Saturday, December 10, 2011

Blending Families

This past Wednesday, Brother and Sister Williams talked to us about their experience in blending families and it caused me to reflect on my own family and on families in general. First off, as I have mentioned before, my family came together in an unconventional way, primarily through adoption - but it technically started out as a blended family. Just for a little refresher, I will explain the initial formation of my family. My parents both got pregnant in college by different people. When I was about two and my mom's daughter (not biologically) had been born, my parents (that I have now) were married. I lived with my biological mom, her husband and her mother. My biological mother struggled with an alcohol and heroin addiction throughout my entire life, and she died from an overdose when I was almost four. My biological grandma wanted to adopt me, but when my dad and his wife (my mom) found out what was going on, they fought for custody of me. It was a pretty messy situation, but it resulted in court ordered monthly supervised visitations and bi-weekly telephone calls with my biological grandmother until I was 18 and my mom and dad were awarded full custody and my mom adopted me. My dad adopted Katarina (my mom's daughter). I know its hard to follow, but that is how our family started (or at least how I came to be in it). I don't really remember how it all worked when it first happened, but I know that as my sister and I got older, sometimes things got tricky. Basically, I was a brat when I was a kid and I remember telling my mom that she loved Katarina more because she was her biological daughter. I also remember my sister saying similar things to my dad. We overcame all of these things and at this point in my life, I know that my mom loves me just as much as she does my sister, especially since she chose me. I also know that they did the best they could, and better than most. Putting two families together is no easy task and I think, if it is done properly, it can even make the family stronger because it is different and has had to overcome more than a traditional family.

Parenting (Not to be Confused With "Peerenting")

If I have learned one thing about parenting in this class, it would be that parenting is a tricky thing. It is so tricky because it is such a serious thing! The way an individual was parented not only has tremendous impact on the individual, but on other people that person comes in contact with. For example, if someone was parented in a really strict home, that individual is likely to be bossy and could even alienate themselves from others or hurt other people's feelings more frequently. Parenting is also difficult because each child is different. When I was growing up I didn't really appreciate this - I would just get upset that my sister and I had done the same thing, yet our punishments were completely different.  In preparation for class we watched several videos demonstrating ineffective and effective parenting styles (particularly in regard to parenting teenagers). The main thing I took away from the videos and class discussion is that both communication and love needs to be high. This may seem like an obvious conclusion, but I think it goes deeper than what one might initially infer. Teens are going through all kinds of crazy changes, all to prepare them for adulthood. As we as parents recognize the developmental changes going on in the brains of teens, we can better understand and empathize with them. For example, most teenagers go through a period of egocentrism in which they think everyone around them perceives things how they perceive them (like everyone noticing their acne because its the first thing they notice about themselves). As we take things like this into consideration and make sure to validate and consider our teens feelings and reasoning, we will be able to be more effective parents. It is also extremely important to set realistic and loving rules and boundaries. Teenagers will never admit this and may not realize it themselves, but they want and need these rules. In short, being a parent honestly scares me, but I know that if I keep these things in mind, rely on the Lord and my future spouse and do my very best, everything will turn out ok!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


This year was the very first year that I haven't spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my family and while I had fun staying at school with some friends, it was hard not to be home with my family. Thanksgiving isn't one of my favorite holidays, I often feel like it is just an excuse for people to be glutinous and overeat. However, I realized this year that Thanksgiving (or any day for that matter) is what you make it. And, being away from my family and reflecting on things I am thankful for really made me realize how grateful I am for my family. Yes, we are slightly disfunctional and there hardly goes a day where there isn't some type of conflict, but we love each other and I honestly can't image my life without them. Because there is so much adoption in my family, I think I am extra grateful for my family - each and every member. I am so grateful that my mom opened up her heart and home to me when I was little and needed someone to love me and take care of me. I am so grateful my parents chose to do foster care and adopt my four younger siblings. I am also grateful for the foster care experience because it exposed me to such special children and made me a better person. I am grateful for each and everyone of my siblings - they all teach me so much through their examples and their loving spirits. Most of all, I am grateful to my Heavenly Father. Grateful for His love and guidance that has been abundant in my life and in my family. I know that each member of my family was meant to be together for eternity and Heavenly Father helped us to all find each other. Even though we have a our fare share of problems and difficulties in our family, I am able to have such a positive outlook because I know that we are so blessed - and I am so grateful for that knowledge. I love my Father in Heaven and my family more than anything else!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Genius of God's Government - The Council

