Monday, December 29, 2014

Sewing Tuesday

While she may be terrible at soccer she most definitely isn't at sewing. Over the summer we sewed every Tuesday and to say she loved it is an understatement. She sewed: a purse, blanket, a paper garland for her room, and two skirts. She and I even made our own pattern for the maxi skirt. She is such a girl. The kind who plays outside in dirt and mud always in a dress or skirt; my favorite kind.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

In June we didn't wear much clothing

Dear Lily,

I love you--you are the best.

In other news, Lily sucks at soccer.

This is how she spent her soccer season (*season was cut short due to parents unwillingness to give up sleeping in to watch child stand on a field and cry).
It should be recorded that Owen was a referee for the league and he did not stand on the field and cry.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Weekend in Sedona

Sedona is like no other place, two hours from Phoenix too! Last weekend Chad and I went up leaving the kids in grandma's care we knew they'd have just about as much fun as we would. We did a ropes course that is not for the faint of heart. Picture the tallest tree you can, now put a platform around it and there you go. It was pretty sweet. It was fun most of the course, only at one point was I like 'whoa--I'm uncomfortable!' So I clamped my clips on and zip-lined down and carried on with the course. One of the obstacles was a skateboard, suspended between two trees and you had to balance as you skated between them--pretty fun.

Chad and I both love to hike and be outside, we did West fork trail, Chicken little trail and Hi-line trail. The colors were just starting to change so that made it even better. Of course we ate at the Wildflower as Sedona has squat in the way of good food. Good times!

Pat pat pat

Need some reassurance? Because that is something that is totally up this dudes ally. Picture this, you see baby standing on the ground--he sees you. He throws (literally he does this) his hands open wide majestically, cocks his head to the side and runs at you with open arms. Once he reaches you he gives you the hug of a boy who is just giving it all away. It's great. Couldn't be better, but wait--you give him a casual pat. He in turns pats you over and over again. This happens forty eight times per day. It's seriously the best.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A gem of a moment

Right?! I mean coloring and coloring in the nude is just tops. Working on him coloring on paper and leaving the walls along. Half the time he finds a writing implement he can manage the impulse; the other half it's like: color color color color color color color, all I do is color color color and I am an artist and this house is my canvas!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

100 year rain in Phoenix!

So over the past month we've had two separate days of '100 year' rainfall--shattering all records of time and eternity for the Phoenix valley.  We had five different roof leaks which was fantastic. Then a few friends and I took our boards and kiddos to the park where they paddle boarded and had an awesome time.

Jack went all around with the kids and was a pro by the time we left. I brought our skim board and the boys worked on their technique; they still suck.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

This is not a test.

But if it were, rest assured that she would cheat. She was so proud, thinking that she had solved the problem of the ages: homework.  Thursday she bopped in fresh from the 106 degree heat with a permanent grin. 

"Mom!!! I have finished ALL of my homework!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I also made a new best friend. She's very good at math."

I love that she has no idea how to cover-up. She was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that I guessed that her new best friend (a fifth grader) had done her homework for her.

She was crushed that she had to erase all of her "new best friend's" hard word and redo it all herself. Tough luck. Got ya!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Have I ever mentioned that I'm overconfident?

And in case you're wondering-it's a real thing; I suffer from the I got this mentality. This mentality sometimes gets me in a car on a highway 23 hours from home with nothing but spilled Cheerios and whining children between me and insanity. That's the razors edge of sanity if ever there was.
 Here I am after 26 hours on the road with these hooligans. 

On July 2, 2014, in classic Jamie style, I decided at 9:00 a.m. to go ahead and leave that same afternoon, rather than the next day, as planned. We headed for St. George, UT where we stayed at my Aunt's vacation home. After a mere 8 hours on the road I was seriously considering heading South back to Arizona, calling it good. We ended up staying there for two days and heading North to Salt Lake where we picked up Grandma at the airport. (Everything is better with her around!)

The hardest part of all the driving I did over the month of July was those first eight hours; especially the part where Jack cried for three hours straight and I had to drive with one hand while holding his hand with the other. On a positive note, he got it all out of his system in one fell swoop; deciding that three hours of uninterrupted crying was enough even for him.

We detoured through Idaho Falls attending a Peterson family reunion. We saw grandma Peterson--she's 96--and it was great to see her. The ranch looked beautiful and it was really fun to see all my cousins all grown up with their own families. That night we stayed in the world's worst hotel! Thankfully, the next day we were bound for grandma's house in Washington (lice free!).

A quick nine hours later Jack and Lily were ecstatic to be in Grandma's bathtub.  Every time I come home I'm blown away by my parent's yard, everything just grows and grows. It's so beautiful! Shortly after arriving, I took refuge on the porch swing--my sanity hanging in the balance--while the kids soaked up the glorious Wi-Fi. Who knew Wi-Fi was so important? Kidding (not really).

