Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Agency: We're given it, why not give it to our children?

Thoughts seem to come to me at the strangest times! I was in the middle of an crazy work out when I had this deep thought come to me as clear as day, it went something like this:

I CHOSE to be here doing this work out. I'm sweating, tired, my muscles are sore, and I'm even sick, but here I am. I made the choice to do this. Then I started thinking about how awful it would be if I were forced to go to the gym every day. How if I was forced to be there I wouldn't enjoy it, I wouldn't work as hard, and I wouldn't reap the success I feel after getting the courage to get myself and two kids there. 

This would have been Satan's plan for us here on earth. He may not have forced us to go to the gym every day (thank goodness haha) but he would've taken away our ability to choose anything for ourselves. Can you imagine never getting the opportunity to make a good decision? What if we HAD to believe our church was true or that God even existed? Would we actually ever gain a testimony if we were forced to believe it's true? After 25 years of bad and good decisions, I can say that I have felt a variety of emotions and learned more than I ever could have if I was forced to be a certain way. I am so grateful for my SAVIOR. I have chosen to believe in Him and place my trust in Him because He gave me that ability.  His plan saved us all, and he continues to save us in so many ways. He wanted us to learn. He wanted us to feel. He wanted us to CHOOSE him and our Heavenly Father. Choice and agency are a gift and I hope to use them in the right ways.

How strange is it then that there are times that I expect our two littles to obey my every command? Why should I deprive them of the choices and agency that were divinely given to them at birth? Our 3-year-old has a seriously hard time being forced to do something (as I'm sure a lot of three-year-olds do). For example:

Porter and Millie get into a lot of disagreements which usually leads to someone's outburst. Sometimes it's Porter yelling at Millie and sometimes it's Millie hitting Porter. One instance I'm thinking of is when when they were fighting over a certain favorite chair in our living room. Neither of them can really communicate how they feel very well so when Millie took Porter's spot, I had a feeling he'd get really upset. Next thing I know, he swung his arm right into Millie's arm to express his anger. He KNOWS this is wrong. We've had many conversations and time-outs about this. So what am I to do? I decided to sit back and see what he CHOSE to do without me forcing him to do anything. After he hit her, he looked at me, looked at Millie (who was partly crying), looked back at me, and then back at Millie. At this point I usually put him in time-out or would say in a loud tone "PORTER! DO NOT HIT! Now say sorry and give Millie a hug!" So I think Porter was waiting for my reaction. When I didn't provide an action for him to do, he had to choose for himself. Next thing I know, he's rubbing Millie on her back and saying, "Sorry Millie, Love you Millie." He even kissed her boo-boo and gave her a hug.

Is this real life? Yep, my child can make good decisions if I relinquish my control and allow them to. It requires patience, as I'm sure our Heavenly Father has to use quite a bit for our mistakes, but we can do it too. Our children deserve the chance to make good decisions (and maybe some bad ones) so that they can know for themselves WHY they choose that way. It will carry on with them as they get older. They will be better successful adults, knowing good decisions from bad.

We're not always going to be there to tell them what to choose, so we need to teach them now how to CHOOSE good decisions (even when we're not there).

The most important thing to remember. Our Savior is there to meet them half-way. Our Savior makes up for our short-comings. Not only does he allow us to choose, he also allows us to use the power of the atonement when we know we chose wrong. He loves us and he loves each of our little babes. Shouldn't we choose to be like our Savior and allow our children to make more decisions on their own as we teach them right from wrong? I know so. We need to remember that we're the parents and we set rules and boundaries (and appropriate consequences) but while we do those things, we can allow our beautiful children reach their greater potential.

Hopefully this holds you over until the next work-out epiphany!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Quality Family Time

I remember when I first heard of quality time. It was while reading "The Five Love Languages," by Gary Chapman. It turns out that one of my largest 'love languages' was quality time. What? Like really? Couldn't I have something a little more simple like 'giving gifts' or 'physical touch?? My sweet husband, always trying to give me that quality time I want/need when all he needs is a big hug or a quick smooch!

