November 19, 2014

Go Forth!!

I showered.
As I showered, Eve let Rocco in from the snow.
I found him laying on top of the laundry piles I stayed up late folding last night as I watched The Pioneer Woman on Netflix.
A dirty dog, a bowl of dog food, and a bone-- on top of my clean laundry!!!

Ben and Eve are covered in marker.  Eve says Ben did it, but I'm not sure how he colored on the back of his neck.
Sigh.  Toddlers.
Do you know I have had toddlers for almost 16 years?!

I just got off the phone with a friend whose youngest is 12.  She's going to the mall, Christmas shopping, ALONE.
How... Boring.  ;)

"I believe when we determine within our hearts that by and with the blessings of God our Heavenly Father we will accomplish a certain labor, God gives the ability to accomplish that labor; but when we lay down, when we become discouraged, when we look at the top of the mountain and say it is impossible to climb to the summit, while we never make an effort it will never be accomplished."  Heber J. Grant, from Daughters in My Kingdom p 179.

I am determined.
I am climbing.
I am laughing at dumb dogs and enjoying these temporary toddler days.

I had the best scripture study as I used my online search tools to study "Go Forth" in the scriptures.
Most days, I just choose to go forth.  

My best days, I shine forth.

30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all...
(Doctrine and Covenants, Doctrine and Covenants, D&C 138)

As the holidays approach, I have shared with my sweet husband, my favorite  quote of mine from President Hinckley (a prophet).  

"People wonder what we do for our women. I'll tell you what we do. We get out of their way and look with wonder at what they're accomplishing." 
—National Press Club appearance, March 8, 2000

Today-- I will move mountains (of laundry), I will feed the 5000 (or 10), I will clothe the naked (buy shoes and a coat for my own orphan children), and I will prepare a place that many shall come and dwell with us for Thanksgiving.  I will also talk with Him as I travel along many roads, and serve as I sort shirt and spirit sleeve orders at the elementary school...
Ben and Eve will be my very helpful companions as I climb.

I may be shining forth or just going forth-- but I am pressing onward.

Someday I will be Christmas shopping alone.  I will appreciate every second of it.  Trust me.

I don't believe I will miss these days, because I've taken a pretty big helping of toddlers that should carry me through to grandmothering years. Ha!  

I can't tell you the peace I feel as I raise this last baby of mine.  That underlying itch that I always had, just knowing that my family wasn't complete-- that is gone.  I am at peace and my life is full.  I have loved this stage of child bearing, and I am really excited to try just plain child rearing.    

Oh toddlers.  Laundry.  Trips to the store. A house to clean.  Christmas to think about.  A list way too long and never, ever complete. 

Eight is great!
Todd's texts from Germany make me smile.
Life is good!!
Go Forth!!!

November 16, 2014

Still trying.

took some time this afternoon to read journals from 16 years ago.  I read of my first pregnancy and the early days of mothering one and then two little boys.

I would have guessed that I was young and immature back then.  I would have told you that I have learned much since that time.  I almost laugh at how naive I was in those early mothering days.

But, guess what?  I really haven't changed that much.  It was funny reading of the joy I felt in pregnancy, birth, and night time feedings.  I loved those little ones.  I have far too many pages of self-doubt, pages of goal setting, hours of heartfelt yearning to be better.  I feel my desires and my strength.  I was a mother who desired goodness, tried, succeeded, and failed, I still am.

My goals are exactly the same.
I knew what to do then-- and I'm still trying to be as good as I wish I were.

Then and now, I lament my selfishness, my lack of self-discipline, my tendency towards distracting time wasting.  I always wish my house were cleaner, my home nicer, my time more productively spent.  I wish I were a better homemaker, cook, wife, mother, daughter, and student of scripture.  I want to serve others better.  I hate when I'm mean or dumb.  I worry about my furniture, our budget, Christmas, my extended family...

My struggles (for 16 years) have not changed!!

Maybe I'm just really slow.  Maybe we're just extra behind because we had so many kids and stayed in school so long.  Maybe this is just life.  

Maybe I will ALWAYS yearn to be better.  And, if that's true, maybe it's about time that I stop hurting because of my normal-ness.

My life is and always has been absolutely unmanageable.
I couldn't perfectly parent one child, never-mind eight.
I can't do it.
I don't have the energy, patience, or ability to do the 5,000 things that my soul yearns to do.

And, I just know that it's OK.
Christ is grateful for my effort.
He is grace.  His grace makes up the difference.

I watched a beautiful video of Christ feeding the 5,000.  

I watched it as I was avoiding making dinner for my own smaller crowd.  I was out of meat, my house was a mess, my kids were happily making creative messes, and I felt unprepared for a busy weekend.  I felt condemned and cranky that I wasn't better.  To be honest, I was having a moment of complete defeat.  I was sobbing in my feelings of not being enough...  

In the video, Christ takes the five loaves and two fishes.  He prays, "Father, thank thee for thy bounty."  There was no condemnation or judgement in His voice. None. He just blessed what they had and it was enough.

Oh how those words sank deep into my soul.

15 ¶And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. 
16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. 
17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. 
18 He said, Bring them hither to me. 
19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. 
20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. (New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 14)

Sometimes, I have fragments. Sometimes, I have a Passover meal prepared and waiting for him to use.

And, always, He takes what I have and uses it for good.
I'm the drummer boy of servants.  I give what I have even if all I have is five loaves and two fishes that need to fill 5,000.

