How I use a computer game to help me clean

I have never been a clean person. Oh, I have been in plenty of households over the years that made me realize I’m not so bad in the tidiness department, but I still have a long way to go to match most of the houses I’ve seen–the clean ones. I consider myself an artsy, right-brained sort of person, but I also have trouble just getting things finished.

Which is why I have used a computer game to help me clean, be it pick up or deep clean.

It began with the game “Skyrim”. When my husband was out for a Saturday, I’d spend the day cleaning, rewarding myself with Skyrim. As time passed, I found a way to both work and play.

Turn-based games. For me, it’s the “Civilization” line. Beautiful, turn-based strategy where I don’t have crazy monsters leaping at me from nowhere.


Now, this does take a long time, depending on how much I want to get done. But it works. My best cleaning happens when I am actually playing this game between sessions. I do it when my husband is working late and the girls are asleep, the perfect time to get cleaning out of the way.

I set myself a plan. I play a set number of turns–my favorite is letting it depend on what happens in the game. Civilization games have stuff happen regularly, like learning a technology or building something. Those are my go-tos for signaling it’s time to get cleaning.

Then, I clean. My two favorites are clean for five minutes, or do a certain number of tasks before I return to my game. I prefer to cycle through the rooms together as it really gets me working to find little tasks I might otherwise ignore.

It’s not speed-cleaning, but it keeps me entertained and focused. Stuff gets done.

Relief Society Lesson: The Lord Wants us to Accept Ministering from Others


What is ministering? I have long heard about it from other Christian faiths, but I never had managed to associate it with our religion. Oh, we had what we had: our visiting and home teaching, our efforts for building strong faith communities. At the end of the day, what was different between the two? I certainly appreciated what we did, what these other faiths did. It all seemed to amount to about the same thing, of reaching out to each other and building up our individual faiths.


What are some experiences and thoughts you had from our legacy of Visiting Teaching?


What does ministering mean to you?


When I thought about what ministering means, what kept floating up to the top was the idea of community, the community of our religion and faith. We Mormons are practically famous for our close-knit communities and our efforts to help one another.

Elder Robert D. Hales said “The gospel plan requires giving and receiving… Individuals in difficulty often say “I’ll do it alone… I can take care of myself.”   It has been said that no one is so rich he does not need another’s help, no one so poor as to not be useful in some way to his fellow man”.

What does this statement mean to you? Why do you think Elder Hales felt inspired to mention this?

Of course we are all individuals. Of course we all have a personal journey as we work our ways back to Heavenly Father and the Savior. Of course we cannot ultimately save others. Yet our Heavenly Father never intended for us to do this alone. The Church was not set up as individualized learning programs where we are kept separate from everyone else. The Church was set up of people. It is organized as people. It is an extremely social entity and it should be this way. Even if we can’t ultimately save each other, we are most certainly meant to support one another.

There’s this old Chinese folktale that has been on my mind, and it popped back up when I was preparing this lesson. To me, it’s about serving one another and building that community. There was this lord who became aware of a man in poverty. The man didn’t have any particular skills obvious at the same and was in many ways pretty much just a charity case. Even so, the lord decided to bring this man into his household and care for him arguably far more than the man earned. Eventually, the lord needed to send someone to collect debts from this village he was over. The poor man at this time revealed he had some financial experience and could go collect the money. The lord then said to look for whatever was lacking in the household and buy it up with the collected money. So the poor man heads out to this village, figures out what everyone owes… and then proceeds to forgive all the debts in the lord’s names. He returns to the lord, explains what he did. The lord seemed to be a pretty good sort, even though he was very disappointed, and just shrugged off the situation as one of those losses. Sometime later, a new ruler came to power and decided to do some housecleaning. One of the people who was at risk of losing his title was this lord. However, the people of the village whose debts had been forgiven refused to listen to anyone else but this lord.

I bring up this story because it made me think of how our fortunes and needs can change. In this story, we had people who at different times were in need of help. This great lord who was able to give all sorts of assistance to another with scarcely even thinking about it later found himself in need and the person he had served had been able to help him. We had an entire village who rose up in support of the person who had served them.

Now this story could have easily ended with this nice wealthy and powerful lord helping this poor man. In many ways, ministering to others, helping others, is so easy. Oh, we might have to make a sacrifice here and there, but how many of us often think that is easier than being on the receiving end of ministering? I don’t want to suggest pride where it might not exist, but there’s something empowering about going out of our ways for others, in giving up something for another. I truly believe these are godly feelings and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But again, that quote, “there is no one so rich he does not need another’s help.” We need to be able to accept help from others.

Why do you think this is so important?

