Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My fingernails are fuschia {and ten other random facts}

Fact #1: You know those horrible high school nightmares that we all have? (We all have them, right?) Mine always consist of not remembering my locker combination or schedule, not knowing the choreography for Dance Company (and being out on stage trying to "fake it"), running late for school or class, and not having my math homework done.

These elements speak true to some of my biggest anxieties about school.

Last night, I had an entirely new problem in my high school nightmare. I was trying to pack a lunch, and none of the food had been properly stored. The lunch meat and cheese was old, and it hadn't been put in a bag or container. It'd just sat bare on the refrigerator shelf, courtesy of my younger brother. I was starving, and there was nothing I could take to school for lunch.

Fact #2: Additionally, I was wearing white leggings.


Fact #3: Speaking of school lunch, every day I use a breast milk container to send milk to school with Nicky for lunch. I laugh a little inside every time I fill up the container and put it in his lunch box. I can't wait to reveal this information to him when he's a teenager.

Fact #4: Just to be clear, I don't send breast milk in the breast milk containers.

Fact #5: I have a confession. I don't like Halloween.


I said it.

Fact #6: In recent years, I've toyed around with the idea of wearing scarves. I've acquired a few scarves (both through gifts and clearance shopping), and they hang in my closet and taunt me. Sometimes I get adventurous and throw one on. Then I immediately take it off. I just can't do scarves. The fabric around my neck makes me crazy! Plus, I feel like there's a big, bulky wad right under my face, and it does sketchy thing to my peripherals! Scarves seem to work for other people. Other people look cute wearing them. Heck, other people even wear them in the summer! (I don't know how. I can barely wear clothes at all in the summer, let alone accessories!)

Fact #7: Lately, I've been in a "spendy" mood. This is never good. I usually work really hard to keep my budget in check, but for the past two weeks, I've had this itch to buy stuff.

Stuff and lunch.

I've been able to keep the stuff to a minimum by settling for small things like $2 nail polish, but I can't say the same for lunch. I love lunch. I hate fixing lunch. I like being out in the world for lunch. I like having lunch handed to me all prepared and whatnot. If I could go out to lunch every day, I totally would! 

Fact #8: I have a lot of homework due today, and we have an inspector coming to our house to do a walk-through tomorrow for a refinance. I should be reading, writing, and cleaning. Guess what I'm going to do instead! Rearrange my necklaces on hooks in my closet. I hope my professors and the inspector will be impressed!

Fact #9: My house is freezing right now. My feet and my bum cheeks are ice! I could sit on a case of beer and adequately keep it cool.

(Scotty, it's furnace time!)

(You know how cold my bum gets!)

Fact #10: I should buy a new pair of boots...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Crucible Perspective

"In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters... accepted [God's] plan by which his children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection."

When Scotty was in high school, he was a very gifted potter. He was often covered in dust and clay spats when he got home from school. He took as many pottery classes as he could finagle his way into, he won ribbons at the State Fair, and he lettered in visual arts.

When I married Scotty, I became part-owner of a plethora of pots. I have personally broken several of them (on accident, of course), so the supply has gotten smaller over time, but there are still quite a few in storage, and Scotty's mom has a bunch at her house that have remained unharmed.

Here is a pot that Scotty never finished. It was formed and fired once. From here, it needs to be glazed and fired again.


Here is a pot that is finished. This pot is called raku ware. In western art, raku is made by glazing and firing the pot and then covering it with combustible material. The pottery is exposed to smoke, which stops the chemical process in the glaze and creates a metallic sheen.


Something to note about pottery: before it is finished, it needs to be exposed to intense heat more than once. This process takes place in a kiln, also known as a crucible. A crucible is "a furnace-like vessel that endures intense heat and transfigures raw materials into a new, stronger substance. The crucible purges away impurities and unifies elements into an entirely new final product (Robinson, Carroll, and Marshall, 2012).

A crucible is also a metaphor, sometimes called "the refiner's fire," for trials that change our lives and have a refining effect (Robinson, Carroll, and Marshall, 2012).

President James E. Faust of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-Day Saints once said:

Into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful. The thorns that prick, that stick in the flesh, that hurt, often change lives which seem robbed of significance and hope. This change comes about through a refining process which often seems cruel and hard. In this way the soul can become like soft clay in the hands of the Master in building lives of faith, usefulness, beauty, and strength. For some, the refiner’s fire causes a loss of belief and faith in God, but those with eternal perspective understand that such refining is part of the perfection process.