Thank thee Father, for thy bounty.
Today, I feel filled.

I may very well spend my whole life trying to be more scheduled with my time.
I may never be perfectly kind.
I may always say things that I cringe at after the fact.  
I may always have days where I cry and wish I had one child and a housekeeper.
And-- I'm OK with that.

I'm thankful for His bounty.
So thankful and FILLED.
Life is good.

November 12, 2014

Strong-Willed and Sore

Todd is out of town and Ben had his surgery scheduled for today.
As a preemie, he was not circumcised at birth.  We have pushed it back twice now and just feel it is time.

I know circumcision is a personal and controversial decision.
My husband had a strong opinion on the subject, and I actually did too.
I know much of the Old Testament is dated, but I just don't think God would have men randomly cut themselves there if there wasn't some benefit from doing it.
We have circumcised all of our boys.

Obviously, Ben is the oldest and most difficult.  His surgery required general anesthesia.

I just KNEW that he'd be a bit of a beast coming out of surgery.  A couple of my kids had their tonsils removed and I seem to remember some gnashing and wailing.

Ben went to sleep angelically.
He drove a car-stroller into the operating room and laid on the bed happily while they put sleepy gas in a mask for him to breathe.
Sweet, sweet boy.

But oh, he woke up a BEAST!!
I could hear him from the hallway.
They called me back quickly and he was mad.
He did not want the pulse-ox on his toe, the cords on his belly, the IV in his hand.
He was loopy (they gave him twice the drugs they normally give) and ticked off.

I'm certain there was some pain mixed in with his emotion, but he sounded mad not sad.

I'm a weird mom who really appreciates the passion in my children (most of the time).  Ben's attitude made me smile.  He was assaulted as he slept, in a way, and he was not happy about it.  Oh, he was mad and not easily distracted (and I'm good at distraction).

This boy of mine is alive today because he has a fighting spirit.  (Those poor kids awaiting surgery who got to hear a bit of Ben's fighting spirit.)

For some reason, the nurse who was helping us asked if Ben was a twin.
I went to say no, but remembered, "Yes, he was a twin.  I lost his brother (I just know it was a boy) but he held on."

Ben fought for over an hour in the recovery room, he cried off and on the whole way home, and I rocked him (he's a tummy sleeper so sleeping is a bit hard) while he napped.  Tears came to my eyes at times with genuine gratitude and admiration for his strength.  I hate that he is ever in pain, but I love his grit.  
I love strong-willed children.  I love them. My children are Captains not followers.  I love that.  Ben is 17 months old, with an even older, wiser soul.  

I love busy, smart children.
I am SO grateful to be alive.  To be HIS mother.
I'm so grateful that I have older boys who have taught me it's ok to laugh at these tantrums because he will grow out of them.  You can be strong and kind, brave and good.

I have a feeling the next couple of days will be fun, for both of us.
I adore this last little boy of mine.

Don't you love being a mother?
Don't you love feeling the strength of your children's passion?
Ha!  Oh Ben-- he's a big Spirit.
I really do like them big and spunky.
I'm ready.

Life (even with a sore diaper and a cranky fella) is good!!
(These are all before pictures- trust me, there was no time for selfies after!  Ha!)

Do you have a feisty kid (or three)?
Aren't they fun?!!  
(You may have to wait a few years for the stories to gain their humor...)
Boy-- all boy.

November 10, 2014

I love.

As a newlywed I wondered why God created men and women so differently.  I thought intimacy was a bit unfair.  I felt like men got the better, easier part of creation.  It didn't make sense to me.

I spent years trying to understand why God created us the way he did.  I pondered over intimacy, exhaustion, hormones, pregnancy...  The physical sacrifice a women makes to create another human is awe inspiring.  Why?!!

Oh, how I have learned.

The world LIES to us.

The world paints men as animals with selfish lusts and desires.  Women are seen as servants or objects being used for his pleasure

The idea that men are wanting intimacy and women "have a headache" is so prevalent.  The headache mother stands next to images of BeyoncĂ©, Brittany Spears, or a twerking Miley Cirus.  

Oh women-- we are Queens, Priestesses, holy women and divine creators.  I see so many who try to imitate holy things.  But, the counterfeit is hollow and lacking.  No imitation can compare with the real thing.  

13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 
(New Testament, John, John 4)

I have learned that physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy is divine and holy.  Intimacy is MY gift, not my sacrifice.  How grateful I am for the hormones that inspire my husband to serve me, to be close to me, to want me, to need me.  Hormones that help me to express the stress or emotion that sometimes gets bottled up inside me.  

Not everyone has someone that wants them.  It is a beautiful thing to feel loved and wanted.  Women-- be SO grateful for a husband with passion.  Love him.

My emotional sensitivity has taught my husband to be aware and to be kind.  He is a better man because he has learned to listen, to encourage, and to soothe.  He has learned to love me as I have learned to love him.  We are still learning together-- there is no other imperfect man that I'd rather learn with.  Often tears come to my eyes as I think of how lucky I am to have this man beside me.

I believe that no matter who you have picked to be with for eternity, God can help you know and love them as He loves them.  Love transforms.  I believe healing, change, and growth is possible.  I believe that charity never faileth.  I have spent 17 years of marriage praying to love my man better-- my capacity to love has multiplied.

