Thursday, January 23, 2014

what I did instead when I told you "no"

When I find myself gliding gently into a stupor of mid-winter woes  generally preceded by a run of insomnia  I cling to two habits that one might consider "productive" (they're not).

The first is list-making. Sometimes an orderly exercise involving a To Do pad; sometimes random scribblings on the nearest receipt, notecard, or my 6-year-old's page of doodles; sometimes a feeble attempt at maintaining lists in an online app like "Reminders"; and sometimes me at my kitchen table at three a.m., cranking out Post-it notes with both significant ("grocery shopping") and insignificant ("fill vase with the new clear pebbles") tasks, creating a lovely array of light yellow brain dumpage and eliciting an eye-roll response in the morning (What was I thinking?!?). (I do love gathering them up and putting them out of sight for several weeks. When I look back through the pile, unsurprisingly 99% of them have been dealt with or completely forgotten. Time marches on, people.)


The second habit emerges from an overwhelming desire to get more out of my daily 24-hour allotment. For I don't know how many years – almost a decade, really – I've had the romantic idea of a "5 to 9 day": up at 5, asleep by 9. And so, I habitually create countless versions of this elusive schedule. They clutter my computer and journals, their own special kind of list. But what it comes down to is the "magic 8" – the eight non-sleep, non-work hours I have every weekday. 

In light of that, I've always found this quote off-putting: 
“Eight hours work, eight hours sleep, and eight hours recreation” ~ Brigham Young 
Mad respect for Brother Brigham, a truly prolific and inspired leader, but . . . this is bananas. No one working today (and that includes mothers and fathers working as full-time, at-home caregivers, like my husband) also has eight hours for recreation, which I would loosely define as the modern-day "free time." 

Every time I stack up my pre-work minutes, they (ideally) include
  • the "getting ready for the day" routine
  • the "getting ready for school" routine, including breakfast & packing lunches
  • sometimes a brief but cherished chat at the kitchen table with my husband after the first grader leaves for school and before homeschooling the older one starts
  • a half-hour commute into the office

With my workaholism in remission, I get home between 5:30 and 6:30 every night. After dinner with the fam, the bedtime routine starts between 7:30 and 8 and usually winds down by 8:30 or 9. So in my dream day, at that point I would hop into bed, sleep for eight hours, and rise & shine again at five o'clock. (Side note: I am currently working through insomnia using a supplement my naturopathic doctor recommended called "Pharma GABBA". It's not quite doing the trick yet but I do love using it because every time I say the name, my husband giggles like a schoolgirl.)

Between all these somewhat mundane, "life is just so daily" details that I continuously document, the "magic 8" is like a simple math problem that I just won't accept the answer to. 
Really? 2+2 = 4? You're sure? 2+2. It equals 4 . . . not 5? Really?
I stare at the schedule on the screen or the page and slowly it sinks in  again: You have no time. No time. Maybe one or two hours a day that aren't dedicated to critical activities but, other than that, you are spoken for, sweetie.

And ya know what? Over the past year, this repeated realization has become so . . . incredibly . . . freeing. 

I have no time during the week. I am the full-time money-maker and a Mom and I have no time. 

So no, I can't do a late-night girl's night with you all at Chili's this Thursday. No, I can't take a meal to the neighbor who just had surgery (but maybe this weekend). No, I can't join your book club. No, I can't play volleyball. No, I can't attend that class. No. No. No. No.

Now, this doesn't mean I don't occasionally make an exception. And my work hours are flexible (although that's a double-edged sword because then I'm just robbing Peter to pay Paul). If there's a church-related meeting or training for my calling, I am there. If Wednesday night is the only night you have available for me to come visit you this month, let's make it happen. In general, though, my policy is "Just Say No." 

Sometimes I feel torn about my "no time" mantra. Sometimes I still wonder if I could fit in an hour of reading most days or a few hours of writing/blogging or even an hour of photo-journaling (aka, scrapbooking) during the week. How I wish I had time to go to a Zumba class at the gym twice a week or time to build up a side business that could really be something in ten or fifteen years or take voice lessons or join a choir. But, no, the answer, for now, is No.