Wi-Fi is everything--everyone knows that. Reconnect to the internet, sanity returned to all. We forgot about the trials of road and we all lived happily ever after. Please don't make me recount the return trip to you. Agh! *drool runs from my cross-eyed face*

I come by it honestly.

Look at these two handsome devils! Behold my mom and dad's college pictures! The two hardest working people on the planet found each other at BYU about forty years ago and decided to make a life together. Would it be filled with lazy beach days? I have first hand experience with them on beaches and let's just say there is about zero laying about going on. They both love to work and are such dreamers! I just love that about both of them. Have I ever mention that my dad got a book series on how to build a house and thought, 'I can do that' . . .and he, ahem, WE, build my childhood house together. 

One would think that you'd start simple and small for your initial foray into carpentry and home-building. WEAK SAUCE! Nope, they bought two acres and designed a two-story house with a walk out basement and soaring ceilings that is over five thousand square feet. I like them. Let me paint you a mental image; I was about 12, Jason-14, Jay-10 and Josh-8. . .on the second story holding the exterior walls while my dad was nailing them in. Yup. There is no photo for the TWO acres of grass we planted but the memory is forever burned into the retina of my mind. The area where immense torture and pain is stored. It was heat wave in Washington--perfect time to: 
  • level two acres
  • rake two acres
  • evenly spread topsoil on two acres
  • evenly spread seed onto two acres
  • evenly spread MANURE on two acres
All without the use of heavy equipment--I mean why rent equipment when you have so so many able-bodied children. They probably won't need their arms for anything in the future. I'm not bitter or anything. Don't even ask me about the mowing. . .oh, the mowing! They purchased a riding lawn mower while I was in college. Yes, college. I've never mowed it on the riding lawn mower but I can painfully recall how I did it with the push mower.

It took years to finish building the house. Every day after school and all day Saturday during my youth we (my five brothers and I) pretty much cursed our parents. But looking at this feat now with mature eyes I see what a gift it was to all of us. Not just the house, but the lessons. Building that house taught us perseverance, hard work, determination, rebounding from failure, triumphs, grit. It's extraordinary to fathom how immensely difficult it would be to build a house with children as your laborers.
just look at that grass, single tear. . .

See the rose bushes that Lily is standing next to? There are about one twenty hundred rose bushes; why have five or six when you can have ONE HUNDRED and TWENTY, give or take a few. Ha--their optimism just kills me.
So that's my tree and I'm the apple. Often I find myself way in over my head but, I kinda love that about me too.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What do you want to be?

A few weeks ago, Chad and I were watching a YouTube clip from rabbi Joseph Tulushkin, he noted that most parents assume that their kids know that they want them to be good, but also noted that parent's reserve most of their praise for athletics, academics or other accomplishments (things kids should be praised for). He said that this assumption can be tested by asking our kids "What do you think we (your parents) most want to you to be: (1) happy; (2) successful; (3) smart; or (4) good?" 

He went on to say that the other traits are only praiseworthy if we put goodness as our highest priority, noting that these traits are not intrinsically valuable if a person isn't good (Germany, for example, didn't start the holocaust because it lacked enough intelligent people, but because it lacked enough good people). It was a thought provoking talk and ended with the challenge to ask your children the same question. 

The rabbi guessed that the majority of our children would not get the answer correct (and he was right in our kids case (though Luke got it right)). Goodness doesn't seem like a worthy enough goal if kids aren't praised enough for it. Kids will strive to accomplish the things we praise them for. If we want our kids to be good but we don't emphasize it greatly enough with our praise, then we may not get the results we want. So, our highest praise should be reserved for  acts of kindness, generosity, charity and humanity. 

While we may want them to in fact be good; we need to do better communicating that desire.

Gilbert Temple open house February 2014

A lot of times I feel like that I'm letting great be an enemy to good. I have good kids. Often I'm so focused on what they could be doing better that I lose sight of just how good they already are. It's easy to see how anyone could be doing better, myself included. A few months ago Chad and I joined an organization called the National Association of Child Development. As part of being accepted into that organization you had to listen to six parenting CD's. The CDs advocate a 4:1 ratio of praise or positive teaching experiences for every one negative experience or criticism. In this way you can most influence your child.

Well! Occasionally, I'll fall into a rut and will be more negative with the kids. It's amazing how quickly the vicious cycle begins of criticism/acting out. I've gotten better at catching myself and saying, "wow, I'm feeling bad, let's start the day over and forget about _______." When I'm doing the 4:1 ratio it becomes easier to do it and it has a real snowball effect. When I build them up, as I see them doing good things, they want to do more good things for the positive attention. This is probably the simplest parenting thing I've done with the biggest results.