I feel honored that I know small ways to serve and love Todd.  He spends his whole life serving our family.  There are little things I can do to serve him back.  I love finding his things-- he likes a bit of chocolate in the freezer to snack on.  He feels peace when the table is set when he comes home from work.  He is happiest when I turn towards him instead of turning away.  He is romantic.  He loves to sneak affection throughout the day.  He is a words person and appreciates little texts or love notes.  I love loving that man.

I learned early on that the more we were intimate the less-cranky my husband was.  It is absolutely magical-- intimacy takes the snippiness away from our interactions.  It took me too long to realize, that the more often we were intimate the less-cranky I am.  I need him just as much as he needs me.  That knot of stress, worry, and intense emotion just melts away when we're completely united.  Amazing!!

The best thing I can do for the spirit of my home and family is GO TO BED and enjoy it.

Intimacy is a gift.

Intimacy heals my MIND.  If we are united physically, my hormones feel balanced, my emotions are leveled out, I am happy. 

Who wouldn't want this healing, uniting every single night?!  We need to make MORE time for each other.

I absolutely know and believe this.  And STILL I have to talk myself into intimacy most of the time.  I am SO dumb.

Sometimes, almost all the time, I don't feel like cuddling.  I push past those feelings because I love him.  And, I know my mood will change.  Intimacy doesn't take too long.  It's a perfect end to a long day, or a perfect start to a new day.  ;)  I choose to govern my actions and direct my passions instead of allowing my fickle, tired, hormonal body determine what I am or am not in the mood for.  There is power in choosing to love... and feelings follow actions.

I have in my mind an image of a husband and wife kissing as they reunite.  (Something like a soldier returning from war and his wife running to him and jumping into his arms.)  He is holding her, literally.  She has her arms wrapped around his head and her legs wrapped around his waist as they kiss.  I want my husband to feel that I love him like that.  I want him to feel cherished, missed, and adored.  I absolutely feel that Todd loves me like that.  His love and security is my greatest gift.

Aside from the holy covenants we have made to each other, there is NOTHING-- not one thing, that we have done for our marriage that has blessed us more than figuring out our intimate life.

He pulls us close physically, I pull us close emotionally.  Both are essential.  Both are gifts.  God designed us perfectly.

Intimacy changes as your life changes-- it is worth the effort!!

I believe that every single successful marriage is a result of time and effort in the bedroom.  As our relationship, our lives, and our bodies change, intimacy changes.  There are good times and not so good times.  
It has taken us effort to figure out intimacy.  Our life together has always been good, but honestly, I'm surprised at how much effort it takes to stay united.  It's a constant worldly current that pulls us apart and we have to push through the waves to be one.

We should fight for unity. It is hard, it takes TIME, it takes communication, it takes intense vulnerability.  Unity takes healing, learning, forgiving, and sometimes even therapy.  The effort we invest into our sexual relationship just makes our time together even more sacred.

Intimacy is the BEST, BEST hard thing we've figured out together.  Intimacy has been both a huge hurdle for us to overcome and it the greatest of all acts of healing.  Amazing.

I believe in marital intimacy.
I love it.
I know that sex within the bounds of marriage IS divine.
An intimate night at home is our best date night.
It is the most holy communion we can experience in this life.
Intimacy is so fun, so unifying, so energizing, so beautiful.

If you don't know this-- you haven't experienced it yet.
Keep working at it!! 

I do not believe that all intimacy is created equal.
Anyone can eat bread and water, but it takes authority and worthiness to create a sacramental experience.

Many, many people in the world experiment with the powers of procreation.  But very few feel the holy, sacramental bond that intimacy was designed to ignite.

Oh how Satan loves the bedroom.  Keep him out.  Do not let him come between you and your spouse.  Grab hold of your spouse and don't let anything come between you.  You can do this!  

Forgive again and again and LOVE that imperfect person.  
Be pure.  
Avoid pornography.  
Forgive yourself and let yourself be loved in your nakedness, chubbiness, scars, and wrinkles.  Love loving!!

I am amazed at all our human bodies are designed to experience.  For too many years, I thought men had it better.  I was SO wrong.  

Women, we are blessed.  Our bodies are amazing, holy tabernacles.  We create life!  We are beautiful and we give pleasure!  We are programmed to feel incredible joy.  Our emotions are great gifts that help us to love deeply.  And, we are created to love and be loved.

Pure marital intimacy is beautiful and holy.

My advice to fighting couples-- go to bed!!
I told you before, the stupidest advice we ever give newlyweds is "Never go to bed angry."
Go to bed!!  Stop fighting and start learning how to love!!
Love changes everything and is the perfect way to end any silly argument.

Good marriage is NOT about finding or creating a perfect spouse.
Good marriage is about learning to love the imperfect spouse you have.
Start in the bedroom.
Love that man.  
Let him love you.  
Learn together.  
Serve each other.  
Have fun!!
Your unity will trump every other area of your life.  

Women-- your headaches are only hurting you!!  Honestly, 20 minutes well spent!

The worldly, raunchy, crass sexual images you see on TV will create a cheap thrill while missing the depth of intimate, loving relationships.

Help him love you.
Don't give up on this aspect of your life.
Intimacy takes time, effort, and priority-- it is worth it!!
Loose yourself and you shall find yourself.
Give a crust, you'll get a loaf.

