Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Memorial Day Crafts

On Monday, we'll be visiting the grave sites of some of our veteran ancestors who were buried right here in Ogden. I think this holiday is an awesome opportunity to tell your kids a little bit more about your own family narrative. My mother-in-law has so many stories about her parents and grandparents that my kids ask to hear over and over again. Their favorite is our great-great-grandmother Olive who had many adventures in her youth, including having a snake fall from the barn roof right onto her lap!

If you have any veterans in your family, I'm sure there are several stories to be told about their courage, patriotism, and great sacrifices that our children can identify with. This year I'd love to have my kids prepare a little "thank you" gift for our veteran ancestors and I'm thinking we'll paint some rocks from our ongoing rock collection to look like these:


Cute to do with the kids. Red, White, and Blue I LOVE YOU! 

There's a really great article on the Power of Moms website today about teaching your children the importance of Memorial Day. It made me think of a few crafts we've done in the past with flowers that could work for a poppy flower craft to place on our gravesites.

We've tried these paper flowers
Tissue Paper Flowers

and also tried the same technique with fabric

Pinwheel Poppy Craft for Remembrance Day
I LOVE these poppy pinwheels too.

Here's some 4th of July crafts we've done in the past that would work well for Memorial Day:


 Star Bracelets, Patriotic Counting Game, and Starry Napkin Holders--all HERE.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Picking Peaches

Thursdays hate me. I'm not making this up. Without fail, Thursday turns out to be my hardest day of the week, every week. Today, for example, is Thursday. I have been on a kick all week, feeling very motivated to get things done. I know that kind of motivation simply can't last, but today I didn't just get slowed down, I got flattened. 

For about three months, I've been struggling with a simple little part of life called monotony. I remember being six years old and taking a gymnastics class during the week after school. My mom would pick me up, we'd get into the car, and I'd ask, "What are we doing tonight?" She'd almost always say, "Just going home," which inevitably brought a sting of disappointment and boredom (oh the woes of an only child). In elementary school, I filled the front cover of my homeroom folder with countdowns to my birthday, the night before my birthday, and then the actual day of my birthday party. I lived for my trips to Oregon to visit my dad, holidays, three day weekends, class parties, sleepovers, and anything else that changed up the usual routine.

And now, as a mother of four young children, most of my life is routine. Now I'm the mom telling my daughter, "We're just heading home now." Some days (mostly Thursdays) I pack up the kids and escape to Great Harvest Bread where I can lose myself (or find myself) in their soup and slice of bread and chocolate chip cookies. Then I notice other people staring at me with my four year old begging for more honey, my two year old spilling her water onto the table, and my one year old baby yelling at me with his mouth open like a baby bird for more food. I remember that these escapes aren't as easy as they used to be.

After a particularly difficult week a while back, I called our babysitter. She was available. It was a Wednesday night and I told my husband that we were going on a hot date. We ended up agreeing that our "hot date" should probably be at the Brigham City Temple. There was that rush of getting dinner out for the sitter, quick hugs and kisses and a swift escape to the car. As soon as we entered the doors to the temple, I saw a painting that caught my eye. Before I tell you about the painting, let me give you one more detail to this lovely impromptu date at the temple. We had just returned from a wedding in Atlanta, where I had left my wallet (turns out you CAN board a plane without your license). My temple recommend--your ticket in--was in that wallet. My dear husband's recommend had just expired the day before, which is funny because he's in our bishopric, which means he's in charge of keeping those things current. So we got to stand in this lovely entry way next to this painting for ten minutes or so while we waited for permission to enter the temple.

Here it is:

It's a woman picking peaches, painted by Valoy Eaton. But to me it said A LOT. And I'm not confident that I can convey in this post what this painting said to me, but that woman was bending down, for probably the hundredth and sixteenth time, placing peaches into her bucket, and she was smiling. I felt a different perspective of my role as a mother. I felt the "Why am I not..." and "If only I could.." and "What if my kids don't..." and "Why can't I just..." melt away, because I am simply picking peaches. Every day. And yes it is repetitive and at times, monotonous, but my job is important and meaningful and even simple. I'm just here to pick peaches, and do it happily and peacefully. This woman seems so centered and content. There could be a storm of sibling rivalry, incessant messes, meals to be made, diapers to be changed, babies to be cradled, laundry to be folded, waiting for her in that simple home in the background, but she's present in this moment of picking peaches.

