Friday, November 2, 2012

Essay about Housework and Teaching our Children to Work

So I’ve gotten so many responses about my cleaning lady question (a couple months ago, I asked various family members if they had a lot of friends that had cleaning ladies regularly come and clean their homes--I was quite surprised to find in my area, it is the new normal for most stay-at-home moms even, to hire cleaning ladies at least twice a month) , it’s prompted me to write a short essay. I am not sending this to everyone in the family. I don’t have the energy to deal with possibly offending anyone. And just so you know, I did already send it to mom and dad and Sorbes. In fact, much of my response is because of some very thought-provoking points and questions that Chris brought up. (And just so you know he totally agrees with making your kids work hard—his point was HE didn’t want to have to do the gritty work—which he had very valid arguments supporting.)

“I guess for me it’s not so much an economic issue as it is a character one. I believe that work sanctifies us. I had a class at BYU (Yes, I know—here I go!) that taught how imperative our daily rituals of work are—for the stability of our home, and the stability of our children. In order to raise responsible, independent, helpful, conscientious adults, we have to teach them to work. And do the ugly jobs, too. (And I’m sure you were raised this way.) If all we ever made our kids do is pick up their rooms, and run the vacuum through it, they’ll never learn HOW to do much of anything else. And someday their wives will quietly wonder at their mother-in-laws and think, “why, oh why, didn’t you teach your son how to clean a toilet or scrub the inside of an oven?” (Just as a disclaimer, I am not referring to Trent here!) The moms in our ward that have cleaning ladies have justified the maids because they say things like, “oh, I still make my kids clean up their own rooms!”

Now, I know I’m preaching to the choir on this. You guys make your kids suffer every Saturday morning and do lots of chores. And that’s great. I’ve actually been quite slacking in this lately, and I’ve been inspired to stop doing so much cleaning around here!

When is it okay to cross over to the dark side and have someone help you around the house other than your children? I think it’s when you personally know that you have taught them how to work hard and get a job done well (and they’re older), and when extenuating circumstances enter a family. Or when they’re teenagers and are truly working their tails off trying to ace AP classes, hold down a part-time job, participate in choirs and bands, and other extracurricular activities. However I was involved in all those things, and I remember every Saturday growing up, still having to sign up for our chores and complete them before anything fun could be done. I didn’t like Saturday chores at all. But I know one thing—I sure as heck enjoyed my time afterwards, and felt much greater satisfaction in being lazy and/or having fun knowing how hard I worked all morning. Somehow, it makes the pleasurable activities, even more pleasurable.

Also, when kids don’t have to do chores (the hard, gritty chores), then they don’t take ownership or pride in their belongings—in other words—their own house or yard or anything inside of it. When you know you’re the one that’s going to have to clean that bathroom sink on Saturday, you’re going to be much more careful on how haphazardly you spit out that toothpaste each night. It builds awareness and selflessness--which can be transferred into all areas of life—most importantly, relationships.

Let’s compare it to how we wash our cars. We wash our own cars about 75% of the time. The other 25% of the time, because of lack of time, or weather being too uncooperative, or whatever, I’m willing to fork over $10 for a nice wash. And it feels great. I just saved us an hour or more’s worth of time! However, when we do pay to get it washed, I always feel like we need to wash it ourselves the next couple of times. (I know, I’m weird.) The kids help me. We make a big, fun time out of it. They like it—but not all the time because I make them scrub really hard for a long time before we turn the hose back on. They’ve learned something. It’s all about what you value. Do you value your money? Do you value your time? (Most people might say time is more precious than money because it’s usually a more scarce commodity). Or do you value lessons to be taught? Character to be refined and the satisfaction of a job well done?

You might be thinking (or not—what do I know?) that those same lessons can be learned in building something great and profitable out of nothing (like a business). I’m not going to argue about that. That’s valid. I just happen to think that because of the way my emotions run (and heaven knows I have a lot of those), then for me, I find greater satisfaction in looking to my future and thinking things like, “it’s okay if my kids have to do their own chores every week until they leave home.” I really don’t have an ultimate goal of never being able to look after my own clothes, my own home, my own belongings. For me, it’s about ownership.

