Thursday, July 29, 2010

Clean Home, Clean Hearts

I am sitting in a clean house.  I am aware that the tub is clean, the toilets are clean, the counters and kitchen table are all cleared and clean.  I have been reading scriptures and preparing for a Relief Society lesson since 5am, and now an hour and a half later, my cup runneth over.  I have so much to be thankful for, and the Lord is helping us in so many ways, to be happier, to have more energy, to be cleaner, and to love each other more deeply.  I wouldn't trade my family for any family in the world right now.

Last night, Kevin had a lot of office work to do, and I dutifully left him alone.  As I was sweeping for the umpteenth time that day, I heard, "RAAAAAARRR"  from my husband, and "IIIEEEEE" from Peter.  Then uproarious laughter from both parties.  They excitedly talked, and connected for just a moment, before Kevin got back to work.  It was something small, but I know meant so much to Peter.

Kaylee or Peter, (I can't remember which--give me a break, I'm a mom) said to me the other day, "I love my daddy.  He's a really good daddy.  I want you to always love my daddy, okay?"

The greatest gift I can give my children is to love their father with all my heart.  Because of Jesus Christ--because of the Gospel which helps us grow and qualify for the happiest of blessings--the scriptures which offer personal growth and understanding--because it is not on my husband that I lean, but my Lord, as I walk uprightly beside my husband, and he does the same---I do love my children's father with all my heart, and today, hold nothing back.  This is the greatest joy any mortal can experience.

Alma 27:17-18

17 Now the ajoy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the bexhausting of his strength; and he fell cagain to the earth.

  18 Now was not this aexceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of bhappiness.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

At The Nursing Home

About a month ago I adopted a grandmother at a local nursing home.  She was the most despised resident in her wing.  I don't know why God put a love for her in my heart, but he did, and I suppose it was for a reason.  We've watched her steadily improve in several ways.  Each time we visit her, her stories are less gruesome and filled with self-pity.  Each time, we see her, a tiny glimmer of light shines in her face, and she  is more willing to cooperate, and no longer believes that all people are mean and cruel.  She isn't always in her right mind, but she always loves to see me and the kids, and she always knows when Monday rolls around, that we'll be coming back again.

So far, I have dragged the kids with me.  They put up with the visit, as they hid behind my legs.  Kaylee refused to go a couple of times because the smell offended her.  But Peter came, and started not to hide quite so much.

This last Monday, we got there around 3:00 in the afternoon, because at our regular time, 9:30am, she was always sleeping.  So we went when she would be more alert.  Before entering, we prayed that we would have His light to shine with us, that we may be a good influence, and help her and all the residents know that God loves them, and has not forgotten them.  AG (Adopted Grandma) was so happy to see us, she cried.  She was afraid we weren't coming, and had been hollering, and carrying on all day.  (I had tried to call, but couldn't get through.)  So I explained we'd start coming in the afternoon, when she was awake.  

She begged me for some beans.  She wanted to snap them, put them in a pot with a piece of meat, and so on.  It sounded like a reasonable request, but of course, she was in a nursing home, and had no kitchen.  I said I could bring her some green beans to eat, but later remembered they won't allow home-cooked food to be brought into the nursing home.  But that's not what she wanted anyway.  She said, "just let me do something, so I can say I had a  hand in it."  I thought about this, and I thought about just saying no, explaining she couldn't do it in a nursing home.  But instead, I started to think about how I could help her make this wish come true, at least in part.  

The kids and I went to the store and bought some fresh green beans.  Then we stopped by the house.  Peter ran to the toys, and started stuffing some in a pouch.  I grabbed some old Easter baskets we didn't need anymore, and we went back to the nursing home.  I asked and was granted permission to snap beans with AG.  We sat at a table in the common room, with dozens of envious eyes watching us.  We snapped beans with AG, whose hands are much too arthritic to do the work, and I told her that she was welcome to share these with her friends.  Many of the residents could do some snapping, as not all of them were as arthritic.  AG could see immediately that she wouldn't be able to fix any beans, but she just beamed that I'd made an effort for her.   As we were snapping beans, talking about her family and so on, Peter opened his pouch, and presented three toys to AG, who picked them up and put them in one of the Easter baskets.  She admired the toys over and over, and said what a fine boy that was.  

