By Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Cultivate Leader
But we all know that looking for the good is so much easier to say than to actually put into practice because it is easy to see what our children are doing wrong. And negative behavior begs for our attention.
So, we have to be conscious of our responses, because, honestly, who wants to be yelled at all day? Not me! It certainly is not motivating and it destroys that feeling of love that we are all trying to achieve, faster than a speeding bullet!
So, what can we do instead to with our families that will put this truth into good use?
A better idea is to “catch” them doing right! Here are four ways to help us do that. I’m sure you could find more! I would suggest doing one or two at a time so as not to be overwhelmed as well as to add a spark of enthusiasm which generally accompanies something new:
Words of Praise
Let’s say that you’d like a peaceful atmosphere in your home and it seems at times like it is anything but that. Try looking for those rare times when they are getting along. We might say something like, “I’m hearing such kind words from the back seat. Thank you!” Or, “Look how well you are getting along! I’m proud of you!” “I like how you’re sharing your toys!” The tricky part is remembering to notice those positive moments. One way to accomplish this is by making a picture in your home hang slightly crooked. Each time you walk by and see it, it becomes a quiet reminder that now would be a very good time to catch your children doing something good!
Jar of pom-poms
Choose an area of focus where you’d like to see improvement. It’s even better if you choose it as a family so you have their input and buy-in. We worked as a family at one point to encourage the phrase, “I would love to” when someone, usually a parent, was asking for help with something or reminding them to do a certain chore. What a difference this phrase made as it began to shape our attitudes towards serving each other with love rather than having to be coaxed or begged with a put-out attitude. When the person said the phrase, “I would love to,” they went over to the jar and put in a pom-pom. And when the jar was full (and our hearts were fuller) we all celebrated by going out for ice cream! You might want to do the same thing and change it up a bit depending on your family’s needs.
The Family Book of Honor
In my children’s elementary school, they occasionally had assemblies where a few students were chosen to sign the school Book of Honor. We adopted this idea for our family by nominating people at dinnertime to sign the Durfee Book of Honor, and with it, to write down the great deed they did. Although we only did this for a short time, I must admit that it was fun to have a record of so many good deeds. And it created a feeling of warmth in our home, of looking for the good in others, cheering on the achievements of others, and of striving to do well.
While this idea could work well for any number of improvements, I think it is particularly good in raising children to be strong, good, and valiant. The idea is to choose the values that you’d like to emphasize in your family. Make a few certificates and concentrate on one area each week. Maybe you’ll want to announce the winner of the week at a family dinner and post in a place of prominence – perhaps on their bedroom door or bathroom mirror – someplace where they will see it often and be reminded about just how good they are. I can’t remember where I got this idea from. Maybe it was from one of you? And maybe I made up some of them. At any rate, here are the ones I ended up settling on. You might find others that suit your family’s values:
* Self Starter Award: For someone who took the initiative, saw what needed doing and did it without being asked, or went the extra mile without being asked.
* Neat as a Pin Award: For someone who kept their room clean, straightened up, put things in order, etc.
* Leader for the Right Award: For someone who stood up for what they believed, resisted “following the crowd,” tried to influence someone for good, etc.
* Ice Breaker Award: For someone who made a new friend, started an interesting conversation, asked a question, gave a thoughtful compliment to someone, etc.
* What Would Jesus Do? Award: For someone who remembered to ask this question during the week, and, as a result, consciously made a good choice or decision.
* Peacemaker Award: For someone who helped our home to be a place of peace and love. “Blessed are the peacemakers – for they shall be called the children of God.”
Let’s admit it. We all like to be noticed and praised for the good we do. So instead of letting our families flounder by fishing for compliments, let’s strategize and guide our families as we charter new waters together. As we make a conscious effort to look for the good, we can tackle family problems and with a little love as bait and hook, validate their efforts and reel in a good catch!
By Phyllis Moyes
Diversity is a buzzword for our day; it should be. Diversity enriches innovation and creativity, cultivates a feeling of just security, and helps every age, gender, race, or culture feel represented. But what if I told you that we (every human) have the same needs at the center of the heart? It's true! It doesn't matter who you are; everyone has Core Needs.
Look at this list. Do any or all of these resonate with your heart?
Basic Core Needs:
When Core Needs go unmet, Primary Emotions are activated. Look at this list and see if you can relate.
Examples of Primary Emotions
Primary Emotions usually set off an avalanche of Secondary Emotions. Can you relate?
Examples of Secondary Emotions
Here is a video clip created by BYUiDo.org that explains the concept well. (This video speaks about the Core Needs Model for bettering marriage but it is applicable to any relationship.)
Can I share an example with you that will help illustrate this idea better? From the time my daughter was in eighth grade and up until she graduated from high school, we had a complicated relationship. (Moms, if your child is in junior high, stop what you are doing now and hug them! Chances are, they need it.) I am grateful for hindsight because I can see the complexity of our relationship clearer now. I didn't have words for it then, but I have since realized that I wasn't angry (Secondary Emotion) with her; I was scared -- a primary emotion that came from my unmet core need for security. She was involved in a rough crowd, and they scared me. I didn't trust that her choices would keep her safe. Further, my core need for a genuine connection with her felt severed so I felt lonely (a primary emotion), which I usually expressed through the secondary emotion of anger.
For an even clearer illustration, pretend that you are hiking with your daughter when suddenly, a grizzly bear begins charging for her. Immediately, your heart starts to race; you are so scared (primary emotion). Fight or flight takes over, and you start charging for the bear, using a secondary emotion of anger. You are a warrior who will stop at nothing to save your daughter!
At that moment, what is the need? Is the need to be angry at the bear? No. The grizzly is an immediate threat to your core need of keeping your daughter safe, so there's a surge of fear (primary emotion), which triggers something inside us to fight; so we become angry and fierce.
