Monday, November 28, 2016

"But Mommy, Why Didn't the Prayer Work?"

To You:

My heart hurt.

One of our close family friends had been battling cancer valiantly. We were keeping in touch long-distance via texts, phone calls, and occasional visits. I was at another friend's house picking up my son when I received a text: a text telling me that the doctors told this family there was nothing more they could do. This dear friend was going on hospice care. I held it together until we got in the car. Then I broke down. Tears streamed as I imagined their three little kids without their Daddy. My heart ached as I thought of my sweet friend a widow at our age. I cried for our friend's physical pain and all that he had done to fight this cancer that was taking over his body. 

Then from the back seat I heard, "Mommy, what's wrong?" I told my son what was happening.  My sweet four-year-old then replied, "But Mommy, why didn't the prayer work?"


My heart broke anew. We had been offering prayers for this family for a long time, as had friends and family across the nation. Why hadn't the prayer worked? Why wasn't this saintly soul (and they are both of them saintly souls) going to be healed?

I answered the best I could. "Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us. Sometimes that plan is not what we hope for, but we need to trust the Lord that it actually is what's best for us. Our friend may still receive a miracle, but he might not. We trust Heavenly Father."

At that moment, that was enough for my little guy. He nodded, looked out the window, and went on with his own thoughts.

But my adult mind kept thinking. I fully believe everything I told my son. I do have faith in the Lord's plan for me and for each of us. I have faith in an afterlife where families are together forever and seeming injustices are made right. However, my mind wandered to the next question that my son hasn't asked yet but that he may ask someday: If the Lord's plan is going to happen anyway, why do we even pray? Why pray if you're not going to get what you ask for?

Why pray for healing if the afflicted may die anyway? Why pray for a loved one gone astray if that loved one has agency and may not change at all? Why pray for a child if we are destined to remain infertile? Why pray for world peace if the Lord doesn't feel right about overpowering millions of people's choices right now to accomplish that peace? Why pray at all?

Why pray if you're not going to get what you ask for?


As I have pondered and studied possible answers to this question over the last few weeks, insights have flooded my mind and feelings have filled my heart teaching me. I am learning that while we do not know everything, and while we need to continue to live by faith, there are some answers that feel right. 

The Command to Pray


Through time, God has commanded His people to pray. And people have heeded that command.  Spend a day with Muslims, Jews, Mormons, or Protestants and you will see them pray. The prayers may look or sound differently, but they are prayers to God. Athletes pray before games, legislators pray before session, and kids pray before meals. God would have a prayerful people, and something in our human hearts loves to pray.


God Gives Commandments Out of Love


Some people see commandments as ways for churches to control their people. Others see commandments as restricting, set about to limit fun and ruin lives. (Sound familiar to any parents of teenagers?) However, a story told recently demonstrates why I believe commandments are given.

A man was surfing at a beach where he was on vacation. Some young surfers around him were complaining about a barrier that didn't allow them to go out to deeper water and bigger waves. As the protests continued, an older man listening nearby finally spoke up. He explained a truth to the disgruntled surfers. "'Don't be too critical of the barrier,' he said. 'It's the only thing that's keeping you from being devoured.'" From their vantage point, the vacationer and young surfers could not see the sharks just beyond the barrier, but someone else's wisdom set the boundaries, protecting and preserving them.


Commandments are given for our own good.

The commandment to pray is not given in order to waste our time or to buff up the ego of a self-centered God. No, the commandment to pray is given for our own good.

Prayers Are Answered


Sometimes prayers are answered exactly as we hope. Isn't that amazing? Sometimes miraculous healings occur, jobs are obtained, or those lost keys are found. Some blessings are conditional upon our asking for them. I cannot count the times I have felt my prayers answered in simple and profound ways. 

Sometimes the answer to prayer is seen immediately. Like when my daughter prayed to find her shoes last night and immediately when exiting the room, thought she should look under the bed. There the shoes sat. How happy she was to see her prayer answered! Often, however, the answer to prayer is seen after the dust has settled and we reflect upon life's happenings or after we have waited longer than we planned.

Sometimes answers to prayer take a form different than we imagined. The Lord always knows better than us. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9). If we pray to get this new job so that we will be able to better provide for our family, the bigger hope is really providing. Perhaps being turned down for this job allows us to interview for the second job (or third or eighth) that will fill our needs better than the first and beyond what we imagined. Garth Brooks sings a similar message: "Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers." 

