Friday, May 30, 2014


Sorry, no post today--ran short on our buffer, and we couldn't find any time to write in this past week.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fight Reduction Plan

I was up late last night thinking in my bed.  I do that a lot, think.  Last night, my thoughts were centered around all the little-kid fights in my house.

I hate these fights.  I hate the contention, the noise, the results, and just everything about them.

Then I started to think, "why do people, in general fight?"

I went through a lot of different reasons, and none seemed to fit.  After about a half hour pondering it, I stumbled across one that did.  I think people fight, in general, because of a lack of graciousness/patience and intelligence.

Why would we go to war as a nation?  Well, because politicians can't think of a peaceful solution in time.  They could get more time if they were more gracious or patient, and they wouldn't need as much time if they were more intelligent and creative.

The same is true for kids.  Kids aren't exactly well known for their intelligence and ability to creatively solve their own problems.  My three of my kids feel like that's my job, and take no responsibility for it.  Also, children aren't known for their patience either.

I don't think I can eliminate all the fighting in my home, but I think if I teach my kids a bit more graciousness, patience, humility, and creative thinking, I might be able to reduce it significantly.

So, to start, my biggest fight-starter is Y.  I started playing a game called "fast grab."  I put 11 objects on the ground, and we stare at each other like a game of chicken.  Once one person goes for one, we try to grab as many as we can.  Whoever grabs the most, wins.  Now, I'm much faster and dexterous than a 2-year-old, so I could win any time, but that's the point.  It helps remind her that she, literally, can't just take what she wants, and that the only reason she gets anything is if I let her--which I do of course.  Combine that with positive encouragement, and it becomes an example of graciousness, and forces her to be patient with the most frustrating thing in her life--herself.  She loves it because she gets one-on-one time with a parent, and I hope it's going to work out well for everyone.

I'm still trying to come up with ideas for teaching my kids patience and gratitude.  If you have any ideas, please post them in the comments below.

Monday, May 26, 2014

7 Chores Appropriate for Toddlers

Kids, contrary to popular belief, are not helpless.  Some are quite capable, and many of them want as much independence as their developing frames can handle.  Helping around the house is a great way for children to improve their motor skills.  It also can help boost their self esteem and reduce their destructive tendencies.  Here are some activities that we've found any kid capable of walking can do.

  1. Put toys in a bin -  Putting toys away is the simplest activity.  A toddler won't always remember where the toy goes, but they can understand the words "doll" and "blue bin" just fine.  The trick is to show them exactly how to clean up by explaining what you're doing as you're doing it.  I find it is also helpful to grab their hands and get them to go through the motion of picking up once to help the concept stick.
  2. Sweeping - They can't handle a full-size adult broom, but there are plenty of kiddie brooms.  Don't expect them to get full surface area coverage, but they are capable of picking up spills of dry cheerios just fine and getting them to use a broom or brush of some sort really helps them with their fine-motor skills.
  3. Washing walls - A tiny bit of Lysol in warm water and a rag, and you can get the first two or three feet of your wall scrubbed down.  Most kids find this activity fun.  We've had to do this whenever a kid takes crayon to the wall--Dani and I refuse to clean that with our own hands.  It has worked really well, as we've only ever had two or three incidents with each kid before they caught on that they'd have to scrub really hard to get stuff off.
  4. Cleaning up spills - It depends on how much sugar was in the drink.  Water, Gatorade, and most juices can easily be cleaned up by a kid with a damp rag and a dry rag.  The only drink I can think of that has required a subsequent parental clean up is hot chocolate.
  5. Dishes - Kids can rinse dishes off just fine if they can reach the sink.  We have a little step stool in our kitchen so our kids can reach easier.  They are also really good at sorting clean dishes out of the dishwasher.  We have our kids pull all the clean dishes out and sort them on the counter so Dani and I can put them high-up in the cupboard.  N is tall enough to get most all of them in the cupboard as well, but it's convenient for us to have all the like dishes and cups stacked and ready to go after the dishwasher is done.  Hand-washing pots and pans tends to be a little beyond what they can grasp.
  6. Making their bed - We have a toddler bed for Y and regular doubles for V and N.  Dani and I had to coach and help out with this one for about a week, but after they had to make their bed two or three times they started sleeping in a much more orderly manner.  It will always take a little help, but V and N can make a bed together without any help now--and they've even extended those skills to folding full queen-size comforters.
  7. Laundry - They can't really start the washing machine, and Dani and I don't like them handling the detergent, but giving them a hamper in their room and expecting them to carry a full hamper down and placing clothes in an empty washing machine is something every kid is capable of doing.
Well, I hope this gives you some ideas of what you can do to get kids helping around the house.  What are some household chores you've been able to get your kids to do?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Getting Into Gear

