Saturday, April 27, 2013

Screen-Free

My blogging has been sparse lately. I don't have a lot to say right now, but more so, my kids just aren't letting me have alone time these days. It doesn't help that I go to bed at 9:00 p.m, but when I'm up off and on all night with a three-year-old who cries for hours for no apparent reason and a baby who wants to eat every two hours, I need to go to bed early.

But this post isn't about my blogging shortage (nor my sleep shortage). This post is about something I have committed to that will probably have me sobbing within the first three hours: 

SFW-logo-with-2013-date_0

Starting Monday, we are going screen-free at the Brittish home. 

No TV, no movies, no video games, no computer, no Leapster, no apps, no cell phone web surfing for an entire week.

And I? Am probably going to die.

Because I have a hard time making it through a day without letting my kids watch TV or a movie. 

It has become my "retreat time." I need my kids to watch TV (or play a video game, or watch a movie...) because I need them to stop following me everywhere I go. And I need to have an hour to read a book or do the dishes or blog or just sit and stare at a wall. And I need them to do something that does not make a mess.

My kids do not self-entertain, so I have to walk them through every little detail of their play. Plus, with children that wake up at 6:00 a.m, and with a husband working and going to school full-time, I am alone with my kids for a verrryyy looooong time each day. On a normal day, Nicky is awake and needs to be kept busy for TWO HOURS before he even goes to school! Then he comes home, and I have to keep him occupied for another NINE HOURS before he goes to bed. Somewhere in there, there has to be a little screen time, or I will pull my hair out. 

I hate to admit it, but I have not been very happy at home lately. I am constantly on the verge of breaking down. I can't handle my kids, I'm short-tempered, and my attitude is pretty bad. I feel like everything in my home life is out of control, and it's my own fault. I don't really know how to snap out of it, but I've been trying for weeks to reset and get out of this funk. During this time, I've been more prone to put my kids in front of a screen. I feel guilty about it constantly, and I always tell myself that today will be the last day I do it. But today is never the last day because tomorrow I will snap at 1:00 in the afternoon.

So here is another attempt to escape the drag and start over again. 

Tomorrow we are having a family meeting to make a plan. I've already talked to Nicky about Screen-Free Week, and he is totally on board. He is great about stuff like this. Daisy on the other hand is going to be a problem. I'm hoping if we get her involved in some of the planning for the week, she will be more agreeable.

We are going to put a blanket over our TV and a sign on our computer to remind us to keep them off. We're going to box up electronics like the Nintendo DS and the Leapster. We are going to plan activities and outings. We are going to get a great stash of music ready to listen to. And we're going go forward and see how things turn out. 

It's going to be hard. 

But it will be good for us.

And maybe, with a bit of endurance, I'll push myself out of the bad place I've been camping out in.

See you in a week!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Moments from this week that make me a mom

Moment #1: Finding two scabby band-aids stuck to my pillow as I climbed into bed.

Moment #2: Flinching as my baby threw her toy toward an open toilet, then breathing a huge sigh of relief when it hit the rim and bounced off.

Moment #3: Loudly yelling, "Sh*t!" when my son lost control of the umbrella stroller and sent it flying off the curb with a sleeping baby inside after a good ten yard run.

Moment #4: Looking up and down the street to see who might have heard me yell, "Sh*t!"

Moment #5: Ceasing to breathe after hearing my son declare loudly to his kindergarten teacher that Jesus could walk on water.

Moment #6: Reminding my husband that Nicky has to go to timeout if he makes peeing sound effects; therefore, Daddy should not be making them, either (timeout is doubled for sticking props between their legs).

Moment #7: Interrupting a conversation with a neighbor to scratch a dried booger off the wall (after gasping, 'Oh my gosh! Is that a booger?)

Moment #8: Having to end an important phone call because I accidentally hit Zoe's head on the frame while walking through a doorway. Then calling back. Then ending the phone call again because Zoe decided she wasn't done crying.

Moment #9: Having my son ask me to read him some scriptures about chickens (3 Nephi 10:4-6) and then drawing a chicken in his Book of Mormon as per his request.