Let me share a little quote I’ve had on my fridge for the past two years:

“Work builds and refines character, creates beauty, and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God. A consecrated life is filled with work, sometimes repetitive, sometimes menial, sometimes unappreciated, but always work that improves, orders, sustains, lifts, ministers, and aspires.” Elder Christofferson. Nov. 2010 Ensign.

One could argue that work literally brings us closer to God. Now, I’m sure you agree with me on that. I know you can still teach your kids really valuable life lessons in things like how to perfectly balance an Excel Spreadsheet with all financial details shown. Making them come along with you on a sales pitch, and making them do it too, when they’re older. However, there is value in physical labor, that the world doesn’t really recognize anymore as valuable. When we push our bodies and make them do physical things (I think I sweat more sometimes washing our windows outside than going for a run), it consecrates us in ways that no other type of work can.

The Savior washed his disciples feet because he wanted to do something that was ordinarily done by humble servants. He showed his humility. The daily work of feeding, clothing, and cleaning up after each other (because the whole family is involved), has the power to transform us spiritually while we transform others physically. It is only through humbling work that helps us acknowledge our interdependence, and encourages us to sacrifice “self” for the good of the whole.

I don’t think I ever want to be sitting outside watching (or even playing with) my kids while they kick a ball around because someone cleaned my house so we don’t have to. (Of course if we went and played ball together as a family after we did all the work together, then I’m all for that!) The lessons they can learn while doing housework together as a family are irreplaceable and not something I’m willing to give up. It has little to do with money, and more to do with what you feel are the most important lessons we can teach our kids.

Now, I’m not going to say “No, I never, ever want a maid someday!” Of course I would—I’m not going to deny that! However, something would start to grate under my skin after awhile, and I know I would lose something in the pride you can only get from working hard and teaching my children to work harder. You know what my dream would be, though? To have someone come in every quarter, and do a serious deep-cleaning. I’m talking toothpicks along my baseboards.

But only for a special occasion— like, the greatest Mother’s Day present ever!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Long Hiatus and Choir Heartaches

It's been several months since I've posted last, which is strange for me.  I felt for awhile that since I write a pretty detailed "family letter" to my closest family members about once a month, that that should cover things pretty well.  And lately, I've been posting more pictures on Facebook.

So the blog went by the wayside.  But I've realized something recently.  I like keeping a journal. It's kind of crucial for me.  My whole life I've kept extensive journals.  You can see the entire bottom shelf of a large bookshelf in my bedroom to prove it.  But writing by hand is just kind of stinky nowadays.  I mean, who does that anymore?  Okay, honestly, I still DO keep a journal that I hand write and once every 2 or 3 months I pull it out and update any major changes or big milestones that have happened in those few months.  But writing down your thoughts that sparingly just doesn't heal my soul the way that writing in a weekly journal used to.  I've got too many things swimming around in my brain, and it will make me so much happier when I get things off my chest regularly. 

So I have to post today about how my ward calling is slowly making me crazy.  I've heard it said that if you're not enjoying you're ward calling, you're doing it wrong.    So, I admit it, I'm probably doing it all wrong.  Maybe by writing my feelings out, I'll be able to discover what I'm doing wrong.  I'm not worried about people even reading this blog (especially in my ward) because I don't advertise too much when I post things, nor have I told many people that I even have this blog.

So what is "it"?  I'm the ward choir director.  It's the only calling I can think of that you are abosolutely, 100% up to the mercy of others for it to even remotely go smoothly.  (Notice I said smoothly, not perfectly, or great, etc.)    With other callings in the church, you are not put up on the stand monthly in front of the entire ward, and expected to perform a spiritual, musically-uplifting, wonderful song.  And all this at the mercy of others.  It does not matter how much I practice.  Or if I've honed my conducting skills, or even if I can sing or not.  Not of that matters.  All that matters is how many people actually attend practices to support you.  Lately, I have had very few people attending ward choir practice.  I don't see how this is supposed to fulfill the previously-mentioned requirements.    Now here is my point of perhaps I am doing my calling all wrong.  I am somewhat of a musical perfectionist and want our stuff to actually sound good.  Like, really good.  I don't want people to think, "oh, okay, here's comes another ward choir performance.  Yea."  I think it's really okay to try and excel and make people say, "wow, that was a really great performance today!"   Other things we do in the church, we are told to do our best and excel at our callings--do everything possible to make it your best.  So, why, when it comes to ward choirs, are we sometimes told to "dumb it down" for the choir or to do songs that won't take too much work?  Do we "dumb down" our RS Lessons?  Do we "dumb down" our Ward activities or RS Meetings?  Heavens, no.  Imagine the critique you would receive.