Having a crucible perspective means we seek for meaning in our hardships, and we allow ourselves to learn and grow from them. Having a crucible perspective means we're resilient, we have the ability to overcome difficulty, or we "struggle well." It doesn't mean we "get over it" or return entirely to the way we were before.

Sometimes resilience is likened unto a rubber band that is stretched and springs back to the where it was. I don't like this analogy because the purpose of trials isn't for us to spring back to where we were. Trials are meant to make us stronger and purify us - to change us - so I like to think more in terms of things that are made strong and beautiful by undergoing extreme heat - glass, gold, diamonds, steel, pottery.

I don't want to be a rubber band, I want to be a pot!

That's not to say that I'm inviting trials into my life, and that's not to say that I'm going to handle every trial with grace and perfection. Believe me, I'd much prefer to not experience pain and suffering at all. I agree with Carlfred Broderick, an LDS psychologist and family therapist who said:

...I do not want you to think that I believe anything good about pain. I hate pain. I hate injustice. I hate loss. I hate the things that we all hate. None of us love those things. Nor, as I say, do I think that God takes pleasure in the pain that comes to us. But, we came to a world where we are not protected from those things... Pain is terrible.

Indeed, pain is terrible, but we're all going to find ourselves in the refiner's fire during our mortal experience, and we can choose to become bitter or we can choose to become better.

Elder Richard G. Scott said:

It is important to understand that [the Lord's] healing can mean being cured, or having your burdens eased, or even coming to realize that it is worth it to endure to the end patiently, for God needs brave sons and daughters who are willing to be polished when in His wisdom that is His will (1994).

Again, I'll be the first to admit that I don't want any trials, but I know that in a crucible, we can be transfigured. We can be changed entirely for the better, if we allow it to be so. We can seek for meaning in the hard things we experience, and we can, as a result, be prepared to stand before our God in a purified state.

We can become glass, diamonds, gold, steel, or pottery.


This post was inspired by "Crucibles and Healing: Illness, Loss, Death, and Bereavement" by W. David Robinson, Jason S. Carroll, and Elaine Sorensen Marshall published in Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives, 2012. This piece of writing is part of my Family Proclamation project for FAML 100 at Brigham Young University Idaho.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Right Person

"Marriage... is ordained of God."

When I was a teenager, I made lists of the qualities I wanted in a husband. My lists were a little biased since I always aligned them with the specific person I had in mind (usually Scotty). My lists included some noble qualities, like "must be honest," and "must treat me with respect," but they also included some pretty stupid qualities like, "must like roller coasters," and "must drink blue Gatorade."


I don't know where the whole "make a list" trend began, but such lists were pretty common among teenage girls "back in the day" (raise your hand if you know what I'm talking about... c'mon... don't be ashamed...)

In an interview for the Mormon Channel, Sheri Dew asked Elder David A. Bednar what advice he would give to young adults seeking a marriage partner. His response was straight-forward. He said:

As we visit with young adults all over the church often they will ask, ‘What are the characteristics I should look for in a future spouse?' as though they have some checklist of 'I need to find someone who has these three or four or five things.' And I rather forcefully say to them, ‘You are so arrogant to think that you are some catch and that you want someone else who has these five things for you. If you found somebody who had these three or four or five characteristics you are looking for, what makes you think they’d want to marry you?' The "list" is not for evaluating someone else - the list is for you and what you need to become. And so if there are three primary characteristics that [you] hope to find in an eternal companion than those are the three things [you] ought to be working to become. Then [you] will be attractive to someone who has those things... you’re not on a shopping spree looking for the greatest value with a series of characteristics. You become what you hope your spouse will be and you’ll have a greater likelihood of finding that person.

Quick! Hide your lists, and we'll pretend they never happened!

What Elder Bednar was getting at is that we put a lot of focus on finding the "right person," and we neglect the opportunity to become the "right person." Perhaps instead of making lists of the type of spouse we want to find, we should be making lists of the type of spouse we want to become

Finding the right person is still an important part of forming a loving and lasting marriage, but a "becoming-based" approach puts the main emphasis on "becoming ready for marriage and then committing to that relationship when you have made the decision to marry" (Carroll, 2012).

Part of becoming the right person includes expanding your perspective of the marriage relationship from simply a couple relationship to a divine institution (Carroll, 2012). 

