Binki Tips From an Opinionated Mom

This isn't the typical post for me, but it's probably the most practical for moms of newborn babies. You wouldn't think that a little thing like a binki would cause so much good or bad in the life of a baby, and so much stress for the parents! But it can.

We go through all the scenarios: Should we use one or not? When should we introduce it? Which one should we use? How do I stop my baby from being addicted to it? How can we get rid of it before it causes major dental problems? 

Three of our 4 babies have used one. I've become an advocate. Our 1-year-old Ivie just graduated from being a "binki baby" this week. I guess I'll dedicate this post to her! She loved her binki! It helped comfort her so many times, which in turn, helped me keep my sanity. And when the time came to let it go, she made it look super easy. Ivie, way to go!

I find myself offering binki advice quite often, so I thought I would record and share it here! As a disclaimer, I'm a mom offering my opinions, not a lactation specialist. And I may be little too explicit for some readers. Take it for what it's worth:

Deciding Whether or Not to Use One
I don't think there is a right or wrong to this one. It's up to the parents. If a baby is doing fine without it, why create a need? However, newborns have a need to suck. They get comfort from sucking. A nursing mother doesn't need to offer her breast for comfort in between feedings. That can get very painful and difficult to maintain. A new mother may think the baby is crying for food, but it may just want to suck. If you follow the guidelines for feeding times/amounts and your baby is still fussy in between, then a binki can really help. On the flip side, if you are losing your breastmilk and want to get more, allow your baby to suck for much longer than is needed and it will signal to your body to make more milk. You wouldn't want the use of a binki to slow down your milk production. It doesn't need to if you use it at the right times. If you just give it to a well-fed baby, as a way to get comfort before sleeping, then it shouldn't interfere with milk production.

When to Introduce the Binki
There are different opinions on this, and the biggest concern is nipple confusion. I let the nurses give my baby a binki in the hospital nursery at night so I can get good rest before returning home. I don't think this has caused nipple confusion for our babies. In the first couple of days, it's good to let the baby suck on the breast a lot, to order milk supply and for the baby to get all the colostrum it needs. However, if the mother is too sore, the binki can really help soothe the baby in between feedings so mother can heal. I personally think you don't want to wait too long before introducing the baby. I like to use it in the first week or so, before the baby is only used to the breast.

Finding the Right Binki 
This is my favorite advice to share! For our first child, we used the bluish-greenish one from the hospital. I don't know how we survived all those months with that awful thing! It was terrible. It always fell out, because the nipple is so straight. Babies just can't keep it in very easily. We were always getting out of bed to pop it back in. Strike 1! The rubber was so nice and soft, but when it got dropped, we couldn't hear it. So we lost them ALL the time! Strike 2! And it doesn't connect very well to a clip. Strike 3! We'll never use one of those again.

There are many types of binkis, and you may need to try a few before finding the best fit. Our very favorite brand is Avent. The nipple is symmetrical, so there's no "right" way and "wrong" way to go in. It's stays in a newborn's mouth so much easier than the straight ones. We don't find ourselves getting up in the night as much to put the binki back in. It makes a good little click when it falls to the ground, so we rarely lose them. And it is easy to attach to a binki clip. I can't count how many moms I've known who thought their newborn didn't like binkis, but when I told them about Avent, they tried it and had success! I'm sure it's not for everyone, but if you don't know where to start, give Avent a try!

Don't Force It!
With our second child, she refused the hospital binki. My mom started buying us all sorts of brands to try, hoping she would like one of them. Grandma did her magic one day and she began taking one. But a couple months later, someone offered to console her during church one day. They continually forced the binki into her mouth against her will. From that day on, she never took it again. Their "help" was more of a hinderance. She is a strong-willed child! Knowing her personality now, I'm not surprised that bothered her. But that experience taught me that we shouldn't use a binki to exert power over an infant by shoving it into their mouth. And we shouldn't use it to ignore their cries (that's their mode of communication). If they accept it into their mouth and if it can console them, then it's great! If not, find another solution.

How Can I Keep My Baby From Becoming Addicted to the Binki?
I'm not a psychologist. But I use some common sense, and it seems to work. Newborn babies need a lot of sucking, so as long as they are well-fed, and the milk supply is good, I don't think you can overdo binki time. But after the first few months, it's not as necessary during awake time. Some binki babies tend to prefer their binki close by or in their mouth most of the time. However, that's not necessary, and it's probably not the best. Sure, they may fuss for it a bit when it's taken away, but remember that as the parent, you know what's best, and you can decide. They usually forget about it after a few seconds, once they find something else to explore.

I've found the easiest way to limit our binki time is just to keep the binki in the crib. When baby wakes up and gets lifted out, we try to pop out the binki and leave it there. We aren't perfect at this, but we tried not to give it to her unless she "needed" it. Sometimes we would give it to her out of habit, and then realize there was really no need at that time. Of course, when went out, I brought it along for when she gets fussy. At those times, I loved having it on a binki clip so we didn't lose it. There's nothing like the panic of trying to find a lost binki and wondering how you'll survive without it! Who wants a late-night emergency run the store to buy another binki? Keep a spare hidden for emergencies.

When and How to Get Rid of the Binki
This is important! No one plans to have their 3-year-old still using a binki (or 5-year-old for that matter),  but it happens all too much. But as a parent, I know how hard it may seem to get rid of it! I read the best advice years ago, and I've found it to be absolutely true. Developmentally, the best time to wean a child from a binki and bottle is between 12-13 months old. There's something about that window of time that is easier. I think it is probably just as easy to stop using it before then, but after 13 months, it gets increasingly harder. Toddlers at this age are learning so rapidly and they are easily distracted by new things to explore. They are not old enough to say "binki" so they can't demand it like they will be able to in a few months. After 13 months, they grow increasingly attached.

I remember just dreading the day we took the binki away from our first child. I dreaded the hours of nighttime crying fits that would undoubtedly come. I wondered if it would persist for a few days, or a week. I worried about it for a month. I braced myself for a terrible week. When it actually happened, we were surprised by how incredibly easy it was to adjust! We knew at times she wanted it, but her cries were short-lived. After only a day or two, it was as if it never existed! The hardest part about it was bracing myself for it. Time after time, I've seen this same pattern. If you get rid of it before 13 months, it's not too traumatic.

