Other Than Mommy

Did you know that I work? Okay, we moms all work. We work our butts off, whether we are at home all day with kids or at an office. But what I mean is that I am employed by an organization that would probably never try to pay me with Cheerios. Just for kicks, here’s a picture of me not wearing jeans and a hoodie!

I am blessed. I have a part-time position as the administrative director of a nonprofit research institute. My boss is a volunteer; in fact, he works as a service missionary for the LDS Church as the director of our organization. He is very understanding about my life-juggling acts as a working mom, and especially as a working mom in our church. I only have to go to the office for ten hours a week, and I do fifteen more at home. This is really nice, because it means I can do a lot of my work early in the morning and late at night when the kids are in bed, leaving me free to be Mom during the day.

The nonprofit I work for is awesome! Some of you may have spent time in Rexburg, Idaho, so you know that opportunities are kind of limited there. We are doing something about it. We work with scientists, businesses, government agencies, and universities to bring more research opportunities and contacts to local college students. My organization is only about a year old, but I can already see what a difference we will make in developing Southeast Idaho’s intellectual community. I never expected to work for a cause. Now that I do, it’s amazing how good it feels to spend time doing something for the area I call home.

On the other hand, it is a challenge to be a working mom. A reeeeaaaaaalll challenge. It brings new meaning to the phrase “having it all.” Because you do. Not only do you have the feeling of accomplishment and the paycheck (along with the stress and mile-long to-do list), you also have the joy of having kids (along with noise, a messy house, and the occasional vomit). You have hugs and blissful story time, with soft tiny hands helping to turn the pages. You have fits and whiny time (and I don’t just mean at home–those happen with co-workers sometimes!). You have euphoria, discouragement, confidence, and tension being brought up within you from several different angles, and often all on the same day. And you still have to make a nutritious, delicious dinner each night.

The other day I was working on some content for our website: short biographies for the directors and board members of my organization. I was picking information from their resumes and I was absolutely blown away by what these people have accomplished. All but one of them are men. Now, I don’t believe that men have the way cleared for their professional lives all the time. Lots and lots of guys are very involved dads and help out a lot at home. But I DO think that in many cases, they don’t “have it all” to the extent that we do. It was a  bit discouraging for a minute. I think I’m a fairly smart person. I could accomplish a lot. But I work to help provide for my family, and when it comes down to it, caring for that family just comes first. I may not ever be professionally very accomplished because I want to be a good mom before anything else, and it was a bit of a bummer to compare myself with these board members.

After thinking about it for a minute, I started to feel better. You know why? I work really hard, and I get a lot done. I might not ever hold a high position, but I’m doing what I need to do, and I think I have my priorities in order. Sometimes being a working mom is hard. But it makes me feel strong. And it makes me love my family more–both because of what I can do for them and because of the time I cherish with them.

Whether you must be a juggler like me, or whether you make sacrifices so you can gladly accept Cheerios for pay, GOOD FOR YOU! You are doing a good job.


Wisdom from the Toy Box

Three months ago I was planning to purge the toy box. Then I watched Toy Story Three. Now, let me give you some advice: if you are a sentimental fool like me, do not watch Toy Story Three before trying to purge the toy box. After about five minutes of trying to decide which of my children’s precious toy/child relationships I wanted to coldly throw in the trash and destroy forever, I gave up. But don’t worry; two months later I re-grew my heart of stone and got trashing after the kids went to bed.

We have a big toy box. It was made by Taylor’s dad and mom with skill, care, and lots of heavy wood. (FYI, one of the ways Taylor’s dad expressed love was with wood furniture. We have four of his beautiful projects, which probably amount to about 250 pounds of carefully crafted, sanded, polished love. You should be so lucky.) Anyway, the big toy box: as I’m sure you can imagine, it can hold a lot of toys. Big toys like stuffed animals float to the top, while small things like army guys, stolen spoons, and crayon wrappers drift to the bottom. What this means is that it can take a reeeeeeally long time to purge the toy box, so I had a good hour to sit, sort, and clean while my mind was completely un-busy.

Now, this project happened to coincide with the beginning of the new school year. Karsten started first grade this year. He rides the bus. While high school students are also on the bus–which makes me wonder what kind of interesting words he might be adding to his vocabulary. I guess he is a big boy and it’s high time to start exploring what’s okay to say and what’s not.