We are designed by a divine Creator who allows trials and stretching, but has ultimately created us to feel JOY.  
Sometimes sickness or disabilities, sin or past issues keep us from experiencing this joy fully.
This is so hard.  Maybe the hardest.
We ache because we are created to love!!
Don't give up.  Go forward with hope and faith.  Someday all will be made right and we will all be blessed with healing and happiness.

The best marriages I have known have been carved from soul wrenching healing.  A difficult beginning, a steep climb, illness, divorce, sin, abuse, deep chasms to cross-- these obstacles just make the view from the top better and sweeter.  No marriage is immune from difficulty. The BEST things in life are worth fighting for.  I know it.

[Every time I lay awake typing a blog about our intimate relationship, Todd and I discuss it at length.  

Am I ok with my children reading this?  Yes, I am.  I love that my kids can read what I absolutely believe to be truth.  Am I ok with Grandma reading?  She's been there, learned that.  Strangers?  Friends from work?  Weirdos?  You know-- this world is FULL of lies and sexual corruption.  I like being a voice in the other direction.

I really am not telling you details of my intimate life, I'm telling you my testimony of marital intimacy.  Because it IS so, so, so good and important.  I tell you as your sister and friend.

I had been married a few weeks and I was in burning pain.  One afternoon, I cried to a new friend.  She told me that I probably had an infection, encouraged me to drink cranberry juice, visit a doctor, and empty my bladder before intimacy.  She helped me heal.

Years later a couple I absolutely admired said that they had been through couples therapy together.  I gasped.  Their example inspired me.

I'm sorry if this blog seems in any way irreverent or inappropriate.  This is not my intent.  My intent is to be one more positive voice in favor of pure, good intimacy.  Heaven knows every raunchy magazine at the grocery store is telling you what not to do.

I can't share with you my family, without sharing with you the very best, and hardest thing I have ever learned about creating a happy home.]

I love!!!

We need to work on our intimate lives- this is time well spent.  It's an investment that cannot be counterfeit. 

Yes, I talk way too much about what I believe.  When I try to edit it down, I just make things longer trying to say things better.  Ha!  I will never be louder than the voices that are wrong-- but I can be one small voice that is telling you or shouting with you. Cleave unto your spouse.  Be one!  Pure, unifying, marital intimacy is the best and we know it!!

Loving and learning together is so fun!
Let us go with our husband to the feet of our God.  Let us let Him fill us such that we will never thirst.
What a gift.

I do love him.

November 06, 2014

I create.

The healthier I get, the more I create.
My soul yearns to make things.
Of all the ways I spend my time, creating beautiful things is my most selfish.
I can't justify the time I spend making a wall-hanging.
Creating is some magical equation where 1+1 equals more than 2.  
I don't know what it is.  There is holiness in splendor.  (Holiness and evil...)

There are SO many dumb crafts out there.  So many people spending too much time and too much money on things and appearances.  There is so much wealth and worldliness.  I try to tell myself it doesn't matter what your house or your clothes looks like.  I gag at materialism and feel conflicted by disparity- million dollar homes and starving children.

I'm ok just being a normal family in an average home.  I don't even apologize for sharpie stains on my couches.

And yet, my soul craves a house that reflects my level of care.  I care about my home.  I want to invite people into my home and feel proud.  Something happens in my soul when I create a beautiful space.  A jar of flowers or a pile of squash, makes my spirit happy.  
I took this picture the other night right after dinner.  Isn't that a happy mess?  If I had the dining room of my dreams, it would look different, but just a few happy pumpkins are enough for me today.  

Most of the time, creating things costs more money than buying things, and it definitely costs more time.  
Oh, the joy that comes from making!
Don't you love a home with a mother's touch?

I have resumed my long ago habit of creating at bedtime.  Around 8 pm, when my home is tidy and my younger children are nestled all snug in their beds, I push play on my free library audio book (we just finished listening to Cinder, my big girls and I).  I have been cross-stitching these days, but this is how I used to quilt.  8 to 10 or 11 is a long time to create.  When Todd is in town, he reads while I stitch.  Since he's been gone, my girls create with me.  So, so fun!!

I just think creating and homemaking is such a perfect fit.

So much of homemaking is cyclical.  A clean kitchen is dirty again in moments.  Just holding something that you've made, that can be finished, oh it is good for the soul.

I don't know why my soul craves a beautiful home?  My sharpie couches are fine.  But, wouldn't this couch be so fun?
I'm sorry my pictures are ridiculous.
You can follow me on Pinterest (I have two accounts, look for my newer one) if you want to see the things I dream of and the sources.
Today, I'm just saying that, it's good to dream!  It's good to make things beautiful.

I believe creating the house of your dreams is a somewhat unattainable mirage.  I consider myself content and hopeful.  :)

We don't have much extra money these days.  But, a sprig of rosemary or a twig of pine tree costs so little and just brings a smile.
I bought 12 more white plates at Savers (like Goodwill) the other day for $12.  I know we can eat Thanksgiving on paper plates.  But, I'm so excited to serve on ceramic.  It's ok that I don't have beautiful china (maybe someday), I can use what I can afford and make it beautiful.
I love these curtains.

Any ideas how I can get 25 yards of linen type fabric for cheap?  And, I need curtain rods cheap.  And, I want to line them so they seam full and lovely.
This is my next project.
After curtains, my dad is going to help me build two long tables and two benches.