After reading a little more about quality time, I have come to realize how important it is in all aspects of our lives. Not only do I need quality time with my husband to feel his love but our children really need that quality time with their parents to develop a happy, stable life.

Think of a time when you, as a child, felt most loved by your parent.

What were you doing? Where were you at? Why do you remember it so well?

After I first asked myself that question, my thoughts turn to car rides with my mom. My mom is the best talker, literally, she can make a conversation with the most random person you can find. When we're in the car together, there's no reins! She talks and talks, and I love it! My first semester of college my mom drove with me from California to Idaho. I think we learned more about each other in those 16 hours than we had in a couple years prior to that.

I wouldn't trade those 16 hours for anything.

Our children need us to spend time with them. Not just by taking them to a movie or just getting an ice cream cone through the drive through. Sit down with your kids. Even though you may be busy, give them your time. Those hours and eventually years spent on quality time will be more than worth it when you see how much closer it brings you together.

Not only do we need quality time between a parent and a child but we also need it as a whole family. Big family vacations may be out of the question because they're out of your budget but why not make a family 'vacation' out of going to a nearby location with fun activities?
Spend time outside. Nature is a proven stress-reducer. "Stress-reducing contact with nature can influence mental and social well being." (Pg. 228)

• Go on a hike
• Camp
• Go for a walk/bike ride
• Have a picnic

Some memories I have spending quality time with my family is playing games. We are quite the competitive family and we really enjoy laughing and learning. I learned to love my siblings for who they are by playing those games. I know that playing games is going to be something I want to do with my family all the time.

As we spend time together with our family, we provide our children with an escape from the world. The world is rough today. Our children are faced with problems that we've never had to experience. Understand that your family, your home, is your child's escape. Our quality time with them has the ability to calm each other down and lift each other up. I know that's something that I want my family to share.

Source: Successful Marriages and Families (Chapter 22)

More Importantly: Fathers

Moms across the world are trying so hard to be the best parent for their child. We learn a new method, apply it, and then try something else. I know that I am constantly learning and I am always trying out new things in my family. It's a good thing to do that! But what's funny, fathers may have a stronger impact on our children than we do.

My mom had a strong impact on me. I have so many memories of her being at home with our family. Those are memories that I am so grateful for. What's interesting is that I probably have close to the same amount of memories of my father, who was working full-time and who left for several long business trips in my young life. This is just one realization for me that my dad has had a huge impact on who I am today.

"A father's leadership of the family is [his] most important unit in time and in eternity and, as such, transcends every other interest in life"  
- Howard W. Hunter

That's right, our husband's first priority is to his family. Well, wonderful mommies, we all know we're looking at this quote and thinking that we wish our husband's were the ones reading it right now. Here are some things you can tell him later:

• Preside spiritually and mentally. Presiding will bring great blessings to our family.

"Father's who embrace the principle that fathering means to preside...in love and righteousness have an anchoring principle and a spiritual focus for their fathering efforts designed to bless the children and families they love."
(Pg. 142)

• We're in this together, always.

"The quality of a father's relationship with a child's mother is perhaps the "secret ingredient" that makes the fathering recipe work best for most men and their children." (Pg. 143)

Be present in each of our family members lives. It matters more to us than you know.

"While a parent does not need to be constantly present to care for children, a parent's presence is a fundamental requirement if he is to meet children's needs and build a lasting parent-child bond." (Pg. 144) We all desperately need that sense of companionship from our parents, "a fundamental principle of fathering that meets this need is to be present in a child's life and consciousness, to be available and aware of a child's needs such that he or she develops in an atmosphere of security and love."

• Try to provide for us, and always protect us.

"To provide in fathering is to assume the stewardship of meeting children's needs and offering opportunities for their development, as well as dedicating one's time, energy, and resources for the benefit of the next generation." (Pg. 145) Protect us physically, emotionally, spiritually. Together, let's protect our children by helping them become independent and ready them for the world that they have ahead.