When we view marriage as a couple relationship, it's seen as an expression of love between two people who want to share their lives together. This view emphasizes:
  • personal happiness
  • emotional gratification
  • physical attraction
  • good communication
  • pleasurable intimacy
  • couple compatibility
Those are all great things that most of us hope for in marriage, but if those are the only elements of marriage we desire, we miss out on some of the more sacred aspects of marriage such as:
  • covenant making
  • cleaving
  • equal partnership
  • the sacred responsibilities of husband and wife
  • the eternal purposes of marriage
Think of the couple relationship as the "fruits" or marriage while the divine institution is the "roots." When we focus on just the "fruits," our marriage is incomplete. When we focus on the "roots," we begin to understand that one of the keys to a successful marriage is not only to be compatible as spouses but to be aligned with God (Carroll, 2012).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland suggested that one of the greatest ways to increase readiness for marriage is to "Be a true disciple of Jesus. Be a genuine, committed, word-and-deed Latter-Day Saint. Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance because it does" (2003).

I think all of this advice is just as relevant during marriage as it is prior to marriage. We need to always work on improving ourselves and becoming "the right person." This expounds on my previous post, in which I wrote about the importance of being willing to adapt our behaviors and attitudes for the good of the relationship. It needs to be an ongoing process, and I like the idea of simultaneously becoming a better disciple of Christ.

This post was inspired by "Young Adulthood and Pathways to Eternal Marriage" by Jason S. Carroll, published in Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives, 2012. This piece of writing is part of my Family Proclamation project for FAML 100 at Brigham Young University Idaho.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

October 21, 2015

Today, in honor of my childhood crush on Marty McFly, it's only fitting that I pay tribute with a Back to the Future inspired post. 

This morning I thought, Great Scott! What was I doing back in 1985?

The answer: I was trying my best to overcome my mullet. 


And what am I doing 30 years later in 2015?

The answer: I am helping four little ones overcome their mullets.


Some things have changed in thirty years, like my ability to use my hair to cover my ears. But some things remain the same, like the fact that it's just as hard to find a picture of me in 1985 as it is to find a picture of me in 2015.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Parenting Practice I Can Live By

"Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness."

Last week, Scotty and I reached a point of breakdown in our parenting. After a long day of fighting battles with the kids, we climbed into bed feeling defeated and useless. Our kids have been rough lately, and we feel like our best efforts at nurturing them are failing. As we laid in bed, we talked about what we can change and how we can have a better impact on our children's lives. 

The next day, I was sitting in my van waiting for Nicky to come out of school, and I was reading a research study on psychological control for my parenting class (that's right! I'm enrolled in a parenting class for school right now. Ironic, eh?) I briefly looked up from my reading and noticed there was an older gentleman standing in front of my van waving at me. I smiled and waved back, thinking Oh, boy! That guy must think I'm someone else. As I tipped my head back down toward my reading, the man walked over to my window, and I thought This is going to be so awkward when he realizes we don't know each other!

But instead, with a big smile on his face, he simply asked, "What are you reading?"

I read him the title of the document, "Violating the Self: Parental Psychological Control of Children and Adolescents." Then I said, "Boring, right?"

He laughed and told me that it was good for me to be studying something like that. Then he peeked in my van and counted my children, "One, two, three... How many more are you waiting for?" I told him I was waiting for one more. Then he said, "So you have four. That's a good start!"

He then told me that he and his wife have nine children. Then he did that thing that empty-nesters do where they take a moment of silence because they miss their kids, and "It all goes by so fast!" When he snapped back to the present, he told me that it's hard to be a parent and that I should never forget to make my kids laugh.

Then he walked away.

I sat there for a minute and considered calling after him, "Hey, wait! Did God send you?"

Because it seemed awfully suspicious that I'd spent the previous night praying to Heavenly Father for help with my children, and then a random stranger showed up to remind me to laugh with my kids.

In truth, laughter has been severely lacking in our home lately. I've been very stressed out, and, I know this is a shocking confession, but I can be a little unpleasant and uptight when I'm overwhelmed. Combine that with four energetic, strong-willed children, and it's really easy for things to go awry.

On average, children laugh 400 times a day, while adults laugh about 15 times (Palmer 2007). The mysterious man at my van was spot-on, we need to remember to laugh with our kids. I don't mean to suggest that laughter is the only element of good parenting, but it is a very important one that provides healing and connection for the parents and children.

President Ezra Taft Benson said, "Take time to be a real friend to your children... Talk with them, laugh and joke with them..."

To me, this speaks of an appropriate level of parent-to child friendship, in which the parent still provides the necessary guidance and nurturing, but in which the child and parent like each other and find joy in each other's company.

Research has documented that children are less aggressive and more sociable if they have parents (especially fathers) who are playful (Hart, Newell, and Haupt, 2012). Laughter and play go hand in hand.