(I want 2 long tables-- one 120x48 and one 120x24.  I'll keep the long, skinny one behind my couch like a sofa table where my kids can color and do homework, and then use that for a kids table when we have company.)
I might never get the curtains I'm dreaming of.  Probably, Christmas will take priority.  My folding tables work fine for extra seating.  You can even get pretty cute paper plates for Thanksgiving.
For me, I know that my life will never be as beautiful as it appears in my dreams.
I know I create spiritually 100 times faster than I create physically.
But, I think it's good to hope, to dream, to have a goal, to work towards something.
I think it's good to make beauty with the things around you.

A stake president once told my husband the sweetest compliment about me.  He said, "Whatever she touches turns to gold."  I love that idea.  I can't tell you how often I've thought of those kind words as I've left my touch on the world around me.  

There is something holy in making things beautiful.  I don't quite understand it yet, but I know it.  

You know, even as I lay for months in my hospital bed, I found healing in creating.  I felt the power of doing something while my ability to do was severely limited.

I did family picture books for all the years since we've taken digital pictures.  I still can't afford to print them out (let me know if minted ever has a big sale), but I know they're there.  Finished and waiting.  That feels so good.

I started my cross-stitch.  It is symbolic to me of the first "family" project I could make knowing my family was absolutely complete.  As I stitched a little boy onto my sampler, I knew that this boy might not live.  I knew I might never finish this sampler, and yet I stitched day after day while I watched BBC.  (Holy moly, I had no idea how long this huge cross-stitch would take!!)
I love it.
I love creating.

I think that is one reason why I blog.  In a sense, I'm creating everytime I post.  In my dreams, I could write beautiful, inspiring, well-edited posts, on a computer savy, updated site that has sponsors and makes me extra money to pay copays on my kids doctor appointments and helps us go on family vacations.  But, I'm not there.  I'm here.  I'm parenting eight, young, beautiful children.  I am married to a hard-working man.  We have a beautiful home and lovely yard to care for.  (It's a lot of work if you can't afford gardeners, pool guys, lawn mowers, snow plowers, driveway refinishers, house cleaners, etc.)

I type my blogs on my phone while my babies eat 6 string cheeses each.
My time is up.  My mind is flowing and inspired to fill my blessed Thursday with a little more beauty.  

As I typed that, I glanced at my bed and noticed a chocolate drool stain on my white pillowcase.  I think I'll start by washing my bedding.  Don't you love climbing into bed with freshly washed sheets?

I believe in making things beautiful.
I believe creating is more important than having, that dreaming and planning and hoping is a good thing.
I believe that it is ok to want.  I believe that as we create things first spiritually, we will be blessed with all the desires of our heart.  In time.

We are blessed to do that which we desire.  We can create that which we dream, but we must be patient with the process.  Creating takes years not moments.

How grateful I am for these years!

(I had my six month check-up with my surgeon yesterday and he pronounced me "healed and normal".  There were times I wondered if I would ever feel that way again.  I think sometimes even God's creation takes time.)

Life is beautiful and good!
(Want to come over and make a fall wreath with me?)

November 04, 2014

Happy Halloween 2014!

I love this gangly bunch!
Halloween was lovely this year.
School parties, beautiful crisp fall weather, a sweet festive town, just the right amount of candy, and a town reanactment of Thriller to top the night off.
Hope you had a spooky day!!
This Life is good!!!!!!!! 

November 02, 2014

I establish order.

Routine and order.

Of all the responsibilities I cherish as a wife, mother, and homemaker, creating a house of order is perhaps my hardest and most important.  

Parents universally feel the stewardship to provide for their children.  Home is our very own deliberate environment and we are agents to create a home that reflects our priorities.  Creating a house of routine and order, in my opinion, is more emotional than physical.

As I look at society today, as I look at my own children, I feel strongly my responsibility to safeguard the MENTAL health of my children.  Our home routine, the feel of transitions, the general stress level of our home-- is shaping my children's mental wiring.  Oh parents-- let us learn the art of peace and order!!

I have spent a lot of time in different classrooms at many different schools.  You can feel classrooms.  You know how a teacher teaches when parents aren't visiting by the way their classroom feels.  

Children are children.  I am not impressed by a classroom of robots obviously ruled by a strong, fear-inducing teacher.  Kids should be free to ask questions, have personality, and be happy.  On the other extreme, a classroom without order is NOT a happy environment.  Kids prefer structure, they crave routine, they want to please their teachers, they want to succeed.

I was most impressed yesterday, by a particular first grade Halloween party I helped with.  18 first graders, dressed in costumes, just returning from the school costume parade, sat quietly and content as their teacher went through morning calendar on the rug.  

We sang songs, read Halloween stories together, made a craft with yarn, and decorated a sugar cookie with icing.  The class stayed quiet, on task, and orderly.  The teacher masterfully orchestrated transitions in almost whispered tones.  The most needy children (and she had a few) were positioned closest to her desk and gently directed and praised.  

This teacher was very aware of the time.  She chose to save one snack for later in the day, as she wanted to be sure the class was ready in time for gym.  When the kids were changed out of their costumes and sitting quietly ten minutes prior to the time they needed to leave, she had them pull out their handwriting books to do a page.  

I was impressed at the order in this room.  I was most impressed at how the classroom felt, the spirit of the room. I felt grateful that my little first grader spends her days in this environment.

