Sunday, March 28, 2010

What are Your Kids' (and Your) Toys Inspiring?

At the TJEd conference last week, there was one presentation that really opened my eyes about how to teach my kids to recognize the real in the world around them (opposed to the superficial).  An experience I had at church last Sunday kind of illustrates what I mean.

We were talking about media.  I mentioned that I used to watch a funny sitcom when Spice was a baby.  In this show, premarital sex was casual and normal.  Nothing bad was shown, but it was always implied.  After watching this show for several months, I began to feel that my view of morality was extremely strange.  I didn't think my view was wrong, but I did think it was a little embarrassing to have (in this world we live in).

I decided to stop watching shows where that lifestyle is promoted - not because I was worried that I would do anything bad, but because I wanted my kids to grow up in an environment where they could see things as they really are - a place where they see true beauty and joy.

I've heard people say, "You can't shelter your kids their whole lives!  They need to know what is out there so they can be prepared when they go out into the real world or it's going to be a real shock!"  I understand this reasoning because the world is in a shocking state, but I want my kids to know it.

I don't want my kids to be in the world and see what "normal" is and then try really hard to get them to trust me that such things are not really normal in the eternal sense.   I don't want them to see people having so much fun without consequences (as these things are portrayed) and the to try to get them to trust me that such things actually bring you misery in the long run.  Chances are that they won't trust me so implicitly.

What I do want is for them to experience true beauty in their home.  I want them to feel real joy - in loving, serving, being close to their Heavenly Father and basking in His light.  Once they have learned to walk in light, they will recognize the counterfeit for what it is.  When they go out into the world, they will recognize the reality of the circumstances around them.  I want them to say as Moses said, after he had seen the Son of God and then Satan tries to tempt him to turn away:

 12 And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.

  13 And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?  (Moses 1:12-13)
What does all of this have to do with toys?  I'm getting to it...

In this presentation, by Keri Tibbetts,  she mentioned 5 steps to create an environment where children will want to grow up to be scholars who work hard to educate themselves so that they can influence the world for good.  She is giving away a free e-book about this on her site - I HIGHLY recommend ordering it.  I haven't received mine yet, but I heard it should be coming soon.  I can't wait.  Her ideas really hit home.

The 5 steps were:
1. Create a house of order (in relationships, appearance, etc).
2. Require work (it develops their "discipline" muscle).
3. Inspire learning (like dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit).
4. Lessons and application (short, give them what they ask for, make them wait a little).


5. Close the Headgates - I won't go into detail about this here - she explains it so well that I wouldn't do it justice, but here is where I will explain what I mean about having inspiring toys:

Kids have a natural drive to learn, to create, to know.  They are like seeds - already equipped with the material that they need to flourish, but we need to provide the right environment for that growth.  Children will use their inner drive in some way, so the question becomes: Are the things in their environment helping them use that drive to become what they are meant to become, or are they distracting them and "entertaining" them so that their "current" of drive is wasted?

I kept this in mind as I cleaned out the toy room on Friday.  About toys, she said to ask ourselves:

1. Does the thrill come from the child or from the toy?  (The best toys are dull and lifeless ones that a child has to manipulate, not the ones that entertain the child with a push of a button).
2. Who was the creative one - the toy-maker or the child?  (The more creative the toy-maker, the less creative the child).

She mentioned that children are loosing the executive control in their play, they are not really playing anymore - they are reading scripts.

I didn't think I would have to get rid of a lot of toys since I often donate toys and I thought I had tried to keep them to a minimum, but when I went through the toy room with these questions in mind - I filled 5 garbage bags full of toys to donate.  Sad isn't it?  Do you want to know what is even sadder?  I was a little worried about what the kids would say when they walked into their toy room the next day and saw so many empty bins, but guess what?  They haven't even noticed!  I'm sure they'll notice a toy is missing here and there, but they'll probably assume they lost it.   Maybe I'll attempt another run through in a couple of months!

For older kids, the questions to ask about their activities are the following:

1. Are the resources for this activity used or wasted (if they are wasted then the thrill of the activity comes from wasting).
2. Is the created object something of value?  (something our family or someone needs)

I kept this in mind as I cleaned out our "craft" room.  I threw away several things that inspire creating "junk" and I closed the door.  I told the kids that children were not allowed in the craft room without an adult because the activities in the craft room are "adult" type of activities.  If they want to create something, they can ask me to teach them and I will give them a "lesson" until they are able to create something on their own (a sewing lesson, for example).  I am exited to not have to worry about the mess in the craft room anymore and I think the kids will learn to use their creative drive in a real way.

I've only skimmed the surface of what she had to say - I really think the e-book will be worth everyone's time!