And to put it in perspective of how stressful it is to completely rely on others to make your calling work, think of what it would mean if you were trying to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting or give a lesson to a bunch of kids, and the only way it would be a success is if you had to ask 10-15 people to come up and say a few sentences each and that would be your talk or lesson.   No matter how much preparation or prayers you put into it.  Now I'm sure you might be thinking, well what about service activities or set-up committees.  You have to rely on others for those things!  Sure, BUT (and this is a BIG BUT), if no one shows up, guess what!!  You can still do it!  You can clean the whole church.  You can plan the whole activity. You can bake all the treats for Scouts.  Sure, you'll probably be pretty upset about it, but you can still just do it all yourself!  With choir, there is NO WAY I can sing soprono, alto, tenor, and bass all alone and make it into a ward choir!!  It doesn't matter.  It's all about those others.  Now one could argue that, "sure, you can do better prep!  Serve breakfast at your choir practices!  Call peoples' houses weekly and peronally invite them!"  "Beg people if you have to!"  Well, I do send personal emails weekly, and when I'm particularly nervous, I do make personal phone calls.  I've personally invited wives to please allow their husbands, who have great voices to come to choir.  I've personally delivered music to peoples' houses the week of a performance because rehearsal attendance has been too sparse. I have begged.  It's actually getting kind of demeaning in a way.  I'm tired of inviting the same people.  I'm tired of feeling like every week I have to beg in the announcement bulletin to get people to come.  I have not served breakfast at my house for choir. Mostly because I have a 1200 square foot house with no room for choir, and 3 young kids, oh yeah, and I don't have a real piano, not to mention I certainly couldn't afford to feed a bunch of people every sinlge week. Trent and I have come to this conclusion:  For 95% of people out there that actually can sing pretty decently, they just plain don't want to spend an hour each week, in addition to church, to come to choir practice.  And no amount of inviting or begging is ever going to change that.  It's like that book that came out a few years ago, "He's Just Not That Into You,"  For choir, it would be, "They're Just Not That Into Choir."  And then there's the blessed regulars that come 75% of the time.  It's those people and only those 6 or 7 that make it work.  Without those blessed souls, I would literally have nothing.  So I guess I should just stop complaining, and praise those very few that come, and not worry that our Christmas program is not going to be a grand, stirring thing because our numbers are so small.  Everyone wants an amazing Christams program with emotional, powerful music about Christ, yet hardly anyone is willing to make it happen.   Please, entertain me!  Make me feel the spirit!  Yes, I love Christmas Music!  Just don't ask me to participate!!  I want to take naps on Sunday afternoon.  I have something else I have to go to that night--I couldn't possibly attend something for an hour in the afternoon, too!   

Okay, just so my whole post isn't so negative, I've included some recent pictures, too!
This one is me with Trent and mom and dad after my San Diego Interfaith Choir and Orchestra Concert.

 This is me (on the right) with two girlfriends in the choir.   These are people that yes, actually really like going to choir practices!!  (And the one next to me is the choir director in her ward.)

 These are pictures from the Miramar Air Show that we attended on October 13 when mom and dad were in town. 

Trent took this "paparazzi" shot after I came out of that airplane with the girls.  Mom's in the background.

 The Blue Angels in flight.  Pretty cool stuff!!

Mom and Dad treated us to Claim Jumper after the air show.    Yum!!

This was one day last week (October 17) when it was 80 degrees at the beach, so I took Sophie to the beach while the kids were in school! 

 She totally did this pose all on her own.  She thought she was pretty hot stuff!!

The girls wanted to be matching witches for Halloween.  Hailey told me they couldn't be princesses or brides anymore because Halloween was suppoed to be scary and they need to be "scary."

