Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Computer/Baby Room: Before and After

Before I post pictures of our computer room before I went through it, I would like to explain that this was the worst room in the house and sometimes the clutter was more neatly arranged then at others times.  I snapped the before pictures on a day that the clutter wasn't as neatly arranged so it didn't always look this bad, but, to be honest, it usually wasn't much better.

I had 4 boxes of baby clothes, old college papers and books, computer things that we never used, paperwork that I didn't need, and just generally things that I never wanted to sift through.  Here is the embarrassing before pictures:

Those cardboard sheets the kids use to make partitions in their games, there is a box of baby toys, purses and somewhat overflowing drawers of baby clothes. 
The computer area had lots of old paperwork, bags, cameras and books and next to that was the top shelf of the desk that didn't fit on the desk so the kids liked to play behind it with their blankets and cardboard partitions:

The corner next to the crib was packed full of baby clothes he had grown out of and clothes for him to grow into as well as more paperwork:
I know, it's awful.

So I thought about it and decided that the baby does not need so much clothes.  He would be fine with a couple of pjs, a couple of outfits and a few onesies.  I kept my very favorite and got down to ONE box.  The box was half filled with the clothes he had out-grown and the other half was the clothes he would grow into.  I put the shoes to grow into in a small thin box with the baby toys I kept (one rattle, a silky blanket, and a soft caterpillar) and some baby gear (the head cushion for the car seat, training underwear).  I kept the bouncy seat and the boppy pillow as well.  I did find I needed the bouncy seat when I wanted to put him down on hard floor before he could sit up well.

It all fit under the crib!  I was able to scoot his "dresser" back.  I also got rid of a lot of clothes that were in the drawers so now he just has 3 pjs, a few onesies, some socks, 2 jackets, 4 t-shirts, 4 long-sleeved shirts, and like 8 pants and 4 shorts.  Maybe too many pants now that I think about it...  Here's what's left:
As you can see, I moved the computer shelf next to the crib and put our devotional boxes under it (we've been having our morning and evening devotionals in my room - just off of this room).  It also has one binder (for my calling), one notebook (for my notes), the extra ink, envelopes, and our cameras.
The other side of the room was left with the computer, printer, pencil box and ONE filebox with ALL of our paperwork in it.  I tossed almost all "owners manuals" (you can get them on line), all old college papers (except 4 essays that I couldn't part with), and just kept medical records, important documents, auto and home papers,  tax documents and a few other things.  The computer desk fit all of the computer CDs that are left. and all of the "connecting wires" and chargers for our different devices (cameras and cell phones).

To be totally honest, I did stash my purses and bags on this side as well, but they are hidden behind the door:
There is also a small box on the other side of the desk that you can't see in the pictures, in which I put Rock's electronic things (mostly for his bike).

That's all that's left.  It feels so nice!

The best part of the day, though was, when I got finished with this room and headed downstairs to do the HUGE laundry pile that I had washed the previous day, but hadn't folded yet.  We're usually pretty good about keeping up with laundry, but with all of the people going in and out to fix our living room, I had neglected it and we had 5 days worth of laundry to fold.  Anyway, I got downstairs, and to my happy surprise, Spice had folded ALL of it and sorted it into the different piles for the family members:
She often does sweet things, but this was beyond what I would have expected, even from her.  What an amazing little girl.  She totally made my day.

The kids got so excited about the computer room that they insisted that we go through the toy room as well yesterday.  So we completely forgot about doing any "academic" things and tackled the toy room.  It didn't take too long, but it does look a lot better. I have pictures of that as well, but I am taking too long on the computer this morning and I need to get back to the kids and the house, so I'll post those tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Time to Toss Stuff...Again

I've been feeling a little bit anxious lately - like there is too much to do.  I looked at my schedule and it looks fine.  I wondered why I felt a little overwhelmed again.  Then I realized that the last time I went through my house and got rid of stuff was in March...  6 months ago.  It's time for a 6 month purge!  I really want to get rid of everything that I don't use this time.  I don't want to keep anything "just in case I might use it someday".  I got rid of so much 6 months ago that you'd think it would be pretty easy to go through again and find the few things I've acquired since last time, but it's not so.  For one thing, I didn't get rid of enough (one can only part with so much at a give time!),  and also, for some reason, more stuff has accumulated.  I'm not sure how that happens because I haven't been buying anything, but it does seem to creep up.

I think I might take some before and after pictures and post them on here - that ought to be motivational right?  It would also be embarrassing though.  After all of my talk about simplifying I don't know if really want anyone to see how much stuff I still have.  Maybe if I post the before and after pictures together, it won't be so bad.  I'm going to start with the worst room - this one that I am in.  We keep our computer stuff, all of our paperwork and documents, some books, baby clothes and items, a crib and several boxes of stuff we might use someday in here.  We have a computer shelf that can't fit on our computer since our ceiling is sloped so the kids like to play around it and some stuff has accumulated behind it.

