3 Things to Strengthen My Family

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Today, we attended our stake conference, which is a meeting of all the LDS wards/congregations within a designated geographical area. The theme for this conference was Strengthening Our Families. Two weeks ago, we were given several resources to read or watch so that we would come prepared to listen to and act on the messages presented. I am SO GRATEFUL for the time and thoughtful preparation of the speakers, because I was absolutely fed in a profound spiritual way. I am excited to do (try) the following three things in our family ...

1. The Phone Basket
As of tomorrow, we will start using this "phone basket". I will put it on our kitchen island in the late afternoon, so that as my teens and husband return from school/work they will deposit their phones. Yes, I will also deposit MY phone. Our phones will stay in this basket until AFTER dinner is over and (here's the part I am especially fond of and made up myself) dinner is CLEANED up. Mobile technology is fantastic. I love it, use it and sing it's praises often. But I am also aware of the pull that is has on everyone in my home, most especially my young adults and teens and I want to teach them how to unplug and create intentional time for the people they care about the most. With the phone basket in play, we will all enjoy at least an hour—maybe a little more of focused family connection every evening. At least I hope this is the outcome. I will report back!

2. Talk More About Media
I want to talk with Geoff and schedule a family meeting where we talk about media in general. I want to have a much better idea of what my kids are consuming via Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, etc.. I'm pretty good at regularly asking, "What are you watching or listening to?" but rather than me just playing police woman all the time, I'd like to have a more formal dialogue about what we as a family want our standards and filters to be. One of the speakers said, "Media will continue to influence our lives even if we don't acknowledge it's import." I know this is true, so I want to have more intentional and ongoing discussions so that we are deliberately consuming media in order to be entertained (in wholesome ways), well informed (about the world around us), and educated (concerning things we care about, are interested in and want to learn). With the never-ending crush of information—much of it degrading and distracting—we need to evaluate together how we feel when we consume something. Does the media we regularly take in 1. Invite or impede the influence of The Holy Ghost, 2. Enlarge or restrict our capacity to live, love and serve, 3. Take me/us away from important school work or family relationships. I realized today that this isn't just about getting teens off their phone, this is about learning for life how and WHY to be deliberate with media, so that we can all stay in control of our time and our productivity. 

3. Saturday Morning Pancakes  
I did this for years. I even have a scrapbook page all about Saturday morning pancakes—maybe I'll dig that out this week and post it. Anyway, one of the talks today began with a story of Saturday morning pancakes that went awry do to a recipe error. The outcome was not the deliciousness expected. The speaker went on to deliver a great message about the recipe for a successful family life and the importance of bringing together the right ingredients in the proper and time-tested way. I leaned over at one point and asked Trey if he remembered Saturday morning pancakes and he said, "Yeah. Why don't we do that anymore?" I pondered that question and decided it's primarily because I'm an older and lazier mom. My kids are growing up, they sleep in later when they can, otherwise, they are up and out the door. Saturdays are the day that Geoff and Addie go to Korean school. They leave by 8:30am. Geoff and I no longer eat gluten and therefore traditional pancakes—the kind the kids like —just don't get made. As I sat and listened, I made a mental list of excuses and then realized that I've been wanting to create more togetherness, which is hard to do with older kids. It was one of those moments when you know what you need to do and you decide to do it. I can absolutely pull myself out of bed on Saturdays at 7:00am. I can buy some gluten-free Bisquick or make one of my grain-free recipes. My boys would get up at 8:00am for breakfast before Dad and Addie leave IF it meant pancakes. And if they are headed out early, then they will get something other than cold cereal. Essentially, I'm bringing back a long-lost tradition in order to do exactly what traditions do—create anticipation for family-centered time.

And, there you have it. 
The things I'm going to try. Try is the trick isn't it? If we just keep on trying and tweaking and trying some more, we can make changes and improvements that will strengthen us as families, and that's what I want, a strong, happy family.