bring on the jokes

When I refused to read Mary the most boring book on her shelf last night, she scoffed, “And you’re supposed to be mother of the year?!”

I’m in for it this year, oh, I’m in for it.

Despite Mary’s teasing, my children are bursting with pride, as are my close friends. 

But I’m a bit afraid people who don’t know me will raise their eyebrows and whisper to each other, “Her? Really?”

And not just because I forgot soccer treats or sent my kid to school with a lousy science poster, but because I too pictured someone much more spiffy and pulled together for Utah’s Young Mother of the Year.

Let’s make this clear– my closets and pantry are a mess, I hardly ever volunteer at school and cereal and bananas stand in for dinner more often than I’d like to admit.

But I love my children with every particle of my soul and I passionately believe motherhood matters. I devote the best of my time, my creativity, my intelligence and my energy to my family and I believe the rewards are greater than any career, award or accolades.

I am no better than hundreds, thousands of other young mothers in Utah, but I am proud to represent them this year. And I wouldn’t tell you at all, but part of the honor is the obligation to open my mouth (though I sent the kids to church with strict orders, “don’t tell a soul!”).

Photobucket Gabe would wear a suit every day, everywhere, if he could.

Attending the American Mother’s Luncheon Saturday, I didn’t know what to think. I was a bit embarrassed about the nomination and confused about the process. But I was greeted with warmth and enthusiasm and kindness. The American Mothers aren’t superwomen with a “system” and mile-long resume; they vary in age, race, education and financial status but are united in their belief in the worth of every soul and their conviction mothering matters, conscientious parenting makes a difference and we can all learn from each other.


visiting Stefan in his natural habitat– the BYU library

And learn I did. Between the chit chat in the halls and 23 short speeches (one from me) I gleaned a wealth of information. Afterward, I called my sister and said, “They are all so fantastic. There’s no way they’ll choose me to represent them, but I feel like I just made twenty new friends.”
Darling Gabe accompanied me for the day– and I could scarcely choose a better companion. With his dimpled smile and ready jokes, Gabe kept me laughing all day long (and I’m afraid we were both a bit punch drunk by the end of the day). He was richly repaid by meeting one of his heroes, Elder Jeffrey Holland, one of the Twelve Apostles and a master speaker; treat yourself to one of his gems here, here or here. Elder Holland’s incredible wife, Patricia, was nominated for Mother of the Year (the grown up version). Rushing away from building with Habitat for Humanity, Stefan arrived for part of the luncheon and all of my three minute speech in cut-off khakis and blood dripping down his leg. No one blinked at his attire and he was greeted warmly by everyone.

In 1988, Elder Holland was the President of BYU and my Book of Mormon teacher: Elder Holland‘s class was THE big perk for scholarship students back then.
I was delighted to qualify for “Young Mother” but only by the skin of my teeth. A young mother nominee can only have one child over the age of eighteen (and Stef will be turning 19 in a matter of weeks). Phew. Nice to know I’m still young. That alone will put a spring in my step all year.
No one at AMI regards the process of selecting Utah Mother and Young Mother of the Year as a competition. Because really, how would that work? It’s simply a matter of choosing a representative. I’m humbled to represent the Young Mothers of Utah and excited to have a voice at the National Convention.


from me to Gabe– all Victor Hugo and mostly in French.

And the jokes? Sigh. I’m going to pay for all the times I teased Stefan when he did something dumb, “You got a 36 on the ACT?” Because I will make mistakes and forget carpool and hurt feelings. But I will keep trying and improving and praying for help, because my children are worth all my efforts. Every bit.
When I arrived home Saturday I opened a handwritten birthday letter from Ben. Tucked into the fourth paragraph was this: “By now I’ve learned to take care of myself. I can cook and clean and do all that stuff. But what I’ve learned since leaving home is there was so much more you did. There is a kind of irreplaceable spirit a mom brings. Not even my companion making cookies can come close to it.”
“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”
—  Mark Twain
February 13, 2013



  1. Katy Burgess

    February 12, 2013

    Congratulations! You will be an awesome representative and a great example for all of us “future” mothers. Plus your kids are great. Ben can’t come home fast enough.

  2. Linn

    February 12, 2013

    Oh Michelle, congratulations! Anyone who cherishes motherhood as much as you do will be an incredible representative! Thank you for being willing to share.

  3. annie

    February 12, 2013

    So very thrilled for you. I would have voted for you in a second (although technically I only know you through the internet- ha ha!)How exciting to go to the national convention and represent all the wonderful mothers in our great state!

