Brotherly love

Last week, we set up the toddler bed in Scotland’s room, thinking we’d give the shared room a try. It resulted in many late nights (full of fun for the boys) followed by days of emotional duress and conflict when their fatigue hit them. It didn’t take long to realize that, when other options were available, the shared bedroom wasn’t our thing.

So, Saturday we took down the crib and moved the toddler bed into Anders room. The last few nights there has been much screaming and tantruming at the door by Anders- who fortunately can’t quite open the door if closed tightly. The length of these tantrums has grown shorter, and I was hopeful for tonight. As I’d hoped, his crying ended soon after it’d begun. I sat downstairs reading, and feeling smug that our transition was near complete. About 30 minutes later I hear “Mommy, Mommy?” in a low husky voice. At first I assume it’s Scotland, but no, it’s Anders. He crawls up on the rocking chair with me to watch the video I was watching on my phone about how our church helps refugees. Scotland came down a few moments later saying “I want to cuddle!” One on each side we sat snug under a blanket as I explained the sad predicament of millions of people, we pondered what we could do. Then I sent them back to bed. Scotland happily obliged, and fortunately, Anders followed suit. They walked upstairs, single file. I didn’t hear a peep or sound afterwards. Could they possibly have just gone back to their beds? After 15 minutes I came up to investigate. Anders door was closed, his bedside lamp shining under the door. I quietly opened the door to find his bed empty. I tiptoed down the hall to check if he was in bed with Scotland. Not in bed, but happily asleep on the floor near him.

My heart warmed at the love of my two boys. They are the best of friends. Witnessing their sweet relationship is one of my favorite parts of motherhood. They may not be permanently sharing a room, but I secretly hope that there are many nights when they sneak in to cuddle up together.

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin carving:

We started the holiday festivities off at FHE on Tuesday when we carved pumpkins, halloween music playing. Scotland carved a scary face, Tom a Tiger, and I a bat. Anders painted a pumpkin. Tom had him help him clean out his pumpkin. At first Anders refused but finally got in on the fun. Scotland was meticulous with his cleaning. Even spending a good amount of time at the sink- washing it out before he felt it was ready to be carved. We all enjoyed roasted pumpkin seeds for a treat!

It took a bit of encouraging before Anders would stick his hand in.

But he finally did.

Friday morning Scotland had his preschool halloween party. The two “outings Moms”- Caroline especially went above and beyond to create this darling party for them- complete with a spooky lunch and foaming witches brew!

Preschool Party:

Church Party:

We had such a fun sweet Halloween with our little guys. Friday night we had a blast at our church’s harvest festival. A great variety of games- life size angry birds, hoop fest, cake walk, donut eating contest, face painting, magnetic fishing and bag decorating all made for a memorable night. Anders participated in everything, and had to be nearly dragged away from each activity because he just didn’t want to stop! They finished the night with the trunk or treat and were overjoyed to dump out their bags and see their spoils when they got home. Scotland, happily shared his with everyone.

Sweet Bro. Geddes letting Scotland try out his real sword.

I loved all the creativity that went into the activities. Our past bishop made this angry bird catapult based off his wife (our RS president’s) idea!

The High Priests put together this fishing activity with real poles.

This was Anders’ favorite though- balls!

Note the ring on the pumpkin- go Anders.

Trick or Treating:

Batman, Lion, Warrior Woman, and Stick man (sans mask)

Saturday night we went trick or treating in our neighborhood. It’s a sweet street, quiet with few trick or treaters and few houses. Once again it was darling to see Anders be such an active participant, he want to carry his bag, and knock at each door. He quickly got a hang of the “choose a candy” but not the “only take one!” He vigorously roared for everyone, and Scotland was super social introducing each of us and telling what we were dressed up as for Halloween. He was SOOO proud of his batman costume. I found the outfit at Goodwill and he was determined to wear it despite it being a bit too small. We borrowed the cape and mask from friends. Boy did he strut his stuff; running to feel his cape fly out behind him and showing off moves when requested at the doorstep. He was polite and grateful, and I beamed with pride at his maturity and kindness.