My daughter also had unmet core needs. She was desperate for connection and security at home, but every interaction seemed hostile and contentious. Remember, I was in fear mode and expressed it through anger. She wanted to feel independent, have a sense of sovereign power, and feel respected and heard. But I was too busy feeding the worry from my own unmet needs.
Do you see the pattern? It is cyclical. We both had unmet core needs, leading to primary and secondary emotions.
I remember the day it changed -- or rather, I changed. I made a conscious effort to have ten positive exchanges for every corrective interaction. Sometimes it was hard because the fear was so great, but when I stepped back and took a breath, I could meet her core needs better. An interesting thing happened; when I met her core needs, mine seemed to follow.
As you engage your teenagers this week, ask yourself, "Which of my core needs are not being met, leading me to feel _____ (angry, anxiety, sadness, irritation, etc.?)"
And please be sure to also ask yourself -- or even your teen directly -- "Which of my child's core needs are not being met, leading them to feel ____."
My experience is that once the core needs are met, the emotions and relationship change organically.
By Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Cultivate Leader
Here's a riddle for ya: What doesn’t cost a cent, is non-fattening, and we literally NEED it to survive? If you guessed a HUG, you are right! Yes, a good old-fashioned hug! Can you believe it? Something so simple as a hug is actually a necessary part of our survival as human beings. The reason for this is that when we hug or are hugged our body releases oxytocin (a hormone that reduces that stress producing hormone cortisol). So, the more hugs we have, the better we can handle the stresses life throws in our path. In fact, Psychotherapist Virginia Satir found out that we literally NEED 4 hugs a day, just to survive, 8 hugs for our maintenance, and for 12 hugs a day for growth!
Just how powerful is a hug anyway? If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then it might not surprise you that 12 hugs a day might just do the trick as well. Medically speaking, a 10 second hug has a powerful effect on our health. It not only does wonders by lowering blood pressure, but it can fight fatigue and infections, improve your immune system, and ease depression. And if that is not enough, hugs have a positive effect on child development and IQ, and actually boost their self-esteem as well as their ability to project self-love as an adult. I like the sound of that!
The very thought of all of those great benefits makes me hope that we will say . . .
I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins
Well, I like winning, don’t you? And I like having my children win. And if it means that I get to smother them with hugs and kisses, then so be it! In some wonderful way that we may not fully comprehend, hugs have the power to invisibly heal and lift. We might even call hugs our secret weapon to helping our children feel special and loved! With or without a word, a hug says, “You are so wonderful! I’m so glad you’re mine!” In times of stress, they communicate, “I’m here for you.” “Let’s work together.” When our children are sad, a hug reaches out and says, “I feel your pain,” or after a conflict, “Let’s start over.” And don’t forget the times of rejoicing, “I can’t believe this! You are SO amazing!”
We probably don’t have to worry too much about getting in our quota of hugs for the day. I believe that most of these will come naturally. We’ll greet our children in the morning with an “I’m so glad to see you” hug and enfold them in love with a “you’re the best” hug before they go to sleep. We’ll give them a quick “wishing you a happy day” hug on their way out the door and an “I’m SO glad you’re home” hug when they return. We’ll remember a “Hope you feel better soon” hug to sooth the sickies and an “I’m sorry” hug to help mend a quarrel. And at any moment throughout the day, we’ll slip in a “how are you doing?” hug and or an impromptu heart to heart “You are a joy in my life!” hug.
One way or another, we’ll wrap our arms and our hearts around our families, we’ll let our words match our actions, and we’ll let them know that rain or shine, they are the best thing that ever happened to us – a true win-win, and all thanks to our secret weapon.
by Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Cultivate Leader
When I was first married, I told myself that although I might not be rich, I could still be clean. In my exuberance as a new bride, I felt like that was something I had control over. Later, as children multiplied and the demands on this mother’s time began to pile up, I changed my tune a little to this familiar adage:
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait for tomorrow
While this poem has some truth to it, and we should definitely treasure the time we have with our children, I do not think it means we need to neglect our homes. And I have found that I am not truly happy in a dirty, cluttered home. In fact, I believe that if we do it right, our homes can be a refuge from the world – a happy oasis so to speak. And so, while it may be virtually impossible to keep an absolutely immaculate home, I do my best to help it be clean, orderly, and beautiful. Here are a few tips I have found to help our home be both clean and happy.
1. Everything is not always clean at the same time. What kind of promising list is it that must begin with a disclaimer? Yet, remember that the goal is not only to be clean, but happy – and that means the mother too. This means that I must be realistic. After all, even Betty Crocker has her limits. I have found that if the dishes are done and the downstairs is clean, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the laundry is folded or that the toilets are scrubbed. Time is always a tradeoff. If you see “clean” in one room, you must know that other things are not done. Likewise, if my day has been full of errand running, grocery shopping, or volunteering at the school you can be guaranteed that the house is not entirely tidy.
2. 10 Minute Tasks. My friend Caren taught me to do those unavoidable, yet necessary jobs as quickly as possible. She offered to do my dishes once. I felt it would be okay to procrastinate, but she insisted that it would only take 10 minutes. Soon, I began to follow this line of thinking and I have found great success with it. Seldom do I have big blocks of time. And other times, I feel too tired or overwhelmed with big jobs. So, I try to think small and simple. By setting the timer for 10 minutes, I allow myself success by working furiously to get as much as possible completed. Yes, racing the clock is a mind game for adults as well as children. And the snowball effect it has on me works wonders. And do you know what? The very process of just beginning gives me energy for more!