Toys and activities play a big role in creating a true environment at home.  Do you know anyone that thinks life is about finding the next easy thrill?  Do you know anyone who does not see the beauty in a symphony, but thinks a video game is more worth their time?  Do you know anyone who remains in a "perpetual childhood" even as an adult because they are looking to be fed their entertainment?   Our world is filled with superficial distractions, I don't need them in my home.

Am I getting rid of the Wii?  I would love to!  The family isn't quite ready for such a step though... I did get rid of it as a daily attraction.  It used to be that the children were allowed 25 minutes of screen time per day.  Bud is the only one that ever used it and he used it to play the Wii.  Bud is only allowed to play it for 2 hours on Saturdays now.  At first, this was a hard thing for him.  He cried and argued and he was a little angry.  I explained my reasons to him as best as I could.  One morning he approached me and said, "Mom, I prayed last night that I would feel good about not playing the Wii every day, and I felt the Spirit and I liked it."  I think we're heading in the right direction...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Whole Life

Do you ever experience a moment in time where life stands still as you take in the beauty around you - maybe as you rock your baby to sleep, as you read your toddler a bedtime story, when you see a a loving smile from a friend, or as a child puts their chubby arms around your neck?  And you try to engrave the moment into your mind so that when it is over - you may be able to glimpse it again in your memory?
I cherish these moments.  I've noticed that when my kids wake up in the morning - if I have taken the time to commune with God - I see them as they really are, I am filled with love for them and I want to take them in my arms and hold on to them.

I realized last night, that these moments happen when I am suddenly aware of the reality of the moment I am in.  My body and my spirit are united and I am filled with love.  I see the moment for what it is.  I see the people as they really are.
Too often I go through my day in a fragmented state.  My body is doing something while my mind is thinking of something else and my spirit is half-asleep.  I'm often thinking of future tasks.  Life is just as real all around me as it is in those cherished moments, but I am too distracted to notice it.  I was researching "chastity" the other day for a lesson I was giving at church, and I read a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland where he spoke about how soul = body + spirit, and then he said:
 "When the spirit and body are separated, men and women cannot receive a fulness of joy..."
 When I am distracted with temporal things, I fail to see things as they really are.  I can not see the beauty all around me.  How sweet life is when I take time to connect with God (and therefore my Spirit)!  I feel His love running through me and to all the people around me.  I am whole.

I was reading in Patricia Holland's Quiet Heart and she mentioned that holiness stems from the same root word as wholeness.  I can see why.  I want to live my life as it really is - as a whole person.  Why settle for a fake, watered-down version anyway?  That is what the adversary loves - to distract us from that which is real.
The activities I engage in either help me live in a real way or distract me from that which is real.  The books I choose to read either give me a superficial "escape" from reality or help me see myself and life in a truer way.  The things I have in my house also help me stay in touch with truth or keep me looking away from it. Even the ways I choose to entertain myself either contribute to my wholeness or detract from it.

I've had enough moments that I want to hold on to, because I know they are real - those that I wish I could pause then keep in my mind forever -  to know that "wholeness" is, by far, the way to go!

I've been keeping this in mind as I've been going through the house.  I'm trying to get rid of that fluff that distracts us from that which is real.  Too much stuff is a distraction.  It is great to get rid of it!  I'm having a great time.

I've been thinking of some of the activities that help me feel whole:
-Being in nature
-Going to the Temple
-Really listening (to my beautiful kids and whoever I come in contact with)
-Reading my scriptures
-Reading a book with substance
-Giving or getting a hug
-Pausing for a bit
-Being awake in the early mornings
-Walking or Running

Think of it... in the faces of the people around us, in the whisperings from Heaven, in the meaning behind our actions and thoughts - there are treasured moments just waiting for us to notice them.

Why fret about the evanescent things?  I have real things to think about.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Creating Environments

I went to a TJed conference this weekend.  It was fabulous.  I got some great insights that I will write about as I make some changes that I was inspired to make.  Tomorrow, I plan to start "The six month purge" (as it's referred to in the TJed book) which means that I will go through the house and get rid of everything that we don't use.  I've had the blessing of moving pretty much every year, so I've done a yearly purge by necessity.  This has been nice because we don't have a ton of useless things anymore.  We do have enough though.  They seem to pile up somehow.  I'm exited to get rid of things again.

Something that I realized at church today is going to be helpful to me as I take this on.  We were discussing the creation.  We discussed the beautiful world around us - the waterfalls, flowers, rock formations, mountains, sunsets, trees, breeze, colors and many other beautiful things.  We were filled with awe as we pondered the many beautiful things Heavenly Father created for us in this world.