Thy Will Be Done


I am also beginning to see that there is a miracle of prayer that occurs when our prayers do not seem to be answered at all. The miracle occurs when our chronic illness continues, we fail the big test, we lose our home, or we never receive an answer to our questions. The miracle occurs when the one we've prayed for is going to die of cancer.

The miracle of prayer is much bigger than homes, jobs, or even health. The true miracle of prayer happens in our hearts.

True prayer is fervent communication with an actual being. It feels like we are talking to our closest friend, because we are. We empty our load and seek guidance. Prayer is the perfect, Divine equivalent of counseling. We pour out our hearts in gratitude and pleading. As we pour our hearts out in prayer, it allows the Lord to fill them up. A heart filled by God is a heart at peace.


We will notice the miracle of prayer become even stronger and more evident in our lives when we pray as the Savior did, when we can say with all sincerity, "Thy will be done." The miracle of prayer will increase when we start believing that God really does love us and that He really can help us be happier than we can be on our own.

We do not pray in order to change God's mind. We pray in order to allow God to change our hearts.

"But Son, the Prayer Did Work."


After hearing the devastating news from our friends, we were able to go visit two weeks ago. We wanted to tell them how much we love them and enjoy some time together. We went expecting to uplift and cheer them.  However, what we saw was the miracle of prayer. Our friend's body was wracked with cancer, but their home was filled with love. There was laughter and joy amidst the sorrow. They had witnessed many tender mercies along the way, and now, they were at peace. We left uplifted and inspired.

Our friend passed away peacefully last week, and we were able to attend his memorial. At the end of the services, my friend, now a widow, stood to share her message. Through tears she said, "My husband would want me to tell you that there were miracles and prayers were answered."

If we were to go back and my son asked his question again, I believe I would start my answer with, "But Son, the prayer did work."

There is a power in prayer. I invite each of us, no matter how long it has been or even if we never have before, to open our hearts to the Lord in prayer. He will answer.

Love, Marielle

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

What's Your Word?

To You:

Several years ago, I was sitting in a Sunday School class listening to my father-in-law teach.  He asked us how we wanted to be remembered when we died.  How would we measure our success?  What word did we hope would be used to describe us by those who knew us?


It's not a new question.  On that Sunday afternoon, we went around the class and a few people gave their answers.  I have been in many classes over many years, but I clearly remember this one as my father-in-law gave his answer.  What word did he want to describe him?

Charity.

Charity is more than giving alms or offering service.  It is a way of being.  It is a trait that fills your inside and shows itself in word and action on the outside.  It shows itself in kindness offered to a stranger and quiet acts of goodness.  It shows itself in patience and forgiveness.  It shows itself in humility.

Last year my wonderful father-in-law passed away.  With his passing, members of his community began telling stories.  "Your dad paid for my piano lessons."  "One night I heard a noise in the garage.  I knew I hadn't locked it and wondered if it was an animal or even a burglar.  I went down to the garage and found your dad filling my freezer with fresh fish."  "Your dad did all my dental work for free."  "Your dad donated the land that church was built on."  "Your dad made everyone feel like he was their best friend."  The examples went on and on.  The one word that came up over and over?  Charity.  Dad had chosen his word wisely and then lived it.


He was far less concerned about how much money was in his bank account or what his car looked like than he was about helping someone in need.  He lived humbly, never setting himself up as a standard, although he lived a life worth emulating.  He didn't care what religion you were or weren't, he loved you without guile. 


"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not inself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 

Charity never faileth (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)."

I feel it was a privilege for me to know this great man and see how his daily choices created layer upon layer of goodness.  These seemingly little choices included what he said, and in his case often what he did not say, and how he spent his resources like time and money. 

I am not saying Dad was perfect.  Nobody is.  I am saying that what he lacked was overshadowed by who he was.  He found a way to live so that he would be remembered the way he hoped to be; remembered by the one word...charity.


I know I am far from where I could be.  I still lose patience with my children and am often inconsiderate.  My list of flaws is not short.  However, reflecting on the lives of my father-in-law, other people I admire, and especially Jesus Christ, helps me to see a more clear path for who I want to become.  As I consider who that person is, I continually come back to the same word my father-in-law chose.  There are a lot of admirable qualities, but if I "have not charity, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2)." 

What is your word?  How do you want to be remembered?  Think on that.  Then, live it. 

Love, Marielle

Does seeing examples of charity inspire you?  Who have you learned from? What is your word?  I would love to hear about it all from you.  Please share in the comments.