We are our husband's biggest support! I hope that these are things that every father and husband would want to hear. Communication is essential between a husband and wife, especially the communication about our roles and influences that we have on our families. Together, as husband and wife, we can make our families stronger than we ever knew. We just need each other to do it.

Source: Successful Marriages and Families (Chapter 13)

The Debate of the Century: Same-Sex Marriage

Yes, the debate of the century. It's not something that I like to talk about too much because it can really hurt my relationships with friends and even some family. This debate could be talked about between two people for years. The thing is, they will likely never come to an agreement. I've found that within this debate, respect comes first. Before I find out anyone's opinion, I tell myself that I will respect their opinions not matter what. I respect other's opinions because I expect respect from them in return.

You know what debate I am talking about, yes, same-sex marriage. Let me just start off by saying that I believe in a natural marriage.  I'm LDS and it is known that we believe in a marriage solely between a man and a woman. To those opposers, have you ever asked yourselves why we think that way? Never mind the fact that you "know you're right." Just for a few minutes, listen to my perspective and take it with a grain of salt -- respecting that I feel the way I do.

Let's go back to the year 2000. The Netherlands legalized same-sex marriage before anyone else -- before then, "same-sex unions had never been given the legal status of marriage in any legal system in world history." (Hawkins et. al, 2012) That fact was interesting to me! I had no idea that the Netherlands started it all. Fast forward to today and we all know what's happening in California and all over the USA.

I don't know what happened from the 90's to the 2000's but I feel that there was some kind of switch. Maybe a generation got older and found that they could argue a little better. Maybe our world is just becoming open to the subject of sex being discussed in our judicial system. Who knows? Whatever made this occur changed the way our world is working. Some people think that it's for the better but for me, it's hurting our world more than anything.

For people to really understand my opinion, they have to go back to my belief in God. If you don't believe in God, then there's no way that you will ever understand my opinion. I could give you facts about children needing a mother and a father. I could give you statistics about why a natural marriage is better for our world but honestly, my opinion starts and ends with God.

The leaders of the LDS church composed a proclamation in 1995 stating what they believe in that defines a family. Call it perfect timing or whatever you want but this event occurred right before our world took this drastic change, defining marriage as something no one else ever has.

This proclamation states things to the point. There is no confusion as to what this proclamation is saying, giving very direct thoughts about the definition of a family. The very first line is, 

"We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children." 

The first line is literally stating what we believe in, marriage between a man and a woman.

I encourage everyone to read the rest of this proclamation. It's a fast read and really shows why we believe a marriage to be between a man and a woman. The proclamation was created by the leaders of this church who receive modern day revelation. This means, to me, that God created this proclamation. There is no doubt in my mind of that.

I will not judge people for the things they do. I can promise that. People are given their agency from God for a reason and they deserve to choose their path in life. I will, however, fight to make sure that marriage is between a man and a woman. Whether or not our country's legislature believes in this, I will always believe this in my heart.

Sources: Successful Marriages and Families (Chapter 26)

              The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Our Divine Role as Women

One year ago, my life was forever changed. After a good nine months of getting bigger and bigger, being completely hormonal, and peeing every five minutes, I gave birth to our 7 lb 15 oz baby boy. Holding him for the first time was surreal. One second I had a baby in my tummy and the next second his was in my arms, ready for the world. It's hard to describe something so perfectly crazy. I looked over at my husband and noticed he had tears in his eyes. He, too, was amazed by this experience. Together we brought a child into this world -- a thought can strengthen a couple to it's core. The fact of the matter is,

No one can truly comprehend the emotions we feel as women, as mothers. 

 To be a mother is something that we all want and something that we all need. In whatever way possible we will strive to bring a child into this world, give him a home, and love him unconditionally. Have you ever wondered why? Why do we feel this need to be a mother?