I like to take it away starting in the morning (sometimes I plan to do it when we just get home from a trip, as if we accidentally left it there). They wake up one morning, and it's gone. First nap comes, and it doesn't exist. Falling asleep may be a little rough, but fatigue sets in, and sleep comes. The second nap is a little easier. Bedtime is even easier--they are getting this new routine down. The first night, I can expect a little fussiness, but that's short-lived. For us, it's usually a 30-day ordeal: 29 days of dread and worry, and 1 day of adjustment. Spread the word. It's like magic!


Four Lessons on Love

Written by Guest Author, Chelsey W. Chelsey doesn't know where the last 9 years have gone. One day she was a fresh, newly-wed, and the next she was the mother of 6 children. Her confidence in her knowledge of mothering seems to be inversely related to the amount of time she has actually spent doing it. Chelsey blogs about her kids and her house at Penelope's Pad

Shortly before the birth of my very first child, Ruby, I received a blessing from my husband. In the blessing he said that my Heavenly Father was excited for me to become a mother and excited for me to learn new things in this role. I remembered this recently, and wondered, just what had I learned since becoming a mother. I thought of four turning points, and all of them have taught me more about love. 

1. Love Requires (Lots of Inconvenient) Action 

 When Ruby was just a few weeks old, I remember lying in bed for a nap. I had just gotten to that pleasant doze stage, when she started to cry. I waited ... Maybe she would just go back to sleep? She didn't. I was so, so tired. I wanted to cry myself; I wanted to sleep so badly! I started to pray, and because I always feel like it's worth asking my outrageous first desire once (because, who knows???), I prayed that some angel would come and soothe Ruby to sleep. Perhaps some dead relative, that loved Ruby? Please? I got my answer: I was the angel God had sent to soothe Ruby. I got up and attended to her needs. The words of the hymn often run through my head: "sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven." I'm still hoping for those blessings of heaven, but I've learned that when I sacrifice my expectation for how the day should run, we have a happy home. Sometimes I don't get to accomplish exactly what I want to, exactly when I want to, but as I use the needs (not the demands ;) of my children as the skeleton for the day, and then flesh it out from there, my children are happier, and we all seem to get what we want on the whole.  

2. Instant Forgiveness and an Outpouring of Love after Mistakes 

There are times when kids are tired, frustrated, just plain having a bad day, and they will lash out at you. I've learned to not take it personally. They are only human (and little kids, to boot!), learning to control their turbulent emotions. Realizing that it is not about me, but about the rotten way they are feeling, helps me to forgive them instantly. I also know from sad experience that after you've made a mistake or injured someone you love, what you most want is to know that they love you so much anyway. I recorded the first time I discovered this in my journal, and I often need to be re-reminded, but I believe that I am getting better!

I did make a happy discovery with Herbie this week. For a few weeks he's been having a hard time cleaning up before lunch---lots of whining and gnashing of teeth. Finally when he came to me to whine, I said nothing, but gave him a hug for as long as he wanted. He trotted off to go clean, but re-emerged whining again. Ruby, who was already done, yelled at him to go clean up. 

 I said, "Maybe all he needs is a hug, Ruby." She laughed, and ran to give him a hug and kiss. Herbie smiled, and trotted back to his room. He came out one more time, asking for a hug from me, then Ruby, and then returned to finish. It was a triumph! 

Sometimes kids are receptive immediately, and sometimes after a cooling off period, but they always need to know of our love for them! 

3. Personal Stories Convey Love 

One time on a walk, Ruby asked me, in a very defeated voice, if I'd ever done anything wrong when I was a little kid. She'd had a rough morning, and it was apparently weighing on her mind. I was shocked! Of course, I'd done millions of things wrong as a little kid, didn't she know that?? I immediately told her of the first incidence that popped into mind, and she was thrilled and visibly relieved to hear about it. 

 I find that telling my kids stories about myself at their age shows them that I empathize with their current life and struggles. I remembered the many wonderful memories I have of my Grandma telling me stories in bed about herself as a little girl when I slept over at her house, and I resolved to do the same for my kids. I've also found that nothing makes a kid feel more special than to tell them stories about themselves when they were even younger. I remember the look on my children's faces the night we told them all about their births. They were so proud and pleased, even when we said things like, "The top of your head was pointy, and your face was shaped like pear!" They acted like it was the most amazing compliment ever! I make sure I tell them stories about themselves regularly, and I record as many as possible.  

4. I'm Not the Only One Who Loves My Kids 

I bet you think this section will be about the great love God has for each of our children. That would be awesome, but it's not. It's about other people loving my kids. I don't know where I got this idea, but for a long time, I had a I-love-my-kids-you-love-yours mindset. And then I was taught a lesson. For many months, we traded off babysitting every week with a family who had the same amount of kids as we did. My husband finally finished grad school, and the day came where we had to say goodbye. The mother of this other family gave all of my kids big hugs, and then she started to cry. "I'm sorry," she said, "I just love your kids so much!" I was completely humbled. I never imagined that some other woman could love my kids, and I was ashamed that I could not say the same for hers. This is probably something that everyone else in the world knows, but was a revelation for me that day. My heart softened and expanded with the knowledge that there was so much love from others, and more importantly, that I could/should emulate that love for other people's children. 

In conclusion, I'd like to add a disclaimer. These may have been lessons that I've been taught, but there are days (or periods of days) where it's just not working for me. Please don't be disappointed if you meet me on the street, and I'm not living up to all of these completely. I do, however, believe that these are standards of love and sharing that I should strive for in my role as a mother and in my interactions with my own and others' children. I appreciate God's great love and patience in allowing me to "practice" love and charity on my own children. Maybe someday I'll get there!


The Magic Ratio

In marriage and in parenting, we have 100s of interactions each day. During our interactions, how often is criticism okay before it is destructive? Looking at it another way, how positive should we be with our spouse and children in order to maintain a good relationship?

Dr. John Gottman is one of the leading scholars in marriage relationships. He has spent 35 years studying couples, in order to learn which behaviors lead to divorce, and which ones lead to a long, healthy marriage. He rigorously observed over 3000 couples, and then followed them over time to see how things ended up.