I love asking the question, "What does Ms ... do if someone doesn't listen?"
Of this one teacher, my kids responded, "I don't know.  Nothing really.  Sometimes if we're sitting on the rug while she reads stories, she might move one student who is talking."

I asked about another teacher and they said, "She yells, she gives us a warning, she gives us a mark, we have to fill out a behavior sheet.  Mostly she just screams at us."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Please don't ask my children what I do if they don't listen.  Oh how I wish I were better at this!!

Parents-- what does your home feel like?   Think of the transition times.  Mornings, naps, after school, practicing, leaving to go somewhere, dinner, baths and teeth brushing, and bed.  Order and routine during the transition times of life are essential.

I am almost ALWAYS mulling over one particular process in my home.  Personally, I get overwhelmed if I try to improve too many aspects of my home life.  So, after a particularly contentious or unruly dinner, I might make dinner my area to improve.

I have found it is helpful for me or Todd to lead the conversation at the dinner table. I come prepared with topics or current events to discuss.  I have specific questions to ask.  We teach the art of conversation, manners, taking turns, etc. Conversation spirals quickly downhill and silly if I am not purposeful with it.  I love dinner time when I am deliberate and purposeful.

We sing church songs together on the way to church.  It helps us to prepare our spirits AND takes the time so the kids don't squabs in the backseat.

We all have strengths and weaknesses.  I think I'm pretty good at transition times and having a peaceful spirit in my home, and trust me-- I still have far to go.  

I often hear parents complaining about how busy they are.  I complain.  We almost yearn for simpler "Little House on the Prairie" days.  We FEEL how hard our active schedule is on our young children and yet, we feel victim to it.

Do we realize the power and responsibility we have?!!  We are agents with the ability to CREATE a house of order, not victims forced to push forward at a harried pace beyond our control.

Choose wisely wise parents!!  Choose what you do.  Choose where you go.  Choose what you don't do.  It's fun to create a home.

15 choose you this day whom ye will serve; ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Old Testament, Joshua, Joshua 24)

I love the talk by my friend Sister Julie Beck, Mothers Who Know.  She says both "Mothers who know do less" and "Mothers who know do more."  Interesting.  We know and so we must choose what we will do less of and what we will do more of.

"Mothers Who Know Do Less

Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power."

What a wise, inspired woman.

What about your family?  Families who know do more...  And less...

We establish the flow of our home.  We set the schedule.  We mold our environment.  

"We shape our dwellings, and afterwards, our dwellings shape us." ~ Winston Churchill

I don't believe that we need to have a rich home to have a house of order.  I've said this before.  My sister-in-law is from Mexico City and now lives outside of Detroit.  We were talking once and she mentioned the "poverty in Detroit" and then she stopped herself.  She said something like, "Detroit isn't poverty, Detroit is corruption.  I've seen poverty and even in very poor homes, the children are clean and the houses are in order."  Isn't that interesting?

In the Old Testament, I think it's Samson's father who asks The Lord,
"How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?"(Old Testament, Judges, Judges 13)

Don't we all ask that?!

How shall we order the child?

Here are some things I focus on.

:: Watch your tone of voice.

Speak softly and mean what you say.

Touch a child and look them right in the eyes as you speak.  

I have found that whispering is SO much more effective than yelling.  When I'm "inviting" my children or "testifying" to my children, I have learned to put "all the energy of my soul" behind my whisper.  I speak to them with the same feeling and emotion that I have when I pray.  

"Be kind to your sister."  I will say this quietly, but almost with tears in my eyes. Speak from your soul.  Invite!!!  Invite them to do good!!

Testify to your kids.  I like to invite them to obey and promise them afterwards.  "Will you clear these dishes quickly and happily?  I promise that if you do this, you will feel so happy inside!  The whole house will feel brighter and more beautiful when you serve happily.  And, the faster we get the work done, the more time we will have to read together later."

No, I don't talk like that all the time.  Just on my best days.


Teach them again, don't ever be angry at something they haven't already learned.  

Kids are kids-- there job is to learn and YOUR job is to teach.  It's fun to try to figure out HOW to teach one particular child the behavior your trying to teach.  

(Don't you roll your eyes at sports coaches who scream at their team, scream at the bad ref, or scream at the parents?  I want to say, "Um-- you are the coach, stop whining and coach them!!") 

Parents, teach your children.  Coach your team.  You can do this!!  Children might not come with a manual, but they do come with a Heavenly Father that knows how they learn best!! He will help you to SEE them as He sees them at teach them as they need to be taught.  ASK HIM FOR HELP!! Parents are always willing to help their children.

Skilled teachers are BLESSED with children who learn differently!!  Your children have YOU because you are the one who loves them enough to figure out how to teach them what they need to know. Gentle, repetitive teaching works!!! It takes time.  

Time and experience teaches.  I believe in a God with a consistent still small voice.  He whispers to us, "Love your children, be patient, be kind."  Sometimes we listen.  Sometimes we freak out and mess up.  We learn that freaking out isn't the most effective way of parenting.  He continues to love and teach us.  Can you see?!  We are learning to be like Him as we teach.  

Put your shoes and your backpack right on the shelf when you get home from school we whisper.  They listen sometimes, until they forget.  The next morning it's time to go and they can't find their shoes anywhere.  They learn that throwing their things around isn't the most effective way.  This is a lesson they will learn as it is taught repeatedly.  We whisper again and again and again... Hopefully they begin to feel comfortable with order.