To me, it goes back to this idea of this church community that exists to help us all. For every time we go out of our way to help, serve, and support another person, there has to be another person receiving that support. It’s physically impossible for it to be any other way. The story I told speaks of the way people are interconnected and the same goes for the Church.

Reyna I. Aburto said “In order to reach our sublime destiny, we need each other, and we need to be unified. The Lord has commanded us, “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of unity with His Father. They are one in purpose, in love, and in works, with “the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.”


We are meant to serve each other. It is an essential part of our religion here on this earth and in building up our Heavenly Father’s kingdom.  We must serve each other and be willing to be served. If we refused that help, that ministery, we are not unified in the intent of serving others.

What blessings can we receive from letting others minister to us?

We can receive the obvious immediate blessings. What can be better than receiving what we need shortly after we realize we need it? There’s that relief, that joy, all that comes with knowing that we have the means of getting done what we need to get done. It’s probably a simple blessing in the grand scheme of things, yet so many of these simple needs are essential to our mortal life. Sometimes I think in our desire to grow spiritually, we forget or at least underappreciate all the little day-to-day needs of life. So often we speak of letting going of the little things that we forget the still happen and still need to happen. I think that feeling may be in fact one of the things that may keep us from accepting help and ministering: these are minor, mortal things in the grand scheme of things and surely I don’t need to bother others. But again, think of how great it is to get that comparably small thing when we need it.

This also leads to the situation of the not-so-little things. Sometimes, big and bad things happen to us. These might be the times we are far more inclined to ask for help and that’s great, I’m sure so many are willing to help at these times. But I also love the idea of a community that doesn’t necessarily rank or categorize other’s problems. It seems to me that if we are comfortable accepting help for small things, how much more likely are we to be comfortable accepting help in big things! If we are truly unified in helping and serving each other, I think the discomfort we might feel in asking or even just accepting help, no matter the problem, will diminish.

We are also humbled when we allow others to minister to us. This is something else we tend to admire in those we serve. We appreciate the gratitude and humility we see in others, yet sometimes we are scared to let that show in ourselves. Yet so many blessings and growth opportunities come when we are humbled. We are able to appreciate the service given to us. We are able to look at where we can grow and where we are strong. We may even get a nice practical shake-up in our pride.

We get to see the insight and experience to others. Like sharing a testimony, we have the opportunity learn from those who serve us. What have they been through? What have they learned?

We can also help build our community. I think women in general tend to be quite social and this is good. I also have this personal belief of mine that Satan is not only trying to break up the family but communities in general. So often, in so many ways, it seems we are supposed to distrust each other, compare ourselves to each other.

Bonnie L. Oscarson said “We… acknowledge that we are all daughters of the same Heavenly Father, which makes us sisters. We are unified in building the kingdom of God and in the covenants which we have made, no matter what our circumstances. To be sisters implies that there is an unbreakable bond between us. Sisters take care of each other, watch out for each other, comfort each other, and are there for each other through thick and thin. The Lord has said, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”2

The adversary would have us be critical or judgmental of one another. He wants us to concentrate on our differences and compare ourselves to one another.”

Serving each other gives the opportunity to see each other in a different, more Christ-like light, and puts us to work for each other. We see each other through the eyes of service and charity, whether we are receiving or giving it. When we accept ministering, we are part of a sisterhood of taking care of each other and comforting each other.

I feel that we can serve and accept service from others, we break down barriers between one another. We allow others into our lives. We open up our hearts to each other. We become less afraid of others seeing our imperfections and our trials. So much pride goes away, and we really do begin to see each other as Christ might. We may become less defensive, more open to growth and change. We might see that we are not alone but rather far from it in our trials. I’m not saying we need to become busybodies or oversharers, but we can let down walls and reach other to each other. We are allowing others to see what we need and by doing so receive the help we need. We put ourselves and our community of faith in the position to help each other so much further. This builds us up, strengthens us, and further puts us in the position to grow together.


Further questions:

  • What things us might prevent us for asking for help?
  • What can we do to encourage ourselves and each other to ask for help?
  • What’s the difference between asking for help and taking advantage?
  • How does receiving help improve our ability to help others?
  • How does serving and being served bring us closer to Christ?
  • Why might you be hesitant in letting others into your life?