3. Put your “helpers” to work! Let’s call it teamwork, folks! I figure, if they can help make the mess, they are old enough to help clean it up. Giving them jobs not only prevents more mess in the meantime, but helps their self - esteem and sense of contribution and personal responsibility. What a great gift! True, this may take more time initially, but eventually, as children are trained, this tip actually becomes a time saver. A word of caution: A clean house does not equal happiness if it takes a fight to get it that way, so practice patience and use your creativity to make it fun and rewarding for them.
4. Get out one project at a time. There is definitely wisdom in not running faster than we have strength. We would not think of making our baby run a marathon before they learn to crawl nor would we hand our toddler juggle 50 pound weights, so why would we do it to ourselves? All right, I will admit that I am not always good at this, in fact, it seems that there are often many balls in the air all at the same time. Yes - never a dull moment! But I know that at those times when I have put away the first project before I proceed with the next, things are definitely less chaotic. For example, a few moments in the kitchen after each meal saves a lot of time later.
5. Have a cleaning schedule. Having a certain time of the day or week to do things helps me relax and not feel guilty about undone work. I know when and whose turn it is to help with this or that. Everyone is on the daily schedule to clean their rooms and do a dish job. With a schedule, I know which day I will do the laundry and I never have to scramble to take out the garbage. Chores that only come once a week are scheduled as well. I can calmly go about the tasks at hand and realize that even though there is always something waiting to be done, I can take it easy and tackle today’s load because the rest will be done on the proper day.
6. Be flexible: Now wait a minute. Didn’t I just say to have a schedule? And now I’m saying to be flexible... Well, yes. A schedule is great for some things, but if the baby is crying or your toddler needs a friend to play with for a while, a rigid schedule can become the family enemy. People are always more important than a task to be done. Sometimes other things call for our attention as well, don’t they? Sometimes we need a few moments to ourselves to rejuvenate. So, give yourself a little wiggle room. It’s okay when things don’t always run like clockwork.
7. Less is more. Years ago, I read a marvelous decluttering book by Don Aslett entitled, Clutter’s Last Stand. I fell in love with the ideas from it and would encourage anyone to read it who has a difficult time hanging onto EVERYTHING! The basic idea is that if you do not use it, like it, or need it, no matter who gave it to you, or how much it costs, or how long you’ve hung onto it, toss it or give it away! Just how many neckties, Legos, envelopes, and knick - knacks from Aunt Paddy Whack do you need anyway? While you’re at it, teach your children to go through their school papers and belongings as well. This is a life skill. And I find it incredibly freeing to realize that by simplifying, you have less to wash, polish, scrub, fold up, dust, or trip over and you have more space, money, and time to share with your family and others in meaningful ways.
8. Organize. There are a zillion and one ideas out there to organize every nook and cranny in your home. I had fun with an old book called Confessions of a Happily Organized Wife. (The title alone makes me smile). But to simplify, may I suggest some basic ideas.
9. Dovetail. It is really fun to do two things at once. For example, my mom taught me to put my “maids” to work in the morning (dishwasher, washer/dryer). I can also do this when I talk on the phone while sweeping, catch up on the child’s school day while folding socks together, or letting breakfast cook while I make lunch. Remember again, that relationships are always more important than “getting it all done.” If you neglect your children, for example by tapping away at the computer or scrolling endlessly on your phone while they are begging for attention, you have only fooled yourself.
10. Survival mode. Part of the inevitable with raising a family are those times when it is just less important to have a totally clean home – maybe someone is sick, you have a new baby or a time - consuming church assignment. Forget about cobwebs, dusting, cabinets, closets. At these times, I feel that it is better to settle for some clean for the sake of your sanity rather than to let the whole house fall to pieces. I have decided that the three main things of importance are dishes, laundry, and making my bed (which gives the general appearance that the room is mostly clean). My next favorite strategy is to whisk through the living area with a laundry basket for a little clutter pickup. I let everyone do their part to empty it. Aren’t I thoughtful?
At the end of the day, remember to smile. Don’t worry so much about perfection. A clean and happy home is within your reach, so be your own best friend. Put your feet up for a bit and give yourself a pat on the back for what you have done.
by Esperanza DeLaLuz
Organizing is what you do before you do something,
~~ A. A. Milne
Let’s start with this premise: Organizing things does not make you a better mom. But it does make it easier to find the Band-Aids, and for me, being ADHD, I am able to be a better mom when I have inner peace; and my personal inner peace is disturbed by chaos. But I know lots of wonderful mothers, including my own, who love and care exquisitely well, in a state of frequent disorder.
That said, I am a passionate organizer. People actually pay me to come organize their kitchen or garage. There are some basic principles to organizing that might be useful to most people to one extent or another, that I thought I might share:
1 Simplify – there are lots of wonderful systems to encourage us to simplify, but most of them boil down to only keeping things that you need, or use, or enjoy. Less stuff means less clutter and less maintenance. But there is also something to be said for having useful backup supplies like food storage, meds, or craft supplies, for preparedness purposes also. But remember, those things are only useful to you if you can find them when a crisis makes them necessary.
2 Contain things – using baskets, boxes, bags, bottles, tubs, cupboards, drawers, etc., This is probably the most important element of organizing. My grandmother used to say “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” My father used to line his top drawer with all kinds of tiny boxes with places for each thing he kept there: watch, coins, keys, etc. So I come by it naturally. But when things are where they belong, my environment is neater, I can find things I need, and I am aware of how much I have and if I have things I can do without.
It is also helpful to use similar sized and shaped things. For example, having all your dishes or food storage containers the same size makes them stack more neatly. This doesn't have to be expensive -- I actually cut the tops off plastic bleach bottles and used them to stack all my round containers of that size inside them, which kept them from falling over.