We were born to be mothers. Our gender has so much to do with our spirits. Men and women each have divine roles that are in us. The proclamation states, "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." 

Let's break that up. Our gender is a characteristic that we have always had. The minute our spirits existed, our gender has been carried with us. With that certain gender characteristic, we received our identity and purpose. As women, it is our purpose to be mothers.

Way too often in this world being a mother is looked down upon. It's almost as if people today think that once women have children their lives will never be as fun, fulfilling, and rewarding as they could've been without children. I've got news for them, they're certainly wrong.

Never have I felt more fulfilled than when my son first got on his two feet and took his first steps. When my son first smiled at me and my husband, there was joy beyond comprehension. Those moments when my son reaches his arms up to me, knowing that I will comfort him, I feel those rewards coming on. Yes, motherhood brings blessings in different ways, but those blessings are some of the greatest blessings you will ever receive.

One of my favorite quotes about motherhood, "The child is literally flesh of her flesh, and the natural affection that exists between a creator and his creation exists in its strongest earthly form between a mother and child." (A Parent's Guide) Whether or not we give birth to our children, adopt, them, or anything of the sort, we are mothers. The love that our Heavenly Father has for us exists in it's "strongest earthly form" between a mother and her child.

Mothers have the capability to feel for a moment as our Heavenly Father feels about us. His love and devotion for us is somewhat incomprehensible until we look at a mother's love. Looking at a mother's love for her children is the closest that we will get to understanding how much our Father in Heaven loves us.

Being a mother is a special gift. It's part of being a woman. No one else can feel love as a mother can with her children and that's something that we've all come to accept. I encourage mothers out there to keep going. It's our divine role to love and nurture these sweet spirits, don't let the world bring you down. May your joy, fulfillment, and rewards be stronger than ever in this world of stress and turmoil. You're a mother, a powerful one at that.

Source: A Parent's Guide -- Chapter 1

Divorce: The truth is, it happens, a lot.

Divorce is not my favorite subject but I think it needs to be something that I learn about a little more, considering that the statistics show that almost half of all marriages will end in divorce. That's a true fact right there. My book "Successful Marriages and Families," says that the divorce rate today is about 40-50% of marriages and about 60% of all remarriages.

That number is a little high for my comfort. Getting married is a beautiful thing. It's one of the best decisions that I have ever made but I'll tell you what, that number scares me. I'm sure there have been couples who have said "I will not be a statistic," but then find themselves in the middle of a divorce. No one goes into a marriage thinking it will end in divorce. We just need to be reminded that the truth is, it happens, a lot.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I thought well hey, we have got to have a better divorce statistic in our church, but ladies and gents, it's not too much better. The book mentioned above also states, "25 to 30 percent of Latter-Day Saint couples who regularly attend church experience a divorce." (Pg. 79)

My first thought about these numbers, "No way!." My second thought, "Well, maybe." I'm certainly not posting about how divorce is wrong. I think that divorce is totally a decision between a couple and God, something that some people just won't understand. I do, however, think that we need to be aware of this number and strive to work on our marriages a little harder.

Going into my marriage, I know that this statistic has made me want to try a little harder to safeguard my marriage. We hear about ways to improve our marriage (Oh, those Pinterest ideas) and we hear advice from our parents, friends, and siblings. But my question for you is,

What are you doing to safeguard your marriage from this statistic?

Really though. Is it on your list of priorities? What are you doing to safeguard it? Write it down. Look at your marriage and find things that you are doing right now to strengthen it. I guarantee there are some things that you're doing to help your marriage without even thinking about it.

Now take those things, and magnify them. If you wrote down that you compliment your husband, then compliment him as much as you can! Put in the effort. If you wrote down that you communicate well, then I challenge you to communicate BETTER. You can do it, you really can.

I challenge you to find ways to work on your marriage. I could go over a million different ways that we can improve, strengthen, enlighten, and so much more for our marriages. I'm hoping that my ideas expressed will not only make someone aware but also help them learn to bring light into their marriage.