Moment #10: Seeing these words typed out before my eyes and realizing that it's only Wednesday.




Saturday, April 13, 2013

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, to Dinseyland We Go!

California 

Back in January, I wrote a post about taking young children to Disneyland and promised a follow-up post with some more information about our frequent Disneyland trips. I've mentioned before that we are not travel experts (we've never owned passports, and our only luggage is Scotty's mission suitcase that is missing a wheel), but we do Disneyland well.

Driving straight to Anaheim from where we live takes us about 11-12 hours with our three kids. We usually opt to drive all the way in one shot because we are not fans of stopping to stay somewhere for one night. It's just not worth the effort of unloading the car and loading it back up for a few hours of shut-eye. Plus, we're excited to get there so we try to avoid delays. We make stops for bathroom breaks, meals, and unpredictable catastrophes (like the time Daisy peed all over her car seat, so we hauled it into the gas station, rinsed it off, and used the hand dryer to dry it). As long as the kids are somewhat calm and somewhat dry, we just keep going.

We have always driven our fuel efficient Mitsubishi Lancer. When gas prices are high, we spend about $200, but we have been to California and back on less than $100 before. We throw the kids in the back seat (securely fastened in their appropriate car seats, of course) and strap the stroller to the roof. I admit, it is a tight fit, but it works.

Update: We now have four kids, so it's mini van or bust!

A tip: use the express lane through Vegas, and don't drive home through Vegas on a Sunday.

We have a few methods of keeping the kids happy during the drive. We do all of the usual things: portable DVD players,*(Update: iPads), toys, books, etc. I always bring some Disney CDs and some audio books. But we have a couple other fun things we do, too.

Before our trip, I buy some cheap stuff from the dollar store or Target to give to the kids throughout the car ride. Some of these things have included holiday window clings, snacks, activity packs, etc. I wrap them in wrapping paper, and each time we make a "pit stop" I leave a gift on my kids' seats. They are always really excited to unwrap the gifts. We tell them that the Disneyland Fairy brought them, but they know it's just me, and they're good sports and play along. I make sure I have things for the way there and the way back. We also use the time in the car to play communication games. My kids loved to be asked what their favorites are, so I ask them all about their favorite movies, toys, food, etc. We also play "Ten Things" where I will ask them to name ten vegetables, ten cousins, ten colors, etc.

We usually book our trips through Get Away Today. We always pick a hotel within walking distance of Disneyland, preferably right across the street, but we have stayed in hotels up to a mile away. We don't like to stay anywhere that requires a shuttle because shuttles make you to fold up your stroller. Our stroller is always full of stuff like food, diapers, and jackets, so it's always easier for us to walk. Plus, we like to come and go on our own time.

We are not very picky about the class of the hotels we stay in. Two stars? Fine with us. But there are a few commodities we look for:

  • Continental breakfast 
  • Fridge and microwave
  • Free parking
  • Disney Channel

The Disney Channel is negotiable, but since we don't have cable at home, we like to get our fix while we're on vacation. Since we are early risers and California is an hour behind Utah in time, we always have a few hours to burn in the morning before we go to the park. This is when we get caught up on Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Handy Manny.

Only recently have we noticed that some of our favorite hotels are starting to charge a daily parking fee. We now watch closely for this when we book our trip so we don't end up with any unexpected expenses.

When we have arrived and settled into our hotel, we make a grocery trip. We always do our research ahead of time and program the stores (and other destinations, such as Urgent Care) into our GPS, so we know right where to go. I make a meal plan and grocery list before we leave town to help prevent overspending. I also keep track of everything we spend so we can be accountable for our outgoing money and so we can have an idea of how much to save for future trips. At the store, we buy sandwich fixings, granola bars, fresh fruits and vegetables, trail mix, yogurt, bottled water, and the like. I pack our lunches and snacks for Disneyland in an insulated cooler. We freeze a water bottle or two to put inside to keep things cold.

I also buy a pack or two of hangers at the store because there are never enough hangers at the hotel.

