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March 27, 2008

Seven Motherhood Ideas that I Love!

Great Ideas for Mothers from our daughter, Shawni Eyre Pothier:

I need to face it. My kids are going to grow up. And that’s already happening way faster than I feel ok about. I guess that’s why I latch on with all my heart to ideas I hear or come up with that will help me cherish the moment while they’re young. Some of them I’m good at. Some of them I want desperately to be good at. But for what it’s worth they’re ideas that have struck me as a mother as things that would help me soak in my “babies” for as long as they’ll let me.

1. Movie Night
Our friends the Farnsworths introduced us to this one. Dave and I try our best to schedule our dates and other social stuff on Saturday so we can be home with the kids on Friday because Friday night is sacred. Friday night is “Movie Night.” We pop popcorn, always make chocolate chip cookies, and watch a movie. Sometimes it’s an amazing movie we’re all spellbound by, sometimes it turns out to be a dumb show we thought we’d try, sometimes it’s one Dave picked up in China with annoying subtitles covering part of the screen, but none of that really matters so much. What matters is that we’re together. And we all LOVE it. Inevitably there will be a time in the future when our kids won’t think it’s so cool to stay home with their parents on a Friday night to watch a movie, but for now, we’re superstars to them and we’re eating it up while we can!

2. Interviews
This is something I’m not good at, but I sure want to be. My Dad started this tradition when we were little. He’d corner us (usually in the bathroom since that was the most quiet place he could find with nine kids running around) and have a little interview with us once a week. He’d ask all kinds of questions. He’d help us figure out our goals. When we were really little he’d write the initial of our best talents on each of our ten fingertips (I was “good” at art so he’d write a little “a” for art with a ballpoint pen on my thumb, then move on to my next “talent” that he’d add to my index finger). He’d make us feel so great about ourselves. He’d ask what he could help with. And the amazing thing was that when we grew up and moved away he’d still call us for our interviews. Since I was the second girl the second Sunday was always mine. He’d call and just give me my traditional “interview” over the phone.

This is a tough thing to carry on with my kids because I’m not anywhere near as organized or as amazing as my dad. But I do enjoy writing occasional letters on my kids’ fingertips and I have cornered them for an “interview” on occasion. This year I’ve decided to try to do interviews on our monthly lunch dates, which is the next idea…

3. Lunch Dates
I know there will be a time I’ll need to take school time more seriously. Soon they will be in junior high, then filling out college applications before I know it. But this is elementary school for crying out loud. Shhh, this is a secret. I let my kids miss some of it sometimes. I take them out to long lunches one by one once a month. It’s the only time I could figure out to have more one on one time together. Yes, Lucy and Claire tag along, and yes, sometimes they’re enough to upset the good people who thought Wendy’s would be a nice quiet break from their work day and don’t want to be hampered by two kids throwing French fries around in the air. But that child I took out of school still knows that it’s their special day, and their eyes sparkle with the excitement of getting to order whatever they want and having me just concentrate on them. I love that Max still begs for it to be “his” day.

This year I’m trying to have a little “interview” with each child while we’re at lunch (amidst the chicken nuggets and fighting over who gets the last bites of the McFlurry…yes, sadly it’s usually Wendy’s or McDonalds with an occasional Jack in the Box thrown in there, but it’s their choice and I have to live with it). I go through what my parents call the “5 Facets” with them. How are they doing 1) spiritually, 2) physically, 3)mentally, 4)emotionally, and 5)socially. We make monthly goals of how they can do better in each of these categories. And then ideally I schedule these things in on my calendar so I can help them (not so good at that yet). But I love connecting with them. I love telling them I love them over our “gourmet” food.

4. Mother’s Day Letters
Being the fanatic about record keeping that I am I love to write letters to my kids. I want them to have a record of how much I adore every little thing they do. When Max and Elle were little I was great at it and I’d write to them all the time. But then it got harder and harder to set aside time to do it. So a few years ago I decided I’d ask for a couple hours alone in my room each Mother’s Day so I could write a special love note to each of my kids. I love knowing that I have those compiled for them. I want them to forever remember how much I love them at every stage and what I’ve noticed about them each year.

5. “Happies” & “Sads”
Another one of my parent’s great ideas (I’m a little bit biased but I think they are amazing. They do have a great website here). Each night at dinner the kids tell us what their “happies” and “sads” were from the day. Claire’s are inevitably that she was happy a friend could come over and she was sad when that said friend had to leave. But most of the time it leads to good discussions and helps the kids tell us what really happened during the day instead of just saying it was “fine” or “good”…or “bad.” I like to hear the details and this is a good way to squeeze them out.

6. Late Nights
We were really good at this last year but not so hot at it this year…I think this is something that works better when your kids all go to bed around the same time, and our kids are more staggered at bedtime as they are getting older. But I love it anyway so I’m including it. “Late Nights” are when the kids get to rotate each getting a turn once a week to stay up ten or fifteen minutes later than the others. They eat this up. It’s such a short amount of time, but they think it’s the luckiest thing ever when it’s their turn and we love to give them some undivided one-on-one attention.

7. “Clean Ten”
This really doesn’t have much to do with cherishing the moment with kids, but it sure makes things less chaotic when it happens and then you can cherish the good stuff, and “be still” more often. I have no idea where I heard this but I love it. Whenever things get really cluttery…Saturday afternoons, between when the kids get home from school and dinner, Sunday afternoons, etc. (ok, pretty much a few times a day) we just say “clean ten” and the kids have to each pick up and put away ten things. I LOVE it because they just know to do that. Not only does it help to get the house clean quick but it helps the kids know where everything really goes so they can be better at putting things away in the first place.