In an Ensign article titled, "The Power of Laughter," Gary K. Palmer wrote of some of the benefits of laughter in the family. I love this article and highly recommend that you read it in its entirety (honestly, I want to quote the whole thing here), but for a quick summary, here are a ten reasons to encourage laughter in the home:

  1. Laughter and play make us feel better. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine" (Proverbs 17:22)
  2. Humor and laughter help people live longer, happier lives; be more creative and productive; and have more energy with less physical discomfort.  
  3. Humor reduces stress, fear, intimidation, embarrassment, and anger.
  4. When a person laughs, blood pressure decreases, heart rate and respiration increase, the body releases endorphins, and depression declines.
  5. Laughter makes our real personalities emerge.
  6. We tend to like people we laugh with.
  7. Laughter is always available, and it's FREE!
  8. Laughter is like getting away without going away. It gives you a break.
  9. Laughter improves communication and builds relationships because everyone laughs in the same language.
  10. Your children will remember your humor much longer than they will the things you buy them.  
That last one makes me think of my grandpa who passed away six years ago. My grandpa loved to laugh, and he told a lot of jokes... over and over and over... We all rolled our eyes at our grandpa's jokes, and it wasn't uncommon for us to interrupt him and tell the condensed version to quickly ruin his punch line. When my grandpa passed away, we were obviously saddened, but I remember his funeral as a joyful occasion as we reflected back on his contagious sense of humor. There is nothing material about my grandpa that I'll remember more than his ability to make us laugh.

Thanks to the smiling, waving father of nine children (whom I suspect has a sense of humor quite like my grandpa's), I'll always remember now how important it is to laugh with my kids. That's a parenting practice I can live by!

This post was inspired by "Parenting with Love, Limits, and Latitude: Proclamation Principles and Supportive Scholarship," by Craig H. Hart, Lloyd D. Newell, and Julie H. Haupt, published in Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives, 2012. This piece of writing is part of my Family Proclamation project for FAML 100 at Brigham Young University Idaho.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My Personal Rules for Running

1. Run during sunrise or sunset as often as possible.

2. Run through the misery until you reach the point where you forget you're running. Then when you remember you're running, run home.

3. Don't try to punch the app lady in the face when she tells you your pace. She doesn't have a face.

4. Sneak something ridiculous into your playlist, like Tenacious D's "Wonderboy." Because there's something motivating about being able to kill a yak from 200 yards away... with mind bullets!

(That's telekinesis, Kyle!) 

5. Sprint past the meat shop.

6. Memorize license plates and descriptions of everyone you pass in case you need to help track down a criminal later (the joys of living in a city with a bad rap).

6. Lay on your front lawn just long enough afterward that your neighbors wonder if someone passed out there in the night.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Nurturing Your Personal Dedication to Marriage

"Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other."

I'm a sarcastic person. It turns out sarcasm isn't the best quality to have in a marriage. In fact, marriage expert, John Gottman, includes sarcasm as a trait of contempt, one of the "four horsemen of the apocalypse" that lead to the downfall of a relationship (read more of my experience with Gottman's work here).

Since I'm sarcastic, when Scotty tells me he loves me, I sometimes respond with, "Good, because it would cost too much money for us to get divorced."

(This is a mild example. I promise, I'm capable of much more!)

Even though sarcasm may be a problem in marriage, I give myself a pat on the back because that statement is also a declaration of my commitment to Scotty. You see, there are two types of commitment:

1. Constraint commitment, which keeps couples together out of obligation. For example, a couple may stay together because of social pressure, the high cost of divorce, or for the sake of the children.

2. Personal dedication, which is an intentional desire to stay in a marriage.This type of commitment is an investment in your partner's welfare and links marriage to your personal goals. With this type of commitment, you stay married because... well... you want to.

So, you see, I'm making a statement about our constraint commitment when I say that we have to stay married because divorce is too expensive. Fortunately, that's not the sole reason Scotty and I stay married. We are both very dedicated to our marriage, and we have a strong desire to be together.

Both types of commitment, constraint commitment and personal dedication, are important. "Constraint commitment is helpful for the stability of a relationship, and couples can lean on it to weather the storms that are a part of every marriage. However, personal dedication is essential for fulfillment in marriage" (Duncan and Zasukha, 2012). 

So, while every relationship sometimes relies on constraint commitment during times of difficulty, the ideal commitment involves a sincere desire to be married, and the best way to achieve this is to take conscious actions to nurture your personal dedication to your spouse. There are many ways this can (and should) be done, and I'm quickly going to suggest two:

The first is to make an effort to adapt your behaviors and attitudes for the good of the relationship. Blaine Fowers, a marriage scholar, observed that one of the best ways for a person to have a good marriage is to be a good person (2000).