One of his most powerful findings is that couples who end up divorcing have a ratio of 0.8:1 positive to negative interactions. That's right. They have more negative than positive interactions. No wonder they wanted out! On the other hand, the long happy marriages had a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative interactions. This is what I like to think of as "the magic ratio" in a relationship.

When it feels like my relationship with someone in my family is strained, I can usually tie it back to too much verbal or non-verbal (thoughts and facial expressions) negativity from me. If I find myself being too critical or negative toward someone in my family, I think of this ratio. There have been times that I've tried counting each of my interactions with a certain family member just to see what my ratio is. I admit, it's a bit too meticulous for my style, and I always lose count (it would be nice if some researchers could observe for a day and let me know our ratio). But at least when I'm more conscientious, I decide to hold back certain criticism and corrections, and give out more compliments. And when a negative comment comes out, I try to wait a long time before another escapes my mouth. I'm finally starting to learn that I don't have to correct every wrong behavior. I can look past some things and wait for a better teaching moment.

Awhile back, my husband and I recognized once again the need to be more positive. We resolved to keep our voices calm and the volume low. We committed to try really hard to look past what little things we could. And when correction is needed, we agreed to use a whisper or to talk one-on-one with the child in another room. Our goal was to try to make the climate in our home more positive. Instead of getting mad at our kids for fighting, and just adding to the level of contention, we decided to try to eliminate the negative as much as we could. And after just one day, we could see such a difference! The first day of trying this was one of those really good days. Not because the kids were easy (in fact, we had some very tired girls that day). But we stayed calm, and gave a lot of compliments and positive words of encouragement. We tried to find humor more often and we laughed a lot more. There was still some contention, but the way it was handled was much better than normal. Solutions were found and the climate in the home remained positive. I wish every day could be that good (but they just can't)!

This is something I have to continually remind myself of. As a mom, I find myself pointing out the wrong behavior way too much. And I know it brings my children down! On the flip side, when I'm more positive, they have so much more confidence and happiness. And I know they play off of my attitude (positive and negative) in the way they interact with each other. My mom always said that the mom is the "thermometer" in the home. And I agree. If mom is "hot" or "cold" so to speak, it affects the entire family climate. If mom is happy, so are dad and the kids. If mom isn't happy, then neither are they. No wonder a common word of advice to new husbands is to just make their wife happy, and then they will be happy. It's so true!  In this way, a positive parent really does set the tone for the entire home.

Sometimes I am discouraged by that thought, because my imperfections bring my family down. There are certain days that it's just harder for me to be positive. And sometimes there are children that are harder to find something positive to say to. But I'm learning that no one is perfect, and that's just part of life. We get to learn to deal with each other's flaws in family life. And we'll turn out okay in the end, because of Christ.

So please don't read this post and get down on yourself! The 5:1 ratio is important in the relationship with ourselves too. If you are feeling down on yourself, look at the good you are doing. Count your strengths, not your weaknesses. And don't worry that you don't have the same strengths as other parents. Your children are blessed because of who you are, and what you alone can give them.  

But if you are up for the challenge of making some improvements in your relationships, read on. If you want change in your family, it has to start with YOU!

Think about your own family dynamics. How are you doing with your relationship ratios? Is there anyone in your family who you are too critical with? What would you find if you tallied your positive and negative interactions? If it sounds too hard to count for an entire day, try just counting them in a given hour, or a given interaction (ex. the morning routine). Then conduct a little experiment: make a concerted effort for a few days to increase the positive and decrease the negative. Observe how you feel. Watch how the other person's behavior changes. How does your relationship change? What did you learn?

Don't worry when you're not perfect at it. Just do your best to make improvements. I have found that this is one of those "small and simple things" that really does end up having a "great" impact!


Giving Children More Attention and Time

My husband and I are attending a parenting class offered through the school called The Incredible Years. Over the next 11 weeks, we will focus on a different concept each week. To compliment the class instruction, we will read a chapter in this book by Carolyn Webster-Stratton. So far, I'm impressed with the focus and content of the program.  

I decided to post about class each week in hopes to solidify and remember my experience, and to share with those who aren't attending. I hope you find it helpful. Feel free to check out their official site for more information, or to check out the book. 

This week we focused on giving personal attention and time to our children. It seems like such a basic concept, and one that should come naturally. However, I left class knowing that I could definitely work on this.

Our assignment was to spend at least 10-15 minutes each day having "special time" with each child. It could be while doing something that we already do (like making a meal or practicing the piano), or doing something the child wants you to do together (ex. draw a picture or play a game). We were instructed to keep things positive, and avoid power struggles. We were also told to give our full attention to our child  (no phone calls, texting, distractions from other kids), and to look them in the eyes (I don't do that enough!). And we should let the child lead out in the activity. Sound easy enough? Are you currently doing this?

I wish I could say that I was already in the pattern of doing this, but looking back, I haven't been consistently available for my children. I don't always get alone time with each child. And as a mom, it's so easy to say "no" to their requests for my time because there really is always something else I need to be doing. Honestly, this week I realized I'm better at turning them down than saying "yes." That was a sad realization! And one that I want to change.

So by having this assignment over the past week, I have noticed a small (but significant) change in my behavior. I gave myself permission to take a break and be with my children. I said "yes" more often. And it  has felt great! I've found myself down on the floor playing ball with my 3-year-old. I've paused to draw with my 5-year-old. I asked her what I should draw, and we discussed her picture. I accompanied my 6-year-old to feed the bunnies, just to get the time with her. I was more willing to sit and read with each child. I got into their world for a few minutes, and it was so nice to fully be there with them.

I only made small changes to give them my time and attention (and I haven't missed those minutes or regretted the time spent), but I have noticed big results. I have felt more connected to my kids. I've enjoyed them more. I have found myself laughing more with them. And they seem to be more connected to me too. I think I am a happier, more fulfilled mom. Consequently, they seem to be more obedient. It's been a good week in our home.

This reminds me of the scripture in Alma 37:6

"by small and simple things are great things brought to pass."

I hope I never forget the insights and skills I gained this week. And I hope to improve in the coming weeks at making daily special time with each child. 

If you could use a little boost in your relationship with your children, or in your fulfillment as a mom, I recommend this assignment. Try it! 


