Cleaning House…the bane of my existence

The other day I was taking a mental break while Little O spread his crayons all over the living room floor. Not to worry, I said to myself, we’ll clean them up later. Later came and I was faced with a defiant two-year-old and a short temper. I recall thinking to myself, “are you really losing it over a few crayons on the floor?” I think I really lost it for a couple of reasons. The first was that I felt Little O was purposefully ignoring me. Since he is only two, this wasn’t what was going on. He was merely continuing to explore his world and have fun. He couldn’t understand why mom was getting upset. The second reason that contributed to my ire was that I had an agenda to meet that wasn’t being met. I wanted a clean house. I crave a clean house. I NEVER get a clean house. Maybe never is too strong a word. My sweet husband helps me clean the house from top to bottom when I have come to the end of my tolerance with dirt, and he is generally very helpful doing routine things like laundry and dishes.

However, the cleanliness and order in my house is usually below the standard that will keep me stress-free. I contribute to a large part of the chaos: I’m not the most organized person, I find it very difficult to complete any task when I have to constantly switch from task to task (something which has become a constant state of being since becoming a mother), and I simply would rather do other things than housework. So I do contribute to my own irritation, but I have found that this has exponentially increased since I now live with two other people, one of them a toddler.

Anyway, after apologizing to Little O for losing my temper, I called my older sister for some mom-to-mom chat and mostly for advice. I was wondering if I’d ever be able to patiently put aside my needs while caring for my little one. She gave me two great pieces of advice. She said the thing that helped her the most was that her kids grew up. This wasn’t the advice I was expecting; I was really hoping for a great piece of wisdom that would give me the ability to snap my fingers and grow all the patience in the world. What I learned was that we all have our buttons that get pushed sometimes, and you just have to anticipate that they’ll be pushed, find a way to gracefully navigate through the rough spots and look forward to a time when they won’t be constantly pushed. Little O will be on to other buttons, I’m sure.

The second thing that she said was this:

“Cleaning the house when the kids are growin’ is like shoveling the walk while it’s still snowin’.”

I laughed. and laughed. and laughed. I got the hint. I need to realize that while I DO need to clean the house while my kids are small, the effort spent will be undone almost as soon as it gets accomplished. I think the reasons for cleaning the house while the kids are young is to teach them to be clean, not necessarily to have a clean house. Point taken. So Emilie, grab some serenity and let go of having a spotless house. That will come eventually. Right now it’s still snowing, and it won’t stop for another 16 years or so.


Morning Devotional

As part of my effort to live my life with more intention, I started a morning devotional with my son. It takes about 5 or 10 minutes, but so far has been a welcome addition to our mornings.

Let me tell you that mornings are NOT my forte. When I was in pre-school, my mom said I was so slow in the mornings I’d frequently miss school. In elementary school I’d usually be in my pajamas when my best friend showed up to walk to school together. I’d usually end up walking alone. My youngest sister says the chore she dreaded getting assigned was waking me up in the morning. At my first job out of college, my colleagues would say “don’t talk to Emilie before ten in the morning!” So let’s just say I’m very slow to wake up and put on my happy face.

Since I have this little challenge, I feel like it’s important for me to be awake at least an hour before Little O so that I’m a bit more pleasant when I get him out of bed. That way I can do my own personal prayers and study and do a few things that I want to do without toddler-style interruptions. This effort has been hit-and-miss. I’ll report more on that later.

However, the morning devotional has added some cheer into our mornings and as a bonus Little O has started memorizing some scriptures! (He just turned two.)

The morning devotional consists of 1) singing songs, 2) saying a scripture (we recite the same scripture for a whole week before we move on to another one), and 3) a morning prayer.

Generally I let Little O pick the songs; he either names them or we look through our Primary Songbook and he stops at a picture he likes. I sing them mostly off-tune and sometimes with a made-up tune since I’m not very good at sight-singing songs. This lasts anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes. Then we do our scripture, reciting it at least once, and sometimes more. I ask him to repeat as much as he can. Then we do our kneeling prayer and that’s it!