On Wednesday in class we discussed the structure of the council method (as used in our church) and the way this can be used in the family. Most families have had to meet together to either discuss schedules or to make big decisions together, I know my family has. There are several important things things that can be taken from the council method and be applied to family councils. First, I think it is important to have family council on a regular basis, preferably every week. Not only does this create stability, but I think it would help provide an atmosphere of open communication in the home. Second, I think husband and wife should meet together as the head of the household and as a solid unit before meeting with the family as a whole, so they are both on the same page and able to discuss private matters together first. Third, it is important to counsel within the council. There is a dramatic difference between a discussion in which everyone is heard and a meeting in which facts are simply presented or tasks delegated. Fourth, I love that all the council meetings in the church begin and end with a prayer. While this is a common occurrence in all of the meetings within the church, I think it is especially important when conducting family council. Not only does prayer invite the spirit, but it signifies to me that you are dedicating this time to work on making your family more united and closer to the Lord. Prayer is a simple act, yet it has profound consequences.

Even though I don't have a family of my own yet, family council is something I now plan on implementing when I do have a family. There are so many benefits to taking just an hour or two out of the week to counsel within your family council, why not do it?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Family Crises (Don't Panic)!

What is a crisis? defines "crisis" as: a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person's life. This definition is directed toward individual crises, but can definitely be expanded to explain family crises by changing "a person's life" to "in a family." Chances are, all of us have experienced some type of crisis in our families. For class, we had to make a list of 10 crises that our family had experienced or that we had observed in a family we were close to. This was a more difficult task than I had initially anticipated, not because my family is perfect by any means, but because a majority of the trials we have faced (or are currently facing) don't necessarily feel like crises. Similarly, a majority of the things that have created "dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval" in our family, have not necessarily been negative upheaval. For example, when we started doing foster care about 7 years ago, our family of four underwent many changes (some very emotional) in order to accommodate for the new changes occurring in our family structure. Also, there have been situations that could technically be viewed as crises, but the outcome was good and even though it was difficult to get through, we did it and our family turned out much better because of it. One example that triggered the decision to do foster care, is that my mom experienced several miscarriages and infertility after my sister, Katarina was born. This was a hard time for my parents, but they overcame the situation and can't image our lives any different. 

These examples lead me to one of the most important things about family crises - its all about how you view them and how they are handled. Many families undergo illness, death, job/income loss etc. and while all crises are difficult, they can all be blessings. I know, this sounds weird, but in all honesty, crises are really just trials and trials are essential for us to grow and develop as disciples of Christ and to become better people. We also learn (in 1 Corinthians 10:13) that God will not give us more than we can handle and he will always provide a way for us to overcome the things we are facing in life. I can honestly say that I am truly grateful for the trials my family has faced because they have brought us closer together as a family, closer to the Lord and more prepared for things that lie ahead in our paths. 

Teaching Children About Physical Intimacy

Teaching children about physical intimacy can not only be a touchy subject, but also a controversial one - what with debate over sex education in schools and the things they are exposed to in the media. The one thing about this topic that I know for a certainty however, is that children notice physical differences between boys and girls and they become curious about how babies are born and where they come from. First off, however, it is important to note that all children are at different intellectual, emotional and maturity stages in their lives and so "the talk" needs to be tailored to each individual child. It is also essential that open and honest communication is formed between parents and children at a very early age. Growing up, my parents (especially my mom) were very open about sex and intimacy and I always knew that if I had a question about anything, I could ask and she would tell me the truth. While we did have a fairly open channel, I often felt slightly uncomfortable asking, but I think that the fact I asked at all showed both my trust in her and her openness in helping me. When children and parents talk openly and honestly not only about the biological side of things, but also personal beliefs about when physical intimacy is appropriate, children are more likely to have accurate understandings of things and less likely to experiment. 