Teaching our Children the Truth about their Bodies

As parents, we cannot sit back and hope that our children come to understand why their body is important and how they should treat it. They are growing up in a world that bombards us with lies about bodies. Why? It comes down to this:

"The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body and herein is his punishment....All being who have bodies have power over those who have not."  
Joseph Smith (1938), Teachings 

What power do we gain in having our bodies? With it, we can use our agency to act. We can choose to follow Christ and keep God's commandments. After this life, we will all be resurrected into a perfect body. With that glorified body, we can become like our Father in Heaven. This perspective causes us to  think about our bodies differently: 

"Nothing should be held in greater sacredness and honor than the covenant by which the spirits of men...are privileged to come into this world in mortal tabernacles....Spirits cannot be made perfect without a body of flesh and bones."
President Joseph Fielding Smith 
Oct. 1965 General Conference

It is an honor and privilege to have a body. And it's a necessary part of our progression. The devil knows this, but he didn't accept this plan for himself. And now he is miserable. So he wants to stop us from realizing the happiness that can be ours. He wants those of us who have bodies to "be miserable like unto himself." (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2: 27). How does he try to destroy our happiness? By spreading lies about our bodies, hoping we will be ungrateful for them, or even hate them. He wants us to use them as a source of vanity, pride, seduction or status. Essentially, he wants us to forget what they are really for. And if he can succeed, he'll even tempt us to misuse and destroy them. 

Here are a few examples of this in our society:

  • Body image is skewed. Young girls play with Barbie dolls and Disney princesses who have a "perfect" (but unreal) body and face. But that's not all. They color her, read books about her, and watch movies about her. The message they get is that one body and face type is considered beautiful. Anything different is ugly.
  • More and more women wear fake nails, fake eyelashes, & hair extensions, not to mention the fakeness of make-up, and the materialism of jewelry and expensive clothing.
  • Popular media displays predominantly skinny, beautiful women.  
  • We look around and see that tattoos and body piercings are commonplace.
  • At the pools and water parks, girls and women wearing bikinis are everywhere.   
  • More and more men and women are getting plastic surgery, implants, and augmentations.
  • People go to the gym to work on getting and maintaining healthy bodies, but put far less time and effort into working on their spirits.
  • Many turn to tobacco, drugs, and alcohol as a source of pleasure. 
  • Immorality, promiscuity and infidelity are justified and even normalized
Our children are not blind to all of this. They see a lot of it and are undoubtedly influenced. We cannot sit back and let them think that these things are okay and normal. As parents, we can and must be a voice of truth for them. 

So, how do we teach our children the truth about their bodies? For me, those teaching moments are usually informal. The opportunity presents itself by something that we encounter. On the way home from the water park, we have a discussion about the importance of modesty. And when they dress, we encourage modesty. When a child asks us why "that lady" had a tattoo, we explain why she may have made that decision, but then we teach her the Lord's standard about keeping our bodies clean and pure. When we get a chance to talk about their dolls, we remind them that most bodies don't really look like that. 

Last year our 4-year-old daughter stared into the mirror and in frustration exclaimed that she hated her nose and ears. I was shocked and unsure what to say, and very mad at Barbie. My compliment of her beauty was not convincing. She ran out of the room because she could not stand to look in the mirror. Over the following weeks, she voiced her concerns a few more times. I was heartbroken, and completely unsure what to say.

So I prayed and prayed for days, asking God for help to address it correctly. As I pondered, I was filled with ideas of what I could say. A couple days later, I was given an opportunity to address the issue. I taught her about the creation of our spirits and bodies, and of a loving Heavenly Father who made her just the way He wanted her. I told her how excited she was before this life when she learned that she would get to come down to earth and have a body. I reminded her that the most important beauty comes from within as we love others. And I sincerely complimented her inner beauty. Then I reassured her of the outer beauty she has been blessed with. I gave her examples of people who have disabilities, but are still so grateful for their bodies. She listened intently to it all, and I could tell that her opinion had been altered. She hasn't mentioned her concerns again. 

I am grateful for the power that comes when we teach our children eternal truths.  

What insights or examples do you have about teaching your children the truth about their bodies? 

*image found on FreeDigitalPhotos.net


True Greatness

A prophet of God gave these beautiful words:  
"To do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all man-kind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman. One is universal and eternal greatness, the other is ephemeral"
(Joseph F. Smith, 1986, Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the sermons and writings of Joseph F. Smith) 
I loved this! How can we amount to our "truest greatness" during this life? It's not by doing something unique, that only a choice few get a chance at. In God's plan, He wants us all to achieve our highest potential. And that is why He sent us down here in families.

It rings true to each one of us who are striving to be successful parents. It's not easy. In fact, for me it's the most difficult thing I've ever done. But it's worth all our efforts, day after day, week after week, and year after year, because it's the most important thing we could be doing. President David O. Mckay taught the same thing in different words:

"The greatest work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home." 
                                                                   (See Harold B. Lee, Strengthening the Home, 1973, p. 7.) 

Although these quotes may seem to uninclude the childless, I think they are all inclusive. There are men and women who are not able to be a father and mother of their own children, but who have taken upon themselves the responsibility to be a parent-figure in a child's life. I think they too are reaching toward true greatness. Their familial experiences may be slightly different. But they have reached outside of themselves and put forth effort and sacrifice to love, nurture, mentor, teach, and support a child of God. That too, is considered true greatness. 

In our world where individualism is praised and so many other things are valued and given precedence to marriage and children (such as an education, a successful career, involvement in the community, recreation, materialism, etc.) we need to remember what God intended this life to be about. 

Last week at the Republican Convention, Mitt Romney boldly stated that the work his wife, Ann, did as a mother was more important than what he was doing as a successful businessman and politician. The audience cheered in agreement! To me, that says that as a whole, they haven't forgotten what this life is really about. And that is families. 

The proclamation states, 
"The family is central to the creator's plan for the eternal destiny of his children."


The Family: A Proclamation to the World

I can't think of a better place to start strengthening marriages and families than with this inspired document. Although the LDS Church has much in common with other Christian religions, we are unique in some ways too. One of our greatest assets is a living Prophet. When he speaks to us, we believe he is speaking the word and will of God. Our living Prophet today is Thomas S. Monson.