  4. Selwyn

    February 12, 2013

    Congratulations! I’ll be interested to read about what you do as a result of it!


  5. Shelah

    February 12, 2013

    Holy cow! I’m not surprised. How wonderful. So this was the “thing” you had to go to Provo for?

  6. Jeanelle

    February 12, 2013

    Oh Michelle, I’m so proud to know you. You are an amazing wife and mother (and totally normal and human too…and I say that because that’s what you want everyone to know!) Congratulations, my friend. Love that Gabe got to meet Elder Holland. What a fun treat!!

  7. Jeanelle

    February 12, 2013

    Oh and Ben’s letter? I weep!!!

  8. ellen

    February 12, 2013

    Go you.

  9. Chocolate on my Cranium

    February 12, 2013

    Congratualtions! Nothing like receiving that honor to realize how inadequate one truly feels as a mother, right? I only know because I received news two weeks ago that I have been chosen as Nevada’s Young Mother of the Year. They don’t have their recognition dinner until the Saturday before Mother’s Day.

    Um, can we meet at convention? I’d love to meet someone I at least have some knowledge of even if it’s through a blog.

  10. Annie

    February 12, 2013

    Yay! Congratulations, Michelle. You’re an awesome representative. (And, because I love what you write and how you think, I’d love to have a copy of your speech if you don’t mind sharing it.) Well done, you.

  11. Ang

    February 12, 2013

    So cool! You’ll be wonderful, Michelle.

  12. jen

    February 12, 2013

    congratulations. you deserve *every* bit of that honor.

  13. Denise Schild

    February 12, 2013

    Congratulations! I know you through the blog, but I think I really do know you. Your warm and kind personality comes through with every post. Your children are amazing, and that is because of you. You are an amazing Mom. You earned this title.

  14. Blue

    February 13, 2013

    This is superb! There are many many wonderful mothers in Utah and some of them may be your equal, but none of them are superior. Way to represent! ♥

  15. Kerri

    February 13, 2013

    I am so thrilled for you. I wrote a totally eloquent comment but it has disappeared into cyberspace. So instead, I’ll just say that you inspire me and make me want to be a better mom. They chose well.

  16. bluestocking mama

    February 13, 2013

    Congratulations, Michelle!

  17. Claudia

    February 13, 2013

    I am not surprised one bit and only thrilled that others can see what I’ve observed for years. Love you so much M. xoxo.

  18. Claudia

    February 13, 2013

    I am not surprised one bit and only thrilled that others can see what I’ve observed for years. Love you so much M. xoxo.

  19. Michelle

    February 13, 2013

    What Claudia said.

    p.s. Part of what makes you you is the fact that you aren’t afraid to be you, and to acknowledge that you aren’t perfect. So keep being ok with that, ok?

    p.s.s. You are, in my view, a perfect representative of the power of motherhood. I’m thrilled to hear about this. So, so thrilled.

  20. Becky

    February 13, 2013

    Michelle I rarely comment but I always read your blog because I love it. Congratulations! No surprise there!

  21. Michelle

    February 13, 2013

    You probably already know this but Sister Dalton’s daughter had this opportunity in 2011. She wrote about it here.

  22. Cath

    February 13, 2013

    M – you wrote about this so perfectly, so humbly. I love that the position is viewed as a representative, not a contest. And I cannot think of a better, more inspiring voice. I’m so glad you said yes to this path. I had a good feeling about it all along the way. I love you to pieces!!

  23. Tracy

    February 13, 2013

    Congratulations my friend! xoxo

  24. liz

    February 13, 2013

    I want to tell you something interesting — I clicked over here from Segullah yesterday completely at random. I was having a hard time and just needing something and your blog turned out to be the thing I needed. We are complete strangers — though I think our former home in SLC is not far from you — but have a lot in common. My little Mary has four brothers not five, and my oldest is 15, so we are a few years behind you, but I loved reading a few months worth of your family stories and found a lot to admire about you. It was just the lift I needed. So I came back this morning to thank you just for being who you are, and here you are, the mother of the year. Well I’m not surprised at all.

  25. Rachelle

    February 18, 2013


  26. Kristin

    February 20, 2013

    Congratulations! I couldn’t imagine a better candidate.

  27. Crystal Critchfield

    March 3, 2013

    Congratulations, my friend! You are an amazing mom and I’m so proud of you. You will be a wonderful representative. Hugs!

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