Efforts in self-change may include learning to resolve differences in healthy ways, working on patience, letting go of unrealistic expectations, making adaptions to the way you spend your time, or, perhaps, being a little less sarcastic.

This action is about what you can do to enhance your commitment. The key term is "self"-change, not "spouse"-change.

Along with that, the second commitment-based action I recommend is to avoid focusing on the flaws of your spouse.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "When we look for the worst in anyone, we will find it" (2003).

It's probably no surprise to you that criticism is another of John Gottman's "four horsemen of the apocalypse." Criticism does terrible things in a marriage and can be a very difficult habit to break (I know from experience. Sometimes I worry that my tombstone will read: "Here lies Brittany, who never passed an opportunity to point out what someone else was doing wrong").

Gottman and his associates determined in a nine-year longitudinal study that positive emotions are a predictor of marital stability. They encourage a five to one ratio of positive to negative interactions (Gottman, Coan, Carrere, and Swanson, 1998).

It's imperative to our marital commitments that we continually acknowledge the good qualities in our spouses. For some, it comes naturally, but for others, such as myself, there's some self-change required.

We're all imperfect, and we marry imperfect people. There are times when our imperfect marriages will survive simply because of constraint commitment, but we can all do things to tip the scales in favor of personal dedication to marriage. A great place to start is by seeking out what you might change in yourself, then amplify that process by seeking for the good in your spouse.


This post was inspired by "Foundational Processes for an Enduring, Healthy Marriage ," by Stephen F. Duncan and Sara S. McCarthy Zasukha published in Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives, 2012. This piece of writing is part of my Family Proclamation project for FAML 100 at Brigham Young University Idaho.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Disneyland Part XI*

Two nights in Vegas.

Six nights in Anaheim.

Five days in Disneyland.

Go big or go home!

(We did go home, eventually).

After Eva was born, and all seemed to be healthy, Scotty and I booked a trip to Disneyland along with Scotty's mom and step-dad, and Scotty's step-brother and his family (Scotty's step-brother is married to my childhood best friend, Michelle, so it turns out, you really can grow up and marry brothers!)

{Me & Michelle sporting our best Haunted Mansion faces}

{Me & Michelle on Splash Mountain}

We didn't tell the kids that we were going to Disneyland. We secretly loaded up the van, picked up Nicky from school, and told the kids we were going to Las Vegas. We went to Las Vegas for a couple of nights and pretended we were driving home. We were so excited to see how long it would take Nicky to realize that we were going the wrong direction.

{Daisy sight-seeing in Las Vegas}

We were surprised when we passed through the agriculture checkpoint with the giant CALIFORNIA displayed over the top without Nicky noticing. After that, we didn't think it would be long. When we were about twenty minutes from Disneyland, Nicky said, "Wait a minute... why are there palm trees here?" We thought This is it! and we waited for him to realize we were going to Disneyland, but he didn't get it. Then we passed a sign that said Disneyland Parking, and we thought Here we go! but Nicky still didn't notice. Then we pulled up next to a Disneyland Cast Shuttle, and Nicky said, "Hey, that bus says Disneyland!" then he went right back to drawing a face on his belly button.


Finally, we drove right past Disneyland, and none of the kids noticed.

At the stoplight after Disneyland, we told the kids to look back and see what was there. They said, "Oh, look! Tower of Terror," like it was a perfectly normal thing to see. Then we had to slowly guide them to the discovery that we were right by Disneyland and that we didn't actually drive home from Las Vegas.

We wanted one of those videos where the kids are all excited because they just found out they're going to Disneyland, but our video is more like, "What do you mean we're going to Disneyland? Are we going inside? Why are we going to Disneyland? So you lied to us?" Our kids were a little slow in processing.

On the day we arrived in Anaheim, it was 107 degrees. Luckily, it wasn't that hot the rest of the time we were there, but it was still miserably hot. Enough so that our laundry pile accumulated a stench we didn't know we were capable of creating! The heat made us slow and sluggish, but we endured and still had a blast (though I will avoid the heat in any future Disneyland trips).

Zoe was a bit of a struggle on this trip (as she was on our last trip to Disneyland). No road trip is complete without Zoe throwing up in the van. She delivered, as expected, and since we're practically professionals at van vomit, we tackled the car seat with grace with a hose on the side of a Pilot station. Our first day in Disneyland, Zoe had meltdown after meltdown. She mellowed out a bit for the remainder of the trip, but only in comparison to the first day. She was still quite difficult. Zoe had fun, but she needed a lot of special attention. She spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of time rolling around on the ground.