In class, Brother Williams asked us to quickly outline what we would want our children to know about their bodies, sexual intimacy, urges etc. at specific times in their lives. Initially, I thought, "oh, this is easy!" However, once I started really thinking about it, I realized how tricky this whole topic really is! The jist of what I wrote down is that I want my children to know scientific terms for their body parts and to have appropriate (based on age) understanding of the reproductive and sexual intercourse process. When we shared what we wanted to teach our kids with the people sitting next to us, Ashley brought up that the church has put out a handbook to address this very issue. The handbook breaks things up by age and is really a very valuable resource. I urge anyone who is struggling with teaching their children about physical intimacy to check this out - whether you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or not. A Parent's Guide -

Transitioning to Marriage

The shift from dating/engagement to being married is not easy. I think one of the biggest issues with marriage now is that people focus more on the wedding ceremony and the receptions than they do on the actual marriage. In the LDS faith, we believe that marriage, when it takes place in the temple, is eternal. This means that it is essential that couples learn to not only live together but also to grow together. In class I kept thinking about how a majority of LDS people (especially at BYU-Idaho), rush into marriage because they want to get started on eternity, and they feel a pressure to get married quickly. However, marriage is hard. I haven't been married yet myself, but I have a lot of married friends and I've watched my parents in their marriage. When you get married, you are literally joining two lives into one. This is a beautiful thing and in my opinion, an essential part to life. But, it should in no means be taken lightly. Marriage is an eternal commitment to your spouse and also to Heavenly Father. When two people get married, even if they have dated a long time, they can never fully know the other person, making it difficult when the couple is married because they have to adjust to living with that person - full time. In all honesty - getting married scares me, but because I know it is important and essential to my eternal progression, I read some talks about marriage. I've concluded that the only and most important thing I can do is to rely on the Lord and to trust in him.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cohabitation VS Marriage

Cohabitation has become rampant in our society and is defined by in three different ways. 1) to live together as husband and wife, without legal or religious sanction. 2) to live together in an intimate relationship. 3) to dwell with another or share the same place, as different species of animals.

Marriage on the other hand, is sometimes seen as an unnecessary or outdated practice and is defined by in three different ways as well. 1) The social institution under which a man and a woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc. 2) the legal or religious ceremony that formalizes the decision of two people to live as a married couple, including the accompanying social festivities. 3) a relationship in which two people have pledged themselves to each other in the manner of a husband and wife.

The book, "Marriage and Family: the Quest For Intimacy" 7th Ed. by Robert Lauer and Jeanette C. Lauer specifically discusses cohabitation in comparison to marriage (pg. 149). Some of their main points include:

  • Married couples report more sex and more satisfying sex
  • Married couples have a better-quality relationship than do cohabitating couples, particularly than do those cohabitating couples who do not plan on marrying
  • A woman in nine times more likely to be killed by her cohabitating partner than a husband
  • Married couples report greater happiness, less depression, higher levels of commitment to the relationship and better relationships with parents
From class discussions, course readings and my personal observation, the institution of marriage is crumbling. This can have a dramatic (negative) impact on society as a whole. Marriages create stability. Stability in individual's lives, in relationships, in communities and in society. While cohabitation does appear to make sense, it also appears that in the long run, it is less effective, less stable and less safe than marriage is. It is my view that marriage is divinely instituted and serves a necessary function. When people decide to get married, they are pledging and committing to themselves, to their spouse, to their family and friends and usually to God that they will stay faithful and committed to their marriage. It is this commitment that creates a stronger structure for the family unit. This is why marriage is SO important!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gender Differences and Gender Roles

First off, it comes as no shock to any one that there are differences between men and women, beyond the physical ones. Women are seen as better with multi tasking, being more emotional and more verbal while men are seen as being tough, great problem solvers and more straightforward. Yes, differences do exist, but they are not the same for every man or every woman. The things I just listed are stereotypes that have been constructed by the society in which we live. I could go on and on explaining the impact of these socially constructed gender roles, but I won't. I don't want to get into it because in all reality, when discussing the family, I think it is more important to look at gender similarities. Even though men and women are different, they are similar in many ways and the tings they differ in, complement each other very well. Because men and women are able to compliment each others strengths and weaknesses, it is completely possible for men and women to get along compatibly and cohesively.
Along those same lines comes the idea of gender roles, or roles that a particular gender fulfills based on what is functional for society, the family, or an individual. In class we shared how tasks were divided in our families based upon gender. What I discovered was that roles in my family were fairly androgynous - or either gender. Because this is what I grew up with, and I have no other personal perspective to base my opinion, I feel like this works well. In my family, roles are fulfilled out of need (Both parents worked when I was younger out of necessity) or simply out of personality choices (my dad helps with the cooking because he likes to cook). I feel that in the long run, if roles are being filled in a functional (or helpful) way, then it really doesn't matter who does the laundry and who mows the lawn.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Class status - its all relative

Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. They are all around us. We know who grew up wealthy and we also know where we measure up. As I've studied and thought about social class, I've realized that we often like to think of ourselves as a little bit better off than we are - which makes sense, however, I decided to try my best to objectively look at the family I grew up in to truly look at which class we belong. When I was younger, we were probably upper/lower class. Both my parents were in graduate school and working at least one job each. My parents struggled quite a bit financially, but in all honesty, I had no idea. We always had a place to live, food to eat and toys to play with. When I was in the six grade, my dad got a job with a decent salary, so we had to move to a very tiny town. While our income did increase substantially, our socioeconomic status stayed about the same, because we increased our family size from four to nine.

