Stroke of genius: A recipe for chores and cooperation

Recipe for Chores

I am neither a parenting expert nor a housekeeping expert, but occasionally I have a really good idea, and it works. Here’s the latest.

The most annoying question my kids ask me every day when I pick them up from school is: “What’s for after-school snack?” I don’t know what’s for after school snack! It’s frustrating that they expect me to have some kind of smorgasbord planned for their arrival when, honestly, they should be satisfied that I’m fully dressed when I pick them up. I got them breakfast before school. I make them dinner almost every night. Anyway, I try. I really do, but I usually don’t have anything spectacular for them to eat when they get home from school.

Today, after the kids were off to school, I walked from room to room in the house. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work required to get everything tidy again. How can three smallish people make such big messes and so quickly? How?! I dreaded cleaning it all up, and felt like I shouldn’t have to. I didn’t make the messes. So I decided that instead of spending my energy cleaning up after them, I’d rather channel my energy into a plan to get them to clean up after themselves.

My idea: A treat. They love a home-baked snack. They also love to cook with me, but I don’t do it with them as often as I should, or even as often as I’d like to. So I decided to wrap all those “rewards” into one. I realize that this is not a good daily chore plan, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed about all that has to be done and you need to rally the troops to really chip in and help, this worked like a charm.

The plan:

I found a yummy recipe that had approximately as many ingredients as chores I wanted them to do. I cut and pasted the ingredients list into a Word document, enlarged the font and line spacing, then printed it out.

Recipe

Then I turned the paper over and wrote down the tasks I wanted done around the house.

chores list

Then I cut the papers into strips, with the ingredient on one side and the chore on the other,

CAM00481

And rolled them up and put them into a bowl.

CAM00482

(This is how helpful my cat was during this process.)

CAM00483

I put the chore bowl on the table with some fruit for after-school snack and then waited for the kids to come home.

CAM00484I showed them the recipe and explained that they needed to do the chores to earn the ingredients. When everyone had earned all the ingredients, we would make the cake together.

It worked. They jumped right in and divided the papers among them.

CAM00489See? Magic. At one point, Clark said, “When there’s a really good reward, it almost makes the chores fun.” It’s like he knew I needed a slogan for my blog post or something. 😉

CAM00491

They finished their work quickly and without complaining. They each had ownership for their own ingredients and, once earned, could measure them out and add them to the recipe when called for.

CAM00492

We made the cake, ate it, and they were happy and pleasant. There was still a little bit of clean-up to be done, but it was way more manageable than my house was earlier, and now I can walk from room to room in my house and smile at the improvement.

CAM00493CAM00494

How about you? In a moment of “crisis,” have you ever had a stroke of parental genius that actually worked? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Sometimes we all just need a few new tricks to try.

What do the prophets say about [insert your hot-button issue of choice here]?

Listen to the prophet[image credit: jordanandemily.com]

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that every once in a while I get fire in my bones about something and I have to let it out. I have to write my thoughts “out loud” and I have to bear my testimony about it and promise the things that I know to be true. Usually it’s about one issue in particular (for example, see the previous catharses about pornography, the power of women , and the sanctity of family). Today it’s about all of those issues and many more. I don’t know about you, but lately my Internet content has been flooded, and I mean overwhelmingly filled, with discussions and commentary and articles and studies and arguments and status updates and diatribes about these issues and many more like them– gay marriage, abortion, vaccination, alcohol laws, government corruption… fill in the blank. The list goes on (painfully so).

If you feel confused and overwhelmed by some of these issues, I just want to tell you that this is the very reason that God gave us prophets. We have a living prophet and apostles, called to the whole world, to speak on behalf of the Lord and make His will known to us. The words of living prophets, like the iron rod in the vision of the Tree of Life, help us have a safe and clear pathway of truth even when surrounded by dark mists and pointing, mocking fingers. Lately, I have felt sadness when I see people I love and admire post things online that are contrary to what the prophets have taught us. I know these people love the Lord, and I think they love and try to sustain the prophet, but I fear they may not be paying attention to him.

This morning my family read from 2 Nephi 32. Verse 7 jumped out at me.  I’ve never marked it or paid attention to it before, but today, Nephi’s words captured the way I feel and reaffirmed to me the importance of practicing due diligence in our study of these issues.

I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.

This is what I know to be true: Many people have many different opinions on many different issues, but so does God, and He “revealeth his secret unto to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7) Do you want to know what God thinks about marriage or abortion or pornography? Find out. Take the challenge from Nephi: search knowledge. Sure there are plenty of “experts” and websites out there who are happy to tell you more than you want to know. The answers–the true answers, the right answers–are there for the taking if we do the asking.

Type the “issue” into the search engine at gc.lds.org (collection of general conference talks) and see what the prophets and apostles–whom we’ve sustained as prophets, seers and revelators–have said. A lot of talks and resources will pop up. You may be surprised how much is available. Read all of them. Study them. Ponder them. Invite the Spirit to help you see the issue through spiritual eyes. Like Nephi said, the knowledge is given “in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” Trust that God is using his prophets to help you know the truth. Then cling to those truths. Let them be an anchor to you in a constantly shifting and angry world.