{Zoe having one of her "moments"}

Eva was a champ! She was very good in the car and while being toted all around Disneyland. She loved taking in the scenery. She was uncomfortable in the heat, but she was very patient and only fussed when she was at the very end of her rope.

{Eva and Minnie}

Nicky and Daisy are Disneyland professionals. Nicky is now old enough to go on rides without an adult (according to Disneyland rules), and he loved the independence. We let him and his cousins go on a few rides without us (while we hid and watched from afar), and any time we had an odd number of riders, Nicky would ask to go by himself.

Daisy got to go on Indiana Jones and California Screamin for the first time. She wasn't a fan of Indiana Jones, but she LOVED Screamin and wanted to go on it over and over. I love that my daughter is a rollercoaster girl!

We had a lot of fun, and we are already itching to go back (in 65 degree weather, of course!)

*Not sure if this number is accurate, but our accumulated family Disneyland trips fall somewhere near 11.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Family Work

"Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of... work."

A few weekends ago, we were using our Saturday morning to get caught up on household work. We had mounds of laundry to fold, and I couldn't get my son, Nicky, to stop talking my ear off, so I threw a pile of hangers at him and told him to hang up shirts while he rambled. Pretty soon the entire family was in the room with me working on laundry (some contributing more than others).

This is a common scene in our house. Rather than assigning each of the kids specific chores, we tend to work together.

A few semesters ago, I read a presentation for school titled "The Power of the Home Economy," by Kathleen Slaugh Barh, in which she discussed the value of family work. I feel that, in some ways, the presentation set me free.

Let me explain.

You know how you see all sorts of fancy chore charts and programs all over the Internet? There are methods for earning screen time or money. There are rotating schedules of who does what on which day. There are fridge magnets, stickers, clothespins, popsicle sticks, and dry erase stuffs of all varieties! It all makes you feel like you need to have perfectly structured chores, and there has to be some sort of cuteness involved or you have completely failed at life, and your kids will surely grow up to be useless.


I've tried numerous chore systems during my years of experimental parenting. There have been charts, magnets, stickers, and all sorts of do-this-to-earn-that sorts of things, and every one of them has failed.

In my textbook for my Proclamation class at BYU-I, there is a chapter titled, "The Meanings and Blessings of Family Work,"and one of the authors happens to be Katherine Slaugh Bahr. This chapter addressed the faulty chore chart phenomenon:

We interviewed parents of adult children about how they had coordinated family work when their children were growing up. Most spoke of trying several ways to structure and reward chores. Typically, each system broke down after a few weeks or months, prompting parents to reorganize according to a new plan that promised better results. As time passed, the new plan would yield yet another failure. Not even the most competent and organized of families found a way for family work to remain consistently structured, convenient, and conflict-free.

What I didn't realize was that, in my family work, there was something great going on that didn't require any amount of cuteness. It didn't involve lists, magnets, rewards, or stickers. Though we rarely followed through with chore systems, our alternative was (and still is) tackling housework together.

Before I studied Bahr's articles, I abided by the idea that my children are supposed to be assigned chores, then set free to do those chores and report back when they are done. Barh stated:

A frequent temptation in our busy lives today is to do the necessary family work by ourselves.  We have learned that it is usually more efficient to work alone.  Also, experts have advised us that children must learn to work independently... A related temptation is to make each child responsible only for his own mess, to put away his own toys, to clean his own room, to do his own laundry, and then to consider this enough family work to require of a child (1999)

She goes on to suggest that we short-change ourselves when we take these approaches because there is value in doing work for and with each other. "...Family work places us in situations that require reliance on divine attributes we do not yet have - love, mercy, patience, submissiveness, and a willingness to sacrifice for others. Also, family work does not fit neatly into many accepted notions about motivating and managing people" (Bahr 2012).

One thing I have often felt guilty about is that I sometimes need my children to help clean up messes that they didn't make. Some of my children are messier than others. Whenever there is a two-year-old in the family, there is constant havoc in all corners of the house, and let's be honest - the two-year-old never does her share of the chores. I've always struggled to figure out what is fair to ask of my children. Because I need the help, I have often asked my children to assist in cleaning even when they weren't involved in the creation of the disorder. They often cry that it's soooo unfair, and I usually respond with something along the lines of, "We all help each other. We all contribute when we clean up messes, even if we didn't make them," but in the back of my mind, I'm wondering, "Is this okay? Am I being unfair?"