What a blessing for me to join this incredible family.  I could just have easily written about any one of them  And I just might do that someday!  Thanks for choosing me Babe!

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lovin' Life With Littles

To You:

With the new school year starting up, I am also beginning home preschool with my four-year-old.  I thought it would be fun to share our preschool plans and adventures.  With so much kid-focused content coming up, I decided it would be great to have a new place for all things "kids."  I truly love being a mom and hope I am making the most of the fleeting time of childhood for my kiddos.  You know that cliche' about it going so fast?  Well, that.  It's going so fast!  I hope that my sharing my "mom-thoughts" will help others, either with their own kids or other little ones in their lives.  If you have any interest (or know someone who does) in activities for kids, funny kid stories, preschool lesson plans, baby tips, routines, etc. please come visit, follow, and share my new site.

www.lovinlifewithlittles.com


I'm excited about this new avenue and hope to meet up with you there often!  I will continue posting here about life and my musings.  Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Love,
Marielle

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Who Is My Neighbor?

To You:

The other day I read a short article entitled "True Religion."  The message of the article caught me and left me thinking on it all day.  As part of that profound yet simple message, the author elaborated upon the words of James by saying, "'Pure religion' is more than a declaration of belief; it is a demonstration of belief."  That belief is best demonstrated through the way we treat others, through selfless service.

The author gave three keys for growing in our ability to serve others.

  1. Seek Seek to be like the Savior and serve others.  Opportunities to serve may be inconvenient, but we ought to have the desire to help others.
  2. See Recognize the needs of those around us.
  3. Act We may feel inadequate to meet or alleviate the great needs surrounding us.  However, we need to trust that God can work through us when we choose to act.

The Story

We see this lesson in the quintessential sermon on service: the Parable of the Good Samaritan found in the New Testament in Luke 10:25-37.  In this well-known story, a lawyer asks the Savior what he should do to inherit eternal life.  Christ allows the man to answer his own question with the  injunction to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself."  This is a law that had been taught at least since the beginning of biblical times. (For example see Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.)  Yet, it is a law that just as early as that until today can be difficult to put into practice.  The lawyer seems to recognize that difficulty and tempts Christ by asking, "And who is my neighbor."  Then follows the story.
Picture Credit
A man was robbed and left wounded on a traveler's road to Jericho.  A priest (a "religious" leader) and a Levite (a man of the temple) in turn saw the man but passed by on the other side of the road.  A Samaritan next travels the road.  He saw the man and "had compassion on him."  The Samaritan tended to the man's wounds, cared for him at an inn, and provided for his further comfort.  The Samaritan was of a loathed class and foreign city.  He could have felt that the traveler got what he deserved or that if the tables were turned, that man probably wouldn't help him, a Samaritan.  He could have been too busy or in too much of a hurry to get where he was going.  He could have assumed someone else should or would help out.  Instead, we find a man who sought to serve others, saw a need, and acted.


The Moral

Now for our lesson.  Jesus asked, "Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?  And [the lawyer] said, He that showed mercy on him."  So who is a neighbor?  He who makes himself a neighbor through  merciful compassion.  Mercy is the "kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly."  The dictionary says that compassion is a "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress (see) together with a desire (seek) to alleviate it (act)."  "Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise."  We must live outside ourselves enough and at a pace requisite to see and allow ourselves to feel for others.  Then we must act with mercy.  I find it interesting that one common use of the word "mercy" throughout the Bible is in mention of the Mercy Seat.  This was considered the throne of God; it was God's meeting place with man.  God meets and deals with man with mercy.  We ought to follow the Greatest of All.

The Now

What does it look like today?  How are we neighbors?  It may look like a young lady helping a homeless person, gentleness across political lines, or maybe it's a white police officer being kind to a black woman.  Most likely, it is small and simple acts.  If you were me in the last couple months of pregnancy, worries, delivery, and life, you would have seen many neighbors in action.

