Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Mom's Best Friend

One summer morning as the kids were getting dressed, I heard some commotion coming from upstairs so I headed up to find out what was going on.

I saw Xander first, who informed me, without waiting to be asked, "Elodie is immodest!" Sure enough, when I followed the ensuing screams of defiance to Elodie's bedroom, I saw her in her princess sundress with no shirt underneath. Immediately, I remembered an article in a recent Friend magazine called "Modest at Any Age" and asked Elodie if she wanted to come downstairs and read a story with me. This was obviously not what she was expecting me to say to her. Her defiance left, and she came with me willingly. I had recently read the story to her, so we just looked at the picture and talked about the story together. Then I turned to the Modesty Checklist that followed. I explained to her that the prophets have taught us how we can be modest to show that we respect the bodies Heavenly Father gave us. We went through each point to check if what she was wearing was modest. Does it cover your shoulders? No. Does it cover your stomach? Yes. Does it come down to your knees? Yes. Is the neckline high enough? No. And down through the list. When we got to the end, I asked her what she wanted to do. Without hesitation, she said, "Put a shirt on underneath so I can be modest." Elodie is not the type who easily takes suggestions from me regarding clothes (or many other things--she's more the strong-willed type than the compliant type). But with the help of my Friend, she was able to see the decision objectively and make her own decision. Here she is after successfully making that difficult decision for herself.

I was so grateful for that resource and for the focus on standards and absolutes in this ambiguous world. Many of you reading this post may think that it really doesn't matter how "modestly" an innocent little 3-year-old dresses. It's irrelevant because she's just a little girl! And perhaps that's true. I wore tank tops and short shorts to keep cool in the summer when I was a little kid, and I turned out just fine. But as I had kids, I started wondering, "at what age does it start mattering that my daughter dresses modestly and understands what it means to respect herself and her body?" (Or son, of course, but let's face it, this world prizes immodest dress in women way more than in men.) I thought about how I perceived modesty as a teenager. I thought that I dressed modestly because my clothes were more modest than everybody else at school. Sure, I wore sleeveless shirts, but I didn't wear strappy tank tops like so many did. No, my skirts didn't always come quite to the knee, but they were so long compared to the booty shorts most girls wore! I subscribed to relative modesty. It wasn't until I hit the clearcut standards of the BYU honor code that I reshaped my thinking about modesty. And when I did, I was converted to it and could hardly believe how recently I had seen the matter so differently. When I was preparing for a mission and got to go to the temple, I was grateful that I was already converted to the standards of modesty that temple worthiness entails.

And so I've discussed this modesty issue with my sisters and my friends and even my mom, and we do have different views on it. But as I look at the options, I can't imagine it being any easier to wait to teach my children the standards of modesty. When will she be more receptive than when she is 2 or 3 years old? Will it be easier to teach her the standards of modesty when she develops curves and the boys are flocking and Mom and Dad realize that her dress is sending the wrong message? Or when she is packing for BYU and we tell her that most of her wardrobe won't work? Or when she is about to make sacred covenants in the temple in preparation for a mission or marriage? I just can't imagine it being easier to let it go when they're young and then expect it at some indeterminable future point. So I decided from the time I had my first baby that tank tops were out. That the adorable sleeveless dresses would look just as adorable with a shirt underneath. That shorts, skirts, and dresses had been officially grown out of when they no longer reach the knees. It just seemed easier to me to be clearcut from the beginning.

Then I saw this story in the Friend, "Modest at Any Age," validating my decision. I felt grateful for the increased focus on standards in this relative world. Maybe it didn't really matter back when I was a kid, but I get the sense that it does now. As the world gets fuzzier and fuzzier, we need to get clearer and clearer. These are principles that can best be taught in the home, by example, by consistent adherence, by clear expectations, and by direct instruction with the help of great resources like The Friend and For the Strength of Youth.