3 Put like things together – it continually surprises me when I go to help someone clean or organize, how often I find similar things in several different places. Now, it makes sense to have things in different places when you use them in multiple places. I have scissors in every room, for example, and of course, toothpaste in most every bathroom. But keeping things together that are the same, or that are used together makes sense. And subdividing those grouped things, so that each kind of thing has its own place can be very useful. You will notice if it is missing, for one thing, or if you have more than you need.
4 Label your stuff – I am probably too focused on labels, because I am absent-minded, and my labeler is one of my favorite tools. But labeling things helps us remember where they belong. Labels can help you identify what goes where and if it is missing. Most of the time you can do this subtly; you can have specific colors of towels for each bathroom, for example, or other visual cues that identify where things belong without actual labels. But you can also do them in cute ways, with fancy labels that are part of the décor.
My sister pointed out that using pretty baskets to organize my craft supplies was more appealing, more “Feng Shui” than using my labeled assortment of plastic boxes. She was right! So, over the years I picked up lots of fancy baskets at second hand stores. But then I found that they didn’t look good with labels on them. (But it gave me another fun crafting project to make a lot of cute little wooden plaques to attach to the fronts of the baskets.)
When keeping multiples for utility purposes, labeling which set goes where is very useful. For example, I write on those scissors with a permanent marker which room they belong in, so they don’t end up all in one room when I have used them.
5 Store things where they are used – we keep the dishes in the kitchen naturally, but sometimes don’t apply that same idea to other places in our home. Closets, cupboards or drawers are less likely to become catch-alls, if you limit them to containing only things that are useful in that place. Of course, there are things that get used in multiple places. Some people keep multiples like I do with the scissors, others make a specific cabinet or dresser drawer for all those things. I have a “utility dresser” with drawers for simple household tools, tape, batteries, lightbulbs, and other things that everyone needs to get to often. Some people keep a “junk drawer” for things that have no specific place, but this is a poor idea since it gets crammed full of stuff that does not ever get assigned to its own place.
6 List stuff – Keeping a list, in a notebook, on the back of a cupboard, or on a computer, can be very useful, especially with stored supplies. It also helps keep supplies current. If there is a list on the back of the medicine cabinet mirror of what you plan to keep in that cabinet, you might be more likely to notice you are out of Band-Aids. A list of what goes in each cupboard on the back of the door, or a master list of desired food storage items, or a list of where important documents are stored can be very useful. Just make sure you have a specific place to keep the lists!
7 Put things back! – This is probably the hardest part for most people. We are naturally lazy, and we don’t want to get up and put things away all the time. But a basket on the stairs for things that need to go upstairs, or a defined place in each room to set things that don’t belong in that room, can make it easier to go around and put things back. You can also make a game of it for little children. Some younger children actually think it is fun to go put Daddy’s tie in the bedroom for a few raisins! But you can also set up a pattern of going around gathering and putting things back once a day, if you cannot make yourself put things back right away.
8 A few clever helps – everyone has stuff in their house that other people left there. Setting up a basket by the door for these things not only contains them, but also makes it easier to remember to give them back or return them. A box by the garage door for things that need to go out of your home on errands makes it easier to get those errands done and get those things out of your house. Having a specific shelf for your purse, or for school books and back packs, makes finding them much easier.
Drawer dividers, hook racks, extra shelves inside cabinets, and tote bags can be very useful tools. Having a tote specifically to hold smaller things for organizing (tiny boxes, plastic packets, bags, and such) makes it easier to find something to use to contain and organize things. A place to set things when you first come home, such as a table, bench, or shelf keeps things from getting piled up on the floor.
Setting up a specific rack in which to put outgoing and incoming mail, a key rack, a mirror, the family calendar, and a place to leave notes, all by the front door can be very useful. A hook rack for hat, coats, sunglasses, flashlight, umbrellas, tote bags, sunscreen or other things that are often needed as leaving the house is useful, too, especially if it can be near the door.
I hope that these general principles can make your life a little bit easier!
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing.
~~ Doctrine and Covenants 88:119
By Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Cultivate Leader
Have you ever noticed the oddities of life?
...like how the birthday cake you’re making never looks like the one in the picture?
Never mind comparing it to the picture – which is actually a cake made of four layers, so that means you actually have to use TWO cake mixes... but the picture won’t tell you that.
Pay no attention to the fact that the sad crack in your attempt at the cake will NOT stay “glued” together, no matter how much frosting you use to cement it together.
And don’t even notice the huge crumbs that are adhering to the once-white frosting (maybe some sprinkles will hide them!!). Perhaps, you conclude, the sides look better unfrosted anyway!
OR - Does it ever seem that the most meaningful conversation you get to have with your spouse is:
-- at the end of the day,
-- at the bathroom sink
-- while you are foaming at the mouth with an electric toothbrush wildly sputtering, unable in the least to utter a sensible word?
So, you play the game of charades or better yet – an impromptu sign language which you try to decipher without splattering toothpaste blobs on the mirror as you laugh through the hilarity of it all?
OR - Do you find yourself seething at the injustice of finding that there are always at least 3 diapers left in the package that absolutely WILL NOT fit your baby before they transfer to the next size up?
AND - Have you tried to mathematically explain why, with so few people in the family, every single cup in the house gets dirtied – including the measuring cups?
I’m probably not the only one who has had more than her share of Pinterest fails and foibles. But if my Better Crocker skills don’t take the cake at least my attitude will. If you’re like me, and even one of these scenarios rings true for you, this might be a good time to take a look at a happy principle that can help every mother and homemaker: realistic expectations. Yes, with a little reality check, you can take anything that comes with ease.
Did you know that some things are supposed to be imperfect?