A parent or teacher is less effective when they are ticked off that a second grader hasn't already learned a skill they "should" have learned in first grade.  Sometimes my sweet husband is like that.  He'll get so mad when a kid whines about dishes.  Whining kids don't bother me much-- because I am 36 and I whine about dishes.  Inspiring kids to work happily is a hard lesson to teach.  Instead of getting mad, I analyze.  How can we make the after-dinner dishes time better?  That's a hard one for us.

I love happy music while we clean up.  I try to do most of the dishes while I'm preparing dinner so it's not too overwhelming for the loader.  And, I ask everyone to stay in the kitchen helping until it's cleaned up.  We're getting better, but it's not perfect.

"The Savior was the Master Teacher. ... We would see most of His ministry being teaching.  And yet almost none of that teaching was done in a church building.  His teaching was out where the people were.  It was in highways and byways and hillsides and seashores and in homes."  Elder Jeffrey R Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in "Learning and Teaching in the Home and the Church- the Home" (2014 auxiliary training video),

I would add-- CHRIST TAUGHT AT THE DINNER TABLE!! He taught as they worked together.  He taught in the transition times.  He taught the SAME lessons over and over and over, in different ways, in repetitive ways, in gentle ways, in loving ways, in quiet ways.  I want to be more like Him.

::Don't do too much!!

Choose your activities wisely so they don't strangle out essential family routines.

Meals and sleep are ESSENTIAL for happy homes.  Want to choose a battle to fight?  Choose healthy eating and ample sleep.  Oh my, how I could write for days about these two routines.  

With a large family, we are busy.  I try not to schedule my afternoons so my youngests gets consistent naps, I always start cooking dinner right after school.  My kids gather in the kitchen doing homework while I'm cooking.  And, Todd and I plan and tag team so that one of us is always home with our younger kids for early bedtimes.  Often, I am home and he is attending sporting events.  If I do go, I don't go for the whole time.  Having order at home is so important.

::Teach Sleep!

Healthy sleep and eating habits depend upon ROUTINE.  First, establish a routine, and then learn to be flexible at times.  

Parents, eat things you don't love to eat to teach your children to eat things they don't love to eat.  Teach them to nourish their bodies not just to eat what tastes good to them.  

Sit down to eat meals. There is order in a set table (yes, fold the napkins and use placemats or a tablecloth).

Most nights we have a 15 minute window for family dinner.  Kids are picked up at 5 and need to be somewhere at 6.  We eat together a meal that is ready and waiting.  We clean up together, and then they're off.  Family dinner IS possible.

Sleep requires a calm mind.  Contention or excitement at bedtime just stirs everybody up.  A gentle routine leads to healthy sleep.  Personally, I think TV is awful right before bed.  It is SO stimulating.  

Reading is a natural quieter.  Bathing is calming.  I would be careful with music.  Even some classical music tends to excite rather than relax.  I don't think you can get a good night sleep when you have music or tv playing in the background.  Help your children learn to go to sleep, don't just wait for them to get so tired they can't stay awake.

Kids might not be able to choose sleep, but they can choose to stay in bed, close their eyes, and lay quietly.  I even teach my children to go to sleep in the car when I say "OK, it's nap time.  Close your  eyes and go to sleep."  It's lovely.

I have spent SO many hours and hours of my life teaching my children to sleep.  I've lost my temper with tired children too many times.  And, we learned.  My kids are really great sleepers.  They go to bed early, on their own.  And, they wake up early (for seminary that is 30 minutes away and starts at 6am) on their own.  Healthy sleep habits are one of the best things I have ever taught my kids.  I believe in sleep.  Amen.

I think your mind needs to rest.  I also think a tidy bedroom and a neat bed contribute to a restful sleep.

::Give them more control when you are fighting for control.

When you're in a battle of wills with your child, give them some power.  Either give them a choice, or give them a distraction.

We need to get our coats on, do you want red or blue?  We're better at choices than we are at distraction.

We don't have to expect firm obedience, just help them to choose obedience.  If you want them to lay for a diaper change, keep a favorite book by the diapers.  If you want them to wash dishes, offer help.  If you want them to eat a bite of food, offer juice to wash it down with or a quarter.  If you want them to stay in bed, find them a good book to look at (so they are laying in bed calmly before lights out.)  If you want them to clean up, ask them to just pick up just the cars.  If they want your attention while you're busy tell them they must wait, but can get themselves a snack.  Give in without giving up.

Pick the thing you want them to do (leave you alone while you're talking to another adult) and be flexible on something else (suggest they grab a bag of treats to eat in another room).

I love a good distraction!

How do you get your kids to stay in bed?  Repetition.  
Calm instruction.  

We all go to bed early in our house.

Putting kids to bed, when they're tired and cranky and we're tired and cranky is hard when you do not have a routine.

I do give my kids a book their bed (mostly for naptimes and before I turn their lights out).  I give them a water bottle, they have a box fan in their rooms for white noise, and I prop the door a little bit open.  If they have a hard time staying in bed, I may give them a stuffed animal that I take away when they get up.  At naptime, I may promise a treat to a child who stays in bed and promise to eat that treat myself if they get out of bed.  

At naptime, I may lay in a bed nearby and whisper, "Go to sleep" or "close your eyes."  I love to read or sleep a little while my youngest are falling asleep.  