Parenting is hard.  It is the most difficult thing about my life.  Being a parent means having a ton of latent stress.  I find myself plagued with questions of the nature of, "Is my kid going to fit in at school?"  "Are they going to do well enough to get by in society?"  "Are they willing to learn and adapt to their environment?"
It really doesn't matter what the question is, the point is that I can't push them all out of my mind.  They weigh on me, as a father.  It weighs me down and slows me down.
When I'm not dealing with latent stress regarding my kids, I'm dealing with actual stress from my kids or job.  Keeping a toddler alive is a stressful job.
Stress sometimes gets to me.  I can't just brush it off all the time.  Some days, I can't just "cowboy up."

But sometimes I can.  Dani and I call such times as "shifting."  We have our neutral positions (pinterest for Dani, bloons tower defense for me), and we have our different gears.  When we shift into gear, we're spending energy and getting good things done.  When we're in "neutral," we're regaining energy.

The kids force us into gear frequently.  While we are doing good things when the kids shift us, usually we don't do them in a good way.  That's when we start yelling, and getting upset.  When we chose to shift, that's when we're patient, kind, and deliberately good parents.

I feel like a bad parent when I'm forced into action.  I hate yelling at my kids.  I don't like punishing them for trivial reasons.  I feel like a bad person if I am forced to shift.

So I'm working on building the strength to choose to be a good parent, and to motivate myself into action.  Here are some of the things that I've tried that have helped:

1.  Read my scriptures
  I'm a religious person, so this is an uplifting activity for me that gives me more emotional strength.  It could be any good book that can engage your mind and emotions.  For me, the scriptures are my go-to source.
2.  Go out alone
  Babysitters are hard and require planning.  Ya know what, though, not everything I do requires my spouse present.  I like arcade games, and sometimes just doing something I enjoy on my own can help get me back in a positive frame of mind.
3.  Spend some one on one time with your kids
  My daughters have good days and bad days.  When I need to recharge or refocus my efforts, I find one of my kids who is having a good day and spend some one on one time with them doing something they want to do.
4.  Do something nice for your kids
  Their excitement can be infectious, and anything out of the ordinary can be exciting.  My kids talk about trips we've taken with them to the candy store for days on end.  Anything new is exciting, and anything nice you do for them can quickly put positive feedback and energy into your daily life.
5.  Set boundaries
  Your gonna be forced to do things you don't want to do as a parent.  I have never once changed a diaper because that was my heart's burning desire at that moment.  When you do have to act as the "bad guy" for your kids, chose some lines that you won't cross.  For me, the line I don't cross is saying something as if I were assigning a negative label to my kids.  e.g. it's okay to say, "you did something very stupid" but it's not okay to say, "you are stupid" to my kids.  Those boundaries will put some silver linings on your dark cloud moments.
6.  Involve kids to participate in your neutral state
  I play games when I'm in neutral.  I often find one (or more) of my kids on my lap when I'm playing.  Sometimes, having them there is enough to turn my mind and my will towards being a better parent, and it leads to play time with my kids.  Sometimes, just letting your kids watch you can be a good positive motivator.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pavlov's Children