Yesterday, at the conference, one speaker mentioned how we can use the creation as a model for how to create the right environment in our home.  It was an interesting parallel.

Well, what struck me today, was the great care that our Heavenly Father put into making this Earth an environment where we can receive what we need in order to reach our potential.  He put a lot of effort into this.  He did this because of the great love that he has for us.

I can put more effort into making my home an environment where my children can thrive and reach their potential.  It can be really difficult sometimes to make an orderly environment, but, like our Heavenly Father, I can put forth the effort because of the great love I have for my children.

I know He will help me - they are His children too.  He's really good at creating environments :-)

I'm not just talking about putting up pretty pictures.  I'm talking about making a place where things are real and distractions minimal.  I want my kids to understand true beauty.

I'll go into more detail later as I make a few gradual changes, but I thought some pictures of some of the beautiful hikes we've gone on lately would go along nicely with this post:

One of the hikes with my brother when he was visiting:
Not only was the hike majestic, but the conversation was edifying!

We used to hike together a lot - it was great to do it again.

He missed the mountains greatly.  Who wouldn't?

Overlooking the valley.  This hike is about 3 minutes from my parent's house.  What a blessing!

Last week, our family went on a hike with the cub scouts:

Great friends:

I'm so blessed!

Bazinks collected sticks along the way.  If I held his hand, he would get mad at me because I was "just walking by all the sticks!"

I'm living the ultimate dream.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Being in a Rut

I've been in a bit of rut lately.  I especially felt it yesterday.  I was on such a role before Christmas - I was getting the work thing with the kids down, I was getting up early, exercising and fixing my hubby a smoothie before he left, studying great books, etc.  Then several things happened - Christmas vacation with family, sick kids, etc, etc. I feel like I've been slowly slipping backwards in my progress and I don't have the gumption or energy to get going again!

As I was busy folding piles of laundry yesterday, after our week at my mom's house, and having just walked by the kids' messy rooms, and then having looked outside to see how much yard work we ought to be getting started on, and having just repeatedly called the kids to help clean the kitchen while my 4-year old was being especially disobedient, I felt a bit frazzled.  I was trying to stay at peace, but by the end of the day I was feeling very much like a failure in a lot of ways.  I just don't have the time to do it all and I can't keep up my good habits when life keeps interrupting them - I feel like I'm trying to hold on, but whatever I'm holding on to keeps slowly slipping backwards.

Bud had a birthday party to attend yesterday so I decided to drive him to it and do some shopping while he was there.  As I dropped him off, I realized that I had left my planner at home with my credit cards in it.  I had $13 in my diaper bag.  I knew I couldn't get much at Sam's club with that money and I had to put some gas in the car in order to get home.  I decided to put $5 worth of gas in the car and spend the remaining $8 on books at D.I. while I waited for Bud.

I found some good books and a case of 24 CDs containing the dramatized Book of Mormon for children (for $3!)  (I had considered buying these before, but they were $133 online).  My favorite find though, was a book that I had been wanting to read for a long time, but I didn't want to spend the $16 on it at Deseret Book.  It is called The Quiet Heart by Patricia T. Holland.  I knew it was exactly what I needed.

I just started reading it last night so I haven't read much, but I have already realized what a big part of my problem has been.  I have let the important things start to crowd out the critical (again) (am I ever going to get this down?!)  I've been reading my scriptures every morning, but in a rushed get-it-over-with manner.  I haven't been taking the time to communicate with God.  She mentioned that "the price to be paid for this kind of communion is time and your best powers of concentration".  I can't say I have been giving the latter, or enough of the former.  She mentioned that Christ stands at the door and knocks always, but someone has to hear that knock and let Him enter.

I think one of my personality traits that Satan loves to use against me is my perfectionism and my drive to raise my children well.  I take this task very seriously, for obvious reasons, and it drives me crazy that I can't live up to what I know they could have if I were just better!

It's easy to forget that I can not do it alone.  I am too weak for the task.  I can't survive or thrive or be happy if I don't invite my Savior into my heart.  It's so obvious, but so hard to remember with all the distractions in life.  Especially because most of the distractions in my life are good and worthwhile endeavors.  It's not really fair to call them distractions - because really they are the substance of life that leads me to my Savior if my heart is in the right place.  It's just when my heart is not in the right place that they become distractions from getting my heart in the right place ;-)  I'm probably not making much sense...

What I'm really trying to say is that I've been in a rut because I was trying to do it on my own (again) and not taking the time to invite the Savior to join me (lift me, really) through my daily endeavors.  How foolish of me.  I've been running around looking for peace and order instead of peacefully bringing order with me to my day.