Please. Pretty please. Even the not pretty, begging kind of please. Before you speak out on a major social or political or societal issue, study what the prophets have said about it. The knowledge you find will give you confidence to speak out in truth, and the people in your circle of influence will be pointed in the right direction by your words.

I testify that peace is found and sustained by hearing and studying and following the words of the prophets. I know that living prophets are completely in touch with the issues of our day and that the Lord is not silent on these matters. I cannot articulate how much comfort it gives me to understand how the Lord feels about things that the world is constantly fighting about. I promise that the prophets and apostles are teaching the same things Jesus would teach if He were here, so until He comes again, He has promised that “whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

I know it and believe it so much it puts fire in my bones.

Goals. And trying. And failing.

New-Years-Resolutions[image credit]

I like New Year’s resolutions. They do feel like a fresh, new start. And with the exception of a few superhuman individuals, the rest of us don’t always accomplish our goals with the same kind of perfection we intended. You know what? It’s fine. Really. Fine. The trick is to not be such a perfectionist that we abandon goals completely because we don’t like doing them less than perfectly. Sure, we can be more “perfect” by having fewer goals, but growth comes from the effort–from the stop and go, from the oops and up again, and from analysis and course correction.

My sister recently asked me about diminished motivation when goals start going sour, so I did a little research and found some great talks and articles that might be helpful in rekindling your goal-fire.

First, President Uchtdorf shared a recent New Year’s message called The Best Time to Plant a Tree. He says a lot of great things there, but this was one of my favorites:

“Another thing we need to remember when it comes to setting goals is this: We almost certainly will fail—at least in the short term. But rather than be discouraged, we can be empowered because this understanding removes the pressure of being perfect right now. It acknowledges from the beginning that at one time or another, we may fall short. Knowing this up front takes away much of the surprise and discouragement of failure.”

See? Permission. Here are a few more great talks to study, and some quotes from each.

Elder Ballard’s talk Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance reminds me to keep my goals in line with true priorities and treat those successes as the most important.

Many people have heavy demands upon them stemming from parental, family, employment, church, and civic responsibilities. Keeping everything in balance can be a real problem.

A periodic review of the covenants we have made with the Lord will help us with our priorities and with balance in our lives. This review will help us see where we need to repent and change our lives to ensure that we are worthy of the promises that accompany our covenants and sacred ordinances. Working out our own salvation requires good planning and a deliberate, valiant effort.

In Because of Your Steadiness, Pres. Eyring is mostly talking about home teaching, but he reminds me that a little more attention can help my efforts move from occasional to more consistent.

You may have learned endurance playing a trumpet, or throwing a football, or riding a bucking horse, or drawing a picture. But you learned what we all did. Effort only “now and then” didn’t take you far. The dreams that turned into reality stuck with you nearly all the time. You worked at them, either in fact or in your thoughts, every day and almost every hour.

President Uchtdorf is a master at reminding us to get up, get over it, and move on. In You Can Do it Now, these words encourage me to keep working on my goals for my own growth and not worry about the rest:

No one likes to fail. And we particularly don’t like it when others—especially those we love—see us fail. We all want to be respected and esteemed. We want to be champions. But we mortals do not become champions without effort and discipline or without making mistakes.

Brethren, our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward.

Finally, the talk Stay on the True Course by Elder Carlos Asay reminded me that I am more likely to be successful if I keep my eyes on the Savior and trust that when I do fall, he will be quick to save and get me on my feet again.

The need to remain focused on eternal goals is illustrated in the biblical account of Jesus walking on the sea and Peter’s desire to do the same. Peter progressed over the water so long as he looked to Christ. But when he diverted his gaze away from the Master and allowed fear and doubt to enter in, he began to sink. … We must reaffirm the goal that matters most and press toward it “looking forward with an eye of faith” (Alma 32:40).

So if you’re in a mid-January state of disappointment, pull out your resolutions again, get on your knees again, and get back to work. And give yourself permission to repeat the process as needed. I think we might be doing better than we give ourselves credit for.

Merry Christmas.

Today I’m feeling so much about Jesus Christ.
So happy he was born.
So awed he died.
So grateful He lives.
He is All that is Holy and Good.
There’s nothing to do about that except celebrate and follow Him the best I can.

This is my favorite Christmas song, “What Child is This?” My favorite part (while thinking about all He is and was and will be): “This! This is Christ the King.”

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Baby, the son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The baby, the Son of Mary.

Merry Christmas.

My favorite Christmas picks from Deseret Book (+a giveaway!)

Here are a few books that I’m using around here to a) celebrate Christmas or b) give as Christmas gifts or c) keep for myself. I wanted to share what they’re about and give you a chance to win some Christmas music too!

If you have someone on your list who likes inspiration with a no-nonsense approach, I recommend this new book by President Packer:

image001

This book includes some of President Packer’s most significant messages, delivered over a span of twenty-five years, on such topics as the plan of salvation, listening to the voice of the Spirit, spiritual growth, and marriage and family. Typical of his unwavering style, he tackles some of the challenges the world faces in the 21st century, such as the disease of profanity and the need for personal responsibility. He thoughtfully and powerfully address many major doctrinal, moral, and social issues of our day. At a time when the adversary has succeeded in “confusing the choices of man,” President Packer shares timely insights gained from many decades of serving as a special witness of Jesus Christ in the highest councils of the Church.