It’s a first attempt for me at a real morning ritual and a schedule for our day, and so far Little O and I really love it. I think it adds an important bit of connection with him at the beginning of the day, it helps us get our routine of morning prayer and scripture study going at an early age, and since it is part of our schedule it helps him transition to the “next thing.”

Have you ever done a morning devotional? What worked for you?



Living Intentionally

Almost two years ago, I quit my day job to become a stay-at-home-mom. In many ways I have absolutely loved being home with my son. I’ve also struggled. A lot.

This (major) change in my life has proved to be a pretty serious identity crisis. I love my son. I love to see him grow and develop, learn new things, watch his little personality form. However I have felt sometimes like I have become  a non-entity that lacks purpose in life. Days and weeks seem a blur; they are all the same with no distinction.

As I’ve thought about why I feel this way, I’ve considered many options as contributing factors: have I let my own goals and aspirations fall by the wayside? am I getting enough time by myself? (as an introvert, this is a necessity!) am I growing personally in the ways that I feel most rewarded? have I embraced this new calling as a mother and made it my own? All of these questions are probably manifestations of underlying reasons why I feel this way, but I think today I found the ultimate problem. It is my own pride.

Today was the last day of a very long week caring for a sick child, a sick husband, and now a sick self. I have been exhausted and inwardly complaining that I have to care for everyone else while I’m sick, but no one stops to care for me while I’m sick. In fact, I still get to do all the work I always do when I’m healthy. I’ve been feeling angry and resentful. I asked my husband to take our son over to his parent’s house so that I could have some alone time, and as I was thinking about the state of my attitude, I felt a little nudge telling me to repent. Repent? of course I need to repent! Could you be a little more specific, please? Pride. Hmmm. Still kind of vague.

Well luckily there is a classic talk by President Ezra Taft Benson given in the April 1989 General Conference called “Beware of Pride.” I know I have a marked up written copy somewhere, but I decided to see if I could find a video online. I thought it would be nice to hear his voice as he delivered the speech. Tears came to my eyes as I clicked on the video and saw that it was President Gordon B. Hinckley who actually delivered the sermon. He read it as a delivered message from President Benson who was able to attend the conference, but was unable to deliver the message himself, I’m assuming because of his health.

 We need to back up here and talk a bit about why Gordon B. Hinckley reading this message could be so meaningful to me. President Hinckley was the first prophet that I felt like I actually knew–I actually started paying attention to General Conference when I was in college, which was when President Hinckley became the prophet. While on my mission, I made a goal that before I died, I would learn to be as positive as he was. I came to know this man as a humble and devoted servant of the Lord. I felt that he was the epitome of humility and Christlike love. I grew to love him as a prophet of the Lord and hope that if a normal guy like him could become so Christlike, then maybe there was a chance for me to do it too.  When President Hinckley died I was asked to give a Sacrament meeting talk about how his life and teachings had impacted my life. I bawled like a baby during most of the talk. I remember someone coming up to me afterward to say, “You got a little emotional during that talk, didn’t you?” I still resent that remark, which proves my point that I need to become more like my hero, Gordon B. Hinckley, and eradicate pride from my life.

For all of these reasons, hearing Gordon B. Hinckley deliver Ezra Taft Benson’s classic discourse on pride really touched my heart. I knew that I needed to start changing, let go of my desires to be praised by peers, let go of  my selfish tendencies, and simply celebrate the role that my Heavenly Father is asking me to fill right now. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on how I’m going to accomplish this, but for now let’s just say my goal is to Live Intentionally. Live every day with the intent to be Christlike. Live with goals in mind, and accomplish them. Live with the intent to put of the natural man, and accept Christ’s grace to help me become like Him. Too many days go by where I just react to circumstances instead of actively create opportunities–opportunities where I could serve, where I could love, where I could grow. This changes with my new mantra: Let go of pride. Live intentionally.