What does my neighbor look like?  My neighbor looks like the mom who watches your children, keeps them longer than planned, and always insists that it's nothing.  It is the friend's dad who drives the extra carpool.  It is the one who listens to the excitements and fears of your life with genuine interest, joy, or concern.  It is the neighbor who brings over a warm dinner on a night when the kids are tired.  It's the friend who shares her talents and knowledge in a perfect timing unforeseen by either.  It's the one who slips you gas money before a much anticipated road trip.  It is the neighbor's lawn care team who quickly and quietly mow your lawn while you're picking up the kids from school, twice.  It is the hugs and kisses that kids give best.  Its the one who fasts and prays for another.  It is the little one who offers the heartfelt prayer, "Help Mommy to be healthy when the baby comes."  It is the husband who holds your hand through contractions and seems to know exactly when to encourage, when to compliment, and when to crack a joke.  It is the friend or family member who texts with joy and delight, even when their personal struggle could lead them to think, "Why not me?"  It's the friend who says, "Call me if..." and you know she means it because she's already done it countless times.  It's the call or text or email, "Thinking of you."  It is the angel mother who comes to town and cooks and cleans and entertains, who gives up sleep, habits, hubby, and other worthy duties to bring patience, fun, and constant service, all the while making you feel like it is her joy.  It's the father who works tirelessly so mother can afford to do that.  It's the person who says, "I love you" and means it.






It has been said that we are losing our humanity.  That could be true.  But in my little world, there are more neighbors than not.

I hope all of my neighbors know how grateful I am for them.  I have been humbled and awed.

The Invitation

Thomas S. Monson said, "Each of us, in the journey through mortality, will travel his own Jericho Road.  What will be your experience?  What will be mine?  Will I fail to notice him who has fallen among thieves and requires my help?  Will you?

Will I be one who sees the injured and hears his plea, yet crosses to the other side?  Will you?

Or will I be one who sees, who hears, who pauses, and who helps?  Will you?

Jesus provided our watchword, 'Go, and do thou likewise.'  When we obey that declaration, there opens to our eternal view a vista of joy seldom equaled and never surpassed."

I offer my heartfelt thanks to all who have made themselves my neighbor, and I hope that each of us will feel the joy that comes when we choose to make of ourselves a true neighbor.

Love, Marielle





"Won't you be my neighbor?"


Shared at: Faith Filled Fridays and Thoughtful Thursdays

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Spring Break at Home



To You:

I know many moms are anxious to get the kids back in school after a break.  In fact, one of our beloved Christmas carols has memorialized the phrase "And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again!"  However, I love having the kiddos home!  Perhaps it's the lazy side of me that doesn't want to get up and out the door every morning.  :)  Truly though, I do enjoy getting to plan and spend my days with these youngsters.  I think it's also important to note that a successful break does not have to include travel or expensive outings.  Part of the great joy of these breaks is the opportunity to help the kids enjoy the little things in life.  Here's a small glimpse of the fun that was our Spring Break.

To kick-off our Spring Break at Home, we sat down and made a list of the things we would each like to do.  The list looked something like this...
  • Paint Easter Eggs
  • Go to a museum
  • Go to the big park downtown
  • Doorbell ditch someone with cookies
  • Go to the library
  • Put together 72-Hour Kits
  • Learn how to be nice to each other!!!!!!!
  • Sew something
  • Play outside
  • Do crafts
  • Spring cleaning (with list of Helper Jobs)
  • Have a playdate with friends
  • Go on a hike
  • Have a movie night

Salvaged the list from the recycle bin...apparently someone thought we had already accomplished "Learn how to be nice to each other!!!!!!!"  :)
I had previously checked the local library for events as they are great about scheduling a variety of activities for times when kids are out of school.  We ended up going to a craft event and a Dinosaur Dig.  The dinosaur experience was awesome as we got to meet two paleontologists, see pictures from their dig site, and hold dinosaur bones!  I also checked the local museums and city parks for free-days or low-budget events.

Holding a fossilized dinosaur bone at the library.

After making our list, we got out the calendar and plugged the activities into the different days, taking into account the weather and anything that was previously scheduled.  We aimed for one planned thing each day and left plenty of time for "just playing" as well.  Some fun spontaneous happenings included building a fort and sleeping in it and having Dad make villains and hide them around the yard for Spider Man 1 and 2 to web with silly string!

Something else we love doing during a break is choosing a chapter book to read together and then making an event out of watching the movie adaptation together.  This time we chose Mr. Popper's Penguins.  Other good reads include The Secret Garden, The Indian in the Cupboard, Pippi Longstocking, Stuart Little, Matilda, and Charlotte's Web.  (As a sidenote, if you are wondering if a book or movie is appropriate for your kids, commonsensemedia.org is a great resource!  It does give age suggestions for books and movies, but I appreciate the specifics about language, sex, drugs, positive messages, etc. so we can decide for ourselves if we think it is a good pick.)