So these are a few things from my motherhood idea “collection” so far. I’d love to hear any other great ideas.

March 8, 2008

New Perspectives!

Back home! After a month and a half in Australia and China, I see Utah with new eyes. The blue sky (unless we are in downtown Salt Lake on an inversion day) for example, and the wide open spaces are refreshing after the smog and crowding of China.

Mostly though, it is a peace we feel, a peace that comes with being back in the place you know, and that knows you. Perhaps the best part of all is going back to church and appreciating our extended neighborhood family.

But the mind still lingers on some of the perspectives gained from places and people so far away and yet so similar of heart:

  • The truly lovely Indian Ocean, the most unpolluted ocean on the planet, with a blue even deeper than the Pacific.
  • The absolutely awesome Gold Coast beach, with its fine golden sand, stretching nearly a hundred miles along Australia‘s northeast coast.
  • The jet boat that showed us the whole Sydney Harbour in less than an hour and scared us to death in the process.
  • The confirmation of a fact we have marveled at for years — namely that we do not have to change our presentation on parenting and life-balance at all as we go from one culture to the next, from one religion to the next, from one economy to the next. Parents throughout the world, when it comes to thinking about their children and their families, have the same hopes, the same fears, the same dreams, and the same concerns. The particular trappings and settings may be different, but the hearts are the same. (see pictures from previous post)
  • My new awareness of rivers. I guess we all know that most great cities are built on rivers, but for some reason we seemed to be staying on (and jogging every morning along the banks of) a great river. Many cities around the world that used their river for a dumping drain for so many years are now cleaning up, and building paths along their banks.

What wonderful, thought-provoking, deeply rich adventure we have had!

March 2, 2008

Thoughts on a Nine Day Week

by Richard Eyre

Ever had a week where you gained two extra days? We all got an extra one on February 29, and I got another one by flying back across the International Date Line. It turned into a nine-day week for me.

As I return from China, it is hard not to be overwhelmed at the magnitude and the pace of change. A friend who we met there who was supervising an area for his church just happened to mention that there are 3.1 billion people in that area! That’s half of the world’s population!

And as I compared Beijing today with what it was 25 years ago when I first visited (Peking as it was called then) the changes are unbelievable, and the pace of change is accelerating all the time. As one president of a company (most of our speeches were to an organization called YPO — Young Presidents’ Organization, where you have to be president of a major company by age 40 to join) said, “You can re-invent yourself every day in the new China.”

Indeed, the country itself seems to re-invent itself on a frequent and regular basis. I blocked out 08-08-08 on my calendar because I can’t wait to watch the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. I think the scope of it will be unbelievable.
Of course there is a lot to worry about in China as well as a lot to be overwhelmed by. Human rights are sub par, pollution is staggering, and perhaps most concerning of all is the “one child” policy that will decimate the work force in a generation and that is leaving a gender gap that will make a lot of future families impossible.

Estimates are that there are at least 10% more boy babies now than girls — a result of several factors, the most sinister of which is the late abortion of female fetuses or even the disposal of female newborns because of the desire many have to have their “one child” be a son. It’s a little eerie to be in a big public place like Tiananmen Square and see virtually no kids. And when you do see a child, he is hovered over and waited on (and likely spoiled) by five or six adults (the parents and the grandparents).

One interesting new phenomenon around major Chinese cities is the beginning of suburbia. Until recently, there was just city and country — urban and rural — and nothing in between. But in the past couple of years, American style suburbs have begun to spring up on the outskirts of Beijing and Shanghai and other big cities. (China, by the way, has 500 cities with populations over a million, compared to 49 in the U.S.) The extra cars and extra driving that come with suburbs will add to the air pollution woes.

That thought was far from my mind though, as we spent a day in the Forbidden City, and thought of China and its emperors as it once was. The names of the various palaces are all about tranquility and harmony, and I was interested that the emperor had a sign that was held above his head when he was relaxing and did not want to be disturbed. The sign said, “Doing nothing.” I think I would like a sign like that for myself!

I love the fact that parents all over the world are taking the job of parenting more seriously, and working harder at the challenge and the art of raising their kids. Dads are more involved with their children in almost every culture and location we visit. And it is beautiful to observe that, irrespective of the religious, economic, and cultural differences among people, the parent-child relationship and dynamic is remarkably similar in every part of the world.

We worry about the same kind of things as parents, we have similar or related hopes and dreams, and we feel the same inadequacies.
We try to end our speeches to parents, wherever we are, with the point that no parent is good enough to successfully raise kids in today’s world without a lot of help, and that the single best place to get beyond-family help is from a church or place of religion and worship. That way you have a “second ring” around the bull’s eye of your family target, and that second ring is supporting and teaching your kids the same values that you are trying to imbue.

We really feel that what we are out there trying to do is to “popularize parenting.” If we can get parents more excited about how much fun and how rewarding it can be to put everything into raising good kids who become part of the solutions the world needs, that will affect more than any list of methods or parenting techniques we could ever give them.

Almost every parent will tell you that their kids are their top priority. What a blessing to be able to go around talking with people about what matters most to them. And believe me, they often teach us as much or more than what we teach them.

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