I can see myself now—racing around the house hunting for my five-year-old’s Sunday shoes, a hair brush in one hand and the diaper bag slung over my shoulder—with two minutes left till church. Finally I’d rush off with my children all ready and discover I’d forgotten to comb my own hair. It seemed after all I could do, I nearly always arrived late for my meetings.
One frustrating Sunday morning, something in me snapped. How is it, I asked myself, that the sister in front of us manages to be on time—maybe even early, with four preschoolers looking serene and scrubbed, while our kids straggle in? I decided then that I was going to be on time or else. After interviewing several sisters and getting some ideas, I counseled with my husband and formed a plan.
We discovered that tardiness is an attitude as well as a habit. We may hate being late, even long to be early, but in order to do so we have to be willing to make a commitment, to sacrifice, and to persevere.
So I made a commitment and wrote it in my journal. I made it specific and short-ranged as well as long-ranged. Each week I recommitted. Instead of “I’ll never be late again,” I said, “This week I will be fifteen minutes early, no matter what.” I planned to have time to park to the car, herd the children across the parking lot, take off coats and find a seat. I reported back to myself each week, noting my success or failure.
Next I dealt with my Sunday morning activities. What was I doing that could be done the day before, the day after, or eliminated altogether? I set some priorities. I enjoyed a leisurely bath early in the morning when I seemed to have so much time. But time is an illusion on Sunday morning, so I took a quick bath.
I also did not want to leave the table uncleared, cornflakes sogging in the bowl to greet me on my return. To solve this problem I made the English muffin breakfast—scrambled eggs on a muffin heated for a few minutes in a hot oven with a little cheese melted on top. These could be fixed quickly and eaten whenever the children were ready, but left no dishes. Another breakfast is the “milk shake” breakfast which is milk, fruit or juice, and raw egg whipped in the blender. Served with a slice of toast, it’s a complete breakfast. Paper cups also help eliminate Sunday morning dishes.
I solved the problem of finding missing shoes by taking the children’s shoes after church and keeping them on a high shelf all week. I also hang the Sunday dresses, slips, socks, and ribbons together on one hanger as they are washed during the week. This helps the girls dress themselves and simplifies the task if an older child helps dress a younger one. My diaper bag is also kept fully equipped on a shelf between outings. I put my scriptures beside it on Saturday night.
My dawdling four-year-old was another problem. With him I try to minimize distractions by having him do only one thing at a time, making sure he has everything he needs, and allowing plenty of time.
The last hour before meeting is countdown time and must be treated seriously. I don’t do anything but start “heading out the door.” That means getting shoes on, checking faces and hair, getting coats out of the closet. I act as if it were the last five minutes for the whole hour and it works wonders.
As we go to the car, my husband stands at the door with a brush and a wash cloth to inspect for shoes, clean faces and combed hair, and then to carry the baby out to the car.
As I have learned to plan ahead, life has become much less harried for me. Although I still don’t always make it to church on time, I have broken my habit and feel much better about myself. My family seems happier, too.—, Anchorage, Alaska
“It’s Your Night to Cook”
When the reply to “What’s for dinner?” came, invariably at least one of our six children would respond with, “Oh, yuck,” or “I’m not going to eat that!”
If one of our five boys wanted cookies, he would ask his only sister, who likes to cook, to bake some. But she was beginning to tire of it—and to feel more and more like Cinderella. The boys’ culinary interests never went much beyond popping popcorn or pouring milk on cold cereal. In short, they were kitchen klutzes and unappreciative consumers. As a result, I was losing my enthusiasm for cooking.
So, as a family, we devised a weekly cooking schedule, with each member of the family, including Dad, assigned a night to cook. Even our two youngest boys, who are only four and seven years old, have a night together to cook, with my help.
We plan meals on Sunday afternoons. Each cook lists his or her menu items so that I can purchase them the next day. The weekly menu is also posted on the refrigerator. The only restrictions we put upon the cooks are that the meal must be balanced and they can’t cook the same dinner two weeks in a row.
Our system has been in use for more than three years, and we have enjoyed a lot of delicious dinners as well as a few unusual ones. More important, our children are learning to cook. We will be able to send them off to college or on missions knowing that they can plan and prepare nutritious meals and follow recipes confidently.
The four older children can all prepare roasts, casseroles, most types of salads and vegetables, breads and rolls, cakes, cookies, and even some pies. The two youngest boys talk excitedly about “their night to cook,” and they know exactly what they want to fix each week. They do as much as possible themselves, such as grating cheese or making instant pudding. Their assistant, Mom, takes care of the actual cooking.
Since we began our cooking schedule, the complaints about dinner have all but disappeared, because everyone knows that his or her turn to cook is just a day or two away. The children now appreciate the effort that goes into meal preparation, and having Dad in the kitchen has eliminated the notion that food preparation is just “women’s work.” In fact, he really enjoys preparing new dishes and has become somewhat of a gourmet.
Having just one main meal to fix a week has also renewed my interest in cooking. I now look forward to preparing a special meal—as do all our other chefs.
I knew our family’s cooking plan was working well when seven-year-old Jeff came into the kitchen one afternoon and started to ask me what was for dinner. But then he stopped and said, “Oh, I forgot. It’s not your night. I’d better ask Scott.”—, Sandy, Utah
Letters with Life
When you serve a mission or go away to school or to work, brief letters that say, “I’m fine,” “Things are great,” or even “I miss you,” may not tell your family members and friends what they want to know. To keep those you left behind reassured and well-informed, you should include details that will allow them to picture your new life and to understand the feelings and experiences you are having.
You might want to include some of the following information in your letters:
Details of daily life. Describe your apartment or room, perhaps adding a sketch of the floor plan or a photograph. Give the menus for typical meals. Tell what you usually do during a weekday, and how you spend Saturdays and Sundays (or preparation days, if you are a missionary). Describe the weather, and detail different customs, holidays, foods, and living habits of your new home, whether it be another country, state, or city. And don’t forget to describe your new ward. These details will allow your family and friends to imagine your life in its new setting.
News about people you meet. Write about your companions and other missionaries with whom you work, about your roommates, neighbors, or co-workers if you are in school or working. Your descriptions of your friends and the people you work with will enable those at home to feel close to you as they share a vital part of your new activities.
Descriptions of your spiritual and emotional health. Those at home want to know that your testimony is growing and what your feelings are as you face new experiences. If things are not going well, they may be able to provide you with counsel and perspective. As you progress, they will rejoice with you and profit by your example. Non-LDS or less-active family members and friends can be influenced for good as they learn how you overcome obstacles and feel the happiness that comes from living the commandments and serving the Lord.
Of course, not every letter can include all this information! But as you work to include a little more detail in each letter, you will see improved communication with those at home. You may find that you are communicating more, or better, in your letters than you did at home. You may find that you can easily share feelings on paper that were hard to express in person. Such feelings and experiences can strengthen your relationships with your loved ones. In addition, your writing skills will improve and your experiences can provide an example for other family members who may be planning a similar experience.
Finally, ask your family and friends to keep your letters, as they can provide a vital supplement to your personal journal. When we write in our journals, we often omit details or explanations that seem unnecessary to make to ourselves. But as we reread our letters a few years from now, we may be reminded of those “unforgettable,” but nevertheless forgotten, details.
Your letters can help to reassure your family that you are well-fed, warm, and healthy enough to pick up a pen, and that you are interested enough in their love for you to help them feel a part of your life away from home.—, State College, Pennsylvania