I found myself getting a little jealous as my friend, Deanna, talked about how they are temporarily moving into a 760 sf house.  I thought, "That would be awfully tight, but how simple life would be!"  Then I thought, I don't have to move into a little house to make life simpler - I can pretend I'm moving into a 760 sf house and get rid of anything that is not essential...or almost essential.  We'll see how it goes.

I think for my scripture study, I'll look up some stuff about minimizing distractions.  That ought to motivate me as well.  I'll share some of my favorite findings below:

"Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home. Home is where women have the most power and influence... Growth happens best in a “house of order,” and women should pattern their homes after the Lord’s house (see D&C 109)...

Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. "  Julie B. Beck - Mothers Who Know
Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith.- Proverbs 15:16

"Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. - Matthew 19:21

"From his experiences at Walden Pond, Thoreau determined that there were only four things that a man really needed: food, clothing, shelter, and fuel." -L. Tom Perry Let Him Do It with Simplicity

"We cannot and we must not allow ourselves to get distracted from our sacred duty. We cannot and we must not lose focus on the things that matter most."  Elder Dieter F. Uchdorf We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down

I fear that some members of the Lord’s Church “live far beneath our privileges” with regard to the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some are distracted by the things of the world that block out the influence of the Holy Ghost, preventing them from recognizing spiritual promptings. This is a noisy and busy world that we live in. Remember that being busy is not necessarily being spiritual. If we are not careful, the things of this world can crowd out the things of the Spirit...We should lower the noise level in our homes so that the noise of the world will not overpower the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost" -Joseph B. Wirthlin The Unspeakable Gift

That ought to keep me going this morning. I think I'll work on one room per day. That way maybe I can make time to actually keep some of our learning goals going. Maybe I'll take a picture of the Savior with me as I go to remind me what our focus us and that all of the stuff can block Him from my view. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Latest Doings and Thoughts (on judgment)

Here is are some of our latest doings:
We had a great time at the state fair.  Maybe next year the kids will enter something.
We've been very busy with peaches.  We bottled 56 jars of them!  Much improvement from last year when I managed to bottle 14.
My birthday dinner (waiting to be seated)
Our living room ceiling started leaking, a plumber came by and said our shower pan had a leak.  They had to take out the tile in our shower, replace it, and fix our living room ceiling.  We've had people in and out of our house all week.  They should be finished next week sometime.
Our lawn-mower broke so we had to get a new one.  Bud was really exited because it's self-propelled so he can push it just fine.  He mowed the lawn and has been begging for the chance to do it again.  So cute.
Rock and Bud have been enjoying football games together.  I'm not much of a football fan, but they seem to bond and enjoy it a lot together.
He even dresses like a football player at home sometimes (those are paper-towels tucked into his sleeves and bike grease on his face).
Bud and I have talked about "wholesome recreation" and that this is something that he and his dad can do together, but that there is a danger in getting so caught up in football or any other distraction to the neglecting of our family or other things that really matter.  He has shown an understanding and maturity about it that impresses me.

We drive to Salt Lake every Friday for choir.  It takes us a little while, but the kids love it and they are learning a lot.  Their teacher is amazing.  While we're there, we often go to some Salt Lake attraction afterward.  Last Friday, we went to Liberty Park for a lunch and "named" several squirrels (Alvin, Simon, Theodore, etc).  We also found a salamander.  Bud has two already at home, so we left that one alone :-)  We saw a man creating a beautiful painting.  We talked to him for a bit and he inspired us.
Those are some of our latest out-of-the house activities.  At home we are listening to my new Rob Gardner CDs (the Lamb of God is phenomenal, by the way), trying to accomplish our learning goals, working on having a loving spirit towards each other at all times, and we are laughing often.  I can't begin to express my gratitude for this beautiful life I am living.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the peace and joy in the gospel (*see disclaimer below). It seems to me that Satan has quite a lot of ways to keep us from feeling that joy.  If we have not heard the gospel, are new to it, or do not give it much thought, he keeps us busy with worldly things so that we don't have time to think about things not of this world.  He entices us with counterfeit joy (fun) that temporarily lulls the yearning we have to connect with God. 

If we are trying to live a righteous life, he tries to dampen our joy by telling us that either we are not quite good enough or that we are "better than".  He tries to get us to compare our righteousness with others.  He tries to get us to look at the gospel as a system of deeds and higher laws and righteousness instead of as a way of being towards God and others. 

"Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40)

Yes, there are laws and standards that we must obey, but they are not the gospel.  They are there to teach us humility, obedience, charity - ways of being.  Obeying brings us blessings - light, truth, love, wisdom.  If we focus on the "law" itself - and criticize (even if just in our hearts) those who are not living it - we miss the point entirely!  We stop having joy in the gospel - just what Satan loves - and start feeling enmity towards our neighbors, our leaders, our family, all people.