We came home, examined candy, and ate some while we watched Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin.

It was so fun to have Tom join us this year. We had him home ALL weekend, which was treat enough for me. The boys just soak him up when he’s here. Anders, who has been sick all week, wanted to be in his arms as much as possible. And Scotland was constantly requesting another session of LEGO creating, fort building, or some other sort of play.


Absorption issues

If I check out a book and it sits on my desk where I can see it daily, I absorb the information right. Even if I never crack the cover?

I’m endlessly requesting books at the library. I excitedly pick them up. I bring them home, I hold them tenderly. I put them on the desk next to my computer. And more often than not I take them back to the library, after renewing them as many times as possible, without having read them.

My current problem is I can’t even get through two children’s books without falling asleep. I dedicate at least eight hours to sleep each night, the quality varies, but even then, more than 15 minutes in the seated position and I’m heading towards dream land. Building a baby is hard work, apparently!

As I write this I’m thinking of my wise sister Sabina’s words. (It was about teaching piano to Scotland, but I think it applies here.) “Just try for five minutes a day, you’ll be surprised how much progress you’ll make in even such a short period of time.” Hmmm. Might this work with reading?

BTW what made me write this blog? I just read this article based off a recommendation from my other wise friend Katie, and loved it. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s conclusions are very much my own- many of which I shared a few posts ago. So. . . I requested her book, Unfinished Business. Maybe this five minute goal will help be read it!?


A few thoughts on fatherhood

I read a couple of articles in the NYTimes this afternoon. They both spoke of the role of fathers. This one spoke of how, even within the same household, brothers fare worse than sisters when disadvantaged.  Researchers have been trying to define what is causing the gender gap, and how we can help boys. One of the answers, it turns out, is fathers. No surprises there, but not nearly enough talk.

“Boys particularly seem to benefit more from being in a married household or committed household — with the time, attention and income that brings,” Mr. Autor said.

I then went on to read this article. I’ll share a few quotes:

“The fatherhood bonus is based on the notion that fathers are extra-committed to work because they have a family to support. If they give any indication that they might prioritize family, they tend to be treated like mothers, and penalized. It’s known as the flexibility stigma.”

Claire Cain Miller gave props to Joe Biden and Paul Ryan for publicly stating that they were cutting back, to make time for family. And suggested that more vocal demands by men and women alike to prioritize family would benefit all.

It reminded me of a conversation Tom and I had a few months ago. We were talking about preparing children for careers and the difficultly of encouraging them towards professional success while also teaching them to value and find balance with family life. Tom made the point that we should teach our boys no differently than we will teach any future daughters. I want my boys to grow up choosing a career that will allow them to be stellar Dads, and to enter the work force with the understanding that they, like their wives, will have to give and take in order to fulfill their more important calling as parent.



Introducing the fifth member of our family!

A few weeks ago we got to see our third child. I wish I could verbalize how thrilling it is to see your baby for the first time. While my boys looked up and said “Oh” at the ambiguous smears of white and black moving across the screen, I saw my little peanut, curled up, smacking his lips and standing on his head- a silly grin spread across my face the entire hour. (I say “his,” not because I know we’re having a boy, but because I pretty much only use masculine pronouns around here! It’s a habit.) This last week, I’ve started feeling gentle movements, kicks and stretches, and I love it!  I feel too much is vocalized about the difficulties of pregnancy. Sure they are many, yes it’s tough. But I fear that when we focus on the negatives of child bearing we loose sight of the glories. We create a culture of grumbling and disgust instead of one of awe, and respect. I feel honored that as a woman I have the opportunity and the capability of creating a body, of creating a life. I marvel at the intelligence and skill built into my very being that knows how to create bones, DNA, hair. Its baffling, and demoralizing for some, that the act of child creation is involuntary. And by that I mean, one doesn’t mentally choose to say, “create eyes today.” Once fertilization takes place the process is set in motion and things pretty much happen on their own. I’ve heard some express that this lessens the impressiveness of the act. If anyone can do it, then it’s not that special. It doesn’t take a college degree, it doesn’t take hours of practice. It just happens. It’s miraculous. For me this calls for humility. My body, my spirit and its connection with the Divine is more powerful than I realize. It’s larger than “me.” I have capabilities beyond my thinking brain.