Y likes to push buttons.  She knows exactly how to cry to get Dani and I to capitulate.  I'm fine with a daughter pulling my strings to try and serve her own ends, but it needs to go both ways.
Some days, Y just is super helpful (for a 2-year-old).  Other days, I have to physically pick her up and move her to where I want her to go.  It's really hit or miss, and I'd wager this lifestyle is not helping my long-term health.
So, I've decided to prioritize.  I want her to clean when I ask her to everytime without delay.  I want her to go to her room when I ask her to every time (bed time, time-out, breaking up fights) and I want her to stop taking things from other kids and hitting them.
I'm drafting up a 2-year-old obedience school curriculum to do just that.  It's loosely a behavioral conditioning setup using positive and negative reinforcement.  The positive reinforcement is going to be a combination of chocolate, positive interaction with me, and chasing (because Y loves to be chased).  The negative reinforcement will be taking away her security blanket, and spraying her face with water.  I think those two negative reinforcements will work better than the yelling and time-out punishments I've been giving her, since she seems to have a good deal of separation anxiety.
The plan is to get the older sisters out of the house, have a messed up living room, and train her to clean it one item at a time for the first few days.   After a few days, I'll move up to having her clean by giving her two tasks at a time, and associating that with the phrase "clean the living room," and then bump her up to cleaning the entire room.
As for fighting and hitting, I figure the opposite is having her give things to her sisters when they're playing, so I'll ask her to take a toy to N or V and then reward her for doing so.
Then, over the course of a week or two, I'll gradually back off on the rewards until I'm certain she'll continue to exhibit good behavior without being immediately rewarded with a treat.
I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Daddy-Daughter Dates

My dad told me:
  "Son, a lot of guys think that the way to live the good life and be surrounded by beautiful women is to make lots of money and buy a fancy sports car.  In reality, the real way to be surrounded by beautiful women is to have daughters."

Well, the ol' man was right.  It's exceptionally hard to get Dani to go out with me now (babysitters are a rare commodity), but even suggesting a daddy-daughter date is enough to get N, V, or Y jumping up and down with excitement.

Daddy-daughter dates aren't like regular dates, though.  Normally, you're trying to get to know the person through understanding their tastes and preferences, often through conversation and activities.  In daddy daughter dates, you become the Sherpa-style guide to your adventurous explorers.  Kids don't have enough life experience to know their tastes and preferences like adults do, so they find it out by exploring.

I think next daddy-daughter date I go on will be taking N on a hike up the mountains.

What date ideas do you think would help kids explore the world around them?

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Idiot Box

T.V. is a strange beast for a parent to deal with.  On the one hand, it makes a decent half-babysitter.  Plopping the kids in front of a show while you get some work done around the house is terribly convenient.  On the other hand, the babysitter you're handing your children over to changes every 20 minutes.
T.V. effectively is accepting a show's writer as your babysitter.  Now, some writers are horrible people who don't share any of your standards.  Other writers are just trying to sell more toys to your kids.
  Mentally, I like to think of the T.V. as letting the local population of Walmart watch your kids while you shop.  A lot of people will be just decent and helpful.  Who knows, if you let this happen in real life, maybe a kind hearted retired school teacher would find your kid and just play with them until you got back (Leap Frog).  Maybe they'd be supervised by a social worker (Sesame Street), or by another parent with kids (Barney).
I started with the positive because any actual parent would be terrified to hand their child unwittingly over to the population of a local supermarket for fear of pedophiles.  In reality, there aren't many T.V. producers that are trying to get your kids to explore their sexuality at an early age--but they are out there and they are cunning and self-interested.
So, what can you do?  Well, you can get rid of T.V. all together, if you have the strength and energy to pull that off.  Dani and I, personally, don't.  So, what we do is we watch the first few episodes with them and tell them what we think.  There was a show our kids found call horseland, which was basically the movie "mean girls" for 3-year-olds that we banned because of all the catty fighting and unpleasantness shown in there.  If there aren't characters that I can clearly label as "good guys" who are worthy of my kids' emulation, I ban that show in my house.  I don't mind if there are bad guys, or scary parts--shoot, I let my kids watch Doctor Who regularly because I think it helps show the merits (and dangers) of curiosity in a healthy light.  I do care about the behaviors shown in the shows my kids watch.

What about when you've built up a good number of shows for your kids to watch and they can't agree on one?  My girls usually can settle on My Little Ponies, but Y always wants Barney or Leap Frog, V always wants Ponies or Ruby Gloom, and N wants Jake and the Neverland Pirates or Ever After High.


I mentioned the marble system in our house in a previous post.  So, we make it so one hour of T.V. costs a marble (the equivalent of one chore around the house).  The second hour of T.V. costs 2 marbles, third costs 3, and so on.  This is a per-kid system, so it effectively ensures that each kid gets to chose one hour's worth of T.V. shows a day, and since they have to do their homework to earn the marble, I'm not worried about it rotting their brains.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


We've had 4 kids for 3 months now.  It's been a big adjustment.  I've had more than a few days where I felt like the mom off Malcolm in the Middle, ready to explode at the next provocation.  If it's this hard with four generally well-behaved kids, I can only imagine what it's like for other families.