Mismatched socks... scuffs on your best running shoes... sticky fingerprints on the fridge door handle... Almost imperceptibly, flabby bellies, burnt toast, and layers of dust just happen. Life happens!
There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with your family. It is what it is.
And it’s not only OK for it to be this way, it is supposed to be that way!
Take the coffee table for example – an innocent enough piece of furniture wouldn’t you say? But in a house full of children, is it really going to stay a focal piece impressively set with elegant table top décor? Of course not! You and I both know that even the best homes aren’t picture perfect.
We can expect that homes with children have their fair share of crumbs, smelly socks, broken figurines, lost items, scattered toys, ripped pages in books, smears on the sliding glass door, and on and on. It helps when I know that some things will inevitably happen, because it allows me a great deal of sanity for when the unexpected happens and things don’t work out perfectly.
In fact, if you can look at it with a smile in your heart, you might just find it so ludicrous that it provides a moment of laughter that you look back on with fondness.
While mothering my Littles, I frequently found peace of mind through a quote often attributed to Marjorie Pay Hinckley to help me remember that my priorities were just where they should be:
I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here, and that I really lived.
Expecting reality doesn’t mean admitting defeat!
I can expect, for example, that my children will make endless messes (and I will too), but that doesn’t stop us from cleaning it up at the appropriate time.
My communication with my spouse may be spotty at times, but that doesn’t mean we neglect our relationship. We regularly and consistently schedule time to be with one another to just TALK (most times without a dental implement in hand).
We are gloriously imperfect in each and every way, but we set goals, and give assignments. And we put our plan into action with a little elbow grease. We do it, remembering the WHY of it all – not to satisfy some plausible guest who never seems to stop by, nor even to catch up to the Jones family (although we admit that they ARE a nice bunch!) - but because we like it that way. In fact, we even enjoy it!
I am enough.
I can be happy without being Pinterest Perfect. While the Internet world of “reality” sometimes creates a facade of perfectly clean homes, the Gerber baby who never cries, and homes decorated to a “T,” I can be happy with what we have and who we are becoming. I may also (heaven forbid) go without some of the niceties of the luxury homes in order to allow myself to spend more time concentrating my efforts more closely on building a strong home and family. We can also give ourselves credit for being creative, even if it means that we make a mess for a while. We are, after all, learning, growing, and developing together. In fact, we are a living, breathing work of art! I suppose the casual passerby may judge me and my efforts (or seemingly lack of them), but that judge won’t be me. I will give myself grace allowing me and my family space to be real humans. We ARE indeed “good enough.” We can have strength and self - confidence to do and be and achieve in real albeit imperfect ways.
By Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom
You have waited and waited AND (have I mentioned?) WAITED for this day! Nine months – give or take – and now, couldn’t you just stare hour after hour, at this little bundle of joy? Can you even believe it? Your thoughts have centered around this little one almost every minute of every day. And – phew! After discovering why it’s called “labor!” the baby has (FINALLY) arrived! Way to go Mom!
Having crossed the finish line, the sheer wonder of a new life placed in your arms fills you with anticipation of what lies ahead. Caressing that sweet downy soft head. Kissing each tender tiny toe and marveling as you trace those little eyes, nose, lips, ears. Those mini-fingers wrap their adorable frailty and dependence around your soul.
Wonder and joy sit side by side with the exact opposite: nagging feelings of exhaustion, inexperience, frustration. The discomforts of pregnancy are now replaced by new ones: Cesarean or episiotomy wounds. Sore nipples. Baby blues. Tired… SO tired. As much as we want to enjoy this experience of Mommyhood, we instantly realize that it isn’t going to be a piece of cake!
So please remember to be kind to yourself.
You are a walking miracle maker and now is the time to take good care of you. A time to heal. A time to take it easy. A time to be good to that number one Mommy.
Survival mode - Just as you finish doing the dishes and laundry, another load is calling your name. How is it possible to keep up with the many demands on your time and energy? Remember that at these times, you and your baby’s needs come first. It is clearly time for Survival mode. We’re talking basics here. The goal is not to have a spotless house, but to “love on” your children. If I can get the dishes tidied up once a day, a batch of laundry running, and maybe even a garbage taken out, I feel accomplished. Or better yet, use paper plates and cups. Save the environment later, when you have more time and energy!
Savor the moment - As with each stage in the life of children, I have found over and over again that with a new baby, there are both really hard things and really beautiful things – things that will never happen again: The sound of the newborn cry, the darling startle reflex, peeling skin, the smell of their neck nestled into yours, their first bath, their tiny toes. You may want to jot down notes about firsts, funny things they do, milestones, and your feelings. Capture the moment with frequent snapshots. There will be plenty of time for scrapbooking later if that’s a priority for you, but for now, just share them with friends and family so you can rejoice together!
Sleep - You know the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” Sister, it’s so true! The whole world looks like a friendlier place when you are rested. So toss out all the old important TO DOs on your list. Now is the time for a new list, and loving yourself enough to get some sleep is at the top of that list. If there is a choice between getting something done and getting some sleep, choose sleep. I know that this is not easily accomplished. So, for starters, sleep when the baby sleeps. Yes, this is harder to do once you have more than one child, so don’t be shy in asking for help from a friend or family member. Also, with a little know-how and practice, you can train your child to sleep. They’re going to have to learn how to do it on their own sometime anyway. Don’t be that mom that wished she had learned about sleep sooner, but alas, she was too tired! Two excellent resources on this topic are: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, M.D. and The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.