Strengthening Our Relationship with our Father in Heaven


When my priesthood leader asked if I would be up for giving a talk today, he did not ask me through the time-honored ways of walking up to me at church or in the neighborhood or even by calling me on the phone. He sent me an e-mail, and after I replied in the affirmative he followed up with another email with an attachment of the speaking assignment which I then uploaded to my Google drive via my phone, which was handy for downloading later on my laptop when I couldn’t find my phone. My point is, life seems to becoming more and more complex. I consider this to be a good thing in countless ways. We live in an amazing world where we are blessed with all sorts of technology and advancements that can so often be used for our good. We have the ability to communicate with others around the world, to stay in touch others, to share ideas with the world. I really don’t want my talk to be about all the downfalls of this complex world because I do believe these advancements are intended to be a blessing if we use them correctly.


What I do wish to speak of is what we might forget about in this complex world. With our ability to do more see, see more, accomplish more, we have the potential to wind up with a lot of mores. While many of these are good, there are those who have lost sight of the basics of our gospel and our world. Some of us find our relationship with our Father in Heaven being placed on the backburner. In some ways this can be almost laughable. Our Heavenly Father who is the source of all blessings give us what we need, opens doors of opportunity, all the amazing complexities I mentioned, all things that can be used to grow spiritually and even just get through our day-to-day lives, ways to build up His kingdom, and yet sometimes He is the one who is forgotten.


I imagine all of us have been in dark places in our lives. Perhaps we have found ourselves crying out to our Father in Heaven. Perhaps we have been at the other end of the spectrum, feeling completely abandoned and alone. I am not in a position to speak for how others have felt and what they have experienced in such times, but I do deeply believe that our Father in Heaven does want us in the camp of the former, seeking Him.


In this talk “Of Things that Matter Most”, Elder Uchtdorf advises us to slow down and focus on the basics. He tells a story of turbulence in an airplane: Have you ever been in an airplane and experienced turbulence? The most common cause of turbulence is a sudden change in air movement causing the aircraft to pitch, yaw, and roll. While planes are built to withstand far greater turbulence than anything you would encounter on a regular flight, it still may be disconcerting to passengers.

What do you suppose pilots do when they encounter turbulence? A student pilot may think that increasing speed is a good strategy because it will get them through the turbulence faster. But that may be the wrong thing to do. Professional pilots understand that there is an optimum turbulence penetration speed that will minimize the negative effects of turbulence. And most of the time that would mean to reduce your speed. The same principle applies also to speed bumps on a road.

Therefore, it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.


On my kitchen wall I have this little wallhanging that says “In the Happy Moments Praise God. In the Difficult Moments Seek God. In the quiet moments Trust God.” I probably don’t look at this enough or ponder it enough, but it does serve as a reminder that Heavenly Father truly is mindful of us and our lives. I feel this goes beyond both just the hard times, or just the good times. If we are giving up when things get hard, or instead only looing to Heavenly Father when things are hard, is our relationship with Him where it truly could be? Are we do wrapped up in the rush of modern life we only have time for God at certain times and certain events?

So, how can we build our relationship with Heavenly Father?

One that occurred to me was to simply slow down, whatever that might mean for each of us. In the same talk, Elder Uchtdorf says the following One of the characteristics of modern life seems to be that we are moving at an ever-increasing rate, regardless of turbulence or obstacles.

Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.

It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. Overscheduling our days would certainly qualify for this. There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks.

I imagine everyone’s mileage may vary on what it means to be too busy, but I would daresay that one could tell if they were too busy if they were unable to focus on the most important parts of the gospel, the very things that would allow us to build up that relationship with Heavenly Father. In our mortal world of finite time, are we making the time we need?

After we make the time, what exactly do we do with this time? I imagine this is where the classic Primary answers come into play. We have been told what we need to do… are we getting it done?

In 1 John 17  we read 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.


Think of the words of Jesus Christ “Come follow me.” Three words and so simple and direct an instruction. We need to do what He would have us do. Are we living as Christ exemplified? Are we treating others as we have been taught? Are we being honest in our lives?

These things are great basics that work always in our busy lives. No matter what we are doing, we can still be honest, kind, and Christ-like.

As wonderful as these things are and as important as they are for us to do to grow closer to our Heavenly Father, we also ought to go one step further. We need to have personal time to build our relationship. This might come in the form of personal prayer, in the form of scripture study, and in the form of simply considering the blessings and commandments we have been given. We ought to take the time for consideration and reflection, a time to pray to our Heavenly Father and to actively listen and think. James E. Faust said What is the quality of our secret prayers when only He listens? As we study and pray, we should do with the intent of truly speaking to our Heavenly Father.

Part of this time of prayer and study is truly believing in the divinity and truth of our Father in Heaven. Do we believe He is truly there and loves us? Do we take the time to be in awe of that fact?

President Kimball has said: “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures, the distance narrows and the spirituality returns.”

I think this is one of the big reasons we are reminded to pray and to study the scriptures. These are ways of growing close to our Father, ways of speaking to him and reading directly the gospel He has given us. These are proof He exists and cares for us.