This information put me at peace about having my children clean up messes they didn't make:

Canadian scholars Joan Grusec and Lorenzo Cohen, along with Australian Jacqueline Goodnow, compared children who did "self-care tasks" such as cleaning up their own rooms or doing their own laundry, with children who participated in "family-care tasks" such as setting the table or cleaning up a space that is shared with others.   They found that it is the work one does "for others" that leads to the development of concern for others, while "work that focuses on what is one’s ‘own,’" does not (Bahr 1999).

Additionally, in an international study of helpfulness among six cultures, children from the United States who were primarily responsible for cleaning their own rooms were determined to be the least helpful (Bahr 1999).

I find this fascinating as it reassures me that it is okay to ask my children to help clean up messes they didn't make. They are learning about service and contribution in doing so.

Our lack of successful chore charts is no longer a source of guilt for me. Instead of checking off "Bathrooms" on Tuesday or "Mop Floors" on Saturday, we usually work as a family accomplishing whatever needs to be done (it turns out, the bathroom isn't always dirty on Tuesday anyway).

One of our favorite ways to do work as a family is by taking turns choosing a song to listen to and trying to clean an entire room together before the song ends (the kitchen usually takes three or more songs). With everyone working to speed clean, there is very little time for nagging or bickering, and we often get the entire house clean using this method.

Here are a few reasons to do household work as a family:

  1. Family work binds us together. When we do work as a family, we learn about sacrifice. We learn to do things for one another without expecting something in return.
  2. Working together dissolves the feelings of hierarchy. When parents work side by side with their children, they create a feeling of equality. 
  3. Most household chores only require a minimum amount of concentration, leaving family members free to have conversations, sing, or tell stories together. 
  4. Being in the same room together gives parents the opportunity to give the children guidance as they clean rather than doing a critical inspection later (for example, if I'm in the bathroom with my son as he is cleaning the toilet, I can say, "Oh, look! You missed a spot!" and he can take care of it right then as opposed to him cleaning the bathroom unsupervised and having me come in later to see that he did a terrible job). Think of it as Quality Control: Special Bonding Edition. You just need to make sure you are cleaning with the child rather than watching the child clean.
Bahr stated:

On a daily basis, the tasks we do to stay alive provide us with endless opportunities to recognize and fill the needs of others.  Family work is a call to enact love, and it is a call that is universal.  Throughout history, in every culture, whether in poverty or prosperity, there has been the ever-present need to shelter, clothe, feed, and care for each other (1999).

Imagine the doors that open in the relationship with your children when you work together! It's still important for children to learn to be responsible for their own space and possessions, but when you work together as a family, you increase your bonds, and the work becomes more meaningful. As an added bonus there are no charts required!


This post was inspired by "The Meanings and Blessings of Family Work," by Kathleen Slaugh Bahr, Kristine Manwaring, Cheri Loveless, and Erika Bailey Bahr published in Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives, 2012. This piece of writing is part of my Family Proclamation project for FAML 100 at Brigham Young University Idaho.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Wherein School Infiltrates

I've always struggled with what role my blog should take in my personal life. I never know when it's appropriate to mention to someone that I have a blog. It certainly doesn't come up in my general introduction, "Hi, I'm Brittany. I have a blog!" but at the same time, I feel that if a friendship goes on for too long without mentioning my blog, I'm "keeping secrets."

Truth is, even thought my blog is a quiet, little place in a lost corner of the Internet, it still plays a big role in my life. I started blogging in September of 2005 (my original blog was called "Weekday Wisdom," as some of you remember).

Nine years!

Most of my adult life is chronicled on a blog somewhere. It's my history ranging from a time when I was working full-time and struggling with infertility through the birth of four children. That's a pretty big deal!

All of these thoughts are leading up to a minor announcement. Emphasis on minor thought it has to do with my major (a little college humor there for ya). I've decided to utilize my blog in a project for school. I am, in short, inviting my classmates and my instructor into this part of my life (gasp!)

I'm currently taking a class on The Family: A Proclamation to the World. This document was issued by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in September of 1995. It reviews the doctrines and teachings on family that have remained consistent through the Church's history. It's essentially an overview of what the prophets have taught regarding family.

Over the course of this semester, I'll be doing 12 posts on family subjects that are of interest to me based on this class. I know that not everyone who reads my blog agrees with the teachings of my Church, but I hope you'll find something in those posts that's meaningful to you.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Banished in the Dark

It's early in the morning on a Saturday. With good intentions, I got out of bed just before 6:00 so I could go for a run. I got dressed and headed out the door despite the rain.

