Game On: Stepping into the Holiday Spirit, One Bag of Deli Meat at a Time

I was halfway home when I realized what had just happened. My eyes flew open and I gasped in the same sort of panic you feel when you oversleep on an important day. My bag. My entire bag full of groceries. I was so preoccupied watching two strangers arguing in the parking lot at Sprouts, that between that and buckling in my little guys, I totally forgot to put my bag into the car.

Now, let me say, it is a very rare event that I have only one bag of groceries to contend with, especially during the week of Thanksgiving. I’m not going to tell you how much I spent on groceries this week, but I promise it’s a number that would knock your socks off. And the only reason I tell you that is to reinforce the point that I never have just one bag of groceries. Ever. But this was a very important bag that required a special trip to my favorite store, Sprouts. I’ve become something of a deli snob over the past year or two and I can’t eat deli meat from just anywhere. Hubs forgot this very important fact when he went grocery shopping last, so, long story short, I really, really needed this particular deli meat (especially with family coming into town to stay with us and picnics to pack for the day after Thanksgiving). I had big plans for this deli meat. Not important to most people, but on this day at this time, very important to me. After an entire morning of running errands, my trip to Sprouts had been my final stop. We had made it through brilliantly. The boys were exceptionally happy and well-behaved. I had checked everything off the list, and even made the comment to Dallin as we were leaving the store, “Let the holidays begin! Game ON.”

But my hopes of a perfect morning had been dashed when, while driving down Greenfield Road, I realized I had just spent X amount of dollars on a bag of deli meat that was now sitting in the parking lot at Sprouts, about 4 miles behind me. My hopes were even more dashed when I went back to the store and asked if anyone had returned said bag. The employees at Sprouts were all very nice and went out of their way to help me. Two young men went outside to canvas the parking lot. The cashiers all asked one another if anything had been returned. The manager got involved, and all came back with the same “I’m so sorry, Ma’am” expression. So, I walked dejectedly back to the deli section.”Hi there! Didn’t I just help you a few minutes ago?” Yeah, yeah…same order please.

Then things went from bad to worse. You see, it was now pushing 1:00. My little trooper Dallin was getting hungry, and my sweet little Jack was tired. And those two ingredients usually spell disaster in a grocery store.

So there we were. Waiting in a line that had grown tenfold since I was there 20 minutes ago, all three of us on the verge of tears. I just wanted to get home and start making the blasted pies I had planned on making that afternoon. Precious time was ticking away. I was not exclaiming “Game ON!” in the face of the holidays anymore. Suddenly they seemed like a burden.

But something kept coming to me in the back of my mind.

“There is a reason this is happening. There is a lesson here.”

A Relief Society lesson a few weeks ago, combined with two very great talks given in church recently had had me thinking about gratitude. Gratitude not only when things are easy, but gratitude when things are tough. And trust me, I know that an extra trip to the deli counter at Sprouts doesn’t even come close to qualifying as “tough”, but…bear with me. Anything feels tough when a screaming two-year-old is added in. Gratitude is a state of mind that can occur under any circumstance. We only have to change our perspective to see it.

So I began looking for the lesson. Little did I know I was seconds away from finding it.

It was finally my turn to be rung up by the cashier, who had obviously had a long day already, too. I just had to ask one last time.

“Hey, I was in here just a few minutes ago. Do you know if there were any grocery bags returned from the parking lot?”

“Is your name Kim?”

“Yes. Did someone find it?”

“No, I’m so sorry. My manager came by and told us to keep an eye out for it though. I’m really sorry, Ma’am. What was in it?”

“It was just one bag. Just some deli meat.” At this point I motioned to the large amount of deli meat sitting on her conveyor belt, and shook my head and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “Oh well…”.

She pulled the meat over and put it in a bag. “Here you go,” she said. She smiled at me with the warmest smile, and so help me, her eyes actually twinkled. She wasn’t charging me a single cent.

“Oh no, I couldn’t,” I immediately responded. I had every intention of paying for that meat. It was my silly mistake. There was no reason I shouldn’t pay for it.

“Oh yes you can.” She looked at me, then at my two boys. Jack was now fast asleep on my shoulder, and Dallin had actually quieted down, but his eyes were still red and his chubby little cheeks were tear-stained.

This woman. She was showing me a kindness.

It was such a small moment, but I hesitated and looked at her right in the eyes. I wanted her to know how much it meant to me. Not the free meat. But the kindness.

It was so small! A speck on the seashore, maybe. But in that 2 seconds, her heart and my heart connected briefly and felt something good. She had the opportunity to do something kind for a frazzled mom. And you could see it lift her. It elevated her. That small kindness made her day better.

I, on the other hand, had the opportunity to receive kindness. It softened my heart and made me appreciate what it means to be a part of the fabric of humanity. It made me actually hope that somehow, someone who really needed it had found my bag of deli meat in the parking lot. And if I had the day to do over again, I would have done it exactly the same way. I wouldn’t change a thing. In the middle of the day on a Tuesday, I had simply felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. In a season where charity and service and gratitude, can sometimes feel like stressful, burdensome work, I had received a small gift that had changed my perspective.

This is it, Kim. This is the lesson.

Kindness is often small, usually quiet, and many times unnoticed. But kindness touches hearts. And that is what is important.

And this time, as we left the store, with a small smile on my face, I said again (only this time to no one in particular….), “Let the holidays begin. GAME ON.”




Avoiding Blowback: Four Ways to Cope When Your Kids Are At Each Other’s Throats

One of the main reasons I started this project was to help my children learn how to be peacemakers. I didn’t want to assume all of the responsibility for bringing peace to my home myself. I wanted my whole family to share in that process and be invested in it.