While the creative process is not a conscious one, it can be a spiritual one. My baby is very much my baby. Most of you are probably unaware that I have a third child, you haven’t seen him/her, his/her face hasn’t graced my Instagram or blog pages- until today, but his spirit is very much a part of my heart. I think of him/her, I pray for him/her, I plan for him/her just as I would for Scotland or Anders. My heart has expanded. He/she is alive, just within me. This is the joy of pregnancy that too oft is left unverbalized. I am thrilled to have welcomed a new life to our home, a new heart to love, a new face to kiss. We talk about our baby often. Anders is no longer our baby, his place as a big brother was established many weeks ago. How blessed we feel.

This little guy/girl was smacking his lips throughout the whole ultrasound. It was so darling! 


Photo books- over documentation?

The last few weeks I’ve been working on Anders 0-2 year photo book. I use Picaboo and wait until they are running a special for unlimited pages for $40 and buy it up. So far I’m only up to 13 months and I’m already at 100 pages. And just now I realized there was a whole trove of iphone pictures that I hadn’t gone through, and I got all panicky- but I’ve got to add this one when he started pulling himself up at the library, look at that smile- it’s got to be in the book, I never want to forget how round his belly was and how his belly button stuck, oh but that little hat he wore. . . I just don’t want to forget any part of this adorable boy. I love these photo books. They take ALOT of time, but Scotland adores his and looks at them on a regular basis. In fact just tonight, as I was working on Anders’ he called out, “Dad can you bring me my book about me?” (He’d brought it out to show me something earlier this afternoon.) I believe in record keeping. I believe it secures memories, helps focus our lives on the joyful things, and helps us be grateful. Not to mention pictures are typically of events, so they help us focus on the experiential side of life versus the material. All that being said, how many pictures do we really need of our lives. When has documentation gone too far? Is there a point when it shifts from memory keeping to self conceit?

It’s fall, we went on vacation

Summer has been over for a good month, but it’s really felt like it the last week or so. There’s been a culinary shift. We eat pretty seasonally, since the bulk of our diet is vegetable based. Butternut squash has replaced green beans, applesauce- fresh berries. Today I made a batch of Myrtle’s applesauce. Grandma Myrtle was a dear friend whom we adopted in Cleveland as Scotland’s “Grandma.” She cooked great southern food, including a scrumptious applesauce. I hope I never forget the time we stopped by to visit and, as was the norm, she sat us down at her table to eat. Scotland was just starting on solids, but I gave him a taste of what amounted to apple pie in puree form, sans crust. He downed the whole bowl so fast I hardly got a taste. Myrtle happily supplied me with a large second helping. The next fall I called to ask the secret to her fabulous sauce: “Oh, you just cook down a variety of apples then add butter, sugar, and cinnamon until it tastes good!” Butter! I wouldn’t have come to that on my own. So today, I made a batch of applesauce that even Myrtle would agree “tastes good” with plenty of butter, sugar and Penzies apple pie spice. It’s divine. I think of Myrtle often, I miss her, but I feel closer to her now, that she’s in heaven. I like to think she can hear me when I talk to her, and that she checks in on me, just like she used to. We love you, Grandma Myrtle.