Peter beamed, and said with a smile, "These are for you to keep!"  He came to me, and said, "Mom, she can keep those toys!"  AG loved it!  After a little while, I explained that I'd promised to take the kids swimming, so I'd better be on my way.  She was so sweet, and said, "Well, I always say, do what you say you gonna do, otherwise, don't say it!"  She kept asking if these things belonged to her.  I assured her, yes.  As we were waiting to be let out, I was thrilled to see a crowd gather around her, as other residents admired her gifts.  For once, instead of being despised, AG was admired and envied.  

Friday, July 23, 2010


Peter likes to be called "Peter"  not "Petey" or "P" or "Pete" or any other variation of his name.  He loves his name, but he allows for a few nic-names.  "Mommy, it's okay if Daddy calls me 'Buddy.'  It's okay if you call me 'Buddy' too."

Nic-names are interesting to him.  He told me one day, "Mom, Jesus says it's okay if I call Him 'Father.'  It's okay if He calls me 'son.' " 


Yesterday my husband told me, "I think you're a really good mother to our kids.  I think they are angels, and I couldn't ask them to be better behaved.  I really appreciate all you do to try to stay calm, and teach them how to be calm."

I have a confession.  I messed up the other day.  I had had a really long day.  You other moms know how it is.  There we were, driving down the interstate, and Ken was screaming, because Peter had his hands on Ken's seat, and in spite of my repeated instructions, refused to let go.  I pulled over, intending to work it out, and as I repeated for the thousand and thirty first time, "Peter, put your haNDS In YOUR LAP NOWWW!!"  I felt myself lose all composure, anger just shot out the top of my head as Peter, who was gripping Kendon's seat even harder, stared petrified.  "NOW!  NOW! NOWWWWW!!!!!"  I grabbed Peter's white-knuckle hands and forced them into his lap.

Kendon started imitating me immediately with his own screams.  Kaylee said, "Mommy screamed like a little kid."  Peter wailed.  I obviously lost some respect from all my kids in my moment of weakness.

So how does a family come back from that?  I will tell you what I would have done in the past.  I would have beaten myself up inside, and lost all hope of our family improving.  I would have internally projected years down the road, imagining that I would never be able to overcome this yelling habit.  I would be defensive outwardly, while inwardly churning in knots.  I would have sought out validation by telling the story to others, often in front of the kids, making my kids out to be the bad guys.  (You know you've done it.)  

Instead, this is how it went.  I was mad.  Really mad.  I told the kids 
    "I'm sorry.  I just snapped and lost my power.  I'm sorry Peter.  It's my job to set a good example for you, not show you how to throw a tantrum."  

Still, I was mad, and it took a little while to calm down.  What was it inside that had been building up to that outburst?  I had been wasting energy worrying about things I couldn't control.  I was not taking care of my own emotional needs, so that I was needy.  I NEEDED my kids to behave so I could be at peace.  I NEEDED my kids to be happy so I could be happy.  I NEEDED them to behave a certain way, because I was not okay inside.  So that's where my work began. 

I set about trying to humble myself.  I apologized to my Heavenly Father.  I told Him that I needed help, and couldn't do this without Him.  I apologized for forgetting to read scriptures that morning, because things like this don't usually happen when I do.  I asked the Lord to help me feel anguish for my sin, and help me to repent.

I took some deep Yoga breaths, I counted to 10, prayed, cried, and sang my heart out to country music.  Meanwhile, my kids were talking in the back, trying to figure out how to be the adults, since Mom apparently couldn't handle that responsibility at the moment.  My daughter was becoming very bossy, attempting to take over my role, understandably.  I could have lost heart.  I could have given up and said, "Calm is for perfect families, and we're just not that kind of family."  But I didn't think that for even a moment. 