This simple experience with Elodie gave me a great sense of confidence and reassurance that as a Mom, I have all of the support I need to teach my children correct principles and let them govern themselves. What a great feeling!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Top Ten Ways to Tell that Xander is Growing Up


#10 Xander can tie his own shoes.

The school shoes we got for him have laces. I told him we could get them if he would work on learning to tie his own shoes. So I've been practicing with him. But then Dad taught him the "bunny ear" method, and he did it for the first time Sunday before Church. Wow, that's independence.

#9 "I can read myself a bedtime story; isn't that awesome?"

This is what Xander said to me when he was supposed to be getting PJs on and brushing his teeth and I was trying hurry him up. I told him at his current pace, we may not have time for a bedtime story, and this was his reply. My hurry tactic may be ruined, but it is awesome to have a reader!

#8 Xander can send a text message.

Well, with a little help from Aunt Melayna. She let him text a little birthday wish to Aunt Rachael, who assures us that she was able to decipher his spelling just fine.

#7 Xander can build his Lego helicopter by following the instruction book--all 30-some steps.

Can I just say that I LOVE the inventors of Legos? One summer day, before this school routine started, Xander played Legos ALL morning--for 4 hours straight. After lunch, swimming, and some down time with a movie, he was back to the Legos for a couple more hours. Now THAT is a good toy.

#6 Xander can make up jokes that have a punchline to "get." (Sometimes. He does still find nonsense and bathroom humor hilarious. Although, come to think of it, so do my brothers.)

I pointed out a pick-up truck that had a screen painting of horses on the back window of the cab and Xander came right back with: "That truck must have a lot of horsepower."

#5 Xander can write things like "new Sunday shoes" on mom's shopping list.

After at least a month of being forced to wear too-small shoes every Sunday because I forgot about that minor detail until Sunday morning rolled around each week, he happened to notice a shopping list on the table and added the item to my list, getting the job done nicely!

#4 Xander gets to eat lunch at school in the cafeteria.

I was prepping Xander for the fact that he'll probably be changing schools in the middle of this kindergarten year, and chances are, it will be to half- day instead of full-day. I'm pretty excited about that, actually. But he said: "That's bad because then I won't get to eat my lunch at school!" (Since the newness of school has kinda worn off and Xander has noticed more how it infringes on his playtime, he has decided that he really would prefer half-day over full-day, even if it means no lunch at school. We’ll see what the future brings!)

#3 Xander is starting to make choices based on how they might affect others.

On the way to Church, I was munching some peanuts and Xander asked for some. Then he said, “no, I don’t want any, because I’m going to see Cooper, and he might be allergic to me.” I thought that was very good of him to think far ahead enough and outside of himself enough to make a better decision.

# 2 Xander is learning to spell some important words, like “Spider-Man,” correctly (rather than just phonetically).


Just this week, the kindergarteners were given the homework of writing a “story” at home every day. At school, they are supposed to write true stories about themselves. To spice things up a bit, I told him that at home, he could write about whatever he felt like. So, not surprisingly, he decided to write a story about Spider-Man saving a girl from a burning building. A couple weeks ago, Elodie found some books about Spider-Man in the easy reader section at the library and picked them out for Xander. He thinks they’re some of the coolest books ever and has read them several times. So after he worked on getting all of the details of his picture right, with the fire orange and blue and webs coming from Spider-Man’s hands and everything, he began to write. As he sounded out Spider-Man, he asked me if he should put a line (meaning a dash or hyphen) after “spi,” and I told him, “no, just write it all together.” Then he asked if he should put it after “spider” before “man” and I told him the same thing, “just write it all as one word, you only need a dash if you can’t fit it all on the same line.” So he listened to me. But after he got ready for bed, he dug the Spider-Man book out of the stack and showed me that there really is a “line” in it, and that I was wrong. Wow, my whole life, I’ve been spelling it Spiderman. But according to this official book, I’ve been wrong. And Xander noticed and remembered and then proved me wrong! I was so proud of him! They say that the best way to become a good speller is to read a lot. I guess for the really important words, it’s already starting to sink in for Xander! Of course in today’s story, he spelled stinky “stingkey,” showing that he obviously needs to read more books about stinky things!