We spent the week in the San Juan Islands, Orcas Island specifically. One of the perks of Tom’s job is that he gets four weeks of vacation. And they can only be taken in two one week chunks and one two week chunk. We can request certain months for vacation, but specific dates are chosen for us, and they are selected in July for the following year. It forces us to plan, and make use of his time, as it is so special. It also means they don’t always coincide with family get togethers. I hate that Tom often misses my family reunions, but we appreciate that it gives us time as a little family to get away and make memories. We rented a small cabin that was right on the water. We spent our three days there playing in the sand, hiking, fishing, cooking over the fire and BBQ, eating outside, driving around the island, and enjoying the resort’s spa. The first day was gorgeous, the second rainy, and the third overcast. We made the most of the weather, hiking despite the rain, and enjoying family time playing games and reading books inside, but we were all thrilled the the rain cleared the third day so we could return to the beach, the pier, and the breathtaking outdoors. I’m really glad that we chose a place on the water, because Orcas Island has very limited public access to the water. The place we stayed West Beach Resort, had a good stretch of beach and a long dock from which to take in the scenery. The boys got drenched and totally sandy a few times each day. I was grateful that a change of clothes was only a few strides away! The ferry ride there is a good fifty minutes of sheer beauty. Islands dot the landscape in layers, with Mount Baker faint as a backdrop.

Now for pictures:

Day 1:

Ferry Ride

I tried hard to capture the beauty of the islands on our way in. But you just can’t capture the expanse. They seem to go on endlessly. It made me reflect on how incredible the human eye is. What a creative masterpiece. Despite my fancy camera, it couldn’t come close to capturing what I could see. 

Scotland was most excited about “discovering secret passage ways” in the ferry. Something he and Tom did last time they rode the ferry together. Tom as always, was willing to indulge his appetite, so the three of them set off to try out every stair well, elevator, and hallway. Leaving me to savor the wind in my hair, and the beauty before me.

I was determined to spot any whales that were had to be spotted. We were rounding the corner from Lopez island to Orcas when there they were two orca whales! We saw them dive in and out of the water several times, just as the captain instructed us all to return to our vehicles. We waited and watched a little longer before a firmer voice repeated the demand. I was tickled pink that my persistence had paid off, my wish granted, and that my two boys saw their first whales in the wild! (Lucky ducks!)

Our cabin- #4.

Beachfront property. Sigh. Scotland suggested we buy a house by the water in the future. I’m right there with you bud. (Well, except for the constant supply of sandy wet laundry!) 

Scotter and I had a blast building a “fish trap” on the beach the first afternoon, while the two other boys slept. I found that waterproof pants, boots, and rubber gloves made for a much more pleasant beach experience for me. Then I was willing to get “into it” just as much as Scotland, without getting squeamish about the bugs jumping out of the sand, or wet pants. I’d wished I would have sprung for waterproof pants for Scotland before this trip. He may be getting thigh-high waders for Christmas!

Our first night, we were treated to a beautiful sunset. A real treat since we didn’t see the sun the rest of the time we were there. We had tin foil dinners and s’mores for dinner the first night- note my boys there around the fire in the bottom right. (The tin foil dinners were a huge success- They had precooked and marinated BBQ chicken, diced baked potato, corn and onion slices. The BBQ flavored everything and the fire gave it all a delicious smoked flavor. The fact that everything was pre-cooked was key- it was just a matter of heating it up!)Day 2:

The second day it rained all day. But we were determined to make the most of it, so we set off in the morning to explore Moran State Park.

All started well. Anders and I were fully suited up- totally rain proof. Tom and Scotland were only covered on top, and had water proof shoes.

We chose the mountain lake loop, and stopped to play at the lake about a fourth a mile in. A poor decision. Scotland was thrilled to play in the water, as always, but fell in not longer after getting there. Which didn’t deter him from having a fabulous time at the lake, but did result in a less than happy camper once we hit the trail again. Let’s just say we didn’t make it the full four miles.

The boys would have happily played by the lake the whole day, throwing rocks, building boats, and being boys.

Note Ander’s rock!

After a long play session at the lake we set off again from the trail. But what followed was a good half hour of whining and crying from Scotland, negotiating/pleading/demanding from Tom and I, until finally I grabbed his hand and started skipping along belting out such greats as “Do you Ears Hang Low” and “Shinnamerinkadinkadink!” which lessened his displeasure, but didn’t completely stop it until I made him the soloist of “The Wheels on the Bus-” “The baby on the bus says: motioning to him” He immediately grew silent, laughing as over and over I sang the prompt “The baby on the bus says Scotter, that’s your part!” He thought it was hilarious and requested I sing that song the rest of the way back. Despite the emotional duress Scotland’s cold, wet state brought upon all of us we still enjoyed a beautiful, though brief hike.