So you can imagine my concern when, during our family prayer the other night, my daughters were not-so-quietly throwing punches at each other and yell-whispering “I HATE YOU, STUPIDHEAD!” while fighting back tears over a bracelet, and my two-year-old buddy boy was chiming in, taking sides, and just generally making the situation worse.

Did I mention we were trying to say a prayer?

And you can continue to imagine my concern when, the next morning as we were leaving for school, the kids were fiercely arguing (again) over (another) something of passing significance.

So, I decided to do a little research (and by research, I mean asking my friends on Facebook) to look for ways to cope with, and hopefully minimize the conflicts between my children. I simply asked, “What do you do when your kids are at each other’s throats?”

What I found was very interesting.

The responses from my parent-friends to this question seemed to fall into two categories. Those that were rooted in emotion and those that were rooted in thought. The emotion-driven responses seemed to be more reactionary, whereas the thought-driven responses were apparently decided upon and developed ahead of time (before the conflict began).

As I processed these responses, I realized maybe these little sibling-rivalry spats wouldn’t be so bad if Mother Dearest was some saintly, perfectly calm, emotion-free thinker….cool as a cucumber and always in control.

Oh, you sweet children. Having an argument again are you? Oh dear. Let’s take some time to process this. I’m going to calmly access all of the best parenting methods I have available to me to help you facilitate a resolution.”

That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

But unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Moms do have emotions. We are subject to the very same neuroscience that our children are subject to when they become frustrated, irritated, and uncontrollably angry. Hopefully, as adults, we can process our thoughts and feelings in a more disciplined way than our children can. That’s the goal, anyways…right?

So, to be honest, the real problem (for me) behind my children’s arguments are not the arguments themselves. Kids are kids. They will have conflicts. That is part of growing up and learning how to function in a family. That’s what siblings do. The problem is this: When kids flip their lids, sometimes it makes their parents flip their lids, too.

After some further research, I found there are basically two portions of our brain. The “downstairs” brain, located toward the lower back of our skull, is responsible for primal thought and emotion. Ever feel your heart beating fast, jaw clenched, and your fists ball up? Downstairs brain all the way. The downstairs brain can not access logical, rational thought. The downstairs brain is primitive and instinctual.

In contrast, the “upstairs” brain is the part of the brain that is responsible for clear, rational, complex and creative thought. You know the Mother Dearest described above? That was her upstairs brain talking.

Unfortunately, sometimes we get angry, and we seem to “flip our lids.” Our downstairs brain takes over and rational thought goes out the window.

(For more information on the neuroscience behind this, I highly recommend this link. It is amazing. Dr. Siegel’s new book, The Whole-Brain Child is next on my reading list!)

(Oh dear, I really have to figure out how to make a link work on WordPress. Until then, you may have to revert to the very primitive method of cutting and pasting. Trust me, this link is worth the extra nano-second it takes to do that.)

When our buttons get pushed in just the wrong way, our upstairs brain literally turns off. This is what happens to our children when one takes a bracelet from the other and then punches are exchanged. Their little brains flipped their lids. This is also what happens when parents are subject to reactionary behavior. You know, the “IF-YOU-DON’T-CUT-THAT-OUT-THEN-YOU-ARE-REALLY-GOING-TO-GET-IT!” impulses. Not that that ever happens to my husband or I. We are totally perfect.

But you know, for the benefit of everyone else, I decided to make another handy-dandy list of ways to cope.

And as I was making this list, it dawned on my that the very first response to my Facebook question was my very favorite.

“Make sure your involvement is as minimal as possible. Conflict resolution is part of the human experience, and the best way to learn is in a loving home.”

It also made me realize that when we interfere in every single argument our children have, we are denying them the opportunity to fully learn from it. We may also be causing blowback if we handle the situation poorly.


Photo credit:

Are you familiar with the term “blowback”? Side note: I’m a fan of Ron Paul. There, I said it. Don’t hate me. Blowback is a term he uses to describe the unintended consequences of meddling in the affairs of other countries. I believe this term is directly applicable to meddling in the affairs of our children. When we stick our noses in every argument, there WILL be unintended consequences. Why make ourselves the bad guy when we don’t have to be? Not to mention the damage we may cause if one child feels that we are repeatedly favoring another? Ok…that being said, let’s get to the list.


1) When your children get into an argument, repeat the following: “This is not about me.” Although your kids may be flipping their lid, you don’t have to.

2) Take a deep breath. Then say, “This is not about me” one more time, just for good measure.


3) Offer a simple limited choice, “I can see you two (or three, or whatever) are upset. Do you need my help to resolve this, or can you handle it on your own?” (If your kids are like mine and the prospect of my getting involved means sitting on the “Friendship Bench” and holding hands for a while, they will most likely decide to resolve it on their own.)

4) Have a list – like a real, paper, printed-out-and-hung-on-the-fridge type of list –  of possible solutions that you AND YOUR CHILDREN have come up with ahead of time. Practice these methods of conflict resolution when the upstairs brain is in control. So really, I cheated a little because the “Fourth Way to Cope” really consists of a myriad of ways. But the goal is to have possible solutions decided upon ahead of time. Only then do we stand a chance of ever accessing them when our lids are momentarily flipped.

We have a family meeting every Monday night, and I am really excited to talk with my kids tonight about what we can do when we get into arguments with one another, and when we feel our lids starting to flip. I’m excited to tell them that I will not be responsible for solving all of their problems. I’m looking forward to teaching them, training them a little, and then turning over the responsibility to them.

Because really, that is exactly where it belongs.