Monday, November 10, 2008

Make Love AND War (Marshmallow War, That Is)

I would like to take a few minutes out of the California Proposition 8 everybody-hates-Mormons bashing to talk about one thing that I personally love about the Mormon church, of which I am a lifelong member. It is the Church's position on jumbo marshmallow wars, which the Church is all for. In fact, Monday night has been proclaimed as Family Marshmallow War Night, and tonight our family celebrated this event like we never have before.

Okay, for reals the Church does not take stands on either political views or which squishy projectiles are lobbed about on Monday nights. And it's a good thing, too - we know people who would much rather throw Nerf footballs or Froot Loops, and I say, more power to 'em! That's what makes this world a beautiful and diverse place! But in my house, it's marshmallows.

Traditionally, Monday night in the Church is known as Family Home Evening. Way back in like the 1930's, FHE was established as an evening every week for families to stay home and spend time together. It's interesting that this started before working moms, competitive soccer leagues for 6 year olds, televisions in every bedroom, drive-thru dinners, endless after-school activites - back in the olden days that we think of as idyllic. The Church foresaw our day, a day when if there wasn't a specially designated day to spend as a family, well, we just might never see each other.

It's never been a big deal, Family Home Evening. The Church gives suggestions, aids for lessons, and doesn't allow wards to schedule meetings or activities on Monday night, but other than that, FHE is pretty much supposed to be whatever works for your family.

I'll be the first to admit, Family Home Evening hasn't always worked well for our family. I know it's going to be a bad night when the kids start fighting over who gets to (or who has to) say the opening prayer. Honestly, when praying is the source of an argument, it's pretty hard to feel like a happy family. Those tend to be short nights. We've squeezed in FHE before I left to run errands or in the car on the way somewhere. We've held FHE during dinner, when we've got a semi-captive audience. We've held it with a whiny child in the bathtub. We've done the entire program in less than five minutes, just to say we did it. And we've skipped it, more than I'd like to admit. But we've tried hard, we really have.

We also don't put an awful lot of effort into lessons. Oh, I've tried, believe me - but inevitably, the night I've spent two hours putting together the most well-crafted lesson possible, with applications for each child at their specific level of development, that's the night that Brad's friend invites him to go mini-golfing with his family, and I have to say no, and then Brad's sulkiness infects the whole family. So the lesson is usually an article out of the Friend magazine. Generally, the article is one that has to do with sharing or being nice to your brothers. We need a lot of help in those areas. It would be perfect if the Friend printed an article about a little boy who learned not to hit other kids with light sabers and also not to steal Lego Indiana Jones figurines from his friend while also being nice to his brothers, sharing his toys, and helping a little old lady cross the street. And getting his Eagle Scout. That article I'd laminate.

All in all, our family has done an okay job of holding FHE, but not of enjoying it too much. Ryan and I knew it was what we were supposed to do, so we did it, but the testimony wasn't there. After all, they still can't share, and how many lessons have we had on that topic?? So was it even worth doing, if they aren't learning anything?

Tonight, I got my testimony of Family Home Evening, or Family Marshmallow War Night as we have now dubbed it. It was nothing out of the ordinary, to begin with. Noah was in charge of the music, but couldn't think of an opening song for us to sing, and then got mad when everything I suggested was not what he wanted. So we sang "Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam," number one on the Simmons Billboard Top 100 Church Songs. Then Brad said an opening prayer, and then Zack gave the lesson. I read a Friend article, and let Zack repeat parts of it after me (it was about a girl who shared her ice skates with a skate-less friend). We then played a game, also from the Friend, which took approximately forever and we cut short. Noah was in the bathroom when it was time for a closing song, so I picked "Called To Serve" (Number 5 with a bullet!) and Brad said the closing prayer, although I had to stop him from using the game timer to time himself praying.

Here's where it got good. It was Ryan's turn for the treat, which he hadn't planned for, but luckily I had a bag of jumbo marshmallows leftover from the last ward party we had planned. Brad happened to be laying on the living room floor (we long ago gave up the idea of everyone sitting nicely on the couch listening to the lesson, the way it is in the pictures) so I stood over him and dropped a marshmallow into his mouth. It boinged off his face and we all cracked up. Then Noah wanted his marshmallows that way, too. Zack wanted to be the one to drop the marshmallows, then Ryan made me lie down and take one in the face. We were rolling on the floor, laughing so hard as almost none of the marshmallows did anything but bounce off noses, foreheads, and teeth.

I'm not sure who threw the first marshmallow. It might have been me, it might have been a kid. But the idea was contagious, and immediately everyone was in a massive marshmallow war. There were marshmallows flying all over the room, whacking people in the sides, the heads, the backs. I was laughing so hard I was crying. Ryan, Brad, and Noah had good aim from playing baseball, and Ryan throws hard. Every so often, Noah would just sit on the couch and eat a few marshmallows, before continuing the fight. Zack wasn't a big target, but he wasn't a big threat, either, although he did get me once right in the face. Ryan got smart fast and put his ski goggles on, and the boys followed suit. After 15 minutes, we were sweaty and exhausted.

And happy.

That, my friends, is why we have Family Home Evening all of those nights when I'd rather have Family Strangle Your Kids And Spouse, Too Night. Because occasionally, in a rare moment when the stars align and people are feeling spontaneous and the parent in me isn't watching the clock to get the kids in bed so I can finally have some alone time, those nights are when magic happens. It only takes one night like that to erase lots of fighting-over-prayers nights. It can't be forced or scheduled or quality-timed, it can only happen when the possiblity's there, and that's why I think the LDS Church has got this right. Maybe our normal Family Home Evenings are nothing to write home about, but because we do it every week, one of those weeks is bound to be everything I want it to be. And this week, we wanted it to be Family Marshmallow War Night.

Tonight, the world is a beautiful, and slightly sticky, place to be.


rachel said...

And you know that everyone will remember that night together over any lessons you give. :)

I like your comment about fighting over prayer - we have that problem too. It just seems wrong.

Cash_Killa said...

FHE here is painful. Yesterday night for example. We one girl in particular who hates everyone on the planet and only stays for the lesson if the lesson is started in her apartment. THAT ticks us of because she makes a point of being rude about it too. We had planned to go bowling, one person complained about being poor, i offered to pay for her, so did EVERYONE else...maybe she didnt hear us? So we went to one of the school buildings and played sardines, which is where one group hides and everyone else has to find them, as soon as you find them, the seekers hide with them. It took forever (almost an hour) not only to get ready, team-up,re-team-up, and quit complaining, etc. Then we only played one round because of people messing around. I have my bum ankle, so the group I was with was ahead of me and wouldnt slow down, so I sat by the door the rest of the time. I feel bad for my roommate, he's our FHE dad, because he tries so hard for us to have a fun night, and if not fun, something where we all can be together. And he really tries SO hard! All the boys (me and five others in our apartment) try to help him, and he lets us, but everything we try will inevitably fall through. There's my rant!

OH! And they all rushed me on making brownies, so they didnt turn out well, that was the worst part, I thought...