#1 Xander can ride a two-wheeler bike!


On Friday, July 16, Xander was begging me to help him learn to ride a two-wheeler by holding onto his back and running aorund like crazy trying to keep up. I opted out, claiming that it was just too awkward with my huge belly, and deferred him to his dad when he got home, even though I knew Aaron was on call until 9 or 10 that evening. Well, it was Xander's lucky day. They let Dad off early at the hospital and told him to come back at 6:00 for his evening call. So in this one hour window that Dad had, he took Xander off down the path on his two-wheeler. When I went outside to call them in for dinner after 30 minutes or so, I saw Xander riding down the path by himself, with Dad trailing a ways behind. The next day, Dad lowered the bike seat a bit, and then Xander was able to start and stop by himself, too. I was quite impressed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back at the Home Front

This is Elodie right after dropping Xander off at school yesterday. Her face seems to say, "What am I going to do all day without Xander?" Sometime after lunch yesterday, I suggested to Elodie that she go up to her room to play. She came down after just a minute saying, "I already played with everything in my room." Things sure do feel different with just one kid around! It makes me even more excited for the new baby to arrive! That oughtta keep Elodie busy!

Another First

That's Xander, climbing onto the school bus like it's no big deal. Like he's done this loads of times before. But, no, it was his first time. And he didn't even bat an eye. Even though I'd prepped him for months that when he started school, he'd get to ride the bus with his pseudo-big-brother Nolan (a big 4th grader now) who would take good care of him and then during breakfast this morning, we found out that Nolan was going to be getting a ride to school and would not be Xander's bus buddy today. That made me a bit more apprehensive, but Xander didn't seem to mind at all. We walked over to the bus stop, and when the bus arrived, Xander joined the swarm of kids and climbed aboard without even looking back at me. He was gone before I knew it. I felt a bit weird seeing him leave like that.

After school, when I went to pick him up from the bus stop, he came walking towards me when I was only about halfway there. He had gotten off at an earlier stop, at the park, and just started walking home like he didn't expect me to be there to meet him or anything. Of course he knows the way home from the park; we've walked it TOGETHER hundreds of times. But alone? How old does this kid think he is, huh? I wanted to clarify that I planned on meeting him at the bus stop, so I was asking him if he wanted to get off at the park everyday or at the stop that's a little bit closer to our house so that I could plan on leaving at the right time and going to the right spot. "Oh, no, Mom, you don't have to come and get me. I can just walk home by myself. I'm a really big boy now." Oh you think so, do you? Well I'll be there at the bus stop, even if you don't think you need me! Independent or TOO independent? He's making me wonder!

Xander loved riding the bus. From how he talked about it, it was one of the highlights of the day. I guess as far as kids go, he does a pretty good job of telling me what he did and learned at school, but it is SO weird for me to not really know what he's been doing all day. When I asked what he learned, he said, "I learned TONS of stuff," but when I pressed for details, he said, "I can't remember all of it." Hmmm. I know that he got to go to Music today, which he liked, but not as much as he loved gym yesterday (it was his favorite part of the day yesterday). That he played with a friend from Church at recess. That the bought lunches smell better than his packed lunch and when can he buy his lunch? That Mrs. Parker sings the days of the week song differently than we do at home and can we start singing it her way? That she read him a book about Dos and Don'ts that was really funny because it says stuff like "Don't wear underwear on your head" and "don't make other people smell it." That sometimes Mrs. Parker lets them lie down while she's reading them a story. That he missed me a little bit at school today, but he didn't cry about it like a little girl in his class did. That the kid from his class who sat next to him at lunch today is named Aaron just like dad. That he wanted to draw a picture of Nolan before the end of school, but he didn't get a chance. That he's learning classroom procedures quite effectively. (He raised his hand at dinner today to make a comment, and it's only the second day!) Pretty good details, huh? So why do I still feel like I really don't know what's going on in that classroom of his all day?