As these things have been on my mind, it was a breath of fresh air as I heard our prophet and our Relief Society leaders speak last night at the General Relief Society Broadcast.   I went to the broadcast with a judgmental heart towards those whom I thought were being judgmental (I know - ironic isn't it?) That judgmental feeling was starting to spread in my heart.  I have always had an easy time loving those around me (not because I'm so great - I am blessed with that gift - anyone can be from what I understand) so this feeling was making me sad.

I'm even embarrassed to say that as the choir started to sing, I found myself thinking "that girl sure has on a lot of make-up on" etc.  I tried to suppress those thoughts, but they kept popping up in my head.  As I sat and listened to what my prophet and leaders had to say, it was like a wave of peace calming my troubled heart.  When he got done speaking, all I could feel was love for those beautiful members of the choir and for those daughters of God sitting all around me and I remembered what the gospel is.  I lost sight of it for a moment.  I sure love my Savior who loves me - faults and all.  I know He suffered for those faults willingly and that with "His stripes [I am] healed".  I want to be my best because I love Him and I want to return to His loving, outstretched arms someday.

I loved these words last night:
My dear sisters, each of you is unique. You are different from each other in many ways. There are those of you who are married. Some of you stay at home with your children, while others of you work outside your homes. Some of you are empty-nesters. There are those of you who are married but do not have children. There are those who are divorced, those who are widowed. Many of you are single women. Some of you have college degrees; some of you do not. There are those who can afford the latest fashions and those who are lucky to have one appropriate Sunday outfit. Such differences are almost endless. Do these differences tempt us to judge one another?

Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun who worked among the poor in India most of her life, spoke this profound truth: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” The Savior has admonished, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” I ask: Can we love one another, as the Savior has commanded, if we judge each other? And I answer—with Mother Teresa—“No; we cannot...

I consider charity—or the “pure love of Christ”—to be the opposite of criticism and judging...I have in mind the charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions; the kind of charity that forgives; the kind of charity that is patient.” -President Thomas S. Monson

*This is, of course, just my opinion at this time.  I know I have a lot to learn about all this.  I especially liked this talk I read this morning about judging.  He explains that judgment should be intermediate, guided by the spirit, within our stewardship, with adequate knowledge, towards situations instead of people, forgiving, and with the right standards.  Good stuff.

And, just because I'm loving Rob Gardner's music so much, here's another great song from his Joseph Smith CD:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Birthday and Some of My Favorite Things

Another year has come and gone!  We had a nice celebration and I got some of my favorite things!

The night before my birthday we got to eat at Olive Garden.  We seldom go to "fancy restaurants" so it was pretty special for the kids.  They tried to be polite and mind their manners - all except little Ray who seems to think it's fun to yell whenever he wants something.  He liked my dinner, though, so he was pretty good as soon as the food came out (he wouldn't eat the breadsticks they give you while you wait - weird).  I did get pictures, but on my phone, and I still can't sync it, so I'll add them later.

On my birthday morning, the kids sung to me and gave me homemade cards and different chocolate bars.  I always smile at chocolate.  The cards were sweet.

I love how little Bazinks draws me with two pieces of hair coming from my head  - and that's a balloon next to me.  Their dad did rush them as they made the cards, or I'm sure Little Miss' would have had a lot more detail (she likes to put a lot of detail in her cards).  Here's what they wrote:

Dear Mom, I love you so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so much!  And way way more.  You are the best mom in the world.  You are so hard-working and loveing and kind and helpfull and patient and sweet.  Thank you for all you have done for me.  Thank you for being so forgiving.  I love you.  Love Cassia.  P.S. That mother daughter activity was so fun!  ( then a picture of us holding hands)
I lov you so so so so so so much mommy (with some balloons)
Little Miss:
I [heart] you (with a cut out heart, us, a cake and balloons)
Bazinks (a picture of us)

They are so adorable.

My hubby gave me a card and some iphone speakers along with some music.
I LOVE the music he gave me (okay, I did tell Spice exactly what I wanted so that she would tell her dad, but I am very happy with it).  I got Rob Gardner's Joseph Smith the Prophet CD - see it here.  It is amazing!!  I also got his new Lamb of God CD, but that one is still coming in the mail.  I'm hoping it will be here today.  As soon as I heard the song Gethsemane on the preview, I had to have it.  His work is so good.  I especially like that he uses people's real words and real scripture in his lyrics, but doesn't try to over-dramatize things.  I also own the Saints and Pioneers CD which I also like and the Missionary Project CD which I listen to all the time (obviously, it's not just for missionaries).  Here's a video with the Gethsemane song in it:
My mom got me an amazing present as well.  I also hinted to Spice that if anyone asked her what I wanted for my birthday she could let them know about the painting that my sister-in-law re-created of The Starry Night - brush stroke by brush stroke.  She's amazing and I've been wanting to have real art in our home for a while.  When I saw her painting on her etsy page - I had to have it.  I was so exited to see it - I wasn't expecting it at all (despite my hints!)  When I pulled it out of the box, there was a gasp from everyone - she is so talented!