The girls are still four until October, so they are in preschool this year. They are attending an excellent licensed preschool in Idaho Falls that’s been in operation for eight years. They go for a couple of hours three times a week, allowing me six hours per week to be alone for the first time in almost seven years. Weird. In any case, my point is that my little goonies are growing up!


I was thinking about this while I was scraping the teeny toys out of the bottom of the box, and I realized something. It’s not going to be that much longer that they are interested in half-inch long plastic bananas and Lego pirate hats. I mean, Karsten has already started to show some interest in chapter books; in another few years, he probably won’t have any desire to snuggle with me and listen to story books. This is the way it should be. I would love it if he could be mamma’s boy forever, but it wouldn’t be good for him. And the girls are right behind him.

In the middle of my purging project, I had a sudden mental image of myself in ten years, looking at story books by myself while my teenaged kids are at the mall with their friends. I had to stop myself from waking them up for an impromptu story session.

Of course, we all know that kids grow up quickly. We’ve all heard the songs that tell us, “You’re gonna miss this,” and that “Moments like these are fast and rare.” I’ve personally been inspired by literature that expressed the message that we should appreciate the “now.” But darnit, life is busy. There is work to be done every day, and sometimes I don’t remember to slow down and play with my kids. I was really glad that those Lego hats and tiny bananas reminded me to enjoy these fast, rare moments while I can.

Do me a favor. If you have little kids, sit down today and read them a story.

Happily for Ever and Ever

Once upon a time, a couple of silly kids wanted to get married.

The young man went to the young woman’s parents to ask for permission. (He was nervous.) After a brief private interview, the parents gathered the rest of her family and told them he was going to be their brother. There was lots of hugging, and maybe even a few teary eyes. The young man was surprised; he did not understand such open affection. But as the years went by, he came to appreciate them for their unconditional warmth and unshakable loyalty.

Around the same time, the young man told his parents about their plans. The young man’s father asked if the young woman really wanted to marry someone with such a small savings account. The young woman was surprised; she did not understand why he would ask such a frank question. But as the years went by, she came to appreciate her husband’s family for their insightful practicality and Christlike desire to help.

Preparations were made, and the two were sealed for time and all eternity in a beautiful white palace.

But the story didn’t end there.

They were so young. A kind Father wanted to help them grow up, so he gave them experiences. Lots of experiences–good and bad. They moved to new places and tried different jobs. They did homework and earned promotions. They recognized mistakes and learned to start over; they identified sins and learned to repent; they were given trials and learned they could rise above them by standing on the shoulders of our Savior.  They felt the swelling of the heart that comes with the birth of sweet new babies, and came to know the hollow places that are carved out when family members leave mortality. They washed dishes, refinished furniture, mowed the lawn, and balanced the checkbook. And through it all, they grew.

Nine years later, they are not as young as they once were. She is sprouting gray hairs right and left, and his facial stubble is beginning to resemble tree stumps. And to tell you the truth, she is shocked to realize how young they were when they got married. They could have really messed things up, choosing their eternal companions at the tender ages of twenty-one and very-nearly-nineteen. But if you ask her if it was a mistake, she will wink and say that things have turned out pretty fair.

She loves him. So much.

You should see the two of them order salads at a restaurant. Without a word, he passes her his tomatoes and olives while she hands over her croutons and banana peppers. Their interactions are not always so perfectly choreographed, but they each know what the other one needs, and they do their best to make it happen.

They know that nine years is nothing compared to forever. But now that they know how much they can grow in just nine years, they look forward in time with anticipation, wondering what it will feel like when they have been married for twenty years, or for fifty. They are happy.

Thank you for being my husband for nine years, babe. Happy anniversary, and I love you!

Goodbye to The Birch Menagerie on Blogger

What the heck?! There are only, like, two posts on this whole blog! Hasn’t Ericka been blogging for years? She has three kids…where are all those posts about those silly goons?

Yes, I HAVE been blogging for years. And all those posts…well, they have disappeared into the swirling vortex of lost electronic information. Not too long ago, I deleted a gmail account that should not have been connected to my blog. In fact, I still have the gmail account I used to create the original Birch Menagerie blog. WHAT. THE. HECK.

Anyway, here is my new blog. TA-DA! (This time, I plan to order blog books as I go.)

Blog at WordPress.com.