And I'm learning some things, too. For one, not to tell Xander that he can finish building his Lego helicopter in the morning if he wakes up early enough. It seemed like an innocent thing to say when he was crushed about putting his Legos away at bedtime last night. (This all day school thing is really cutting into his playtime. Only 10 minutes of bike riding and barely time to get your helicopter halfway built? Sheesh.) But when I was hopping into the shower at around 7:00 this morning, Xander knocked on the door to show me that he'd finished his helicopter. How early DID he wake up to get that finished by then? Who knows. But when I got out of the shower and saw him lying grumpily on Elodie's floor, I knew it was too early. "Why did you wake up if you were still tired, Xander?" His reply was so innocent and sweet: "because you said that if I woke up early enough, I could finish building my Lego helicopter." Note to self: watch what you say because he is listening!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The First Day of School!

Who was SO excited to start kindergarten today? I'll let this picture speak for itself.
Today was a lifechanging milestone for Xander--and for me. Xander is officially in kindergarten. I am a school mom. There's no turning back now. My days as a mother of just protected preschoolers is over. We have sent Xander into the world--the world we call Yale Elementary school. I know a lot of parents who would be proud to send their kids to Yale for an education. Xander could hardly wait to get started. He was so proud last week to be able to show dad HIS school at back to school night, and after his screening with a kindergarten teacher last week, he exclaimed, "That was SO fun!" This morning, he was dressed in his school clothes including his socks before I even saw or heard that he was awake. After saying good morning to me, he went right back upstairs to get his backpack, which he wore for the next hour before we had to leave for school. After a First Day Brain Food Breakfast of Quinoa-infused whole wheat blender pancakes and spinach-infused fruit smoothie, we packed his lunch, THREE criss-cross peanut-butter cookies included (I just couldn't turn down his request when he was being so adorably reasonable as he explained that the day would be even more awesome if he had three cookies in his lunch instead of two), and headed off. Along the walk to school, I let Elodie dawdle and play at the park a bit because we had left in plenty of time. With his school just past the park fence, Xander looked back over his shoulder and urged, "Hurry up!"

I managed to convince him that he had plenty of time to play on HIS school playground for a bit.

Then we walked around to the front of the school where the kiddos were gathering up. We found the two other kindergarteners Xander knows from church and the little informal preschool group they were in together. They won't be in his class, but I could tell Xander felt a confidence boost upon seeing some familiar faces.

Then it was time to line up in their classes. Xander was brave and excited and cooperative and sweet. As they were about to walk into the building, I gave him a hug and he hugged me right back, kissed my cheek, and said, "I love you, Mom! Bye!" My heart melted. When Elodie called, "I love you, Xander!" He stepped out of line, gave her a hug, said, "I love you, too!" and quickly got back in line. Mrs. Parker was the first one to lead her class into the school. You can see in this picture that Xander wasn't the first one in line when they started moving, but they paused at the door for the teacher to tell them something, and while they were stopped, it appeared that the kids in front of him were a bit hesitant. Somehow, Xander ended up in the front of the line and led his class into the school. He was the first kindergartener in the school this morning. That is just how eager Xander was to get started with kindergarten! It was a little hard to watch my little boy go off into the world like that. I mean, kindergarten is a whole school day in these parts. He is still so little and wonderfully innocent in so many ways. But his whole go-get-'em attitude sure made the first day easier on his mom! I didn't sense a moment's hesitation in him all morning. The start-of-school Father's blessing on Sunday and his sweet prayer for courage at breakfast this morning sure helped me feel reassured that he is in good hands. He is going to do great this year!

Update: When I picked him up and asked him how his day was, in typical xander form, he replied, "I had the best first day of anybody! No other kid had a better first day." Well all right, then! He even told me he made two new friends. And that his lunch code was 1-3-1-2. I didn't even know what he was talking about until he showed me the paper in his backpack that said they were supposed to practice their lunch code so they'd have it memorized. I guess he's already got that covered! What a cutie!