——————–

If you enjoy biographies or books with a journal-style, this new book about President Henry B. Eyring’s book is really charming. I love the drawings he did and the sweet way he talks about his family and the hand of God in his life.

image001
Years of his journals form the backbone of this intimate biography, a candid look at his walk through life with his beloved companion, Kathy. “The journal shows how a good-but-imperfect man works each day to win divine approval,” write the authors, and this window into his past provides unforgettable insights about the man the Lord has shaped him to become. Henry B. Eyring’s professional, academic, and personal experiences all combined to make him uniquely qualified for the responsibilities that would become his. And Kathy, always at his side, matching his intellect and spirituality, has influenced him profoundly and contributed to his life mission in unmatchable ways. Their story, told largely in his own words, vividly demonstrates the power of the Lord and the example set by one who strives to follow His commands.

——————–

If you spend any time online, you have probably seen some buzz about the place of women in the Church. Some of the confusion comes from voices claiming that women should hold the priesthood. I happen to think that women already have a lot of power–both within themselves and within the Church–and already have access to all the power and blessings available through the priesthood. (I’ve written my own thoughts here and here about some of that.) Well it turns out that someone else has already written about the real doctrine behind this issue, and done it well. I’ve long been a Sheri Dew fan because I think she’s a great example of a powerful woman–even by the world’s definition of power, but most especially in the spiritual sense–who uses her gifts and stewardship to truly influence the world in righteous ways. I have to admit I have not completely finished this book yet, but I have found myself spending all my time in it so far by nodding, saying, “Yes. Yes.,” and highlighting and underlining things. So I feel safe in giving it a hearty recommendation. Definitely ask for it or buy it for yourself for Christmas.

Women_and_the_Priesthood_cover_detail

For those who seek greater understanding about women and their relationship to the priesthood, Sheri states that the place to start is with the core doctrine of the Church. In this book she discusses the eternal truths that women are vital to the success of the Lord’s Church, that God expects women to receive revelation, and that both men and women have access to God’s highest spiritual blessings. Sheri writes that studying the doctrine of the priesthood will help people find the answers they seek about women and the priesthood, about women in the Church, and about the vital influence righteous women can have in the world.

——————–

I love to collect Christmas picture books. This year I got Christmas from Heaven, which tells the very cool true story of a WWII bomber who dropped candy down from the skies to suffering children below. It’s heartwarming and has cool vintage-style artwork. The book makes for a great read-aloud along with good discussion about kindness, giving, and sacrifice–all appropriate Christmas themes. It also comes with DVD (info below)!

Christmas-from-Heaven_Berlin Candy Bomber

Christmas from Heaven is the story of the humble beginnings of what became a beacon of hope to a war-torn land, the story of Gail Halvorsen, a young pilot in the US Army Air Corps who was assigned as a cargo pilot to the Berlin Airlift, in which US forces flew much-needed supplies into a Soviet-blockaded Berlin. Fashioning small parachutes, he and his crew sent them floating down as they approached the Berlin airport, wiggling the wings of their C-54 as a signal to the children that their anticipated cargo would soon arrive. Word soon spread, and donations of candy and other supplies poured in to the “Candy Bomber” from sympathetic Americans. Lt. Halvorsen’s small idea became a great symbol of hope not only to German children in a bombed-out city but to all those who yearned for freedom.

Famed broadcast journalist and author Tom Brokaw brings this remarkable true story to life in a stunning live performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, captured on the accompanying DVD. Also included in the book is a template and directions for creating your own “Candy Bomber” parachutes.

——————–

And finally, what is Christmas without good–really good–music? Nothing is more classic that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir belting out Christmas favorites. The only thing that makes it better is when they team up with amazing individual talent: in this case, Alfie Boe of Les Miserables fame. I could listen to the “Bring Him Home” track on repeat for hours.  Deseret Book has offered to do a giveaway for my readers. Yay!!

Enter by leaving me a comment below telling me what is your very favorite Christmas song and you will be entered in a drawing. Two individuals will be chosen to win the DVD or CD of Home for the Holidays. Drawing will close Sunday night at 11:59 pm.

Home for the Holidays DVD Home for the Holidays CD

As seen and heard by more than 80,000 people in the LDS Conference Center, Home for the Holidays is the live recording of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s 2012 Christmas concert. This year’s release features internationally acclaimed TV personality Tom Brokaw and Tony Award–winning Les Miserables tenor Alfie Boe.

The Choir also welcomed surprise-guest Gail “Hal” Halvorsen, the renowned Candy Bomber of World War II. Together with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, these three special guests delivered an unprecedented excitement to the stage that brought all in attendance to their feet more than once during the night.

——————–

Good stuff available from Deseret Book for Christmas, folks. Make a comment below to win Home for the Holidays, and all these items are available at your local Deseret Book or at their website.