make it clear right now that I'm not complaining, cause I think even if I had lots of money, I'd still be pretty tight with it) so I've always had to choose my gifts carefully.

I have a problem with buying something cheap just because I need to give something.  I have tons of friends who take their kids to the dollar store and let them pick out whatever they want in order to be able to provide a gift for their sibling or their mom or dad, but I don't want or need anything that costs $1 and/or will break within a few hours of my owning it.  I understand the thinking on that one though, so I don't disagree with the concept, but in that scenario, I would have much rather a homemade card with a love not written in it than a $1 picture frame that I will probably never use, but that is just me.  Write me a sweet note and put a $1 in the card and I'll go refill my QT mug with some diet pepsi:)

I'm embarrassed to say that most of the time I don't even acknowledge someone's birthday, marriage, baby birth, etc. because I can't find just the right gift to give.  I have a serious problem.  And, I know that I would be so much happier if I just had a stash of gift cards on hand for such occasions.  I hate it when I do that.

We don't agree around here about the use of technology.  Ben is a techno geek (and I mean that with all the love in my heart) and while there isn't anything wrong with that, he is more willing to give my kids technology type toys as a gift.  I, on the other hand, can appreciate technology, but not crazy about how it affects a human's ability to relate to people socially, but that is a different blog post altogether.  I think they are expensive and very easily broken when put into the hands of someone who doesn't have the maturity to take good care of them.

I also believe that my children already have everything they need and most of the things they want.  I loathe the assumption that just because it is a traditional gift giving holiday, I must purchase a gift for them.  Having said that, I do enjoy the faces of my children on Christmas morning or their birthday when I am able to break down and get that one thing that I knew they truly wanted with the knowledge that they will be able to take care of that gift.

When it comes to buying gifts for my children, I generally turn to my husband, who seems to know better what they want than I do.  I usually leave it up to him to decide what they get for their birthday because I would come up with things like a metal garbage can for one kid's room because the little one in there doesn't seem to be big enough to hold all the garbage created inside, or hangars for the girls who never seems to have enough because all their clean clothes are always on the floor or in the laundry basket.  My favorite gift I ever gave was a fancy broom because my neighbor's had broken just before her birthday and she kept borrowing ours.  One year, someone gave me a year supply of a really great hair gel.  Best. Gift. Ever.

I have several basic criteria when choosing gifts for children:  I like toys to be educational, but not boring, inexpensive but not cheap, and if I can, something they need but yet something they want.  I also love toys that serve a purpose, memory games (memory), tangrams and magnets (math, spacial order, imagination), board/card games (spend time with family, colors, numbers, math), outdoor toys like bikes and cars to ride on (imagination, exercise, outdoor play), and of course, athletic equipment (exercise, family time, outdoor play).  Books.  I can't say enough about books, but I know that in my family, there are only a few who appreciate receiving a book as a gift and she and I are kindred spirits.

I hate buying clothes for my kids because I can rarely even come close to getting them something they want and they usually have so much, they don't need anymore.  Sizing is always a problem because they grow so quickly too.  I hate doing returns more than I hate shopping.  But the practical side of me was the happiest this Christmas season when I came home with 7 packages of socks and 7 packages of underwear because my kids needed them so desperately.  Yes, I wrapped them up and gave them to them for Christmas too.

Mostly my rant comes just because the Christmas season has just passed and it is hear breaking to watch the lack of celebrating the true reason for Christmas, which is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  My most favorite gift this year came in the form of an envelope with some money inside.  Each one of my siblings received one from our parents. Inside, the letter explained beautifully,

"Emerson said, "Rings and Jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts.  The only true gift is a portion of yourself."  We celebrate Christmas because Heavenly Father, in his perfection "gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  This Christmas we must ponder what portion of God's gifts we are willing to receive, enjoy, and share.
Enclosed you will find a small amount of money.  It is our Christmas wish that each of you will meet with your families and discuss how you can use this money in the service of others.  Have every member help in the project and do it as a family.
We would then, like each of you, especially you grandkids, to write a short paragraph telling us what you did and how you felt about it."

I'm going to have to list this in my top 5 gifts ever received list.  It had thought put into it, it wasn't something I was going to have to return or exchange (or put directly into the donate pile), and I always need to find ways to serve and this has kept me thinking since then about what we can do with our gift to bless someone else.  In return, my parents will get to hear from their children and grandchildren about how they went about serving others.  That will be a gift to them in return.  This gift shows the true spirit of gift giving.

Now, to finally pick that special service project...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Random Thursday - How I spend my state tax refund

I hate to shop.  Loathe it.  I dislike it almost as much as wearing anything purple.  But, there is one day of the year that is the best day for me to go shopping.  It is the day I get my state tax refund!!  I use mine to shop for non-food items to replenish my supply so I don't have to shop throughout the year.