The rain never looks bad from my living room window. I thought I'd be dealing with something only slightly heavier than a "sprinkle," but by the time I hit the first street corner, I was pretty wet. No big deal, though. Being wet from rainwater is only a mild step up from being drenched in my own sweat.

Before I hit my first mile, the rain got a little heavier. I started worrying about Scotty's phone getting wet, so I decided to turn around and head back home. I was half disappointed and half relieved. I felt like my workout wasn't good enough, but at the same time, running and I are not on the best of terms right now.

When I got home, I had a few problems. I was wet, it was dark, and my family was still asleep.

I had to creep into my house silently and sit on the living room floor in the dark (as not to get the furniture wet).

I'm still here in my wet clothes on the living room floor in the dark.

I feel banished!

But this is a good time to get a quick blog post under my belt.

It's been a while!

(Sorry, Marsha. I know I promised you the other day that I would "get right on it," but this week got a little crazy).

Here are a few updates on life:


Last week we were in Disneyland. It was really fun but really hot.  I won't say a lot here because I hope to write a post about it sometime soon, but know that it happened.

I went to Disneyland.



I learned a valuable lesson this week: I'm a terrible housekeeper, but I'm a good homemaker.

I look at "homemaking" as providing a safe and nurturing place for my family. Whether I make my own bread, grow my own herbs, or sew my own curtains does not factor into my personal definition of a "homemaker." My stain removal techniques, the shine of my bathroom fixtures, and the wreath on my front do not matter.

I have a messy house but a good home.


I admit, I enjoy facebook. You know how we're supposed to pretend we don't like facebook? And we're supposed to go around being like, "Oh, I only get on facebook to bla bla bla..." so it doesn't look like any of us actually like it?

(It amazes me how many people throw out disclaimers when they mention facebook. "I had to get on facebook because someone sent me a message, and I only looked at the first three posts, but I bla bla bla...")

Well, like I said, I admit that I enjoy facebook. I also admit that I simultaneously hate facebook, which is why, I think, so many people throw out those disclaimers - they love/hate facebook, too.

I'm currently undergoing a 75% facebook fast. That means I have disclaimers: I only get on facebook to bla bla bla.

Calm Moments

This week I've been really stressed out. I need to get a grip on things because I don't really have that much to be stressed about. It's just a struggle trying to manage my time when I don't actually have control of my time, and that is making me a basket case. Between Zoe's tantrums and Eva's eating schedule (plus the unpredictable nature of my children's naps and diapering needs) I can't plan anything. I have to fly by the seat of my pants always.

It goes kind of like this, "CALM MOMENT! HURRY BEFORE IT ENDS!"

And then I have to decide what I'm going to do with that calm moment. Do I load the dishwasher? Do I exercise? Do I work on homework?

And while I'm trying to figure out my priorities, there's this feeling of impending doom. How long will this moment last? Is it worth starting a project I might never finish? If I choose to do the dishes, will I ever have a calm moment to do my assignment?

It's insane!


I mentioned Zoe's tantrums. All of my kids have been mighty tantrum throwers, so it's nothing new, but I kind of wonder if Zoe's might be worse. I'm not sure if they are or if I'm just more worn out from Zoe because she's my third tantrum thrower, and it's getting old.

Regardless, Zoe rarely makes it five minutes into her day without a tantrum, and she has several meltdowns throughout the day. I dread going anywhere because there will be a tantrum over shoes, a tantrum over the car seat, and a dozen more tantrums based on where we are going and what Zoe wants.

The other day, I mentioned to my friend that we were on Zoe's 22nd tantrum of the day. I wasn't really keeping score. It's not like I have an app on my phone where I log Zoe's tantrums so I can pull it out in front of my friends and be like, "Oh, look! We're on 16!" but my friend accused me of exaggerating. I thought, "Well, maybe we're not on 22, but we've had a lot of tantrums today!"

So the next day, just for the heck of it, I started keeping track of Zoe's tantrums. We had to leave the house at 8:45 that morning, so I only kept track of her tantrums leading up to that point.

She had eight!

Eight tantrums before 8:45 in the morning! She woke up just before 7:00 that day, so this was about a two-hour time span.

(I counted any time Zoe started yelling, screaming, kicking, or rolling on the floor).

It kind of scared me to put a number to it, and it also made me realize that I was shorting myself when I claimed she was on Tantrum 22 the other day. She was probably on Tantrum 32.

Well, the time has come to end this rambling. There's a hint of daylight peeking through the blinds. Everyone is still asleep but Nicky. I'm still soaked with rain, so I'm going to sneak into the shower and hope that Zoe sleeps through it. I'm not quite ready to start my tantrum counter today.