It might be another 7 or 8 months before my blood pressure is back down to the 3-kids levels, but I'm finally learning to chill out once in a while and stop panicking all the time.

Ya know, when we were pregnant with N, I was a neurotic mess.  I wondered if I could be a good dad, or if I could take care of a newborn child.  That neurosis doesn't lessen with each additional kid, it just gets pushed off and moved to your subconscious.

Why is 4 such a hard adjustment?  Well, a new baby is always more time-intensive than a toddler.  Toddlers want to explore on their own, and some even fight you for their independence.  Babies take at least one parent out of the game when they're awake.  So, even though the baby is starting to sleep more regularly and takes frequent naps, it means there are effectively 4-8 hours a day where either Dani or I am a single parent of 3 kids under the age of 7.

I have my limits, and taking care of these four kids is beyond them, so I think the reason adjusting has been this hard is because we've had to teach the older kids to help take care of the younger.  That requires even more of our time to teach than to just do it ourselves, so we've invested so much more into parenting in the short-term in hopes of long term benefits.

It is working, slowly.  N will now get bowls and get breakfast ready in the morning for her two younger sisters, and she'll help clean up after them (she's rewarded with extra marbles for doing so).  Dani has taught all the kids to clean their room and helped them immensely with that.

I guess, in retrospect, if I had known that each additional kid was this much harder, I would've forced my kids to learn how to take care of themselves sooner and saved me all this stress.

Monday, May 12, 2014

8 Tips for Disciplining a Toddler

So, I think every parent gets here.  You have a kid who simply won't obey.  Obedience might keep them from doing something socially unacceptable, dangerous, or just something that specifically gets you riled up.  Before you get to your wits end, here are 8 different methods of discipline that have worked with our toddlers.
  1. Hugs  -- as strange as this sounds, half the time when a kid is acting up, they're just looking for more attention.  If they can't get positive, they'll get negative by throwing things, causing fights, tearing up the room.  
  2. Sitting and holding them -- Kids are wild.  They want to run around.  Holding them down might give you some bruises, but it also gives you a chance to lecture until they are willing to do ANYTHING to run free again. 
  3. Lecturing -- Kids don't remember stuff very well, and the way you lecture has to be different with small kids.  They understand most of what you're saying before they're able to crawl, but they can't retain audio information for more than a few seconds.  Keep the lecture down to one or two sentences, repeat it about every 15 to 20 seconds two or three times.  Repeat it again about every five minutes and it's much more likely to stick.
  4. Withholding -- I try to keep this as a last-ditch effort.  My kids each grew attached to something new every year or so of their lives.  When they really act out, taking that one thing can be very effective to get them back in line very quickly.  This only works for an hour or two at most, use it sparingly.
  5. Spanking -- oh my how much we've heard about this as parents!  I'm sure we've all heard posts from one or more media outlet saying that spanking my kid is bad because psychologist X says I'm permanently scaring my kid by hitting them.  Here's the thing, kids don't process pain the same way adults do.  It doesn't register in their brain as "danger your body is being damaged,"  it more closely registers as "information, be alert! and pain"  I don't know why kids brains are wired like that, I just care about how to leverage this as a parent.  When would I want my kids to be more alert?  How about when they're placing themselves in physical danger?  If given the choice between my kid getting hit by a car and getting a spanked, then I'll spank them every time.  If you have to spank them, you have about 2 words worth of lesson to give before they drown you out.
  6. Treats -- An ounce of prevention is worth, well, who cares what it's worth if you get 20 minutes peace and quiet?  Using this as a disciplinary technique is tricky--it's basically like training a dog.  When there's a mix of good and bad behavior, having treats on hand to give the kid can help the good behaviors drown out the bad until it virtually disappears.  Kids have bigger brains than dogs, so they catch on pretty quick.
  7. Choice -- Giving more choices takes more of your time, and is hard.  Blue dress vs red dress, you have to wait for your kid to make up their mind.  If you don't have the strength to give your kids options, then they'll instinctively know something is wrong.  The best part of this technique is that kids, who I find are generally kind and loving, will want to help you be happy again, so even if you aren't consciously disciplining and are just frustrated by something, your kids will probably start jumping in to help fix the frustration.
  8. Incentive -- Money works with me, and it actually can work with toddlers too.  Well, not money precisely, but monetary-related rewards.  Earning something is sometimes a bigger win than being given something.  For N, it was a week's worth of good behavior, and 10 minutes in the toy aisle at Walmart where she decided on a fuzzy green ball by playing with that more than anything else.  Once she realized that the marks on the calendar meant she could chose a toy every so often, desirable behaviors skyrocketed.
*Disclaimer:  toddlers are generally unruly and wild and not considered controllable by any stretch of the imagination.  These are just "tips" or things that have worked for Dani and I in the past.  Good luck.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

She lost a tooth

   N went to church Sunday to show all her friends her loose tooth.