Thanks to Anders rain suit. He was happy as a clam!

On our way home we saw a bunch of deer and then a huge bullfrog hoping across the road! I HAD to pull over. It’s not everyday a boy gets to see a frog that big. Of course I had to catch it, because well, that’s what you do when you see a frog right?!

The rest of the day was spent working on the Snap Circuit, reading, and goofing off in the cabin. We did head out before dinner to buy a fresh salmon to grill up, which was fabulous! Tom and I enjoyed seeing more of the island. We at dinner on the patio, listening to the rain pitter pater as we enjoyed grilled cheese and tomato soup, and salmon.

Day 3:

Anders and I were up first so we sneaked out to enjoy the early morning quiet so the other two could sleep.

We were rewarded with a bald eagle site-ing as well as fish, crabs, a starfish and of course lots of sea birds. With the rain cleared Anders enjoyed his breakfast out next to the water, and Scotter enjoyed a pre-breakfast sand session.

After breakfast, I took Scotland fishing. We rented a pole and tried our luck with hotdogs at the end of the dock. (As was recommended.) He had several tiny fish bite, and several larger fish sniff, but no takers. I was proud of his patience, and persistence, but after a good half hour lacking in excitement, he decided to move on to other things. I was surprised at my desire to teach him to fish, to show him the joys of fishing, the thrill of teasing the fish, the art of imitating the fly, worm, etc. I don’t think of myself as a fisherman, but I fished every summer growing up on our family backpacking trips, and I can appreciate the thrill of taking in a fish! I’ll admit I was disappointed that I didn’t have a license, and couldn’t try my own hand at snagging those whoppers down below.

We visited Eastsound that afternoon, it’s a charming tiny little town with a couple streets full of darling shops and restaurants. I’m always a sucker for the beautiful potted flowers tourist towns such as these support.

Day 4:

We headed back to the mainland around noon. After eating a scrumptious brunch at the Island Skillet. Fortunately the clouds had blown off and it was, again, a gorgeous clear ferry ride. We wrapped up our trip with a visit to Mt. Erie in Anacortes. The view was beyond breathtaking. Almost unworldly. Pictures can’t come close:

For future reference here’s my brief review of the vacation: We were really grateful we chose to rent a cabin instead of tent it. For one it was really wet, and we all appreciated our sleep. We had more struggles than we would have liked with Scotland. (I’m really appreciating our spacious house after our tiny cabin.) If we go again I’ll be sure to supply Scotland with water-proof gear, so he can go out whenever he wants without getting chilled. Next time I’ll plan it more thoroughly. There was a lot of “So what do we do now?” The indecision was hard on all of us. I liked having a kitchen, even though we did eat primarily pre-prepared foods. While it was nice to be there on the shoulder season because of it being quieter, and a little cheaper. I think we’ll go when the weather is more reliably nice in the future. We made the best of it, but we ended up in the cabin more than any of us would have liked. All in all we had a wonderful time, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to leave behind the projects, stresses, and distractions of our home for some wonderful family time in a gorgeous place!

Equality in parenting

My sister-in-law sent this article around our family a few days ago. I have many thoughts about it, but haven’t had a chance to share them. I’ll do so here.

This article may be true for many couples. But I’m not sure it can be accurately said of mine. I think my husband’s job very likely meets if not rivals mine in stress and intensity. Interestingly, we are both in service occupations, and caring for people is difficult. Both of us have been thrown into jobs with little direction, and on site teaching. Both are required to do tasks we’ve never done before. Both of our actions poise potentially life threatening consequences.  Okay, maybe my job doesn’t qualify for that statement, but I’ll admit to constant worry about the long term consequences of my actions. Both of us deal with sleep deprivation- he, more so these days. Both are forced to multitask. So, as Ms. Senior says, “Its about the perception of equality.” At least when comparing careers, for me, we are equal- if not, he wins out on the more stressful, less-desirable front. Granted, I have only two children, and they are both perhaps on the “easy” side. And Tom is in the most intense year of what is already a grueling residency. I may have to revisit this article in, ahem, six years.