I got up early this morning and studied and pondered.  Now that I am at peace, I can start my day bringing peace and joy to my home.  There are still messy rooms and a yard full of weeds, but I see them with a heart full of love for this life I'm living - and that makes all the difference.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Very Special Day

We've been spending the last several days at my mom's house because my brother and his family are here from Oklahoma.  They came down to visit family and to attend Bud's baptism.
Boys wrestling with their uncle:
It's been a lot of fun visiting with them.  I have had some great conversations with my sister-in-law and have had a great time getting to squeeze my adorable niece and nephews again.  They are the sweetest little kids!  I have also loved going on morning hikes with my brother and the great talks we have along the way.  We've always been really close and I have always loved the way we can talk and inspire each other.

Yesterday was Bud's baptism.  It was beautiful.  I hope he never forgets it.  So many kind people helped to make it such a wonderful experience.
He picked the song When I am Baptized for the opening song, then my mom gave a beautiful prayer.

Afterwards, my brother, Ricky, gave such a sincere, touching talk about baptism.  We asked Ricky to give this talk because Bud looks up to him a great deal.  Ricky is always joking with him and rough-housing with him.  Ricky is my only unmarried brother and he has that youthful, thrill-seeking edge.  He is a lot of fun to be around.  I really wanted Bud to see and hear his testimony.  It was very memorable.  Ricky teared up a bit as he started his talk and mentioned that it had been a while since he had felt the Spirit.  He said that as he was preparing for this talk that he had recalled many experiences from his mission - some that he had thought he had forgotten.  He talked to Bud about the symbolism of baptism, the joy and peace that comes when you make those covenants, and encouraged him to go home and write "I will remember my promise" so that when he gets older he will remember that when he was a little boy, he made a promise.  He told him, "This church is true - no doubt about it".

Bud had never seen his cool uncle Ricky cry or talk about Spiritual things this way.  It will be something he will never forget.  I'm so thankful to him for his influence and for the Spirit that we all felt as he shared his testimony with us!

After Ricky's talk, we had a musical number.  Little Miss sung the first verse to I Know that My Savior Loves Me then the rest of the kids joined her for the second verse.  I couldn't record it at the church, but I asked her to sing it for me again this morning and I recorded it.  Unfortunately, she has yet to give me permission to put it on my blog, but if she ever does, I would love to share it!

She just granted permission!  They mess up in the middle, and it's a little more giggly then the way they sung at church, but adorable nonetheless.   Here it is:
After the musical number,  Spice gave a talk about the Holy Ghost.  It was a sweet talk and I was glad to hear how well she seems to understand it.  She mentioned how she feels the Holy Ghost a lot when she gets worried and then she prays and feels everything will be okay.  She mentioned that before she got baptized she needed to know if the church was true, and if the prophet was a true prophet and if the Book of Mormon was true so she prayed and she felt a really good feeling.  She also says that sometimes she wants to get mad at her brothers and sisters, but the Holy Ghost helps her not to.  She also talked about how the Holy Ghost feels: like you want to be good, like a warm blanket when you need comfort, like everything is clear in your heart and your head and you know what path to take.  She also said that to her it feels like a burning feeling and like she is about to cry.  She told him that to keep the Holy Ghost with him he needs to keep the commandments and follow the promptings that he gets.  If he does this, he will have joy and that is why he is here on the earth.

After Spice's talk, Bud went with his dad into the baptismal font and got baptized.  As he came up out of the water, I felt such joy as the thought came to my head that he had chosen to become a follower of Jesus Christ, that he knew what he was promising, and that he was dedicating his life to Him.  I know he is young and it is a mighty big promise he was making, but I knew that he knew what he was doing and he knew that it was right.  I am so happy that he has chosen to get on the path that will lead him to eternal life and happiness!  I love that little boy so dearly and I felt the love that Heavenly Father has for him as well.
After the baptism, he got confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and was given the gift of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion.  As his father was blessing him, I, again, felt the love that Heavenly Father has for His precious child and what a privilege it was to be his mother.  Little Bud - I hope you know how much our Heavenly Father loves you!  I hope you never forget the great work you are embarking on and how much our Heavenly Father needs your help in leading more of His precious children to find Him.  Please remember that nothing will bring you more happiness and joy than to help in that great work.  I so want you to have that peace and joy in this life (and forever)!  So does your Heavenly Father and His Son.  He sacrificed himself for it.

Today, I asked Bud how he felt during his baptism.  He said he felt a little nervous before it and then after it he said, "Ï felt happy.  It was burning and cold at the same time - I was cold on the outside and burning on the inside."   I asked him how he felt when he got the Gift of the Holy Ghost, "Light a lightbulb inside - whooaaa" (as he put his hands on his heart and extended them outward).