That is how I choose to spend my refund every year.  I'd like to go on a fancy trip (not that that is a bad choice, just not my choice), I'd like to splurge on something fantastical (I did spend some of it on Marly's senior year sports camp in August), or I'd like to fix up some stuff around the house. For me, I like knowing that almost everything I need is on hand without making a special trip to the Chevron to buy a package of toilet paper. (not that I would ever do that, but you know what I mean)

Some of you are wondering why with a family as large as mine, why don't I do the coupon thing?  I think it is too much work and the stuff I get is normally the store brand name stuff anyway which rarely goes on sale.  I like  to just get it over with and have it on the shelf.  Besides, the comments I get while I'm shopping are priceless.  You can just imagine.

I took Drew and his friend Nate with me.  They absolutely loved helping me until they were told by employees that they could not ride on top, that it was unsafe.  I refrained from saying anything earlier for fear of losing my title of "coolest mom."  I knew it wouldn't be long until someone set them straight anyway, glad it wasn't me.

This is the loot we came home with.  It isn't all there, just most of it, but you get the idea.  I spent a pretty penny stocking up on these items that I hate running out of:
Deodorant
Shampoo
Conditioner
Toothbrushes
Toothpaste
Floss
Mouthwash
Body Soap
Bar Soap
Hand Soap
TOILET PAPER!!!!
TAMPONS!!!
DIAPERS
Vacuum bags
Razors
Batteries
Lotion
Hair ties
Band Aids
Antibiotic Ointment
Cold Medicines
Pain Medicines
and more.

But, even better than that, is being able to put it all away.  I'm a huge fan of all those cute ways to organize things, but for me, just seeing everything where it ought to be, in mostly even and organized rows is good enough.  I'm glad I didn't take a pre-picture because it was so awful and unorganized.  It is also a great time to clean out things too.                                                                                I organized the little girl's hair stuff and cleaned out my jewelry box.  I threw away old ribbons that someone had cut too short or clips that were past the point of repair.  Earrings that had lost their match or were broken were throw out too. I found all the stray rubber bands and put them in a baggie, along with all the bobby pins.                                                        For small things, I have some bins, like on the bottom shelf for the batteries.  The razors and shaving cream are in a bin of their own, along with the toothbrushes and floss that don't stack very neatly.                The very top of the cupboard is for the unopened packages of toilet paper and paper towels.  When they get opened, they go down lower where small people can reach.  I put the lotions and children's detangler up high so that they can't reach them without help.  Same goes with the feminine products.  I can't for the life of me figure out why they like to open them up.
As I was cleaning out my jewelry box (it didn't take long, I don't own that much.)  I came across the small drawer where I keep all my sentimental things.  I don't ever use them, I just like to take them out sometimes and show my kids and stroll down memory lane.  
Some of my friends will find it humorous some of the things I still have.    
My charm from completing all 5 years of girls camp, back when we were Yearling, Mountaineer, Inspirator, Adventurer and YCLs (I'm very proud of that.)  Mother's Day charms from the kids.  The watches I wore back when I didn't own a cell phone.  My Smitty's name tag that I wore when I met Ben.  Ben's missionary name tag that broke so he mailed it to me.  The first time I was ever the team mom for Vance's football team. (Who knew that I would eventually become JohnsonTeamMom?)  Vance's Eagle pin for his mom that Says Eagle Mom.  The silhouette pin that came from my Grandma Whetten when she passed away.  And, the funniest thing I have kept is the little ring that my boyfriend in 9th grade gave to me (anyone know where Marlin is these days?)  Ah, a walk down memory lane.  Good times.

Before I cleaned out the medicine cupboard
Then, I moved to the medicine cupboard.  I purchase new bandaids, ointment, cold medicines, etc. to replenish what we have used throughout the year.  I pull everything out and check expiration dates.  I throw out stuff I know is too old or that is not used anymore and dispose of it properly, then I put everything back.  The top shelf is for the new bottles of stuff or things like the albuterol for the breathing machine and extra boxes of bandaids and miscellaneous first aid stuff.
 
After I cleaned it out

When it is all cleaned out, it is easier to find things and I don't worry about things that are old and expired getting used.

I keep the things that we use most often on this shelf so that they are easily found and accessible.






That is what I do with my state tax refund.  If you get one, what do you do with yours?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Workout Wednesday - Push Yourself

Yesterday, I did my annual tax refund year supply stock up shopping at WalMart and Costco (more about that another day).  I rewarded my helpers with pizza and myself with some take out sushi.  It was 1:45 when I ate and I figured that by 4:45 when I was home and ready to go on my run, that I had given myself plenty of time to digest my food.  I was so wrong.

I burped and threw up a little in my mouth for the first half a mile and then stopped in some rocks to try and throw up.  Nothing.  If you know how much I hate to throw up, you'll know how difficult that was for me.  But I was miserable and wanted to do my run so I was willing to do whatever it took to feel better.  I continued my run and by the time I hit one mile, I decided that I would do a shorter run today because I felt so crappy.