That being said the article did confirm that I am not alone on two fronts:

I loved this description of an emotion I feel often:

“Being compelled to divide and subdivide your time doesn’t just compromise your productivity and lead to garden-variety discombobulation. It also creates a feeling of urgency—a sense that no matter how tranquil the moment, no matter how unpressured the circumstances, there’s always a pot somewhere that’s about to boil over.”

And to go along with it, the final kicker:

“They found that while leisure time went a long way toward relaxing fathers, it did far less to subdue anxiety in mothers. So what, you may ask, did calm the mothers?

Simple: Seeing their husbands make a bigger effort to reduce the pandemonium in the house.”

I’ll admit to feeling both comforted and annoyed by the realization that I’m not alone in wishing my hubs would assert himself more in the maintenance of the house. (He’s fabulous about caring for the kids! He always puts the boys to bed if he’s home.) When I let my negative brain kick in I started to feel the “Uh! Men!” slur arise. Which I quickly released, because I believe polarization is damaging. (Did you read the Pope’s speech?) But I was reminded of the many times when I’ve tried to suppress (usually unsuccessfully) frustration when Tom requested his day off be a “fun family day.” His desire for relaxation is always justified, and his intent to connect meaningfully with our boys is admirable. But more often than not I feel overwhelmed by the mounting list of tasks that our home requires. And the thought of once again tackling them all single handedly, almost brings me to tears. Wait, who am I kidding, I always have six hands tackling these tasks. Oh, that’s the problem! Somehow research proving that I am not alone in finding “relaxation” less than relaxing made me feel less like an uptight nag, and more of a normal woman. (Though logically I can appreciate this strength of men. Letting things go, relaxing.)

All this being said, there was a day or two there where these thoughts simmered and made me a little angsty. And then this happened, because, well, I married a saint: Tom called to say he was going to come home early. He could listen to his lecture at the library. I suggested he watch it from home, while the boys were doing their quiet time so I could run errands, etc. He watched his lecture, took the boys to Tae Kwan Do, and to my greatest delight made sure that Scotland attended to his chore of picking up the basement, and then made dinner. You better believe that that night as we watched “Cinderella” as a family (fabulous movie, if you haven’t seen the new one.) I was as relaxed and as present as could be. It was one of those idealic family evenings. The love was plentiful, and I did my best to etch it in my memory forever.

What made for the success? Two things. First, I was clear about my needs and expectations. “How about you come home so I can run out alone.” and “Scotland has to complete three things before he can watch a movie: 1, 2, 3.” And second, Tom was sensitive enough to catch my sincerity when I said “I’m feeling overwhelmed;” and willing enough to respond- not only by caring for the boys for the rest of the afternoon, but also by taking care of of the pressing household tasks. I’ll say it again, I married a saint.

Sunday thoughts

Oh agency, how we all wished for you, how God planned for you, but how hard it is to give you, use you. I work with the girls 12-18 years old at our church. Focusing mostly on the girls aged 14 and 15. It’s a tricky age group. They’re suddenly experiencing life through more questioning eyes. The safe black and white of their youth is no longer acceptable, and they’re trying to find their way through the gray. I love working with this group. I’m negotiating my way through the gray too, while also feeling secure in more black and white understandings of some very vital things. It’s those vital things that I most want to help the girls grasp, accept, and find peace with. Funny, but I just realized that there is a lot of parallel with an experience I just shared with my son. I helped him put up his play tent. (I’ve been preparing a lesson on muscles, bones, blood- the body for preschool this week.) So, thinking of that, I said as I fed in the poles- these are like the “bones” of the tent. Life is a lot like a tent without poles when you don’t have any concrete understanding, or knowledge of spiritual things. Sleeping in, and most certainly living in a tent without poles would be frustrating, annoying, and uncomfortable. But add a few poles and suddenly it becomes a livable space. We could extend the metaphor by suggesting that while a tent is a suitable dwelling place for a few days, it would make for a difficult dwelling place year round, harsher weather and real life necessities- nutrition beyond granola bars, a way efficient way to clean one’s self, etc, would eventually lead us to seek a home with a foundation, insulation, walls and conveniences like a kitchen, bathroom, etc. Similarly a few poles of gospel truth might get us through a short while. But if we are to weather the storms and necessities of life we need to be continually adding to our “home” until eventually we have built our “mansion”- in heaven.