Next, we should consider how worthy we are of our Heavenly Father. In no way do I want to negate the love and grace He has shown us in our imperfect mortal state, but His love is one of encouraging us to return to Him one day. Are we working on our imperfections? Are we striving to be worthy of a temple recommend? Are we making use of the Atonement in our lives?

I do believe these things works for each other. If we are doing all that we can to become closer to Heavenly Father, they will become easier. It may be impossible to do these things and not finding our hearts and minds turning toward Him. I know He wants a relationship with us.

We really do live in an amazing time. We have so many blessings in this world, and as fast-paced as they make it be I think the importance of maintaining a relationship with our Father even more important. We need to pray regularly, study the scriptures, and take the time to think about our Heavenly Father and our Savior. They need to become every so real to us. We need to live as the gospel has taught us, to serve others and be examples of that gospel. We need to do these things with the intent of growing closer to our Heavenly Father.

If we do this, we will be blessed. Perhaps our trials won’t disappear. Perhaps our good times won’t be exponentially expanded. But we will be blessed. We will have the support we need. We will be given strength through our hard times. We will better appreciate and rejoice in our blessings. We will have the Spirit with us and that incomprehensible comfort that comes with being close to our Heavenly Father.

I pray and hope that we can take the time to remember just how infinitely important God is to us and to take the time to grow closer to Him.

Schools, stop making kids invite the entire class to their birthdays!

One of my biggest time-wasters on Facebook is one of those notorious mom groups. I like this mom group. It’s faith-based and well have similar understandings on a few essentials. There is comradery.

Which is why I am so angry at something that happened to the child of one of the ladies. Despite tight finances, she gave in to her son’s wishes to throw him a nice big birthday party and invited the entire class.

Yes, it’s one of those stories. No one showed up.

The post was full of sorrow, commiseration, and desires to send that little boy something birthday goodness. Ah, comradery!

But as I read through the posts, I noticed a few references and experiences that built up into a rather big issue:

School policies requiring birthday kids to invite the entire class.

Now, I don’t know if this mom’s kid’s school had such a policy, but other ladies shared horrible experiences where, yes, they were required to invite the entire class.

And I don’t get it.

Oh, to some extent, I do. If you’re going to invite a significant majority of the class, be classy and invite everyone. If you’re going to invite a significant majority of one gender, be classy and invite the entire gender. It just seems polite.

But as a school policy? That’s overstepping in a big way.

Why do schools do this? The obvious thing is to a) teach good social skills and kindness and promote inclusion and b)save headaches from crying kids and angry parents.

Which is why the aforementioned idea of if you’re going to invite most, just invite all seems to me like an important social grace, but nothing that should require a typed policy.

Here are some of the downfalls of such policies I gathered from said post:

  1. Parents can’t always afford big parties that accommodate an entire class.
  2. The most convenient and most impressive big parties are always at some big expensive party place. This is multi-faceted in problems. Kids are more likely to want to go to the Fun Place and parents are more likely to feel comfortable taking their kid to the Fun Place. Better with employees keeping an eye out than at some strangers’ house, right? (The Free-Range parent in me hates this idea.)
  3. While getting along is a fine goal, parents and kids don’t want to be pressured to invite kids were lies a truly toxic relationship.
  4. Invitees’ parents don’t always want to waste two hours taking their kids to some person’s house they don’t know.
  5. The Obligatory Invite (Young Billy has no idea who Sandra in his class is) is rather awkward.  Our kids barely know each other despite being in the same class for three years. Thanks but no thanks.

An interweb search of school policies suggested policies have a spectrum. On one end might be a recommendation to clandestinely pass out invites if you’re only inviting a few. Closer to the other end is the dreaded policy of, if you’re passing out invitations, invite everyone. I even found a few testimonials of if you’re flat-out having a birthday party, you must invite the entire class.

So, what, if we have a party with two kids down the street plus the grandparents, we will be penalized by the school’s secret police?

Clearly, there are reports of schools way overstepping their bounds when it comes to acknowledging a child’s new year of life.

Perhaps it’s not even school policy. Perhaps it’s this new mentality that we have to invite everyone, whether to be kind, impressive, loving, whatever. And perhaps that giant birthday party of screaming classmates does happen now and then with all of its childhood awesomeness. Sure, inviting the whole class does help solve the problem of a kid getting left out.

But now in accordance with those horrible tales of a kid not invited to a party, we now have stories of parties in overdrive, where the cost of inviting the whole class can mean no party at all.