Honesty is always the best policy, and is easy with kids after a little practice.  I told them I was embarrassed that I lost my temper, and I wanted to be a better example for them.  I told them I loved them and I was trying to stop feeling angry, and asked for their patience while I tried to calm myself down.  The more honest and heartfelt I was, the more I could see myself rise in their estimation.  I felt a warm glow begin to surround me.  I felt peace begin to return.

The rest of the day I was confident, and had complete faith in my Savior, that He was helping us.  There were no more incidents that day.  Each time I was tempted after that, I leaned on the Lord, and He helped me pass each test.  

The next morning was Sunday morning.  Peter didn't want to go to church.  
    "It's too long."  He said.  
This is when it took all my tools to honestly control my anxiety.  I intentionally didn't project or predict future inactivity.  Instead I smiled.  I sat down next to him, and put my feet up.  I said, 
    "You know, sometimes I feel that way too.  Did you know that?  Sometimes I don't feel like going to church.  Do you want to know why I go?"  
    No reply. 
   "Can you think about it for a minute?  Why do you think I would go to church, even when I don't feel like it?"  Peter answered,
    "You go to church to feel Jesus in your heart.  But I don't want to go to church.  It's too long."  
I stopped and thought for a minute.  What was he really feeling inside?  
    "Remember how you felt yesterday when I screamed at you?"  He looked down at the ground.
    "How did you feel inside when I did that?"  He said nothing, but I could see the shadow of the memory pass over his face as he stared more intently at the floor.  My heart swelled, and I trusted in my Savior.
    "Did you feel angry, hurt, and sad?"  He nodded.
    "I felt that way too, Peter.  Did you know, that when we go to church, we can feel the Holy Ghost, and through the Holy Ghost, Jesus can reach all the way down inside of you, and take all that hurt, all that anger, all those sad feelings and pull them out--and put in happiness, love, and peace instead?  Do you want Him to do that for you today?"  Peter nodded.
    "Heavenly Father loves us so much.  Do you think he would ever get mad and yell at you like Mommy did yesterday?"  Peter thought about it, and said, 
   "No, Heavenly Father doesn't get angry and yell."
   "I really need Him today to teach me again not to yell.  I need Him to help me remember how to be a happy mom. Would you like Jesus to teach me that today?"

I looked up to see Kevin smiling down at us from the door.  I smiled back at him, feeling only love and warmth.  Peter hugged me and said, 
    "I love you, Mommy."  
    "I love you too, Peter."
    "Mommy, we better get my church clothes on!  Can I wear my tie today?"
Ideally, the above conversation would have been long before time to leave, and we would have had plenty of time to get to church early.  But it happened to be just as we should have been walking out the door.  We got to church 30 minutes late, but when we got there, we were humble, ready to learn, and relaxed, as opposed to hurried, anxious, and irritated.  

After church, Peter asked me, 
    "Mommy, are you a better mommy now?  Did Jesus take the bad feelings out?"  I answered, 
    "Yes!  He sure did.  I feel so much love in my heart, I can't even remember the angry feelings!"  And it was true.
    "How about you?  Did Jesus take the bad feelings out for you too?"  
    "MmHmm.  I'm happy Mommy.  I love you so much.  You're a very good Mommy."
    "Thank you Peter, that made my whole day even better!  I love you with all my heart, and I'm so sorry I was a mean to you yesterday."  It reads like an after-school special, but it is true.

Sometimes it's the messy moments, when we think that someone else should probably be doing this job; when we doubt whether or not we really have it in us, and everyone is staring at our weakness; those are the true catalysts for change.  It is the screw-ups and the failures that make us stop and make course corrections.  It's the messy moments that sometimes can be the most important moments of our lives.