Back in 1995, our Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, issued "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."  The doctrine it gave on the family was not new. It declared what we had been taught by prophets for decades. It is bold and unapologetic. When asked about it, President Hinckley explained:

“Why do we have this proclamation on the family now? Because the family is under attack. All across the world families are falling apart. The place to begin to improve society is in the home....We are trying to make the world better by making the family stronger.”
(Dew, The biography of Gordon B. Hinckley)

That was 17 years ago! A lot has changed in our world since then. Morals have shifted. What use to be considered "evil" is now mainstream. Values such as individualism, hedonism, moral relativism and materialism are praised. While honesty, sacrifice, humility, virtue and unselfishness are belittled. This affects families.

I remember in 1995 barely knowing about email. Internet usage and cell phones were at their beginnings. Now, through the use of technology, all information is at our fingertips. The good and the bad are available to all. But the media seldom portrays a strong, happy family. Instead, the media "normalizes" promiscuity, and single life. When families are portrayed, they are usually broken, and unhappy.

We can see more clearly today than we could in 1995 that families really are falling apart.

But this proclamation given back then actually addresses the current issues of our day, such as: the definition and popularity of marriage, divorce, same-gender attraction, pre-marital sex, abortion, the commandment to have children, fidelity in marriage, abuse, parental roles, and equality in marriage. What a gift and blessing to know the absolute truth on these issues. 

On a personal level, this proclamation has blessed my own life. When I was single, it anchored my desires to be a wife and mother. It gave me a vision of what to live for and hope for in a future family. 
As newlyweds, it helped us understand the importance and blessing of having children. And now as parents, it provides us with priceless direction. You often hear, "there's no instruction manual for parenting." But there really is one. And it comes from the Almighty God, who is our Father. He knows what it takes for families to find true happiness. As I have read this proclamation over and over again, I've gained personal revelation for my family. Usually one word or phrase will stand out to me and give me the guidance I've been looking for. 

If you have not read this before, or if it's been a while, I encourage you to sit down with your spouse, or as a family, and read it. I suggest that you read it with the purpose of finding direction in your family life. Take your questions and struggles to the Lord. And let Him speak to you through his own words, in this proclamation. As you do, the Spirit will witness that it is truly of God. And He will guide and bless your family. 

How has the Proclamation blessed your life?


Strengthening Marriage and Family

This week I started a new semester of teaching at the BYU Salt Lake Center. This will be my second year of teaching. The class is titled "Strengthening Marriage & Family." It is based on principles from "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" and on supporting research. We have a newly updated textbook, "Successful Marriages and Families." For anyone not in school who would like something very interesting and scholarly to study, I recommend it. And for anyone local who is thinking about going back to school, you should look into the BYU Salt Lake Center. I can't say enough good about that place!

After a summer-long break, I am reminded how FUN it is to be back in school! Even though I'm the instructor, I feel like a student. I soak up the readings! I'm energized by our discussions. I firmly believe in what I am teaching. And I learn so much from the students' comments. I return home from class a happier wife and mother, more grateful for my children and more in love with my husband. I have a strengthened resolution to make our family life better. 

Why am I posting about this? 

Well, tonight, I also have a greater resolve to share what I am learning each week on Raising Rubies. Last year as I taught this class, I was dealing with my worst case of morning sickness. I wanted so badly to post something from class, but I could barely keep up with life. After preparing to teach each week, there was nothing left of me to give to something outside of my family. So Raising Rubies sat untouched most of the time, despite my desires, and despite a lot of inspiring thoughts on family issues rolling around in my brain. It was a little disappointing, but I knew I had limitations. And I knew my commitment to the classroom superseded my commitment to the blog. My greatest commitment of course, is always to my family.

Tonight, I am making a commitment. This is a little scary to do. But I thrive on goals and deadlines. So I'm giving myself an assignment this semester to post something from class each week. I'll try to highlight what will be most beneficial to you by sharing the things that were most meaningful for me. I hope you enjoy!


The "Golden Rule"

Have you heard of "Scripture Scouts" before? It's a cute series of CDs that teaches scripture stories through beautiful and songs and clever dialogue. I actually remember listening to it as a child, and I was surprised to learn that they are still around, with so many more CDs. We listen to it a lot while driving and when the kids are laying in bed to fall asleep. Why not fill their minds with good, uplifting material? And why not have them learning the scriptures during their "down time"? Especially when it's entertaining and fun for them.  Our girls LOVE it! I highly recommend it for young ones. 

This week while we were listening to it, a catchy little children's tune came on about the "golden rule" found in St. Matthew 7:13. The song goes, "There is a rule, a golden rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you." Lately, we've caught ourselves singing this tune a lot because it's hard to get it out of your head. But I like the reminders it has given me: 1. to reinforce this teaching to our children, and 2. to live by it myself. 

When our kids need a reminder, all I have to do is start humming the tune, and they know what I'm getting at. There have been plenty of times when it has helped them stop and think about what they were doing and choose to act differently. It's amazing how much change can come about just by understanding and applying a true principle!

But I think it has had an even greater impact as on me as a mother. I have found myself looking inward to see if I am living by this rule. I've gone so far as to picture myself as the child, and someone else as the parent. I've wondered how it would feel to be treated how I am treating them. And I've found myself being way more merciful when I've put myself in their shoes. I've thought of how my parents did things, and I've wanted to be more like them--loving, positive, and full of trust. If I was the child again, would I want a parent who is over-controlling? Would I want a parent who cares more about justice than mercy? Or would I want a parent who is kind, patient, and understanding? 

I have so far to go as a parent (don't we all?). I'm glad children are forgiving! And I'm glad that Heavenly Father is our perfect example. He is forgiving of us. He is patient. He is merciful. And He is grateful for our efforts on behalf of His little ones. If He can be so good to me, then I should try to be as good to my children. Thanks for the lesson, Scripture Scouts!


"Suvival Mode"

Our baby girl recently turned two months old, and thankfully, I'm starting to feel "normal" again. But for the first month or so after her birth, I thought of it as "survival mode." Anyone who has had a newborn knows what that entails: very low sleep (even though the baby seems to sleep all day long!), discomfort and bleeding, crazy hormone changes, struggles with constant breastfeeding, difficult adjustments for older siblings, messes around the house that you can't get to, etc. 