Time away - Let’s face it – Sometimes being a mom is just plain lonely. You spend many quiet hours even in the middle of the night, rocking, feeding, cuddling, soothing. All good things, right? But the overall effect can be draining if you don’t get a little time for yourself. Remember that as much as you love your baby, it is good to “baby” yourself sometimes, Mama! What does that look like? A weekly date night! Time with a friend on the phone or in person. An hour or two for personal time to shower, read, relax, or even take a nap. A walk around the block for a little fresh air and movement. Mommy is a person too and someone has to take time to “mother” her. So schedule in a little time for yourself each day. Think of it as a time to rejuvenate rather than a selfish action, because dear, it is anything but selfish. You will come back energized and excited to spread a little love and sunshine in your children’s lives. And besides that, you are worth it!
By Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom, Annette T. Durfee
One of my favorite things to do while growing up was to visit my grandmother’s homes on both sides of my family. I think everyone enjoyed it! I have to mention that while some people have “cookie” Grandmas, I had TWO "ice cream Grandmas!” My Grandma Durrant always had her freezer stocked with a favorite flavor at a moment’s notice. And my Grandma Tenney would let us sit on her back porch and grind the handle of the old-fashioned ice cream maker with a fresh cream mixture until the ice cream was nice and thick! YUM! So, was it the ice cream factor that made my Grandmas' homes such special places to visit? Being the ice cream lover that I am, I confess my answer to that question: “YES!”
But, of course, there was more -- much more!
In fact, everything in my grandmothers' homes spoke in a special way to my heart:
Don’t we all want that kind of a home? A home filled with warmth and love! Happily, it is something we can all achieve with work, creativity, time, and a whole lot of help from above! One song that describes this loving ambiance we want in our homes is called, “Home,” written by Caroline Eyring Miner:
Home is where the heart is
Where warmth and love abound
Home is where encircling arms
Go all the way around.
--by Caroline Eyring Miner
A home, as we all know, is more than just the furniture and the stuff we own. It is made up of the people who live there – our family! Therefore, in order for a home to have that ambiance of love that we desire, one of the most important things we can do is to prioritize our time to strengthen our relationships with our families.
In families, love is spelled T-I-M-E.
Time spent with our families is a true investment that pays long term dividends. When we spend time with our family, we increase our family’s capacity to feel loved and secure in our home. What we are really saying is, “I have time for you. You are important to me.” Time spent with family doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective, but both quantity as well as quality are important and consistency is key.
How do YOU spell love with your family? What message are you sending with the events on your calendar? Here are a few ways that strong families send their families a little love note to pump up the love-meter in their homes:
1. Set aside a weekly family night – What could be better than a time reserved just for your family each week where you all have a blast together?! Start out with one and build up to planning out a few at a time. Keep it simple or spruce it up. Just make it a night that the whole family looks forward to! It’s a great time to teach your family values as well as life skills. Play games and activities or go on outings! Maybe even work on a project together once in a while! And always – I mean ALWAYS - include a special treat!
2. Set aside a weekly family planning meeting – This is a great time to calendar events, share goals and dreams, and express ideas that will strengthen your family and leave everyone feeling calm and reassured. What can you do to assist them? How can they in turn help the family run more smoothly? You can do this as part of your weekly family night or at dinner. Just find whatever time works best for your family.
3. Individual Attention – One-on-one time with your children can be an effective way to connect with them even if it’s only a few minutes a day. Maybe you do this as you prepare dinner together, go on a short outing, run an errand together, or enjoy a special bedtime routine. Letting them talk about whatever is on their mind and really listening to them without judgment or criticism will help them to feel important and loved.
4. Unplug – In a world that is running at breakneck speed, we don’t want our families to get lost in the shuffle. So be sure to take a little time each day AWAY from phones, computers, television, and so on, not only to benefit yourself, but so that the whole family can really connect. This electronic free time becomes your chance to look each other in the eyes, talk together, laugh together and learn from one another, so don’t let it pass you by!
5. Eat meals together - Even if you can’t do it for every meal of every single day, do what you can to regularly schedule this important time together. Making it a priority to eat together blesses our families tremendously! Children whose families eat together not only develop healthier eating patterns and have better health, but they have a better vocabulary and academic performance, a higher self-esteem, a greater sense of reliance, and a lower risk of depression, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy.
6. Make and keep family traditions – Silly or special, extensive or simple, taking time to infuse family traditions lights a spark of joy and love in families. Some families have a song or a cheer. Some gather for a family prayer and group hug before heading out the door each morning. Some explore a special place each year. It really doesn’t matter what the tradition is, only that you do it and remember to keep doing it. Whether it’s as simple as having green eggs and ham on St. Patrick’s Day, strawberry pancake stacks on Valentine’s, or a treasure hunt on birthdays to find the presents, traditions not only give children something fun to look forward to, but help them to feel emotionally supported.
My grandmothers always had time for their family. They could have done a million other things, but instead they chose us. They turned on the love-meter in their homes by including us in their lives - teaching us how to do ceramics, raking the leaves together, playing a game of cards, going for a walk together to the post office. The ambiance in their homes was more than just physical surroundings, although that was certainly part of it. By opening up their calendars, what they were doing in essence was allowing us the time to open up our hearts to them, time with which they could then use to share their powerful influence for good. Now that’s what I call time well spent!
By Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom
They all do it. You know - that thing that drives you up a wall! No matter the age of your child and in spite of your best efforts, they inherently know exactly what button to push to get us to react. And it seems that the more we push for them to stop it, the more they pull back until the tug of war has escalated and within seconds, the sense of peace and beauty that we so desire in our homes is ruined. So what do we do? How can we conquer this frustrating behavior that frays at our nerves, fuels our frustration, and tests the limits of our patience?
Here are a few ideas that I have found helpful.