At the hotel, I hang up all of our clothes or put them in drawers. Then as we accumulate dirty clothes (definition of dirty while we're on vacation = soiled to the point where it can not possibly be worn again - we pack as little as possible), I roll up the dirties and pack them in our luggage - lights in one bag, darks in another, paying no mind to whose clothes are bagged with whose. That way, by the time we are done with our trip, almost everything is already packed. Then when we get home, I just dump the clothes straight from the duffel bag to the washer.

Once we're in the park, we have a few traditions we fall back on. I have a very good husband, and I know this tip doesn't work for everyone, but Scotty changes most of the diapers in Disneyland. This is because there is often a line to use the changing tables in the women's bathrooms. The men's room has changing tables and... no line!

One of our favorite times to be at Disneyland is after dark. We take glow sticks for our kids (from Target or the dollar store) to use at night time when all of the vendors come out with the light-up toys.

Each time we go to Disneyland (or on any other vacation) we pick a post card for each of our kids and write some memories from the vacation on the back. This is a fun way to document memories, and our kids love going through their boxes of postcards and reading about our travels. We buy post cards from the hotel gift shop because they are less expensive there (the one time I purchased a post card at Disneyland, I paid $4 and almost cried).

I realize this post is making us look like tight wads. Our goal is to keep our Disneyland vacations affordable. We always save every penny to pay for our trips (our kids help, too). We wouldn't go if we had to use a credit card - we don't do debt - so we are very careful with what we spend. We still have a few splurges, though.  We eat a meal or two in the park, we buy our kids a toy or a shirt, and we indulge in character dining.**

One more thing before I go, I have had a lot of luck finding Disney stuff at the thrift store. I've found Nicky a few Toy Story shirts and Daisy a Minnie Mouse shirt, a Tinkerbell hoodie, and a reversible plush Cinderella/Belle doll. Most of the stuff is actual Disneyland merchandise. This is a great way to get some "souvenirs" without paying the price. I don't go to the thrift store just to look for Disney stuff, but if I'm there, and I see something awesome, and we have a trip coming up, I buy it.

Update: I don't shop at the thrift store very often anymore because their prices aren't as impressive as they used to be. Our tradition for our last two trips to Disneyland has been to buy everyone a Disney themed t-shirt before we go. We have also began to dabble in pin trading. Amazon is a great place to find a grab bag of pins. They need to be licensed by Disney to trade, so watch for that.

I know that Disneyland isn't for everyone, but hopefully there is something helpful in here for any of you who plan to go in the future. If you make the journey, I hope you have as much fun as we do!

*Something always goes wrong with the portable DVD player(s) on our trips, so even though we plan on watching movies, it never really happens, which proves that in 2013, it is still possible to drive long distances without DVD players. Update: We've since realized that our kids are incapable of watching a movie in the car. It's never been successful.
**Our preference is breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen. Breakfast is a little cheaper than lunch or dinner. On our last trip we went to the Minnie and Friends breakfast, and it was nowhere near as good of an experience as Goofy's Kitchen has been. I could write an entire post about it, actually. Update: Goofy's Kitchen has raised their prices since I wrote this.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Removed

My family has skin problems.

From my mom's side: moles.

From my dad's side: zits.

And when those two things combine, you get the cocktail that is me.

I have been waaaaay overdue for a visit to the dermatologist, and because of a strange lump on my eyelid that turned black and blue last week, I finally went. The verdict on my eyelid: I was told to go to an eye surgeon. EYE SURGEON!

Do you know what surgeons do to people?

THEY CUT THEM!

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So now I'm trying to decide if I'm brave enough to have my eyelid sliced or if I'm pansy enough to live with an ugly lump on my eyelid.

(I always lean toward pansy).

In other dermatological news, I had a skin tag removed from my armpit. You know, the one you've been having nightmares about ever since I got personal about my armpits back in Trimester Three? Yeah, that one!

I was a little nervous about having a shot of anesthetic in my armpit. I was worried as I sat upright in a chair with one arm over my head and one arm draped around myself to hold my sleeve out of the way that I would instinctively punch the nurse in the face. It ended up not being bad at all - no flinching, no punching.  I'm really excited that the skin tag is gone, but at the same time, I feel like part of me is missing. That hideous thing was there for almost ten years! Shaving my armpits will never be the same!