   Monday she went to school with a loose tooth. She returned home with a small plastic tooth that opened up and held her first lost baby tooth.

  Tuesday after school, she went to write a note to the Tooth fairy requesting that she keep to keep her tooth but still get a present.

   After writing said note, she discovered her sister V had taken the small plastic tooth, opened it and lost her tooth.


   Mom vacuums EVERYWHERE.

   Mom shifts through mucky nasty water and other junk that was vacuumed up and discovered the lost tooth! And to add to the "I am MOM hear me ROAR" feeling, the tooth had broken in half and I found both pieces!!! Thank goodness teeth don't float.

   N discovered tooth broke.

   Cry some more.

   Mom says the tooth fairy still takes broken teeth.

   Crying stops.

   10p.m. at night and mom remembers the Tooth Fairy. Mom searches the house for the note. Stuffs it, a note from the Tooth Fairy and the tooth in an envelope and places it next to N's pillow.

   BANG, BANG, BANG! On the parents bedroom door that morning!!!!.

  Great rejoicing over 50 cents.

   N - "Mom, I love the Tooth Fairy. She writes nice notes and gives great gifts!"


Friday, May 9, 2014


Will I ever not feel busy again?  I heard that radio jockeys have every minute planned out in advanced.  Some even break it into 30-second intervals.

That's what my life is like now with 4 kids. . .for example:

7:40 - wake up
7:41 - no, serious, wake up, the kids are screaming
7:42 - calm the kid who is crying
7:43 - get the oldest out of bed
7:44 - shuffle the two younger girls downstairs
7:45 - tell the oldest to get out of bed, but this time louder
7:46 - get bowls for everyone out
7:47 - address complaints about breakfast while serving them whatever I can reach
7:49 - you forgot pants, go put pants on
7:49 - clean up Y's spilled bowl
7:50 - try to get caught up on the dishes
7:53 - get the baby out of the crib, all things from here on out are one-handed
7:55 - tell the kids to eat faster
7:56 - have kids put bowls in the sink
7:57 - tell N to go get dressed
7:58 - teach V and Y to make their beds
7:59 - tell N to get dressed faster
8:00 - Teach V and Y to get themselves dressed
8:04 - finish getting myself dressed
8:05 - get my work clothes and computer packed up and ready to go
8:09 - tell N she can't wear a shirt for both her tops and bottoms
8:10 - See if Dani has finished the lunches
8:11 - N is clothed, needs shoes and backpack
8:12 - address complaint that V and Y are now bored
8:13 - finish packing
8:15 - out the door to go to school/work for the day

And I won't try to scare you with Dani's schedule :S

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I can tell the future

I can tell the future. It's true! I have a 70% accuracy rating.....I think.....

I randomly wake up at 2 am remembering I never took the child proof knob lock off the girls bedroom door. Following this thought is the, I bet the is the one night V will wake up needing to go to the bathroom and she wont be able to get out. She will then cry and wake me up to get out. I SHOULD GO TAKE THE LOCK OFF. Do I? No. "I'm being parinoid" I tell myself and force myself to go back to sleep.

So what happens?

Did I get woken up at 4:30 in the morning? No. Yeah for me! Until I step on a wet spot on the carpet that morning. Turns out since she couldn't get out she peed her pants, put her urine soaked bottoms in the hamper because they were "yucky", put new bottoms on and went back to bed.

Should I punish her? It is my fault she couldn't get out in the first place.....but then why didn't she cry and potentially wake up all her siblings and in turn making me a grouchy monster? No. No I did not punish her, at least not that bad. I did ask for a marble since she didn't tell me about it till after I stepped in it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Proud to be an American

A conversation I over heard a dew weeks back between N and V.