::Establish calm, happy sleep routines and protect them!!

The key to good nappers and sleepers (and I've had eight) is routine!!!  I should admit that I had to learn this the hard way!!  Our bedtimes were supernanny bad!  Routine is NOT something that comes natural to me!!  I learned it because I was forced to.

We are home by 11:30 am almost every day.  We eat a lunch, sitting nicely in our chairs.  We clean up lunch together.  Naptime starts when we begin making lunch because they know the routine.  We head up to our bedrooms.  Eve chooses whether we race, or I give her a piggy back ride.  She comes happily so she picks out a book.  We read.  I say one or two, but it may be three or four.  

We talk about the fun things we will do after her nap so she can "just take a little nap so that we can make cookies or go see Jakob's soccer game" when she wakes up.  I hug her and kiss her and tuck her in and turn on the fan.  Usually I just lay in Lily's bed and read or close my eyes for a few minutes.  I love naptime.  It is a lot of work, but teaches healthy sleep habits.  My children nap until kindergarten.  

Many may disagree with me, but I believe nap-times, quiet-times, and early bedtimes are essential for happy, healthy children.

::Be On Time.  Plan Ahead.

Watch the Dog Whisperer to see how the emotion of an owner is translated to their dog.  Calm and confident is the state of being we are trying to achieve.

The dumbest thing we ever do as parents is get all excited when we're trying to get our kids where we need them to be.

Saying "Hurry up!!  We're late!!  Get your shoes!!"  Yelling, stressing, hurrying, etc., just makes things worse!!  We get stressed and so we stress our kids out and then we are even later.  It's SO dumb parents.  Don't stress about being late!!

I try to plan to be early and I'm often late.  But-- I know how to do it.  It IS absolutely possible to get a family of eight to church and school on time even when my husband is out of town.  Sometimes, emergencies or tantrums happen.  That's life.  But, most of the time, we're on time.

Set your internal timer 15 minutes earlier than you think you need to leave.  Our church starts at 10, it is 30 minutes away, I say we need to leave at 9.  We usually leave between 9:15 and 9:30.  

It always takes 15 minutes longer than I think it will.  So, if I need 30 minutes to drive somewhere, I enter my appointment 45 minutes earlier in my phone calendar.  

Let your kids know at the beginning of the day what is happening that day and when.  Have them pack a ziplock bag of snacks or a small toy to bring with them. Start acting like you're leaving earlier.  Get your shoes on, get your coat on, grab your keys.  Gently tell your children to stop what they're doing, clean up, and get ready to go.  

Even if you're late-- don't stress.  Just keep trying, keep smiling, gentle reminders.  Don't be mad, be cheerful or direct.  Simple instructions.  Whisper instead of yell.  How you arrive is just as important as when you arrive.

Instead of being mad when things fall apart, I love to say "NEXT TIME LET'S..."

::Be a thermostat not a thermometer!

Set the temperature, don't measure it.  We are SO blessed to have our own little home country to manage.  We have created our Garden of Eden.  We choose what influences we invite into our home and we choose how we spend our time.  Obviously, we don't choose our challenges and we all have them.  Isn't it great that we have so many amazing resources to help us figure out how to respond to our individual challenges?

43 And now a commandment I give unto you—if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house. 
44 Verily, I say unto my servant Sidney Rigdon, that in some things he hath not kept the commandments concerning his children; therefore, first set in order thy house. (Doctrine and Covenants, Doctrine and Covenants, D&C 93)

OK-- my time us up and my thumb is tired from typing this on my phone.  Ha!

I must say that I do not believe we will ever be finished setting our house in order.  There will ALWAYS be something we can work on!  Always.  What's that law of science that says things always go towards disorder unless acted upon?  You know what I'm talking about.  The Law of Entropy?

We shouldn't let the fact that we never "arrive" distract us from trying!!  Order is a great goal.  Order and creation is a daily process of rebirth and death.  Order is cyclical and ever transforming.  

Enjoy the process.  
Feel the power you have to set the tone.  

The Grand Canyon was carved with layers upon layers of gently flowing water.  Let's direct the flow of our family.  Let's shape the tone of our home.  Let's establish systems and routines in our home.  As we do this, these systems will shape us.

8 Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; 
9 That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord, that your outgoings may be in the name of The Lord. (Doctrine and Covenants, Doctrine and Covenants, D&C 109)

I absolutely feel privileged to be able to shape my home.

So much of my heart, my mind, and my energy is spent trying to figure out systems and routines for my family.
As my house is in order, I am able to invite people into my space and they feel that peace.  

My sister had never visited my home and she came for Eve's birth.  She said, "I have never been in a home like yours before Jen.  I don't know what it is?  I feel so at peace here.  I feel more myself in your home than I have ever felt before."

I loved that compliment.
My house is FAR from ordered and far from perfect.  
But, I love being home.
My home is a holy place.

I hope people feel peace in my home.
I care about how my children behave and how my house looks.  But, I care most about how happy my children seem and how my house FEELS.

This, my friends, is a great work!
The greatest of all skills that no college course can teach.
The great University of Life teaches us.  God teaches us by the divine art of REPETITIVE REPENTENCE!!
May God help us all to teach, love, and order our home like His.

An ordered life is a good life.
Clean and kind.  
My two goals.

(Now, let me go calmly practice what I preach so we aren't late for church.  Haha!)

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