1. Take a break.
Take a few steps back. Retreat into my room for a few minutes – ALONE. Breathe! Regroup. Punch a pillow if it helps! Timeout for Mommy is not only healthy, but a sanity saver! As you remove your presence from the child they also get a chance to recover and try again. And while I take a break, I do what my knees were made for – I PRAY! When mothering moments go awry, I need help from a higher power. For me, this is God. I have found that He is always there – never too busy for me, never burdened by yet another plea for help. I pour out my heart with my worry, frustration, anger, and then, I LISTEN.
Sometimes I get an idea – I can see how I could have prevented the situation or how I could react in a better way next time or something simple I could do to help my child. It may not be the entire solution to the problem, but it is enough to get me headed back in the right direction. And as I implement that God-given idea, I regain confidence and my child and I regain a positive momentum. Other times after prayer, I am left with a simple yet reassuring sense of peace: I can handle this. I’ve got what it takes. I am a good mother. And other times, the answers aren't immediate but come along the way as God, my Father in Heaven goes behind-the-scenes with me and adds to my efforts.
2. Become curious.
Ask, “Why?” Why is my child behaving this way? What could he or she be feeling right now? What things are going on in this stage of their life that could cause this? Is there a little sibling rivalry going on? Is there a new baby that is diverting my attention? Perhaps something going on at school? I wonder: what is hard for them? How do they feel about themselves right now? Is there something I could do or say that would help to redirect their attention to something positive? When we become curious, we open up the door to the possible feelings of our children and we become more compassionate, empathetic, more loving. We can even help them to feel supported by helping them voice their own feelings. “Are you feeling sad, frustrated, lonely? How can I help?”
3. Model the behavior you want to see.
As hard as it may be to believe, it just may be that your child has not thought of a better way of doing things, even despite perpetual broken-record pleas from you. They may be in need of a consistent example to follow. Let’s say that your child has developed a habit of running through the house screaming. Although it may make you feel like pulling your hair out and yelling back, muster the mentality to smile and speak with a calm and quiet voice instead. “Let’s use our inside voices.” The important people in our children’s lives are like great big mirrors. What our children see in us, we will also eventually see in them. So, let’s be the best mirrors we can be accompanied with a smile, a hug, and a kiss.
Whatever we give our children attention for they will repeat. We already know that our children do the things that drive us bonkers often to get attention. So why not turn it around and use this to our advantage? Rather than handing out negative attention, we could choose to focus on those things that we want to continue and offer praise when we see them. For example, when I wish that the children would not fight and argue, I notice and thank the child at a time when they are being a peacemaker. “I love it when . . .” You fill in the blanks. My mom did this for me once in a simple way that stuck with me. One day she gave me a Mr. Goodbar candy bar with the explanation, “because you’re so good.” I didn’t know about shaping then, but every time I remembered that tasty treat, along with her other caring words and deeds, I felt like I was good and I tried to prove her correct!
5. Realize that we are not meant to control others.
I think I all too often learned this lesson the hard way, scraping the heels of my feet as I skidded along the road of hard-won control. As I struggled to learn a better way, I reflected often on a quintessential quote that I pinned on my Value Board:
“Never let a problem to be solved, become more important than a person to be loved.”
-- Thomas S. Monson
Such a beautiful reminder! This thought helped me to remember that the little people in my life were not bad, they were learning, just like I was learning how to mother with love.
Our children will inevitably do things that we do not approve of and this is not, I repeat NOT an indicator that we have failed as parents. And while that means that at times we need to discipline, we can leave out the empty threats, arguing, bribery, fighting.
Yes, our mission is not to control, but to teach, to influence, set an example, and - the best part of all - love them like crazy!
By Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom, Annette T. Durfee
All is well! All is well! Or so we thought! Our oldest son had a GREAT idea: let's test our family’s preparedness level by holding a drill, evacuating from our home! So, without telling anyone about it (except for me), we gathered for our weekly Family Night, and he announced: We had 5 minutes to get whatever we needed and off we would go in the Durfeemobile to our designated meeting spot for further evaluation. No problem, I thought. Surely we know what to do. Easy peasy! Except that the kids had their own ideas on what was important . . .
While I was finding my phone and purse, my four-year-old son went directly to the pantry to get a large can of “fruit cottontail” (as he called it) -- then he dropped it on his toe, causing squeals of pain. Instead of spearheading our evacuation, I ran to give comfort and administer first aid to his bleeding wound. Four minutes later, I rounded the corner to find that our two-year-old had dumped his Halloween candy onto the floor in order to find the best pieces to take. I'm not kidding!
I hurriedly shoved some shoes onto his feet and grabbed our coats as the girls came barreling down the stairs with a laundry basket full of ... their stuffed animals. Really! I just about lost it, but time was up, so we all piled in the car. Once we arrived at the church, we laughed hysterically as we surveyed the load in our car. Thankfully, my husband and oldest son had managed to heave our 72-hour kits and a few jugs of water into the car, so we could have survived, but we knew that there were some things lacking in our emergency preparedness mindset that we needed to remedy.
If you’re like our family, you try to surge through life hoping for the best, but often find that accidents are just so, well, accidental! Life as we know is full of bumps: flat tires, injury, job loss, sickness, death, and natural disasters can sneak up on us without warning. I want to be ready, how about you?
When the time for an emergency arrives, the time for preparation is past. So let's head off the stress and panic that can come at the moment of an emergency by deciding now to be prepared? With a few guiding principles and a little time educating ourselves and planning well, we can create safe places for our families no matter the storm. So buckle your seat belt folks, ‘cuz ready or not, here we come!
1. Start small. Start today. There are about a billion ways we could begin, and endless resources, but don’t let that stop you! Don’t wait until you have a lot of $ saved up. Don’t wait for a better time! This is no time to be a victim of all or nothing thinking. Keep it small. Keep it simple. Your ideas are the right ones for your family. Gather a few items together that you already have and build from there.