For one of our craft activities, I pulled out some old magazines and the kids made a collage.  We hadn't done this for a long time and the kids loved chopping and gluing!  You can choose a theme such as things that remind you of spring or Easter or just let them go.  We made ours around Easter and the kids picked pictures that help remind them to follow Jesus.  It was a simple, fun craft.


A definite highlight was our little hike.  We packed up a lunch and headed to a nearby trail.  What a treat to see a woodpecker and six deer before we'd been walking ten minutes!  Our oldest brought a little notebook to write or draw about what she found interesting.  We investigated different tracks, examined the new spring plants, and at the end of the hike, definitely enjoyed all the mud!  :)  There is so much beauty and intrigue in nature no matter where you live...guarantee the kids will love it more than the iPad!


While there wasn't anything too glamorous in our plans, we had a wonderful time being together and doing a variety of activities.  There were smiles, looks of amazement, laughs, feelings of accomplishment, and a little bit of whining too I'm sure.  :)  These are the times I know will go by way too fast.  I am so grateful to be able to soak them up!!!

I hope you and your little ones get to enjoy lots of time together.  What are some of your favorite ways to spend breaks from school?  What are some of your favorite memories from breaks?

Love, Marielle

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Five E's of Teaching Kids to Work



To You:

This post was in the works when I received an email from a dear cousin who had just returned from a service trip to Guatemala.  He commented in part, "Speaking for our country as a whole, I sometimes wish we could re-focus on the basic necessities of making sure mouths are fed and people clothed and that our kids are learning how to work and what they need to survive, rather than focusing on all the other hoopla."  I found it very interesting that he included in his very short list of basic necessities "that our kids are learning how to work."  It is arguably one of the most necessary and most beneficial traits we can nurture within our children: the ability to work hard.

There is very little that can prepare our children more effectively for real life.  The better they are at working, the more they will be able to delay gratification and aim for those things in life that are often most worthwhile, those things that take time and effort to achieve.  The ability to work hard is a skill.  We can learn it, and we can teach it.  It is easiest to start when the kids are young, but it is also never too late to start.  I am blessed to be surrounded by hard-workers, four of the greatest being my parents and in-laws, who exemplified a good work ethic and taught it to my husband and me.  I have thought about how I was taught, what I have seen in those who are good workers versus those who are not, and what I have learned from my own kids.  I have read and researched.  The result of all of this?  The Five E's of Teaching Kids to Work.

The Five E's of Teaching Kids to Work

Exemplify

My mom told me a short story one day.  She was outside when a neighbor pulled up to the house on her way down the street.  The neighbor complimented my mom on the yard and how beautiful and well-kept it looked.  Then she asked, "Who is your yard boy?"  My mom replied that it was my dad.  "No," the woman shook her head.  "The one who wears shorts and boots, who is that guy?"
"Yes, that's my husband!"

Whether he was wearing his shorts and boots or his paint-splattered, gray jumpsuit, Dad was always happy to work hard in the home or yard after putting in a full day or week at the office.  He also always said how lucky he felt that he enjoyed his job.

I don't think I ever realized growing up how much work my mom did because she never complained. She never played the "pity me" card because she was making breakfast for three shifts of people or because she was staying up late helping with homework and getting up early to get everyone out the door.  It always seemed like the laundry was done and a home-prepared meal was on the table.  She was cheerful about her days.

Then there are my in-laws.  My father-in-law would wake up early and go out to the farm to take care of the cattle before coming home and getting ready for his day at the dental office.  In his 70's, he built an addition onto their home.  My mother-in-law would spend full days in a hot kitchen canning fruit that we would all enjoy for at least the next year.  She scrubbed her floor on her hands and knees.  She spent hours preparing lessons to teach others.

All of these are perfect examples of Thomas Fuller's adage:  "A good example is the best sermon."

We all know the importance of setting a good example and it's no different when we are teaching our children to work.  Not only do our children need to see us do work, they also need to see, hear, and feel what we believe about work.  One small thing we do as a family is to call household tasks helper jobs instead of chores.  One definition of chore is "a difficult or disagreeable task."  Is living in a clean and tidy space really difficult or disagreeable?  Instead, by calling these tasks "helper jobs," I hope to teach my children that working together to maintain a nice life is a necessary and most often pleasant part of life.  We need to look at our own attitudes about work and our willingness to work hard.  We need to make conscious adjustments when necessary so that our children will be safe in doing as we do.