V: *mumbling*
N: "You're not from China! You are from The United States of America."
V: "Oh, yeah."
N: "And we speak English! Here I'll show you. Uno, dos, tres...."

Yeah I was rolling.

Monday, May 5, 2014


When I grew up, all I heard was, "get a degree if you want to (be happy/successful/survive)."  I was bombarded with studies from the college board about how I'd make at least 30% more throughout my life if I got a 4-year degree.

It's not true.  People survive, and are perfectly happy in this life without a college degree. The  non-college educated can quite easily make more than college grads now.

I'm not saying that a degree isn't valuable.  I AM saying that the advertised value of a degree is wrong.  Instead of telling my children "get a degree or you'll die!"  I'm gonna tell them, "get a degree with a purpose."

Many of my friends went to college just because it was the thing to do.  They studied and got good grades because they were told to.  Most of them retained very little of what was taught them.  To my generation, our parents taught us wrong in regards to college, and some conspiring intelligent and well-established people have now laden us with so much debt that we're effectively slaves to the older generations.

I can't do anything to free my generation from this, apart from extol the virtues of getting out of debt, advise them to put off buying what they want (or feel is needed), and to learn wise money-management practices.  If you were born between 1975 and 1995 you'll be lucky to get out of debt before you're 50.

I can do a lot to keep my kids from becoming slaves.  Tell kids to get a degree with a purpose.  Teach them to calculate the value of debt before taking it on.  Get them into college as soon as they can (and if that's before age 18, then so much the better).  Help them test the waters to make sure their plans for the future match up with what reality can provide (by helping them do job searches and looking at posted requirements, and working with them to create a resume).

College isn't the answer to all life's problems, it's a tool for solving some of them. Unless my kids know how to use it, what purpose would it serve?

Friday, May 2, 2014

The "C" word

I was taking a mush needed and desired nap after church this last Sunday. The boy was swaddled and sung-as-a-bug right beside me. I vaguely remember N coming and telling me she wanted to cuddle too and joining our nap for a bit as well.

Not too long, I think, after that I rolled to my right and see N crouched on the floor. Grougly, I think to myself, "Can't she be a bit more quieter? I'm trying to nap!". As if on cue she ups and leaves my bedroom. But then it hits me. "Isn't that where my make-up bag is?" (Bathroom under construction = all bathroom products are on the floor on my side of the bed.)

I jolt out of bed and head to the hall bathroom. And there my three girls are. The oldest with my lip stick, the middle with a uni-brow, and my youngest with mascara rubbed over her face and my blush in hand.

What do I do? Did I reach for the camera and snap a shot to post on Facebook and share with family and friends? Did I double over? Did I give a lesson in cosmetology? No. What I did do was ask, "Why?" and not just asked but pleaded and demanded an answer. I snatched my make-up out of their hands and contiuded to ask "Why?! Why would you do this?!"

Todd heard my pleads and hurried up-stairs.

I annoyingly returned my make-up back to it's bag on the floor by my bed started to wonder the house letting him deal with the situation. I started to panic, my anxiety rearing it's ugly head. SO before I went into full panic mode I went from bathroom to bathroom collecting towels to wash. I started the laundry. I went to my bedroom and started to organize my clothes, hung up the piles in front of my closet and then just sat there.

Todd came in and shut the door and proceeded to tell me the punishment he delt the girls. Observing my controlled breathing he asked me what was wrong.

I spilled.

Why can't I be one of those moms who runs for the camera? Why couldn't I laugh myself silly at the uni-brow and raccoon eyes? Why didn't I take the lip stick and fix Y's lop-sided grin? Why couldn't I be more like all of them? Oh I dared to COMPARE!

I know, I know. We are all different and it's not fair to ourselves or anyone else to compare but it happens. More often then I'd admit. 

Todd listened and he helped me organize my thoughts so we could both understand what I was trying to convey.  It took the entire evening.  Finally, right before bed, Todd said something that just clicked,
  "Dear, no sane person would ever judge themselves against another person.  We're too complicated for that.  No two people have had the same life experience, and no two people are alike, so why bother trying to rate yourself against someone else?"

It was just what I needed to hear to get me in the frame of mind to listen.

To Be Continued....

Why I'm (still) a Mormon

I don't expect much more to ever be posted on this blog, and I'm largely just posting this to share it with some particular friends....