2. Anticipate needs and make a plan with your family. Mr. Fred Rogers said, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” Likewise, as we talk about and plan for emergencies, they become less scary and we can help our families become emotionally resilient.
What disasters are prevalent in our area?
What might happen?
What do we do if . . .?
What needs could arise in each instance?
What would be helpful then?
What insurance do we need?
How will we communicate during an emergency?
Do the children know their phone number?
Who could be our out-of-town emergency contact?
What needs would our baby have? An elderly friend or parent? Pets?
When will we practice our plan?
By anticipating our families’ needs, we create more options and access to lifesaving supplies that would otherwise be in short supply at the time of a crisis.
(See also, “Helping Children Cope With Disaster,” https://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/children.pdf)
“Family Emergency Planning,” https://www.ready.gov/kids/family-emergency-planning
3. Have the good sense to save some cents! I like Benjamin Franklin’s adage, “Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” Since we never know when an emergency will pop up, it makes sense to have a little extra money in our savings. My husband and I were students for the first ten years of our marriage, so we learned early on the value of buying what we really needed and saving up for a rainy day. I’ll admit that sometimes I felt sorry for myself for not being able to buy some of the things on our want list, but as we continued to set aside a small (and I mean small) amount each month, it eventually added up. During those months when he didn’t get paid, we could pay ourselves - a true investment!
(See also, “One for the Money,” Elder Marvin J. Ashton, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2007/09/one-for-the-money?lang=eng
4. Home Safe Home: Because many accidents can begin in the home, it is important to make our homes a place of safety. Again, good ole Benjamin Franklin provides the answer: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So the first step in having a home that is secure is to prevent a problem in the first place. Let’s start increasing our awareness of our home environment by taking a quick survey of our homes:
What possible hazards do you identify?
What can we do to prevent slips and falls?
Drowning, suffocation, and strangulation?
Fires and burns?
Medications and poisons locked away? Check!
Batteries for smoke alarm tested? Check!
Fire extinguisher within reach? Check!
What other preventative measures can you think of to reduce the risks and avert the booby traps in your home?
(See also, “Safe Kids Worldwide,” https://www.safekids.org/
“A Guide to Home Safety: Identifying and Preventing Hazards,” https://www.safehome.org/resources/home-hazards/
5. Having supplies, water, and food puts you in a good mood! With a little planning and occasional rotation, you can have lifesaving items ready for use right in the safety of your own home. And when hungry tummies come calling, you’ll be so glad that you’re ready! I found that by stocking up on basic items when they were on sale, we were able to build up our supply to a reasonable amount over time.
An easy place to start is to ask questions like these:
Water, as you know, is also important, not only when we’re thirsty, but to aid in food preparation, hygiene, and sanitation. And so, my friends, we ask the hard question, “what will we do if we can’t get clean water out of our faucet?” When the apartment of one of my daughters had to turn off the water for three days, she and her husband were well taken care of, having stored water ahead of time in juice and soda bottles that they had rinsed out and refilled. What could you do to prepare for such a time?
If we are truly going to be prepared at home, let’s not forget other necessities:
Is our first aid kit updated?
Do we all know where the flashlight is and do we have extra batteries?
Do I have a secret stash of cash on hand (in small bills)?
And do we have blankets and warm clothing in case the power is out and we have to dress more warmly?
Now there are a few sanity savers right there! And last but not least, may I mention that having some extra supplies in the cupboard such as deodorant, hand soap, toothpaste, dish soap, laundry detergent, feminine products and -- of course -- toilet paper (boy do we all know this!!) will go a long way in keeping this mama happy!
(See also, “Food and Water in an Emergency,” https://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/f&web.pdf)
“What’s That Smell: Sanitation When Systems Fail.”
6. On the Road Again: Because we are in our cars so much of the time, we would be wise to doublecheck that we are taking precautions to ensure that our family is safe there as well:
As part of our preparation, we might even include a little refresher course on a few things like how to change a flat or how to USE those jumper cables. I’m sure you can think of other things. Most of these safety measures only take a few seconds, but in the long run, you’ll thank yourself and your family will too.
(See also National Safety Council - https://www.nsc.org/road/safety-topics/child-passenger-safety/child-passenger-safety-home
7. Emergency Evacuation: In the event that you need to leave your home, what would be a good gathering spot for your family? Where will you meet if all of you are not home when the need to leave arises? As our family found out, in a moment of panic, it is easy for our minds to forget what things we need to have. To remedy this, we wrote up a list of our Top 10 items that we should grab in case of an evacuation and posted them on a paper by the garage door:
1. 72 Hour Kits
3. Important Papers binder
4. Cell phone/charger
6. Shoes and coat
8. Family Photos
10. Laptop Computer
My daughter, now a grown mother, has created a very nice detailed list prioritizing their list of items as determined by whether they have 5, 10, or 15 minutes to leave and stating where in the house the items are located.
What would be some things that are important to you in case your family had to leave your home?
Will planning and preparing make a difference? Well . . .When our family lived in Illinois, we often had tornados raging through our area. To help us to be ready for a possible disaster, we assembled 72-hour kits that we safely stored in the closet underneath the staircase with simple items such as a change of clothes, snacks, water, a battery powered radio, a flashlight, and books and small toys for the children. When the tornado sirens would go off, we knew the drill: we would gather the kiddos and go into the closet until the storm had passed.
Imagine our surprise when one day our son prayed that we could have another tornado! GASP! That’s going a bit far, wouldn’t you say? When we asked him why on earth he had said that, he replied that he wanted to play in the closet. It was fun! Well, at least he felt safe and we as his parents had greater peace of mind, knowing we had done what we could. We were ready!
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