I kind of wish they'd let me bring it home.

I also had a wart treated. I'm kind of mad that warts are even an issue. When I was a child, I had hundreds of warts, and I was always being dragged to the doctor to have them burned off (Seriously, my hands were covered in them! You couldn't even see one of my fingernails because of the warts on both sides of it!) The treatments never worked, and after years of Wart Horror, I grew out of it, and they all went away. I feel like warts are a problem from my childhood that I should not have to revisit, so why, oh why, have I been dealing to the Great and Powerful Returning Wart for the past year?

And then there were the moles...

Let me tell you two very good reasons to avoid the dermatologist:

Boob moles and inner thigh moles.

(Like, very inner thigh).

So not only did my dermatologist see more of me than my OB/GYN typically does, I actually had to go back and point out the moles in my unmentionable areas because his very thorough exam wasn't thorough enough.

I ended up only having to have one mole removed, which sounded good to me at the time, but now I wish I would have just gotten the ones in the "bad places" removed so I never have to reveal those moles to the dermatologist again. After all, I've survived a shot and a pair of scissors to the armpit, I might as well have a shot and a scalpel taken to the boob.

Wrap that package of skin treatment with a ribbon of acne medication and prescription deodorant  and I'm good to avoid the dermatologist for another five years...

If I'm lucky...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Currently {April 2013}

Reading: Riding the Bus With my Sister by Rachel Simon and Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

Watching: Call the Midwife and North and South (which I have checked out from the library four different times).

Wearing:  black shirt, jeans, and black flip-flops. Very basic.

Relieved by: my dermatologist appointment being done and over with. Let's play a game. I call it "What was Removed From Britt Today?" Look forward to an upcoming detailed post.

Stressing about: my wisdom teeth. They are bothering me. They need to come out. I need to find a dentist and an oral surgeon.

Excited about: the matching swimming suits I bought for Daisy and Zoe. I kind of wish they had one in my size! I opted for the practicality of two-pieces (the t-shirt and shorts variety, although it was pretty tempting to put Zoe in something skimpy to show off her awesome curves). 

Addicted to: Oreo shakes. No soft-served, only hand-scooped. They can be made at home or purchased on a whim at Carl's Jr. 

Trying: to not gossip. I carried this one over from last month because it's hard work. 

Needing: to make a bunch of appointments. One with my hair dresser, one with an eye surgeon (I might skip this one), one to have my cholesterol checked, and one with a dentist. 

Annoyed by: "no show" socks. First of all, they "show." Second, they are uncomfortable and always fall off my feet. 

Feeling guilty about: not being as attentive to my children lately as I should be.

Tired of: being sick. We always get one last bug before summer, and I thought the strep I had three weeks ago was my "one last bug," but now I have a nasty cold and sinus infection. There have been many boogers.

Looking forward to: a vacation to St. George in June. We are celebrating our tenth anniversary by taking Nicky to see Mary Poppins. 

Proud of myself for: paying off our car. We now have ZERO car payments

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mothering and the Book of Mormon - Cast Your Eyes About

This guest post was written by my friend Cheyenne. Cheyenne and I met in elementary school. We had a million sleepovers and kissed a million pictures of Jonathan Taylor Thomas (life lesson learned: you can not wash lipstick off a wall poster). We were friends through high school and have stayed in touch as we've ventured into parenthood. Speaking of parenthood, Cheyenne is a mother to five little boys. A basketball team, in other words. Cheyenne graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelors in Marriage Family and Human Development. She and her husband Seth recently started a web site called Family Tough. Cheyenne has always amazed me - from her devotion to family to her love for the scriptures. She is an amazing person and someone I really look up to.

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The night before my second baby was born I was nervous, thrilled, excited and more than a little bit terrified. I had so many questions. How would I share my time? How could I adequately care for each of them and give them the love and attention they’d both need? What would it be like having two little boys only 18 months apart?