A year ago, my sister had a baby. After talking with her on a more difficult day, I wrote down some of my best advice for survival as a mother of a newborn. Now that I've had my turn to experience it again, I've tried to remind myself of my own advice and follow it. And in an effort to remember these things and to help any new mothers out there, here it is:

  1. Get Sleep Whenever You Can. My mom always says, "sleep when the baby is sleeping." So often, an exhausted mom can get re-energized as she beings to finally get some other things done around the home. But some rest, the exhaustion will return even worse, and may lead to an emotional breakdown later on. So I've learned to take a nap every day. Honestly, I take daily naps even when I don't have a newborn. When my napping child naps, the others have a "quiet time" with a show, my phone goes on silent, and I nap. And now with a newborn, since we are getting less sleep at night, my naps have been long! But that seems to give me the energy I need for "part 2" of my day. 
  2. Get A Support Group. Accept help when it's offered, and ask for help when you don't have it. With my sister living on the other side of the country, I wanted so badly to help her with her newborn, but couldn't. I needed other "sister" figures in her life to reach out and help in a way that I would if I could. She felt the same toward me, and begged me this time around to accept any help that was offered. I agreed that I would. I was blessed to have extra help with carpooling, playdates, meals, etc. that made all the difference in staying afloat. There is no way I could have survived that time without all the help I received. And I even hired my dear cleaning friend once to spend a couple hours cleaning our home. That was nice! 
  3. Throw Out Your To-Do List. This isn't the time for high expectations of yourself. My daily to-do list  had only 1 or 2 items at the most, but on most days, it was non-existent. I didn't commit to much or plan on doing much. I didn't look at our calendar. I didn't respond to most emails, or even worry about returning phone calls. I wouldn't have been able to keep up. I gave myself permission to give "thank you" cards in the form of a text or email, so that I didn't feel overwhelmed by a long list of cards to write. And I think this overall feeling of low expectations of myself prevented me from getting overwhelmed by what I thought I should be doing. 
  4. Do the Crucial Things for YOU. Decide what you need, personally, in order to be happy. Then make sure to do those basic things each day. For me, those things include personal prayer, scripture study, a shower and getting dressed (and this can feel like a big accomplishment on those hard days), a conversation with a close relative or friend, etc. Exercise would be on the list if it wasn't impossible to do just after having a baby. So to replace that, I would say that just getting outside to get some fresh air is good. I remember being at our house for an entire week, without going anywhere. Some of those days, I didn't even make it outside. I would have done better if I had gotten some fresh air at least. Some days I just wanted to paint my nails or wash my hair, so that became a high priority for the day. And somehow little things like that made me feel "normal" again. 
  5. Be Prepared for Baby Blues and/or Postpartum Depression. If you delivered a baby, it's going to happen to some degree. The hormone changes are real, and at some point, you'll probably need to have a good cry! Even if you don't know why you are crying. For me, it seems to be linked with the lack of sleep as well, so if I can get more sleep, my sadness can be greatly reduced. I've spent a lot of time researching online the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression. Postpartum is more prolonged and may require help to overcome it. And women who have postpartum tend to get it a little more with each child. I had postpartum with my third baby, so I expected it with this one, and tried to do all I could to prevent it (which I think has worked out). It's so important to be aware and to get help if it's needed, so that you can be at your best to care for your little ones. I've decided to be open about my more difficult and "weepy" days so that I don't fall in to a lonely trap of depression. That has helped. 
I know my list is incomplete, but it covers the main things that have helped me. 

What else have you other mothers found helpful during those challenging weeks with a newborn? (I should have asked this before I went through it!)


Don't Underestimate What Daddy Can Do

A couple weeks ago I was discouraged by a disobedient daughter. After discussing it with Paul (my husband), he wanted to help. He called her into our room for a little one-on-one chat. After a few minutes, she came out with a smile on her face and a sly look toward Daddy. They announced that they had a secret! For the rest of the evening, she was a completely different child. She answered, "okay" whenever I asked her to do something. And she was her sweet self again.

I tried to get the secret out of Paul later that night, but he was tight-lipped. He said the power of her behavior change was tied to the secret. And he was right. The next day, she was so glad that he hadn't told me, and she kept up the behavior. But I did find out a little about their chat. He was very positive. He complimented the good in her, and explained to her what mommy needed. He suggested a hypothesis that they were going to test out: a change in her behavior would cause a change in me. And so far I think their little hypothesis is working, because I am much happier.

This is just one example of many, in which Daddy's intervention has made a huge difference in our home. I turn to him all the time for reinforcement with what I am trying to teach. I can't imagine raising a family without him as my partner. And I can't calculate the loss our children would feel if we didn't have him. They love their time with him. They eagerly wait for Daddy to come home from work. They think of things throughout the day that they want to tell him. They thrive on their one-on-one interactions with him. They soak up his compliments. They all want to sit by him at the dinner table. They can't get enough play time with him in the evenings. They love his stories at night. 

I am convinced that a Father who is intentional about giving his time and positive attention to his children will reap great benefits. Here is a link to an excellent fact sheet about the benefits of father involvement. And here is one on making every day count for father's (titled Father's Day--Everyday) by helping dads be involved in their child's life. They were both created by the Minnesota Fathers and Families Network. Check them out!

What is the most significant way your husband or father has influenced his children?


Summertime Routine

Summer is here. And I love our relaxed schedule! Nowhere to go means we can't be late anywhere. The kids can play all day long. A lot of reading, coloring, creating, and playdates. Different friends coming every day to see the bunnies. Lots of jumping on the tramp in back, and riding bikes out front. Playing at the park. Too many popsicles. Bubbles. Dirty feet. And baths.  

But with the relaxed schedule, I also want to have more structure in place. When I was visiting my brother's family this past weekend, I observed that a home with order is a happy home. When children know the expectations (i.e., the morning routine), they know how to succeed. I've been thinking of the following scripture and how can apply to the home:
"Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God."                             
                                         --Doctrine & Covenants 88:119 
So lately, one of my favorite topics of conversation with other moms has been finding out what structure they have in place for summer mornings and evenings. What chores do their children do, if any? What do they need to do before they can play? How do they motivate them? Do they use charts and rewards? And how well does it go? 