[Forgetting the time element in all of this, there's Energy to consider. Efficient energy usage & time management are the PB&J of a successful, fulfilling life. There's lots written on this and maybe some day I'll do a post on it . . . during another bout of insomnia. (Really hoping that is a long ways away.)]

So, bottom line? While day-to-day we parents may not feel like we are accomplishing much and we have to say "No" a lot (a challenging word given the justify, defend & explain mode that auto-launches to keep Guilt at bay), let's commit to making our own list of accomplishments. Our "Yes" list or, in other words, the "What I Did Instead When I Told You 'No'" list.

Here's mine, aspects of which are aspirational. What's yours?
  • Most mornings, I made sure I was ready for work early so I could spend an hour with my kids and husband before school/work. I spent time talking with them, eating breakfast together, cracking jokes, practicing flashcards, checking homework folders, and making lunches.
  • I worked hard and efficiently at my job so I could leave by 5:30 and be home in time for dinner with my family.
  • I spent time with my family surrounded by yummy, healthy food and good conversation at a no-stress dinner table. (Elbows on the table and wiggling allowed!)
  • I enjoyed reading scriptures with my family at night and spent time helping get the kids ready for bed, read books to them, talked with them, and tucked them in with forehead kisses and sign language "I love you"s.
  • I spent time with my husband connecting at the beginning and end of each day.

* * * * *

One last thought. As Sean McCabe points out in his podcast, "We all have the same 24 hours in a day. If someone else seems to be accomplishing more than you, they're [likely] sacrificing more than you." There is an opportunity cost to everything we choose to do with our time. And while there's often room to "trim the fat" out of our day (for many of us in the form of screen time), before we compare ourselves to others who seem more successful, it's worth thinking about what "they" may be sacrificing. Cause if it's relationships, health, sleep, or sanity, those are no longer sacrifices I'm willing to make.

I may not grow up to be a famous somebody or make a significant contribution to the world or make a lot of money and have a big, richly furnished house and go on lots of lavish vacations (don't get me wrong, any of those would be awesome!), but in my current season of life, I will be at peace if I come through it knowing I both provided for my family and nurtured my children to the best of my ability. 

Every. Beautiful. 24-hour Day.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013

Happy Holidays!

We hope this letter finds you happy, healthy & enjoying this wondrous season! 
Here's what our family has been up to this year . . .

Milo is six and loving first grade. When he's not at school (which he laments "just takes up my whole day!"), Milo can be found playing with friends, drawing and coloring, cooking with Mom, playing video games with Ethan, practicing piano, reading, or making charts. Recently, after listing off all the charts he needed to create, he said, "And now I need a chart for all my charts!" Milo is always ready with a hug and kind words. We feel so lucky to have this handsome ray of sunshine in our family.

Ethan has had a great year, especially compared with the last few! His typical day is homeschooling with Dad, "working out," and then a little video game time before Milo comes home. The highlight of his school year was building a computer from scratch. At 11 years old, he says he wants to be a video game programmer when he grows up and is working on his first RPG. He loves Dr. Who, listening to music on youtube, making witty observations and jokes, reading, playing piano, and building custom Hero Factory guys. We are ecstatic every day that "Ethan's back!"

We can't believe we've been in the same house for six years! Art is enjoying teaching private music lessons, ramping up his recording studio work (with singer/songwriter guitarists to heavy metal bands), and putting out his first EP (available at I'm in my third year with Zions Bancorporation, now as a Sr. Program Manager. I was sad to be released from my favorite church calling as Primary Music Leader, but a few months later a new calling as Stake Primary Music Director almost made up for it!

We feel incredibly blessed this year despite its challenges, and want to express our love and appreciation to our neighbors, friends & family. God bless!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Moores 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

just because it's popular, doesn't mean it's right . . .

There's a trend on Pinterest right now: behavior clipcharts. I've seen examples posted on facebook and blogs. Then I started seeing them in friends' homes. Which is totally fine. If it works for them, great. 