After the confirmation, my mom and I bore our testimonies, everyone sung Holding Hands Around the World, my sister-in-law offered a beautiful prayer, we took pictures, and then went to my house for lunch.  It was fun visiting with family and friends.

Family and Friends (Rock had left to buy plates and cups that I had forgotten. Also, our good friends, the Vanoys, who helped a ton at the baptism and for the lunch had left as well, so had Bud's primary teacher):
Family at the baptism:
My handsome little man:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Favorite Smoothies

We've been drinking Green Smoothies for breakfast for almost a year now (we have a grain to accompany it - oatmeal, toast, pancakes, etc).  I have SO much more energy than I used to have, and I don't crave sweets nearly as much as I used to.  I am also never hungry before lunch time.  I remember I used to get hungry around 10am when we were mostly eating cereal for breakfast.  I don't usually get hungry anymore until around 1pm and we eat breakfast at 8am.  Drinking smoothies has made such a HUGE difference in how I feel!  I highly recommend it!  Here are some of my favorite smoothies we make:

I can't exactly call these recipes because I don't ever measure anything, but I'll give some estimates.

Here is our basic smoothie:
-3 cups of Spinach (sometimes I add a little Kale), packed down in blender.
-Fruit to almost the top of the blender (about 2-3 cups)
-Milk or Juice to cover the Spinach and Fruit

Basic Ingredients I buy:
-I buy a box or two of Spinach at Sam's Club (I usually freeze them after a couple of days to last through the week)
-I buy bags of frozen fruit there as well (Tropical Mix, Strawberries, Blueberries, Mangos, Mixed Berry).
-I buy several bunches of bananas and when they are ripe, I peel them, cut them in half, put them in a plastic bag and freeze them).
-For milk, I use Soy Milk, Cow's milk, or Almond Milk (I've been experimenting with making my own Almond Milk lately).  I usually use a mix of milks just for variety.
-Juice or frozen juice concentrate (I keep OJ concentrate in the freezer at all times).

Favorite Mixtures and some of their variations:

Banana Nutmeg (from Joanne)
3 frozen bananas
Dash of cinnamon
Nutmeg to taste (about 1/2 tsp?)
*Sometimes I add Mangos to this

Orange Julius
1 frozen banana
1 cup of OJ concentrate
Tropical Fruit
*We like variations of this, like using Strawberries instead of the Tropical Fruit, etc.

Sunshine Smoothie (from Joanne)
1-2 frozen bananas
Tropical Fruit
Orange Juice
*I like to vary the juice sometimes (orange-pineapple, Apple-orange-mango, etc.)
*Sometimes I add a little milk or yogurt to this if I want a creamier drink

2 frozen bananas
Strawberries, Blueberries or Mixed Berries
*Sometimes I add yogurt to this if I have it (which is seldom).
*I like to mix things up with the fruits I add, but I always use the bananas for sweetness (I like Mangos and Strawberries, just Mangos, Mangos and Peaches, Strawberries and Peaches, etc).
*On occasion I'll sweeten this even more with honey, sugar, maple syrup or agave if I have a sweetness craving.

Chocolate-Banana (from
3 frozen bananas
Cocoa Powder (1-2 Tbls)
(If I add too much Cocoa, this can taste bitter, so I'll sweeten it with one of the above sweeteners, but usually the bananas sweeten it enough for me).

I'd love the hear other favorites if anyone has them!  I'd also love to hear of some other grain ideas in the morning (we eat a lot of oatmeal!)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Pleasant Surprise

I've mentioned before that I am really trying hard to apply the 7 principles of great teaching from the Thomas Jefferson Education philosophy.  One of the most important principles is "Inspire not Require".  I told myself that I would give it an all out effort this year and really, truly not require academic things from the kids.  It made a lot of sense to me and I wanted to give it an honest effort.   I figured that if it didn't look like it was working well, I could always go back to requiring some things next year.

 It's been a challenge sometimes when I see them not opening their math workbooks or choosing not to write.  I know the kids at school are doing a lot of required writing and I worried a little that my kids were getting "behind" if they didn't do the same things their friends were doing.  I was tempted to go back to requiring math and writing, but I refrained - since I had told myself I'd really give it a try it for a year.

I've had a couple of concerns as we've been doing this. One of them was Spice and her math. She didn't want to study math at first. I talked to her about the importance of math and analytical thinking for her brain. I got math books disguised as stories from the library and we played analytical games. She eventually decided that she wanted to understand math so she gets out her math workbook once in a while. I've been amazed at what she is able to understand from daily living though - Me: "Spice, we need to triple this recipe - it says we need 3/4 cup of sugar - how much should I put in?" Spice: "Umm.....2 1/4 cups?" How did she know that? She hasn't reached the part in her math book that talks about multiplying fractions and converting them to whole numbers! I think she'll understand it pretty well when she does though.