That's what I saw. And it has stayed with me. Since then, when all of my children are crying about something at the same time and my baby is clinging to my legs so I can't even move around to do all the things being required of me and I want to SCREAM, I think of her. I'm just picking peaches. One at a time.

And still, there are times when that "other woman" comes out of me, the one who starts throwing rotten peaches at everyone and curses the tree for making too much for one little woman to pick in one day. Tonight, for example, when my husband couldn't come home at his usual time to give me a break, when I had to do dinner and bedtime alone because he had a meeting (I know many of you do this on a regular basis; I bow to you), when my oldest made eye contact with me and acknowledged and repeated what I asked her to do and then walked away, forgetting immediately, this peach-picker had HAD IT.  I succumbed to the storm and yelled at my daughters. I let out my frustration with my hard day that started off with not enough sleep, laundry, a project that was interrupted incessantly, bill paying, homework with a very bored kindergartner, and violin practice with a sweet and stubborn girl who needs more encouragement and positivity than I can sometimes muster.

I'm exhausted. I want to be left alone. But I did remember that there are fragile egos and tender hearts up in those beds and I went back and apologized and gave hugs. I hope they remember the good parts of today and not an angry, fire-breathing mother. I hope they remember my courage to admit that I was wrong to yell, no matter what they did, and that even good moms get overwhelmed and tired. Maybe one day when they are weary, with children of their own, they will remember me, and that most of the time, I had a smile on my face as I bent down, time and time again because mine is the greatest job in the world.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Entitlement Trap: Book Review, Part One

Let me just tell you that this book is now one of my top three most favorite and life-changing parenting books. I've attended a hand-full of Power of Moms retreats that refer to Linda and Richard Eyre's programs for families and I've read a few of the Eyre's other books, and this one is the cream of the Eyre's expertise. In this post, I'm only referring to the first half of the book which is about The Trap of Entitlement and the Rescue of Giving Kids Financial and Material Ownership.

In preparation for my Power of Moms Mini Retreat on May 31st, I picked up this book to refresh my understanding of these powerful tools. (P.S. We are currently booked at the workshop, but if you're still really interested, email me!) I can't even tell you how badly I needed this book right now. We've had systems in place in the past, but I think we may have missed a very important point of those systems, and that is ownership.

"Giving kids true ownership offers them the chance to develop within themselves all of the qualities we want for them but can't give them." p. 25

This book points out that the reason we want to have a strong family culture, a system of rules and consequences, and a family economy is so that our children can gain a sense of ownership and equity in their own home.

"If the perception of ownership can be given to children, a sense of responsibility will follow, and a sense of pride, and a sense of purpose." p. 33
I want to focus this post on that first part of family systems that the Eyre's discuss in the book: Family Culture and Identity. Perhaps some of you grew up with strong family traditions, but this is quite foreign to me. I mean, the extent of my family culture was watching Friends on Thursday nights and gifting one another new socks at Christmas. And as silly as it sounds, those socks meant a lot to me. I looked forward every year to opening my new socks because it was "our thing." The tradition carried on even after I moved out of the house. Shortly after I was married, my parents divorced and the tradition stopped. It was hard for me to let that go (and my sock drawer suffered). I saw more clearly how traditions, even simple ones, can become a part of our own identity. Seven years after the divorce--just this last Christmas--my sixteen year old brother gifted me a nicely wrapped box of socks. And I cried. I love that even though he was young when that tradition was alive in our home, he still remembers it and wants to keep it alive.

One of my greatest desires as a parent is to be deliberate. I want to have a plan. By developing a strong family culture, we can give our kids a sense of identity and ownership in the home that will withstand outside influences such as media and peers.