Anyway, I'm not preaching, but the rabbi's observation and the 4:1 ratio both seem self-evidently true and by implementing those things in my parenting, I'm happier, my kids are happier, and we're all becoming better people. Heck, one day we may even become great, but being good is okay too.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The things that define us.

Last Sunday before bed Chad and I were laying on our magnificent bed (it's the best bed! (it was the first thing we bought after Chad graduated from law school. If you haven't got a good bed, then you have nothing. NOTHING!)) chatting about our children and what an awesome responsibility it all is. I mean parenthood is just so all encompassing; you get these little humans and you have the opportunity to influence how they will view the world and themselves. Some of the major things we considered:

  • what are our priorities?
  • what characteristics do we want to engender? 
  • what do we spend our time doing?
  • how can we influence them?
  • how can we help them overcome individual weaknesses?
  • what does it mean to be a Mead?
I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty deep stuff. Hours later we'd covered each child's individual needs. We talked about how to compensate for weakness and how to help them develop a strong identity.
Some of the obvious answers to our questions are to pray with them and read scriptures together, etc. We do these things but we can always do better. When I look around and see families that are raising great kids--full of values and just plain goodness--I see the same patterns. Here's a few of them:

  • Time--There's no substitute for spending time together. We like to play games, read, walk, hike, chat poolside (see above), play tennis. Do whatever you like and do loads and loads of it. (I'm writing these more to memorialize my thoughts than to instruct you the reader. These are the things that we want to do more consistently.)
  • Traditions--having family rituals seems important. These are the things that seem like "our" things--the things our family does because it's "us." Some of them are the Friday Night movie night, the Saturday morning breakfast, Sunday walks, family reading time, special family places, ongoing activities (Lily and I are currently sewing together every week and she dies of happiness over it. Chad takes the boys to play chess and to the movies (he's taking the kids to the circus next week (some sacrifices are required to be a good parent)).
  • Sayings--when Chad and I were dating we often say it was "it's you and me against the world!" I have no idea why we came up with this but it stuck and has been something that we say to each other every so often. It reminds us that we're in this together. A few years ago we started saying "consider the happy state of those who keep the commandments" to our kids; a scripture from the Book of Mormon.
  • Work--Good kids work. A LOT. Work is something families should do together, every day yard work, house work, school work are all required for the kids' well-being and to help others. We knew a great family that scheduled their boys' Saturdays for them (you've got to mow the Meads' lawn at 8:00 and pull weeds at the Johnsons at 9:30, etc.). These boys saved a lot by doing this, they learned a number of handy skills and were terrific boys, every single one.
  • Example--the parents that I see raising great kids walk the walk. They are the people that they want their children to be. Being is so much more powerful than saying or seeming to be. This one is a real struggle; not that Chad and I are struggling with huge demons, but we may have let inappropriate movies or music slide in the past, thinking that the kids wouldn't notice. Two things, one, if these things are inappropriate, then we suffer the ill-effects even if the kids don't actually see us doing the bad thing. Two, the kids are old enough to notice. Recently we heard someone talk euphemistically about sex in front of their kids, thinking that the kids wouldn't pick up on it. I think it's best to assume that your kids will pick up on subtle things; I certainly did at their age. 

Chad observed that we need to ingrain our values deeply into our kids so that when they're alone in the world and faced with a bad choice--they will appreciate the consequences of that choice. If we've instilled pride in being a Mead (for whatever reason), and they know that Mead's don't do X or Mead's do do Y, then we increase the chances of them staying on the right path. I guess we're just reminding ourselves of the proverb: "train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it."
One of the best parts of marriage is having a partner who cares about the same things you do (and just as much as you do). For example, it's deeply satisfying to reflect together on when a certain little boy refused to eat by his mouth as a three-year-old and drooled so much that you had to change his sopping wet shirt at 10 in the morning and contrasting it with how he's making eggs and toast for the family and managing not have a single bit of saliva out of place. All of our kids have overcome obstacles that were once difficult. Chad feels the greatest of these victories as much as I do and knows that in the remaining time we have with them, there's so much left to do. We can accomplish great things together, producing strong, capable, kind, Christlike adults that make their world and the people they come into contact with better. Our above reflections of these issues helps us clarify what we are trying to accomplish, how important it is, and how we're going to get there. This isn't the whole list, but it's a good start.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Sunday night tradition--walking

On Sunday evening, after dinner; we walk. It's usually the same route, occasionally we go different way and sometimes everyone walks, other times some are on bikes. We usually push Jack and then on a certain street we set him free and he walks up and down, up and down. Often we stick around and see the sunset over the valley. We chat about our day, the week, life. It's a little thing but also something everyone looks forward to and enjoys.