My major concern was not Spice, however, it was Bud and his writing. He really did not like to write. When he did write, it was a few words on a picture to point out what someone was saying. When I was requiring him to write last year, he would break down if I wanted him to write more than one sentence.  It would take him a really long time to write down a few words because he was thinking of other things and not at all focused on his task.

I wondered if I was doing him a disservice by letting him play Chess and Blokus or just reading during study time.  I really wanted him to write as well!  I explained the importance of writing so we could share and preserve our ideas, sort our thoughts, etc.  He still rarely wrote.   Once in a while he decided to practice writing so he'd write a few words on a picture.  Not quite what I had in mind.  I was very tempted to just require it again, but I stuck to my goal and let him choose.

Family night at the storytelling festival

I took them to a Storytelling festival last week and they were mesmerized by the stories.  Then a couple of days later, we found a set of Beatrix Potter books at a thrift store.  I thought we could have a little lesson about Beatrix for Discovery Time.  On Monday, we read a little about her, read one of her books, and I asked the kids to think of an animal that they wanted to make a book about.

At first Bud panicked, "Do we have to write a book?!?" he asked.  I said, "No, you can just draw pictures if you'd like.  I just thought it would be fun to think of a story like Beatrix Potter did."

Little Miss decided that she would make a coloring book of animals.  Spice was very exited about this project (she LOVES writing stories) and instantly began her book about a squirrel.  Bud couldn't think of an animal he wanted to do a story about.  I told him it could be a bug, if he preferred, or some other living thing - he got excited about drawing a picture of a praying mantis so he got to work.

Suddenly, he had an idea.  We had recently finished listening to the Tales of Brer Rabbit by Uncle Remus.  He exclaimed, "What if I wrote a story about a praying mantis that is always trying to catch a grasshopper, but the grasshopper keeps tricking him and getting away?"  I told him I thought that sounded like a great story, and he began to WRITE!

I was surprised.  He kept on writing.  I didn't know he could put more than two sentences together!  An hour went by - he was still writing. He said, "Mom, I like this part of expression."  I said, "Well, good, because that is what "Expression" is for - sharing your ideas!"

Two hours went by.  He said, "Mom, this is fun, can I do this for study time?"  "Oh, well, I guess so, if you must."

Three hours went by - he complained that his hand hurt a little because he was not used to writing for so long.  I urged him to take a break and maybe write some more tomorrow (I didn't want him to overdo it!), but he kept on writing.

After four hours, he finally agreed to a break so he could read his story to his dad who had gotten home from work by then.

Early the next morning, I went down to fix breakfast.  Guess who I found sitting at the table WRITING!?  Yep.  He was so excited that he went to work on his book as soon as he got up.  The same thing happened the next day.

The next two days we were gone for field trips and clubs and today he was busy cleaning and playing with friends so he hasn't finished his story yet, but I had to post what he has written so far.

It is so funny and imaginative.  You can really see his little personality through it.  I couldn't not post my little boys very first story!  I took pictures and then I typed what he wrote because the pictures are a little blurry.  I've changed some of the spelling and added some punctuation that expresses how he read it to me. You can see the original in the picture.  If he paused to explain something as he read, I added that in parenthesis.  (I didn't say I was exited because he knew how to write properly, I am exited because he now loves to write. The rest will come in time!)

The Tale of Mantis by Bud


Well, this story is about a praying mantis that is always trying to get a grasshopper. But this grasshopper is extra smart so he is extra hard to catch.

Once upon a time there was a praying mantis thinking about how he was going to catch the grasshopper he always wanted to eat.

"I wonder if that grasshopper falls for any tricks," he said, pouring some grasshopper cereal in his bowl and drinking a grasshoper smoothie and smoothing his antenna.  We don't want to talk about what he was doing with his other three hands.  That would be boring.  Just then, he heard a knock at the door.  He started hoping it was the ant delivering the chocolate caterpillars that he ordered.

So he ran to the door in a flash with his tongue hanging out like a dog when you haven't fed it in three days.  To his surprise, it was Mrs. Beetle.  She was looking surprised.  "Why did you open the door so fast with your tongue hanging out?"  Mrs. Beetle said, "That almost gave me a heart attack!  My son, TJ, wants to come over and play with your son, Riley, because my husband is at work, and I am going to the store, and he is only 4," she said.