"Our job is to create a family culture that is strong enough that it can, when necessary, supersede and override all the other cultures..." p. 55

Who knew you could have a family mission statement?! Or a family motto, a family song, t-shirts, yearly themes, weekly family meetings, a mascot, dinner games, movie nights, unique holiday traditions, a family flag, and even your own "secret codes" for communication.
"Our kids need the gift of a strong and personal identity, and parents are the ones who can give it. Children need roots before they can develop wings." p.43
The Eyres suggest having regular discussions about your own ancestors and learning more about your family's roots. They discuss the power of traditions both big and small, family symbols and culture, and having weekly meetings where your kids can participate in making decisions, solving problems, and discussing values.

So, wait. Slow down. Before we all get overwhelmed, just know that these things take time to develop. Lots of time. And that's okay right? The point is to just get started. We've been working on improving our family culture for the past year with our LITTLE ones and here's a few simple things we've started that have really worked:
A Family Motto

(This is the best picture I could get of us doing our motto, but David was at a meeting, 
I was taking the picture, and Edison would simply not participate)

My husband and I chose three of the most important characteristics we wanted our kids to develop and created our motto based off of those three things:
"Phipps are Kind, Phipps are Obedient, Phipps are Brave,
 and Phipps like spicy food!"
The latter part of the motto came along when our girls would label any type of food they didn't like, "spicy." So we started saying, "Phipps like spicy food. Eat up!"
We recite our motto every night before bed after we say family prayers. We usually try to put all of our hands on Edison's head, just for fun, but he usually wiggles away.

Snuggle Time

This year I started a tradition of having a "snuggle time" with each of my kids about once a week. They get to stay up a few minutes extra for a story of their choice, some delicious tea, and one-on-one with mom. They get to stay up later, I get some relaxing tea and snuggles; it's a win-win. We always end with our secret handshakes, which are getting longer and more complicated with time:)

Family Trophies
 These are our family trophies. Their purpose is to reinforce our family motto and reward our kids for their extra efforts during the month to be kind, obedient, and brave. It's a great opportunity for positive reinforcement. I even keep a notebook where I take note of good behavior so we can read out loud what they did specifically to earn the trophy (sometimes I forget to write it down and just pretend to read, relying on my memory). Dad is in charge of handing out the trophies and he makes it a really big deal. We give them out at family night once a month and our kids seriously act like they just received an Emmy, gracing us with a bow and a big smile as we applaud loudly!
 It's not always perfect. Charlotte (in the middle) is pouting here because she really wanted the Obedience trophy. (And I will explain why Eloise is dressed as a Nephite in just a minute).
 Eloise with her Kindness trophy.

Phippsite Nite
(Definition of "ite":a suffix of nouns denoting especially persons associated with a place, tribe, leader, doctrine, system, etc.)
 In January of this year, we started a tradition of having PHIPPSITE NITE on the last Monday of every month. We are currently reading the stories in the Book of Mormon every night with our children and Phippsite nite is an opportunity for them to get dressed up in robes and blankets and act out those stories. We keep it really simple and so far, it's been a hit.

This is the story of wicked King Noah (my husband, in my pink robe) and Abinadi (Hazel, preaching adamently).

There are so many fun things you can do that really don't take too much planning and/or effort to get started. My trophies were around $7 each online and the personalized engravings were free. Snuggle time really only takes ten to fifteen minutes extra and oftentimes we don't finish the tea and I'll let them take it to bed in a sippy cup. We've recently started a family movie night on Friday nights where we have pizza (Freschettas from the freezer folks), Rootbeer, and a family classic I find at the library.

Of course it could be easy to go overboard with traditions, especially the ones that surround holidays. My philosophy is that if it causes me more stress than fulfillment, it's not worth it. I've found that my kids cling to these traditions already and will remind us about them if we ever forget.

"Kids need to feel ownership or equity in their own family. If they feel like unvalued, unconsulted employees or like pawns on a chessboard, both their security 
and their sense of responsibility will suffer" p.44

Hoorah for a healthy family culture. Hope you got some good ideas.
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