Having explained all of that, I think it is extremely important to note that I have never felt like I was in the lower class. My parents did a wonderful job of really stretching their money and doing everything they could to make sure all of our needs were met. Therefore, I believe that socioeconomic status and social class are all about attitude. If you have a positive attitude about your own place in society, your life will be much less stressful and a lot happier. Similarly, it is so important not to look down on others because of their status - or to become judgmental or envious of those in higher classes. We all have trials and difficulties no matter how much money we have or what size house we live in. The important thing is that we all live our lives in a productive fashion and don't blame our problems on our backgrounds or our social status.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Family Relationships and Dynamics

My family, starting from the back left: Ashley (me), Katarina, Rebekah (in the blue), Mom, Dad, Robert (in the yellow), Alice (orange shirt), Marchita, and James (green)
Every family is different, and mine is no exception. I have six wonderful siblings and two loving parents. Pretty typical for an LDS family right? Let's look a little more closely. I am the oldest and while my dad is my biological dad, my mom adopted me. My younger sister, Katarina, who is biologically my mom's daughter, was adopted by my dad. After the four of us became a family and were sealed in the temple, my parents trued to have more children, but that just wasn't the Lord's plan for us at that time. About eight years later (I was 13ish) my parents decided to do foster care and four of my siblings were brought into our family forever. We first adopted Rebekah. Then James. And then Robert and Alice (Rebekah's biological half siblings). As a family, we have been to the temple four times to be sealed together as a forever family. After Robert and Alice were adopted, my parents felt that our family was complete. And then, low and behold - my mom was finally pregnant! That brought us the youngest Marchita (Marci).

Partially because we all came to be into our family in different ways and partially because we are all different people, we all have different and special relationships with each other. For example, I get along with my mom, my brother James and my sisters Alice and Marci really well. While my brother Robert gets along with Katarina, my dad and Rebekah the best. While it is confusing, these relationships really are quite functional for our family. While I get along with specific people better than others, I still love the others and like to be with all of them. Families are tricky, but by by understanding that each has its own distinct dynamic and rhythm, you can better understand the nature of family (especially big ones). 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Impacting the "critical" issues

In class on Wednesday, we discussed things that we viewed as critical issues pertaining to the family. Some of these included divorce, pre-marital sex/cohabitation, single parent families and teenage pregnancy. While all of these issues do impact the family, I think it is important to note that because they impact the family, they also impact society. Its just amazing to me how much society mirrors and consequently, effects the family unity. Most of the issues I mentioned above have not only become systemic social problems, but they have also become normalized and socially accepted. It is my firm belief that the family is ordained of God and is a sacred union between a man and a women. Because society has lost this belief, the family is in serious jeopardy.

This leads me to the question that Brother Williams asked us right before class ended - "What are you willing to do to impact and change the things you think are critical?" Honestly, I've been contemplating this question for a while. Last semester I took child and family advocacy in which we learned how we as individuals can effectively advocate and stand up for the family and what we believe to be important. I have come to the conclusion that the biggest and most important thing we can do is to become accurately educated, both in scientific and secular perspectives and the gospel perspective. By understanding issues completely, with accurate information, we can better be examples and teachers for what we know and feel is right and important. Once we have become adequately educated, it is so important to take a stand on an issue and work to educate others. The key, however, is to be respectful and take other people's views into account. I know from experience that by respectfully and knowledgeably advocating for important issues, one person can make an amazing difference in the lives of many and in society as a whole.

Family Matters Most

What Matters Most

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's the point?

I just briefly wanted to explain why I have created this blog and what I plan on using it for. In my Family Relations class at Brigham Young University Idaho, we have been asked to keep a blog regarding things we have learned or discussed in class. Because this is a family class at an LDS institution, I probably will draw from explanations of and truths about families that come from church doctrine. I would appreciate it if people are respectful of my beliefs and thoughts. However, please feel free to ask me questions about what I believe. While I currently don't know what I will be posting, I am excited to be able to share what I am learning with others.