 Sophie pretending to be a big kid and go to preschool.  (That only lasted 2 weeks.  Since she's only 3, I pulled her out after 2 weeks because she was having a really hard time going and would cry at night about it, and begged to just "stay home with mommy.")

Hailey lost BOTH her front teeth only a couple weeks after she started kindergarten.

Cory started 3rd Grade and Hailey started Kindergarten.

 Cory in his football uniform after his first game with the Rancho Bernardo Broncos.  They won!

Sophie (and Hailey) with their daddy. 


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Spring Fun

 Another trip to Legoland. Hailey and Cory with a a Darth Vader Lego Guy!  Our passes expire this July, so we have to make it worth it!
 Cory and Hailey with Obi Wan Kenobi at Legoland.
 Cory found some storm troopers!  It was Star Wars Days at Legoland.  That's why we braved the cold.
 Sophie is finally three! (Old enough to ride these cars alone!)

 It was cloudy and in the low 60's, so we were chilly!  It even started drizzling a few times.
 Cory with his first Pinewood Derby car (and his friend.)  His car raced about 6 or 7 times before it lost.  He did pretty well for his first year!
 Karen and kids for her 32nd birthday.  Trent made me an awesome German Chocolate cake from scratch!  I got new jeans and a purse!
 Cory on his opening day of Little League baseball!  He's on the Braves.

The girls in our frontyard.
 Sophie's on the far left, then Hailey's in the pink shirt, Cory's in the royal blue shirt.  With friends at a park.
 Sophie was excited for our community egg hunt!
 Hailey wasn't so excited.  (She didn't find an egg with a star on it.  A star meant you won a special prize.)  This is classic Hailey pouty face.  It is a very powerful tool in our house.  And she knows it.
 The kids loved dying the Easter eggs.

 Our Easter feast:  Ham, twice-baked potatoes, a zucchini dish with scrambed egg, deviled eggs, and rolls.
 My parents came to visit us for the weekend of April 13.  They came to my San Diego Mormon Choir concert. 
 Cory's elementary school had a 5k race on Saturday morning.  We all did it!  (Well, Sophie rode in the stroller with grandma and grandma Goodman pushing her.)  My time was 26:20.  Not my best, but certainly not my worst either!  I was the 2nd female over 18 to finish. 
 Grandpa Goodman with Hailey, me, and Cory at the tidepools at Point Loma, CA.

 Grandpa Goodman at the tidepools.
 Grandma was very brave to explore with us!
 Cory-8 years old.
 It had been raining all the previous day and it was quite windy, which means--beautiful sky!
 Overlooking the San Diego Bay.
 Sophie standing in front of her flower pots.  We had just planted seeds and Trent had just planted his "pot garden."  (You can see one of the pots on the left.)  He planted peas, tomatoes, little green onions, cucumbers, and zucchini.)
 Us at Cabrillo National Monumnet in San Diego.
 It's 3 generational game time on Sunday afternoon.  They were playing Loopin' Louie.
 The girls were playing nursery with their dollies an this is snack time.
 Sophie's hair.  One of the new bows I had just made.  (She wanted me to take this picture.)
 Sophie's 3rd Birthday!

 Sophie dancing for us.
 The girls got new outfits and kept wanting to pose for us.  It was really cute!

 We stayed at the Hyatt Manchester in downtown San Diego for one night.  Trent had a work meeting and we got to stay for free. 
 Th pool with the city in the background.
 Cory holding Sophie and Hailey in the hot tub.
 Our view from our hotel room.  We were on the 21st floor.
 We're peeking from behind the surfboards.  This is up on the pool deck.
 Another view of the city from our hotel room.
 We went to Seaport Village the next day with the kids.  Lots of touristy shops and places to eat right on the San Diego Harbor.

 This guy was there balancing rocks.  Those are not glued together in any way!  We saw him do one of these stacks.  It was amazing!

                                               The girls with buns in their hair.
Cory holding his first Pinewood Derby car.
One day last week we spent over an hour hand washing the doll clothes, some of the doll toys, toy purses, and even the dollies themselves.  I couldn't believe how brown the water would get, and then we'd drain it and get fresh water.  Everything dried in the sun and then we had brand-new looking toys again!