Mantis was a little worried because TJ was a big handfull and that's probably why Mrs. Beetle wanted to get rid of him.  So TJ came and he asked if we could go to the park.  Mantis had to say yes because TJ would throw a tantrum, and when TJ throws a tantrum you do not want to mess with him.  Even though he is only 4 years old, TJ is pretty tough and that's why nobody asks him to wrestle.

So when we got there, Mantis started looking for the grasshopper traps Mantis set earlier.  When Mantis got the traps, he found a grasshopper that looked just like the grasshopper he always wanted - this is weird to us because all the grasshoppers look the same to us!
When he saw it, he did a little dance and laughed, "Ha, ha" and started singing a song.  It went like this:

"I got him, I got him
I got you, I got you
and before you can 
say Jack Robinson
You'll be in my tummy
Yum Yum Yum Yum"

Just then he heard Bzzzzzzzzzzz. He turned around and saw Mr. Bee.  "Why don't you put some of my honey on your grasshopper?" said Mr. Bee.  "That would be yummy," Mantis said.  So with that, he gave some of his honey and flew away, and Mrs. Dragonfly gave some of her mosquitos.

Just then, he heard a "Hee hee hee hee hee hee ha ha ha".  Mantis turned around and saw the grasshopper that he always wanted. "I tricked you again!  Ha He.  You'll never get me!"  (The other grasshopper had been a stuffed grasshopper toy). Mantis was so mad he almost grabbed the grasshopper, but he was so mad he couldn't.  He just sat there looking mad.  And the grasshopper jumped away.  "I need to get that grasshopper somehow," he said.

Just then he heard "Aaaaaaaaaaaaeee!"  He rushed to the place where he heard it.  He saw his son, Riley, up in a tree.  He was yelling for dragonfly.  "I'm gonna kill you for this Jake Dragonfly!" Riley yelled.  Jake Dragonfly is Mrs. Dragonfly's son.  He was a trouble maker and Mantis was guessing Jaked did that, so he flew up and got Riley down.

The only problem now is where was TJ?!  "Oh no, Mrs. Beetle will kill me!"

Just then he heard a panting, "Hahahahahaha".  It was TJ.  "I chased Jake after I saw him put Riley in that tree.  I chased him all the way to his house and then told his mom.  And he is in time-out right now, and he is grounded for a week," said TJ.

"Well, I got him down and that's all that matters," said Mantis.

"No it isn't!  I'm glad TJ chased him!  He deserved it!" said Riley.

"Well, anyway, do you want to go on a picnic?" said Mantis.

"Sure," said TJ and Riley together.

"Do you want a stawberry sandwich TJ?" said Mantis.

"Yes" said TJ.

"And Riley, would you like bread with butter-fly and grasshopper?"
"Yes" said Riley.  So Mantis gave them their food and Mantis gave himself a hot caterpillar (like a hot dog) and all the time Mantis was thinking about how he was going to get the grasshopper he always wanted, and Riley was thinking about how he was going to get Jake Dragonfly, and TJ was thinking about how good his strawberry sandwich was.

After the picnic, Mantis thought of an idea.  He saw a field.  He put a grasshopper trap in the field and went home and took TJ and Riley with me and took TJ home.

When we got home, someone was knocking on our door.  It was the ant that delivered the chocolate caterpillars.  Mantis was so hungry, he grabbed the box and forgot that most delivery boxes have peanuts in them.  So without looking he put his face and his hands in the box.  He tasted a foam taste and when he took his head and hands out, his hands and head were covered with peanuts.
"You look like Santa Mantis!"

"I forgot that most delivery boxes have peanuts in them," said Mantis spitting peanuts out.

Knock. Knock.

"Riley, will you get the door while I get these peanuts off me?" said Mantis.

Riley ran to the door and yelled, "Dad!  It's Mr. Ladybug!" So Mantis ran to the door and saw Mr. Ladybug

"Mr. Mantis, today is my girls's birthday.  She invited Riley.  She wants everybody's dads to come.  It's at 2:00 okay?" said Mr. Ladybug.

"Okay," said Mantis.  With that he walked away.  Mr. Ladybug's girl's name was Ginne.

"You know more about her, so what is she like?  What does she like?" said Mantis.

"Well, she is a girly-girl so when I play with her, I always have to be a prince and she always has to be a princess and we always have to get married," said Riley with a sigh, "So I'm not excited about it.  The only thing that TJ is happy about is that he gets cake, if he is invited," said Riley with another sigh.
"Well, I guess we'll have to get a girly thing," said Mantis, "Let's go to the store and see what we can find."

"Okay," said Riley.

So when they got there, Mantis said, "Riley, go look in that section and I'll look in this section."  Now, Mantis forgot that there is a boy and girl section and he got the boy's.