An Oatmeal Bath of Steel-Cut Oats

Some time ago, I discovered the wonderful deliciousness of steel-cut oatmeal, and I never went back as far as my own breakfast was concerned. Oh, the other kind would find their way into the house now and then, but that was for baking and cooking and the like.

That category has in the past included oatmeal baths.

My daughter Jade is going through some sort of medical crisis right now. She’s sensitive to something, and we’re getting tests done. That still leaves symptoms to treat remaining.

Today, during my cousin’s baby’s blessing, she broke out into an insane rash/hives/who knows what. She was one miserable kid. We high-tailed it out of there, discussed some strategies as we drove, and decided we would do a combo of giving her an oatmeal bath and covering her in hydrocortisone cream. The latter is wonderful for skin conditions and as to the former, well, all sorts of benefits are touted for oatmeal baths. I personally love them for dry and itchy skin.

Now, your average recommendation for an oatmeal bath involves grinding up some of your kinder, gentler oatmeal, like the quick-cooking kind or at least the rolled oats. I had none of those on hand, but I did have steel-cut and the interweb revealed nothing against those.

They’re just really hard to grind up into a powder if I’m not willing to clean out my blender.

So, I skipped a step. I used the steel-cut oats, poured them into a muslin cloth that I then tied off, and swirled it around the bath tub while it filled with water.

I admit I was apprehensive. Steel-cut oats are not dissimilar from tiny rocks. Would the magical properties of oatmeal be released?

They were! And in a pretty timely manner! Very soon I had a lovely bath with that milky oatmeal cloud into which I might dunk my itchy child.

Do not let steel-cut oatmeal stop you from creating an oatmeal bath! It works as well as anything.

What I Did:

Poured half a cup of steel-cut oats into the middle of a muslin cloth (muslin bag, pantyhose, or any thin cloth will work, you just want the oatmeal stuff to seep out without too much trouble.

Added a 2-3 drops of a child-friendly/bath-friendly essential oil (I used Tea Tree).

Swirled the bag in the bath and under the running water, then left it in there to do its thing. Occasionally I gave the bag a squeeze for good measure.

Let my child soak. The recommendation is at least 15 minutes.



Composting Dog Poop


I received our dog Steinbjorn into our home largely on my husband’s whim. He has long wanted a dog. I’m a cat person at heart, but had no resistance against getting a dog. I figured he would be my husband’s dog and play with our girls and stuff. Oh, I love this dog, but despite my claim other people would be picking up after his poop, I sort of took over that role. Of my own free will and effort, I might add. Perhaps I’m just naturally attracted to poop.

But, ah, where to put it? Taking out through the side gate to the garbage can seemed simple enough–except we tied and blocked that thing to keep a visiting child from escaping and yet to see a reason to change things. I could always carry it into the house and flush it, often considered an appropriate method.

Or, and this is where my heart really lies, I could compost it.

I love composting. I’m not even an intense composter, just the lazy sort who more or less puts stuff into one of the three bins my husband built. It’s not particularly fast, certainly not the speed composting many speak of, but it is sufficient for our needs and we get the compost we want. It helps with our garden and flowers and grass and is a great way to get rid of household waste.

Could I do the same with dog poop?

My first reaction was… what’s the harm? My second reaction, no. When I first took an interest in composting, leaving dog crap out of the pile was a commandment. And since I’m not in a super-ultra-composting situation, I decide to abide by the commandment.

At least as far as keeping it out of those bins. That compost does end up on vegetable beds.

But that warning of dog poop really was out of concern for spreading disease to food we will eat, right? It’s all about the food.

So what if I created compost that was specifically for everything but the vegetables?

After a little research, I learned that was totally fine and dandy.

Before my husband built the three-bin system, he had bought a pair of plastic barrels, drilled some holes in them, and set them on some wheels so we could add compost and spin it. Turn and dump. It works, and those barrels are still there. One is holding the compost we need to finish spreading about, and the other sits empty and blocking the aforementioned side gate. I’m sure our garden spot looks utterly trashy right now.

But, that second barrel was a great place to stick dog crap and compost it. I marked it with a warning to myself it contained the scary dog poop and therefore couldn’t be use for food and got to work.

Now, I’m the lazy composter that will just add to a pile until I figure it’s good enough, leave it to compost and start a new pile. I’m doing the same thing here. I added a bunch of leftover dead leaves, some grass clippings, and of course Steinbjorn’s poop. I’m adding to that daily, along with whatever else I feel like adding. I now have two compost dumping grounds.

For me, it’s a great. I get to indulge my composting fancy, not walk too far with Steinbjorn’s poop, and have a second source of compost I will use on flowers and maybe the grass.

I rather look forward to cleaning up after the dog.