When thinking about the example we are setting, consider some of the following questions.
-Do my children often see me complete different kinds of work such as in the yard, at the home, with my mind, or in the service of others?
-How do I respond when extra or unforeseen work suddenly becomes necessary?
-Do I complain about how much work I need to do?
-Do I show by word and example that working is fulfilling and the means to great good?
-Do I often find joy in my work?
-Do I value work?

We often first notice our own attitudes about things when we see them reflected in our children.  What attitudes about work do you see reflecting in your own kids?

This is a great article about teaching work ethic and includes the importance of our own ideas about work.


Expect

Kids can do more than put their toys away.  Much more.  Expect that kids can do more.

I have seen many households where the expectations of the children's role in the home are very low.  Taking out the garbage is important, but not enough.  If Mom is feeling overworked, what real jobs can the children learn to be viable helpers?  Kids will feel more confident as they realize that their work is actually important in helping the household function.  Kids can do laundry, make lunches, clean floors, and of course put their toys away.  At first, tasks will be done side by side with a parent or older sibling, but before you know it, kids will be able to do jobs and do them well.  Just this week I went downstairs and my four-year-old was pulling laundry out of the washer and putting it in the dryer.  I didn't even know the wash was done yet.  He was beaming when he saw how pleased I was with the surprise, and I was beaming as the proud mother.  ;)  While every child is different, most kids can learn to complete all common household jobs by the time they are eight years old.

This is a simple list of age appropriate tasks for kids to do around the house.  Many families use chore charts like the examples here to make daily or weekly expectations clear.  Our family used a job wheel and turned it each week.  I like the example wheel posted here by Single Dad Brad.  Sometimes we also make a list and let the kids choose their own jobs.

Expect that children will actually complete their assigned tasks.  Although it really is easier and quicker many times, resist the urge to just do the task for them.  By way of simple example, a shower is not complete at our house until the towel is hung and the dirty clothes put away.  The times are countless that I have to remind and encourage some kids to do this.  It would usually be easier to just complete the quick task on my own.  However, by expecting the kids to do it on their own, two of the three no longer need reminding, and I am convinced that the third must be getting there!  :)  Some kids resist helping out, but the none optional expectation can be enforced by such things as no screen time until it's done or missing out on fun activities or playdates that will be happening after the work is complete.  Follow-through and be strong when kids push the boundary.  Most kids will eventually learn that it's easier to just get the job done quickly and move on with other parts of life.  A friend's favorite quote is true for kids learning to work as well as parents patiently teaching them to work:  "That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do–not that the nature of the thing is changed, but that our power to do is increased."

Expect that part of living in a home and family is caring for family needs.  My personal opinion is that kids do not need rewards or allowance on a regular basis for helping around the house.  The reward for household help is the natural consequence of living in a clean and harmonious home.

Expect that kids can help out just because.  Teach kids to see what needs to be done and do it.  Helping around the house does not need to be restricted to listed chores.

Educate

This is where patience comes in.  This is where our work as parents really lies.  Yes, the job takes longer.  Yes, the job is not always done as well as you could have done it.  Yes, sometimes it takes cajoling and creative motivation.  And YES, in the end it does pay off.

I have found that the best education is simply doing the work together.  Start as soon as your toddler can follow you around.  Talk about how the job should be done.  Tell and show what it means to finish the job.  Be patient as children learn.

Through conversation and life experience we can also help our children see the big picture.  What work is needed to get that carrot onto our table?  What kind of work does it take to become an astronaut or professional ballerina?  How much work do children in Africa have to do to survive?  How much work do Daddy and Mommy do?  You cleaning the toilet is only a very small piece of a very big picture.

We recently had the privilege of having a teenage niece and nephew come stay in our home.  It was a joy to have them here.  Among other impressive traits, these two know how to work.  They didn't just take their dishes over after a meal.  They cleared the table, washed the dishes, wiped the counter clean, and hung the dish towel to dry.  It was evident to me that they have been taught how to do a job and do it well.

Enough

Let it be enough...
The bedspread might be lopsided, the dish may still have some soap on it, and the floor will definitely remain sticky in a few places.  Let it be enough.  IF your child has put forth effort and ability equivalent to their age and circumstance, do nothing but praise that effort and show them your appreciation for their help in keeping the home running smoothly.  I find this to especially be the case when my four-year-old surprises me by doing the dishes all on his own!  (IE, there are bubbles and water everywhere!)  Show your kids you value their work by resisting the urge to complete the task or redo the chore for them.  