"Spiderbug! Holy Cow! That's a boyish thing," he said.  "Batbug.  That's a boyish thing too.  Ironbug. Oh my gosh! So much boys stuff today!" he said

Just then he heard Riley calling him.  He walked to the place where he heard it.  Things were getting girlier.  He saw Buggy and the Spider (Beauty and the Beast), and Buggy Beauty and My Little Ladybugs.  Finally, he got there.  Riley was holding a red bow with black dots with a ladybug on it.

"Wow!  Where did you get that?" said Mantis.

Riley pointed to the section he had been looking at.  Right above it was a sign that said "Girls" and the place where Mantis was looking at had a sign that said "Boys".

"Oops!  I was looking in the wrong section," said Mantis, "and that bow will go perfect with her shell."

"It will," said Riley.

The rest is to be continued because that is all he has written so far.  You'll have to handle the suspense until he finishes.  

This experience taught me the importance of reading and hearing stories when you are little.  They have really sparked his imagination.  He is very happy with what he has been able to create so far and it has given him a sense of confidence in himself.  It also taught me the importance of letting them find for themselves how exciting an education can be.  I would have dampened his spirits about it if I had been pushing him to write this whole time.  

My little boy likes to write!  What a pleasant surprise!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What I Learned from My Failed Attempt at My One Goal

 Remember how a couple of weeks ago, I had decided to focus on ONE goal so that I could establish some habits that I neglected?  I was going to stick to it for 6 weeks.  I couldn't do it!  Here's why:

1) My life can not be that structured
Here's one example:  We are finishing up cleaning from breakfast.  I look at the list.  It says: Weekly Jobs - Speak Spanish.  Weekly jobs is already a habit.  Spanish isn't.  I would think, "Okay, time to speak Spanish" when suddenly someone drops a cup they were trying to put in the sink.  Smoothie flies everywhere.  I help them clean it up from the table, chairs, floor, walls and ceiling and hurry off to put the weekly jobs cards on the counter for the kids to pick.  They pick their jobs and we do them.  Then I go to look at the next item on the list.  I realize that I forgot to speak Spanish during weekly jobs.  It might not be so bad if this was an isolated instance, but with 5 children - there are interruptions ALL at time.  These can be welcome teaching opportunities - it's what life is made of, but they are stressful if they are keeping me from a "goal".

2) I rebel when I feel forced.
I know this is crazy.  Why would I rebel against myself?  If I set up a system to help me become what I want to become, you'd think I could stick to it.  Instead, I chose to look at the list less and less because I didn't want me to be told what to do next.  However, if it was a worthy goal which brought me peace and light, it would not be so stressful and I would be willing to will myself to stick to it.  Which brings me to my last reason.

3) It skewed my focus.
I thought that if I set up a list that would bring me to my ultimate goal, then I could focus on the list.  This didn't turn out to be the case.  I learned that ANYTHING that takes my focus away from Christ does not bring me happiness.  It really is as simple as this:
"The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of ye first the kingdom of God; and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:22,33
My focus can't be on a list.  It stressed me out.  I wasn't at peace.  If I'm going to have ONE goal - it has to be to make sure that I am doing the right thing in my life AT THAT MOMENT.  My focus has to be on the present - enjoying it, living it, and making sure it is how Heavenly Father would want me to be spending it.

This is how I do that:  If I am at peace at a given moment and focused on what Jesus would have me do, I am on the right path.  If I am not at peace at the moment - I need to see what I ought to be doing or focusing on instead.

That is not to say that I should not have righteous goals and a plan on how to reach them.  I am glad I have my list.  In fact, one of the things that I did in order to remember what was on it (are you ready for this?)  was to type it up (in short descriptions and small writing), cut it out on a small strip of paper (different ones for the different days of the week) and tape it around my wrist (like a bracelet).  Seriously.  I know it's a little nuts, but it really did help me remember some of the things that I was leaving out (like Spanish and setting out books at study time).  I think I'll keep doing this as a reminder until I can remember to do these things on a consistent basis (I'll try to remember to take it off when I'm out in public!)

I guess the difference is that I'll be using my list as a reminder of my daily goals - not as the goal itself.  That way, when things come up and I choose to read to my 3 year old, or make cookies for someone, instead of whatever the list says I should be doing - I will still be at peace knowing that I am doing the RIGHT thing at this moment.  The list can wait until later.  Doesn't that sound so much more peaceful?

I think that when the Savior said, "It is not meet that I should command in all things, for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant... men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will..."(Doctine and Covenants 58:26,27), he was teaching not only that we don't need to be told about every little thing that we should do, but also that we need to learn to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost on a consistent basis.  A list would be too easy!  And no fun...