What works for one family won't necessarily work for another. Still, it is worthwhile to get ideas from others. I was inspired and more motivated when I heard what some other families do. I prayed for guidance in creating our family plan. And I was able to come up with a simple chart that we will use for the summer. We used a "rough draft" this week, but next week it will be made in Word and printed up. 

Here it is (wrinkles, food stains, marks and all):

The basic idea is that each child has a few things to do as they get ready for the morning: get dressed, make bed, brush teeth, clean room, feed the bunnies or water the flower pots (they will trade off for these every week), do an inside chore, like unload the dishwasher or fold laundry, and practice the violin or piano. They are also expected to say their morning prayers and get their hair done, but they don't get a check for those. For each item, they can earn 1-3 points. 1 is for doing it. 2 is for doing it without complaining. 3 is for doing it without complaining, and before 10:00. 

They are motivated to get all the points they can because they are trying to earn certain rewards. Once they reach 20 points (day 1 or 2) they get a fun game with Daddy. At 50 points (day 3 or 4) they can watch a Disney show or play PBS kids computer games. At 100 checks (day 6, Saturday) they can choose something from the dollar store or make cookies with mommy. Each week, we will change up the rewards a bit to keep it exciting. For example, for 100 points, they will be able to earn swimming, having a lemonade stand, making a hair accessory with mom, buying a treat from the ice cream man, or doing other fun activities as a family. I like that they aren't earning money. They just aren't old enough to really need it yet. If they ask to earn money, we will let them do additional jobs once their basic responsibilities are done.

So far, it's going great! Our slow-to-get-ready child is faster than I've ever seen. Our complainer is no longer complaining. We get it all done by 10am and then we can be spontaneous and fun the rest of the day. They are happier because they are achieving. And as a mom, I am happier when I have responsible children!

What have you done to provide structure to your summer days? What is working well for your morning routine? I'd love to hear other success stories!

Image found at www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net 


Dedicating Your Time to Your Children

In speaking to the women of our church, our Prophet addressed the difficult decision some women have with motherhood and employment. Among other things, he taught: 
"The greatest job that any mother will ever do will be in nurturing, teaching, lifting, encouraging, and rearing her children in righteousness and truth. None other can adequately take her place....[A]s the years pass, you will become increasingly grateful for that which you did in molding the lives of your children in the direction of righteousness and goodness, integrity and faith. That is most likely to happen if you can spend adequate time with them."
--President Gordon B. Hinckley

And his counselor, gave this insight that has helped me so much!
Women today are being encouraged by some to have it all--generally, all simultaneously: money, travel, marriage, motherhood, and separate careers in the world....Doing things sequentially--filling roles one at a time at different times--is not always possible, as we know, but it gives a woman the opportunity to do each thing well in its time and to fill a variety of roles in her life...[A woman] may fit more than one career into the various seasons of life. She need not try to sing all the verses of her song at the same time."
--President James E. Faust

It answers a question I had, but never voiced: "Does a stay-at-home mother give up opportunities to develop and share her talents with the world?" No. She has different seasons of her life, in which to do the things that are most important at that time. This has helped me to resist feeling resentment for the things I am not able to do right now. It helps me to love this stage of my life, and want to give my all to be successful in the home, knowing that other opportunities will come later on for giving service outside of the home. 

Don't Compare Yourself to Other Moms

Without even realizing it, I compare myself with other moms--weighing their strengths against my weaknesses. Do you do this too? If so, here's some great advice:

"I want to tell you something that I hope you will take in the right way: God is fully aware that you and I are not perfect. Let me add: God is also fully aware that the people you think are perfect are not.
And yet we spend so much time and energy comparing ourselves to others—usually comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. This drives us to create expectations for ourselves that are impossible to meet. As a result, we never celebrate our good efforts because they seem to be less than what someone else does.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It’s wonderful that you have strengths. And it is part of your mortal experience that you do have weaknesses. God wants to help us to eventually turn all of our weaknesses into strengths, but He knows that this is a long-term goal. He wants us to become perfect, and if we stay on the path of discipleship, one day we will. It’s OK that you’re not quite there yet. Keep working on it, but stop punishing yourself. Dear sisters, many of you are endlessly compassionate and patient with the weaknesses of others. Please remember also to be compassionate and patient with yourself."
--Elder Deiter F. Uchtdorf

How Motherhood Changes You

I love how this scripture and quote explain how a woman changes as she gives her life to her children:

"Whosoever will save [her] life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose [her] life for my sake, the same shall save it"
--Luke 9:24

"Taking care of a small, dependent, growing person is transforming, because it...exposes our vulnerabilities as well as our nobility. We lose our sense of self, only to find it and have it change again and again....We figure out how we want to interpret the wider world, and we learn to interact with all those who affect our children....In the end, we have learned more about ourselves, about the cycles of life, and humanity itself." 
--Ellen Galinsky


A Mother's Day Book

Can I introduce you to a new favorite book? Yes, it's a children's picture book. But don't underestimate its value. You can snuggle up on the couch with your little ones and enjoy the sweet conversation between a mother and her son. In response to his questions, she tells the story of how her life has become happier and happier, especially as she has become a mother. The pictures are cute and the message is inspiring. I can't help but feel more love for my children as I read this to them. It makes me want to hold them closer, enjoy them more, and express the happiness that they bring to me each day. I highly recommend "The Happiest Mommy Ever" for any mother or grandmother.


On the Hard Days

I've found that as a mother, there are really good days and really difficult days, even though most days are a mixture of both. What if you are having one of those really hard days, or weeks, or months as a mom? What if you have a child who is going through a tough "stage" (or at least you hope it's a stage)? What if you feel like you are failing? Or you worry that you have ruined your child? Maybe you aren't finding any joy in motherhood lately, and you feel guilty when you hear about other women who are. If so, you are not alone. 

I know that Mother's Day can be a very emotional day for some women. I hope we can reach those sweet mothers this week and help them realize all the good they are doing. We shouldn't be so hard on ourselves, but sometimes we are. Parenting is meant to be challenging. It's part of God's plan. 