If you recognize that a job has not been done well, praise the effort and work together to fix it.  "Let's finish this together."  "You've done a great job so far.  Please finish it off by..."  "I really appreciate your effort.  Have I shown you how we like to do this?"

If your child knows better and is capable, refer back to expectations. :)

Don't teach your kids that they can do a lazy job because you will just redo it anyway.

Enjoy

Some of my earliest memories are working in the garden both in my own backyard and at my grandparents' house.  I can still feel the hard ground under my knees and the soil in my nails as I weed.  I can hear the voices of people I love.  I can smell the fruits of our labors, especially the tomatoes.  Every year the tomatoes.  Weeding and gardening may feel like work to some, but for me, they are nostalgic childhood memories and activities I enjoy to this day.  And that I believe is the difference...they are "activities I enjoy" to this day.  

While it is important to help our kids learn that they can do hard things and that they can and should do things they don't want to do but ought to do, it is equally important to help them enjoy work too.  Listed are several ideas for helping kids enjoy work.
  • Do it together.
  • Turn up the music.
    • Turn this on as loud as your speakers can handle it.  Try not to clean with style.  Try it.  I dare you.     
    https://youtu.be/50vA6O9otjw
  • Work hard, play hard.
    • Every morning during our annual trips to Grandpa and Grandma Mac's house we would work for a few hours.  What followed was pure enjoyment...swimming in the pool, feeding the neighbor's cows, going for walks, reading on the grass, feasting on big meals.  I am sure the work got done faster as we all knew what came after and looked forward to it eagerly.   
    • The same was true on Saturdays.  When we didn't have sports, we would work in the morning.  Afterward, we would go out on the boat, play basketball, or do other fun activities together as a family or with friends.  We knew we were going to work hard, but we knew we were also going to play hard.
    • When my big sister was babysitting, cleaning up the toys was never a chore.  After we cleaned, the Tickle Monster would feverishly pursue and giggles would ensue.  If it wasn't the Tickle Monster, it was the Finger Chair.  After a successful clean-up, we each got a turn to sit on her lap while she held out her ten fingers.  We got to push her fingers down one at at time.  Each finger produced a drop or a tickle or a silly song.  We looked forward with anticipation to what each finger might hold.  These games were simple and silly, but obviously they were effective if I remember them decades later!
  • Make it a game.  
    • Roll a die and choose jobs from highest number to lowest.
    • Pretend to be Orphan Annie or maids in a mansion or any other scenario you can imagine.
  • Occasionally let the dishes turn into a water fight or towel whipping contest.  Granted my parents were much better at this than I am.  :)
  • Make it a surprise for Dad or Mom or whoever is not there at the moment.
  • Race the clock...or Nona!
    • One day my mom called to chat and when my youngest told her he was supposed to be cleaning up the basement, she suggested they have a race.  She would complete her errand and call him back.  I don't think the basement has ever been cleaned so fast.  
  • Give choices.
    • Let kids choose their own job out of a list or from what they think needs to be done.  Let them choose in what order they want to complete their tasks (jobs, homework, instrument practice, etc.)
  • Talk or tell stories while you work.
  • Do work that is a service for others such as neighbors or other family members.
In writing this post, I do not claim that my children are perfect workers...or us for that matter!   We all have room for growth.  However, I am so grateful for the work ethic that my parents instilled in me and for my husband who was raised the same way.  The ability to work hard, to see a task through to its completion, to put in long hours when necessary, and to enjoy work and the fruits of our labors has infinitely blessed our lives.

I have found the following to be true:  "Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).  Work is a vital part of that list.

Love, Marielle

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Exercise During Pregnancy...The Best Tips and Links for Making It Happen


To You:
Exercise...
It has the potential to help us feel more comfortable during pregnancy, to have shorter and less painful deliveries, and to help our babies be healthier now and in the future.  I know that as I have exercised during my pregnancies, I have had more energy, more restful sleep, and fewer aches and pains.  It helps my body adjust well to the frequent changes, and I have felt more physically and mentally prepared for delivery.  The list of benefits of prenatal exercise is long and motivational.
However, we pregnant Mamas probably don't need to be convinced that it is good for us.  We know that.  Instead, the challenge is making it happen when we are sick or tired or busy.  Did that say "or" back there?  I meant "and" of course!

Here are a few helpful tips and links for making exercise happen during pregnancy.