I said a quiet prayer and then opened my scriptures to look for guidance and direction as I tried to mentally prepare for this new adventure. I ended up turning to Alma chapter 33. The particular verses I had turned to were merely by accident. However as I began reading them I realized they were far from an accident, and actually Peace and assurance straight from Heaven.

In this chapter, Alma is teaching a group of people what it means to exercise faith. He shares with them the account of Moses and the brass serpent.

“...yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live. But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them.”

moses-brass-serpent-39479-print 

Then Alma asks them this critical question:

“O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this question is so easy to answer. Would we have looked? Of course. Why not? If something so simple would help so much, why wouldn’t we?

Then Alma further challenges the people in verses 22-23.

 “... then cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works. And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen."

I realized what the Spirit was trying to teach me.

“Plant this word in your hearts.” Study the scriptures. Feast and ponder them.

“...and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life.” Have Faith in what I read and it will begin to grow. I will be filled with the Spirit.

“And then.” These are my favorite two words in the entire verse, because they are so important. We’ve just been told to read and study the scriptures, and to have faith in what we read, and now we’re about to see the promise associated if we do those things.

“And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light.” God will make our burdens light. He will lift the load that we carry and help shoulder the weight we feel as mothers. How?

“through the joy of his Son” Through the Atonement of our Savior and His love for us, not only will our burdens be lifted, but we will feel joy.

“And even all this can ye do...” As mothers, the list of things we need to do is long. The list of things we feel we should do and accomplish is even longer. Cooking, cleaning, playing with the kids, serving in our church and community, being a good wife, a good neighbor, a good friend. All of these worthwhile necessary responsibilities can be difficult to manage, and challenging to find the right balance. Yet with God’s help we can do them all if...

“if ye will.” If we will first do the other things. If we will study our scriptures deeply, and put our faith in the Son of God, we will have the help and capacity we need to be able to do all that is required of us, and to even do it well.

This work we do is so crucial. The dishes, the homework help, the laundry and the lullabies are all a part of building souls. With so much on our plate and so much expected of a mother, why would God leave us to accomplish this great work alone?

He wouldn’t.

He hasn’t.

This is probably the single most important lesson I have learned in my life about motherhood and the Book of Mormon. The simple yet profoundly important truth that I need the scriptures. In order to be the mother that I want to be, to be able to meet the challenges of the day I need to be drinking deeply from those living waters.

It is a lesson I needed to learn then, and it is a lesson I need even more today. I now have five children. Five young boys. This transition has been stretching, trying, work, yet it’s also been beautiful. I’ve been struggling recently with the new demands and the pressures of having so many young children, when I remembered this block of scripture and it has changed me again. As I’ve recommitted my study in the scriptures and cut out other distractions I have literally felt “my burdens become light through the Joy of His Son.” I don’t mean to call my children burdens, because they aren’t. I chose to have the family I have now, and I wouldn’t change any one of those decisions. Yet even blessings can feel heavy.

We all need courage and strength to do the things we do as mothers, whether we have one child, or 4 or 7. And we can find that strength and courage in the scriptures. Whether it’s how to get your baby to nap, or how to potty train a stubborn 3 year old, how to calm a nervous 6 year old as he transitions to first grade, how to help build the confidence of our teenagers, how to balance our time, or renew our spirit, there are answers to be found. If we are in the scriptures the Spirit can work on us, and we can get the answers and the help that we so desperately need.

The Lord is waiting to answer our prayers, to give guidance and direction in our everyday mothering. To lift, and bless, and calm. If we will only turn to Him. But it is up to us.

Just as the children of Israel had a choice, we must choose each day.

To believe Him,

to trust Him,

to Look.

“...begin to believe in the Son of God... .plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen.”
~ Alma 33:23

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This guest post is part of my series, "Mothering and the Book of Mormon." To learn more about why I am writing this series, please read this. To learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, check out Mormon.org or LDS.org.

Did you know you can request a Book of Mormon for free? No joke! See here.

I'll even send you one if you want. Marginalia included.

You can e-mail me: 

{fluentbrittish [at] gmail [dot] com}

I won't even try to baptize you!