One thought for you wonderful, married people, you're not alone in your struggles. In many ways, people are going through the same things you are. Your marriage is important to you, your children, and especially your spouse. If divorce is a thought right now, I pray that you consider this with lots of personal prayer and counsel with your spouse -- God will direct your path.

Source: Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives
             (Chapter 8) 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's Unconditional

Let me ask you this, when was the last time your child made a huge "boo-boo," a big "uh-oh," or just a disappointing mistake? Go back to that moment when you found out, how did you react? In that moment did you think, "I'll still love you no matter what", or did you thoughts go towards, "I just can't take it!"

It's guaranteed, our children will make mistakes. LOTS of them. My poor parents, I made some mistakes growing up, but they somehow instilled in me this feeling that no matter what I did, they would always be there for me to help me and LOVE me. Their love was unconditional. 

Knowing that we all make mistakes as children, would it have been better for our parents to have us scared of making mistakes because of the terrifying SPANK or would it have been better knowing that after we make the mistakes, we could fix it, be forgiven but mostly, we could still be loved?

In "Successful Marriages and Families" it says, "children are less aggressive and more sociable and empathetic if they have parents (particularly fathers) who are more loving, patient, playful, responsive, and sympathetic to children's feelings and needs." They really just need us there, despite whatever circumstance, to love them no matter what.

Children go through so many changes in the beginning of their little lives. My son is going from crawling to walking. What a terrifying thing, standing on two feet! He's confused about what toys he can play with and what "toys" are mommy and daddy's. He falls, rips, poops, screams, cries, laughs, and smiles all within one day. They're confused! They're trying to make sense of this huge world, and mistakes are something that come with learning. What would learning be if it weren't for mistakes?

By the way, here's the little man, just turned 11 months!

Children should come with a big stamp on their tiny bums that says, "I will make mistakes, but you will love me anyways," just to forewarn us new moms about the adventure we're in.

My children will make mistakes, no matter how perfect I try to be, they will. It's inevitable. I want them more than anything to know that I will ALWAYS love them despite of the the problems that they're going to face. When they come home from school and say they cheated, I will set limits, cheating is definitely not appropriate, and then appropriate consequences will take place. Mostly though, I'm going to commend them on their honesty to me and talk about how proud I am of them for having the courage to tell the truth. Their mom is proud of them ALWAYS -- even though we may not be proud of the behavior. Big difference.

Understanding/Respecting Children's Emotions

Our children need us to understand and respect the feelings they're going through. If our child comes home sad that their day at school was so bad. It's our job to think about how much it stinks if we have a bad day at work. A bad work day sucks! For our children, their school days are equivalent to our work days.

Getting into a child's point of view is the best way to respect their feelings and really understand them. It may take some work but DO IT. You will be able to relate to your child in ways that you never thought we possible. Their feelings are valid, we just need to let them know that.

When I was a kid, I was scared of silly things. I look bad now and I know that vampires, aliens, monsters, you name it, were silly things to be scared of. Although, if I look back to how I felt as a child, I was terrified of these VERY REAL things. My imagination was on the loose and I was scared. My parents were great at trying to respect my views with the usual response was, "They're not real, sweetie." Instead of that, every now and then it would've been nice to hear, "I know aliens can seem scary, but I promise you're safe here," just so I wouldn't have thought I was crazy to be scared of those things.

Our children need us to respect their feelings and especially show them that it's okay to feel a certain way. They are always watching us and our emotions are going to show them what's okay to feel and how to handle it. They love us unconditionally and all they ask for is to be loved in the same way, unconditionally.

Just remember that, "a mother's attentive love in this new relationship becomes the foundation by which all of the other tasks of mothering become effective." (Hawkins et. al, 2012) Our love for them is just the beginning of parenting and such a crucial foundation for our children.

Source: Unconditional Parenting -- Alfie Kohn

              Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives
              (Chapter 11)