Here are two beautiful quotes from inspired men of God that can help provide hope and understanding during tough times:

"A sweet and obedient child will enroll a father or mother only in Parenting 101. If you are blessed with a child who tests your patience to the nth degree, you will be enrolled in Parenting 505. Rather than wonder what you might have done wrong in the premortal life to be so deserving, you might consider the more challenging child a blessing and opportunity to become more godlike yourself. With which child will your patience, long-suffering, and other Christlike virtues most likely be tested, developed, and refined? Could it be possible that you need this child as much as this child needs you?"

"Often the deep valleys of our present will be understood only by looking back on them from the mountains of our future experience. Often we can’t see the Lord’s hand in our lives until long after trials have passed. Often the most difficult times of our lives are essential building blocks that form the foundation of our character and pave the way to future opportunity, understanding, and happiness."


A Mother's Day Gift

Last week I managed to escape our home for a couple hours to attend a local "Education Day" for the women in our church. One of my favorite classes was titled "The Joy of Motherhood." My post-pregnancy hormones were still regulating, so I was an emotional wreck as I sat and pondered the difficulties and joys of motherhood. It was therapeutic, mostly because I was touched and taught by the Spirit. I came away with more gratitude for my role as a mother. I had a better perspective of what I am doing, and why I am doing it. I returned home with more energy to serve my family. What a gift that presenter (and God) gave to me! Another thing she gave us each was a packet with the best quotes she had found on the topic. I've read it since then, and found added strength in the words. 
With Mother's Day around the corner, I want to give a similar gift to the mothers that I know. I plan to post one of my favorite quotes on motherhood each day this week. Here's the first one: 

"Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels."

Moms, do you think of your job as "the highest, holiest service" you could be doing? I know I've heard this before, but wish I remembered it more often. As a mother, I go and go and go. All day long. I rarely stop to do something for myself. Half the day is over before I even realize that I have been going non-stop to feed, dress, teach, help and care for my children. I know other moms do the same. Yes, it is a service. An all-encompassing job. And sometimes I forget what I am really doing and I begin to feel bad for myself. It's an easy trap for mothers to fall into, especially in a society that praises individualism. But this quote helps me remember that motherhood is not only a good thing, but it is the best thing I could be doing with my time. A popular blogger wrote  "[motherhood] is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It's what God gave you time for." I love that and know it's true!
No wonder there is an attack on motherhood. No wonder there is a pull in our world today for women to be busy with other things, and to put off having and caring for children. And for those of us who have children, there are temptations to be distracted, discouraged, depressed, self-absorbed, and unfulfilled. But with the right perspective, God's view of motherhood, we can refrain from our selfish tendencies. We can give our lives willingly in His service. To whom? Our children. In serving them with a happy heart, we find greater joy. We find true fulfillment. We remain grateful for this responsibility. What an honor and a blessing to be a mom!    


Lessons From a Newborn

We have a new little one! We welcomed sweet baby Ivie into our family a week ago. Already, I can’t imagine life without her. It seems like all we do is feed her, change her diapers, and hold her as she drifts off to sleep. But occasionally, she stays awake long enough for us to look into her curious eyes to catch a glimpse of who she is. In these quiet moments, I have had some time to ponder. And I have learned some important lessons that change my perspective on motherhood and my children:

Having a Child is Worth It 
When Ivie was first born and placed on my chest to meet, hold and comfort her, I was instantly filled with a huge amount of love. I had never seen her before, and yet, my heart expanded to make space for her. I had a surprising thought come to me: If I had to go through it all again—meaning the challenges of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and recovery—in order to have her, I would do it in a heartbeat (that might sound like a light statement, but this whole process has gotten harder for me each time). If the sacrifices were considered an “investment” and she is the “return” then it is well in our favor to make that investment again and again. I’m so glad I had this realization, because there were times during my pregnancy when I wondered if I could really go through this again. But I’ve decided if I stay focused on the outcome, then I can do it. Not only can I do it, but I want to do it. I remember a conversation with my sister-in-law after she had an extremely dangerous delivery with her sixth child. Both she and the baby were in danger of their lives, but were miraculously saved. I expected to hear her say that she was probably done having children. But when asked the question, she sincerely offered, “I hope we can have more.” I marveled at her attitude. Now I think I understand. 

The Best Gift for the Other Children
Our three other daughters got the chance to come into our delivery room soon after Ivie was born. They gathered around and watched with amazement as she was cleaned off, measured, checked, and diapered. Then they beamed with excitement as they each had a chance to hold her for the first time. Throughout this first week, their interest has only increased. All day long they come to us with their hands washed, asking if they can hold her. They talk to her, sing songs to her, stare at her and laugh at her funny faces. They want to lift and carry her, burp her, change her diapers, choose her clothes, and constantly offer her a binki. In essence, they LOVE her! We acquired another great asset this week: a trampoline! It’s been the perfect distraction to give me some quiet alone time with the baby. Well, the other night, Millie made a statement: “Mom, if I had to trade one of them [the trampoline or baby Ivie], I’d trade the trampoline. Ivie is specialer.” I can’t think of a better gift that we could have given our children than to have another sibling to love and care for, and experience life with. 

Remember Who They Are
Late at night, when the house is quiet and I have Ivie to myself, I stare into her face and get lost in thoughts of who she really is. Her body is limp and helpless. She is completely dependent on us for everything. She is just learning to move her hands and fingers, and click her tongue to show us she is hungry. And yet, when I look deep into her eyes, I see that she is a full-grown spirit. She is a beloved daughter of God, who has come to earth to gain a body and experience her earthly test. When I remember who she is and where she came from, I feel honored with the responsibility to be her mother. With this perspective, I want to do all I can to provide for her needs. I don’t feel burdened by the care that she requires. Instead, I have joy in this tremendous blessing of motherhood.

All Children are as Precious as Newborns
As I look into Ivie’s face, I marvel at her innocence and purity. She is new and sweet and priceless. I often have flashbacks to when I held our other daughters as newborns. I remember when they were just as precious, innocent, and sweet. And I’ve had the realization that our older children are still just as precious and innocent as Ivie is. It’s harder to remember this sometimes (like when they make sad choices to disobey or talk back to us). But having a newborn again has helped me cherish our older children for who they really are. I’ve been reminded that even though they are growing up, they are still just as dependent on us for our love, mercy, care, and sacrifice. I’ve had more love in my heart for them this week, and cherished them for who they really are.