I got to my usual corner and had to make a choice to head home or head out.  I decided to push through it and I headed out on my route to do my entire run as planned. I had decided this run was going to be more mental than physical, even though the physical part was killing me.  I kept thinking how I would react if this was happening to me on my marathon run in June and I decided right there in my head that I was not going to let a little stomach upset keep me from doing what needed to be done.  I trudged on.

Just as I reached the halfway point, I was finally able to get into a natural rhythm and was starting to feel better.  I even picked up my pace a little.  When I reached the last quarter of my run, I was beat.  I decided that since there was no turning back, I would just do some lunges and then run up the small hill, do some squats and then walk home the rest of my route.  At the top of the hill I thought to myself, "you are stronger than this.  You can't let a little upset stomach stop you."  I was glad I was at the top because as I started jogging down the hill and the momentum carried me enough that I decided to push myself and run the rest of the way home.

Guess what?  I did it.  It took me several minutes longer than normal, but I finished.  And guess what?  It didn't kill me!!  I survived. I even made it to a church activity later that night with my husband and daughter:)

Isn't that like life?  Sometimes we come up against an obstacle or a trial that we think we can't overcome.  Then, when we push ourselves to the limit of what we are capable of, we are able to look back and see how far we came.  And, in the end we realize looking back, it wasn't as hard as we originally thought it would be.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." T. S. Eliot 

Monday, February 6, 2012

My always say yes theory.

I wish I knew where I heard this first, but it was many years ago when my older ones were young.  I'd like to give credit where it is due, but I simply cannot remember.

This is the rule of thumb I rely on when my children ask me if they can do something.

Always say yes unless you have a good reason to say no.

It has worked for me all these years that I thought I would share it with you.  It makes it so much easier when they ask me for permission to do something when both of us know the answer is yes unless I have an excellent reason to deny them.

I want my kids to experience anything and everything they can in this life.  I don't want them to be sheltered or under-privileged.  I want them to do things that freak them out (in a good way) and that challenge them to work hard and get what they want.

I will give you some actual examples so that you know what I am talking about:

Sometimes the littlest ones come to me with those sweet little cherub faces and ask if they can play outside.  If I can drop what I'm doing and sit outside with them and watch them play, the answer is always yes.  If I am in the middle of making dinner then obviously the answer is no.  If I am just sitting on FaceBook on the computer and they ask, the answer should be yes.  Sitting on the computer (watching t.v. reading a book, etc.) are not good enough reasons for them to not be able to go outside (in my opinion).  So we go.  This one is a no-brainer to me.

My point is, that unless I have what "I" (or you) consider to be a good reason, then I let the kids play outside.  As long as I'm going outside, I may even take them to the park or simply go on a walk with them.

When it comes to older kids, this is where I have had to really test my theory out a lot.  We have an extra car that we let our kids drive when they get their license.  Along with that comes certain responsibilities to ensure they are able to drive that car when they want to.  When they ask to go out in the evenings, I generally know who they are with, where they are going and when they will be home.  If any of these are not answered, then I have the right to say no.  Danger for my child's safety or concern over questionable friends and their habits would be a good reason to say no, obviously.  

I can't say that I have ever had a good example of a situation where I told them no and then something really bad happened and they were blessed for not getting into that situation.  I'm sure there have been times when I have been impressed to tell them no but then was also able to back it with a good reason.  Having said that, I know that if I felt impressed to tell them no but had no good reason to back it with, I would follow that prompting.  Some people call it mother's intuition, I call it a whisper of the spirit that comes from the gift of the Holy Ghost.  If you want to understand that more fully, click on the link.

One of the best things I have ever done is tell them yes even when something was too expensive.  When my daughter wanted to take extra tumbling classes, I told her she absolutely could, as long as she paid for it herself.  It took the financial burden off of me and released me of the emotional burden that I sometimes get from telling them no.  It doesn't mean that I don't pitch in when I can or help her find ways to earn money, it just puts the effort on her shoulders and not mine.  I rarely use the "I have no money" excuse.  Even when the candy man comes around playing his annoying music and selling my kids over-priced junk food, and my kids come running to me begging me for money so they can buy a snack.  I open the fridge and say,

 "Of course you can have a snack, I have fresh apples and oranges, there are some bananas on the counter, you can make yourself a piece of toast or have a bowl of cereal and save your money!" 

 "But we want CANDY mom!!"

"But candy will rot your teeth and is full of empty calories and no nutrition"  I say.

I always say yes unless I have a good reason.  When my fridge is empty and there is some change in my purse, sometimes I do splurge:)

One thing I want to make clear is that I never use the reason "because I said so" as a reason to say no.  I think it lessens my authority as their mother and the truth of it is, it isn't a reason at all.  It's like saying I don't really have a good reason, I am just saying no because I feel like it.  

Over the years, I have had to tell my children "no" a lot of the time, but I find that I am willing to let them do things that seem out of MY comfort zone simply because I didn't have a good reason to say no.  I am happy to say that I have yet to find a flaw in my theory and I am continually looking for one.

That is why I always say yes, unless I have a good reason to say no.