But I digress, so what do you do when your student, child, friend, continues to “choose” to live in a tent without poles? Any loving mother/father/friend would offer poles, would encourage movement into a more permanent home. A parent might even force it. Sticking their own poles into the sleeves, or pulling the child out of their sloppy tent and into their own comfortable house, but that’s where the metaphor falls short. With testimony this is impossible. You can’t offer poles. You can gush about how much more wonderful life is in a tent with structure or even in a home with heating and plumbing. But they have to build them themselves. They have to be willing to “try them on” and slip them into the sleeves. They have to be willing to maintain them. This is the law of agency. This was the great gift that Heavenly Father gave us, required on earth. Agency is the plan Christ supported, the lack of agency- the Devil’s. But where is the line? Where as a parent is it still your responsibility to require/force your child to live in accordance with what you believe is best? On one extreme some parents offer little advice, letting their children navigate the world entirely on their own. On the other, parents strictly enforce their set of rules/beliefs and children who deviate are punished or disowned. I believe, as with most things, the ideal falls in the middle. But I certainly haven’t figured out where that middle is. I would say in my brief experience, it’s easier and quicker to force- but much less desirable to all parties. I always feel a peace when together Scotland and I are able to work out an arrangement that is equally respectful, understanding, and fulfilling. Like this morning, after being asked five or six times, Scotland still hadn’t dressed for church, and we soon needed to leave. I knelt down and petitioned “Scotland, I don’t know what to do. You aren’t listening, and I’ve committed to not get mad at you today. But what am I supposed to do?” He responded curtly. I stopped, thought, considered the situation, and said “Perhaps we need to go back to what we did a few months ago: where all those that happily and readily prepare for church will get to have dessert with the family after dinner.” He loved the idea and quickly went up to dress. Contention had been avoided, we both left respected and a clear plan had been set. (Now I just need to make a checklist so he knows what all needs to be done to be “ready” for church.)

It’s easier when you can supply earthly rewards, but what about when the only real rewards are spiritual? Testimony can’t be attained through bribery, punishment, or any other means. We try as leaders and parents to provide as many opportunities as we can for our children/students to feel the spirit. But in the end it’s a personal, spiritual endeavor. It doesn’t relate well to our temporal physical realities. We had a lesson today about the sabbath day. The same topic had been taught by another teacher two weeks earlier while I was out of town. Which provide me with a perfect opportunity to say, “Great, so how have you changed since two weeks ago? What are you doing different now?” The response, absolutely nothing. Did the teacher a few weeks ago fail? No. She did her part, they didn’t do theirs. Joseph Smith said “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” How often do we receive great insight from the spirit, and then do nothing with it? It’s good to turn the attention to ourselves, because suddenly we sense how universal this issue of agency is. We suddenly see that the Father is working with this same law with each of us. I can’t imagine His frustration when time after time he sees me ignore/ not act on something He’s taught me, knowing full well that I am missing blessings, and perhaps facing undue stress, anxiety, and sadness- and still, He doesn’t force me. Next time, I go to Him and say “I’m struggling with this, what do I do?” He’ll lovingly tell me again “XYZ.” And more likely than not, he’s told me that “a hundred times!” 

Writing this all out, I realize I need to be more patient. My YW might not turn into spiritual giants before they graduate. They may not grasp the beautify of the personal progress program for decades. They may never realize the spiritual edification of various spiritual acts, I can’t force them. I can only love them, teach them, and continue to build and display my own beautiful “home” full of comfort, peace, and joy.

So I wish I could have worked through and organized, and edited this a bit. . . but I’m lucky I found the time to write what I did- so it is what it is!