  • Keep it Short
    • You don't have to work out for an hour to benefit yourself and your baby.  Even 10-20 minutes of exercise will yield helpful results.  Not only are short workouts more manageable for your schedule, but it's also easier to get motivated for a short workout when you are sick and/or tired.  Shorten your workouts to make sure they happen.
  • Just Move
    • Get your blood pumping anyway you can.  You might take the stairs, crawl on the floor with another child, take a turn being "It" at the park, or simply do a few leg lifts as you cry to your favorite chick flick.  The more you move, the more you will feel like moving.  Plus, those little lifestyle movements have benefits all of their own!
  • Work Out at Home
    • Exercising at home saves time and money.  Plan to exercise right before you normally shower so you don't have to get ready twice.  There are a TON of videos on YouTube if you are not up for making up your own workout.  Jessica Smith has long been one of my favorite online fitness instructors.  She has something for whatever difficulty, type, or time of exercise I am up for that particular day.  She is fun without being cheesy.  Here is a prenatal cardio workout from Jessica Smith.
  • Strengthen
    • Strength training is a wonderful way to keep your body working after you finish your exercise.  Increased muscle mass increases your metabolism and has many other positive benefits.  During pregnancy, strength training can help your baby and body better handle the stresses of pregnancy and delivery.  This is a great article about the ins and outs, benefits, and safety of strength training during pregnancy.  Good form is always vital.  Start with lower weight and increase as you feel comfortable.  Do not hold your breath.  Here is a good quick strength workout.

  • Stretch
    • Stretching can be the perfect workout when you are tired or sick.  It is therapeutic for  your muscles and mind.  Many of those achy problem areas especially later in pregnancy (like the lower back) can be worked out and relieved through a good stretching routine.  I find that fluid stretches (moving slowly through different stretches) as opposed to static stretches (holding in one position) tend to feel better and do more good for me.  Yoga is a well-recognized plus for pregnant women.  Here is the first in a really good series of pregnancy yoga videos.  The episodes are short and feel great!
  • Make it Social
    • If you are having a hard time getting motivated, invite a friend to join you.  You can go to the gym together, walk together, or workout to a video together.  Having someone to talk to increases the enjoyment in the moment, and having someone waiting for you is often the kick we need to get out the door.  During one first trimester of pregnancy, I was able to workout in the mornings before my hubby left for work only because I had a friend waiting for me there.
  • Involve the Little Ones
    • Alone time is precious and exercising may not be how you want to spend it each day.  If you have other kids home, involve them in your exercise routine.  They will enjoy doing what you do and will also benefit from the exercise.  It is a fun way to spend a part of your day together.  I try to do a lot of different fitness activities with my kids, including online workout videos.  Not surprisingly, my kids favorite videos have other kids in them.  :) This is one workout video they like, although I play my own music to go along with it.
  • Watch Your Posture
    • Good posture can prevent many of pregnancy's pains that make us want to lay in bed or gracefully splay on the couch in all our glory for hours on end.  Again, feeling better leads to more activity...what a cycle!  For me, simply thinking about lifting the chest up while relaxing the shoulders back pulls things into better alignment.  Pillows between the legs and around the mid-section help with sleeping posture as well.
  • Warm-Up Slowly
    • I find I can do a lot more than I thought after a good, slow warm-up.  The round ligaments (the ones hugging your belly down into the pelvis that hurt when you sneeze:) especially respond well to warming up.  If you are running, doing another high intensity workout, or exercising for a longer amount of time, consider a warm-up of walk, jog, light stretch through any achy areas, jog.  Your muscles should be good and ready to go!
  • Be Safe
    • Always talk with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.  Avoid exercises lying flat on your back after 20 weeks.  ALWAYS BREATHE!  (Intentional breathing is one of your best delivery tools too!)  Stay hydrated.  Follow common safety guidelines

Lastly, Listen to Your Body.  Pregnancy is the ideal time to connect with your body and the new baby growing inside. Pay attention to how different movements (or the lack thereof!) make you feel.  Take time to relax and see how things are going with yourself.  If you are really tired, make it a lighter stretching or yoga day.  If you have some of that energy back, (yeah for second trimester!) let yourself work it...a really good sweat can be super therapeutic!  Trust that nobody knows your body or pregnancy better than you do.

Do you have any prenatal exercise tips or questions to share?  I hope the benefits of exercise can fill your life before, during, and after pregnancy.  As you find that motivation to move, know that it is doing good for you and your unborn baby!  Good luck!

Love, Marielle