But when I attended first grade orientation with my 6-year-old son, I felt a twinge of horror when I saw something similar to the below hanging on the classroom wall.

Clipchart  Button Up and Down

I immediately felt both anxious for and protective of my beautiful, excited little guy. And then I felt sad. Sad that his school experience this year would be tainted by a behavior clipchart.

There are several reasons I don't agree with this method. Here are a few good links to read if you're interested: A blog post by a teacher,, and an interview with Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards and No Contest: The Case Against Competition,

In the blog post, the teacher says she doesn't like clipcharts because of the following:
  • They track behavior, but they do not change it. 
  • For kids who are not able to adhere to the cultural expectations of school, the chart can be absolutely demoralizing. And this seems to be mostly boys - hmmm.
  • The chart makes the assumption, before the kid ever crosses the threshold of the classroom door, that he is going to misbehave. Ouch.
  • As much as we try to make that chart seem like a 'reminder' and not a negative thing, it is still embarrassing to many children.
  • Even kids who always stay on 'green', often feel stress and worry as they watch some of their classmates repeatedly move on the color chart.

As Milo's teacher continued explaining how this popular system works and that every day, the students would have to color in where their clip ended up on the "Leadership" tracking sheet and how parents would have to initial the sheet, I gradually felt calm and peaceful again. 

I knew that whatever system the teacher deemed effective for her, for her classroom, it would never trump what I deemed effective for me and my family, my home. I resolved in that moment to make sure Milo and I sat down and talked about the clipchart soon. Turns out, I didn't have to bring it up.

* * * * *

Milo came home from his first day of school and almost the first thing out of his mouth, without any prompting was, "My clip didn't move today. I'm still on 'Ready to Learn'. But it's okay because everyone else is still there, too."

I very gently said, "Milo, can I tell you something really important?"

"Yes," he said.

"I know the clipchart is important to you right now and you want to do your best in school. I want you to know that it doesn't matter to me or Dad where your clip is and that we will love you no matter what. To us, you are always Awesome. The most important thing is to be respectful and kind -- to your teacher and your peers. Does that make sense?"

"Yes, Mom. Can I go play now?"

The next morning, he pulled on his backpack and said (more to himself than me), "Oh, I really hope my clip moves today."

After school he came home beaming. "I got moved up to 'Good Day'!! And Daniel got moved up to 'Awesome' -- he's the only one though."

Now, I know it's the first week of school and the novelty will wear off, but I felt disappointed that when I asked him about school, all he wanted to tell me about was the vertical happenings of his and other kids' clothespins! 

I reiterated my little spiel from the first day of school and then off he went to play with friends. 

The next day, Milo came home and said, "My clip didn't move today. I'm still on 'Ready to Learn'." Then he glanced up at me and quickly added, "But, it doesn't really matter, right, Mom?" 

Right, I thought, hoping that the way I was choosing to handle this was truly the "right" way. 

I've been mulling over this ever since. The other night, my husband and I were talking about it and he said, somewhat jokingly, "I don't get it. Shouldn't 'Ready to Learn' be the best one?!? Isn't that good enough?" I agree. Why create the anxiety of trying to guess what the teacher wants in order to be in competition with the other kids to be 'Awesome'? (This is exactly one of Alfie Kohn's issues with praising and competition in classrooms.)

This is kind of the conclusion I've come to: Even as adults, we are in situations where people want to hand us "gold stars" and move our clip up or down. We have good days and days where we don't make great choices and need to "Think about it". We have awards, recognition, titles, 360-degree feedback surveys and annual performance reviews. While we are constantly subjected to various and often arbitrary systems of measurement, we don't have to buy into them body and soul. They don't get to determine my worth as a human being.

So as for these clipcharts, bring it on

Just because they are popular, doesn't make them right for every kid. And that's okay, because that's what being a parent is: Helping our children develop values and a sense of self-worth stronger than external influences, even if, for a first grade boy, that influence is as innocuous as a clothespin.