I wish the pictures did it justice.  It's so cool up close. 

I got to teach Relief Society on my birthday and when we got home, my mom, dad, brother and his girlfriend came over and brought dinner and presents (my brother got me movie tickets - it's been a while since I've seen a movie - any good ones out there for us to see?)  It was a great time with the family.

Thank-you to all of you who sent me happy birthday wishes!  It was a really nice day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Obstacles to Zion

We had a mother-daughter activity last Saturday.  Spice really liked it and several of the girls mentioned how much they enjoyed it.  I learned a lot as I prepared for it and so I thought I would share what we did, in case anyone is in need for a mother-daughter activity for Activity Days or Young Women.  I can't connect my iphone to my computer for some reason so I don't have pictures - I'll post some when I figure out what's wrong.

This was the invite:

Activity Day Girls:
Do you and your mom have what it takes to overcome obstacles and earn a sweet reward?

Come find out at our Mother-Daughter Activity Day Party!

Saturday, September 18th at 2 pm

“We should remember that when we are involved in the work of the Lord, the obstacles before us are never as great as the power behind us...” -Dallin H. Oaks

The opening to the activity:
We opened with a song "As Zion's Youth in Latter Days" and a prayer.

I brought a radio and talked about the importance of staying in tune with the frequency of the Holy Ghost because we are constantly bombarded with messages.  I talked about the decline in the morals of our culture and how we can no longer get away with being "just a little better" than the world, because the world's morals are at a rapid decline and we'll decline right along with them - we can't look around anymore and say that just because others are doing something (even members of the church) that it must be okay.

I quoted:
More than we even realize, our culture (or world around us - Babylon) determines what foods we like, how we dress, what music we like, what we do... “All too often, we are like puppets on a string, as our culture determines what is "cool."”  (Elder David R. Stone) and a couple other thoughts from Elder Stone.

About the course:
This obstacle course represents many of the messages we get in the world -  the obstacles to becoming what our Savior would have us be and to having true joy.  But remember how I said that we often don’t even realize how much our culture determines what we do and think?  For this reason, all of the girls will have to go through the obstacle course with blindfolds on!  The blindfolds represent the lack of experience and awareness.

I mentioned that I got the idea for this activity from Elder Ballard in the last conference - his talk was called Mothers and Daughters. 

Then I read what he said:
Your mothers adore you. They see in you the promise of future generations. Everything you accomplish, every challenge you overcome brings them pure joy. And likewise your worries and heartaches are their worries and heartaches.
And so, my dear young women, with all my heart I urge you not to look to contemporary culture for your role models and mentors. Please look to your faithful mothers for a pattern to follow. Model yourselves after them, not after celebrities whose standards are not the Lord’s standards and whose values may not reflect an eternal perspective. Look to your mother. Learn from her strengths, her courage, and her faithfulness. Listen to her. She may not be a whiz at texting; she may not even have a Facebook page. But when it comes to matters of the heart and the things of the Lord, she has a wealth of knowledge. No other person on earth loves you in the same way or is willing to sacrifice as much to encourage you and help you find happiness—in this life and forever.
Love your mother, my young sisters. Respect her. Listen to her. Trust her. She has your best interests at heart. She cares about your eternal safety and happiness. So be kind to her. Be patient with her imperfections, for she has them. We all do.

We have a family friend who travels often with members of her extended family. Her primary observation after each trip is how much the young women behave like their mothers. If the mothers are thrifty, so are their daughters. If the mothers are modest, so are the girls. If the mothers wear flip-flops and other casual clothing to sacrament meeting, so do their daughters. Mothers, your example is extremely important to your daughters—even if they don’t acknowledge it.
Throughout the history of the world, women have always been teachers of moral values. That instruction begins in the cradle and continues throughout the lives of their children. Today our society is bombarded with messages about womanhood and motherhood that are dangerously and wickedly wrong. Following these messages can put your daughters on the path to sin and self-destruction. Your daughters may not understand that unless you tell them or, better, unless you show them how to make good choices. As mothers in Israel, you are your daughters’ first line of defense against the wiles of the world.
The Activity

I explained the Rules:
-Blindfolded unless obstacle says other wise. 
-You may take your daughte'rs hand between obstacles, but you may not touch her during the obstacles
-There are six obstacles (show where they are), you may do them in whatever order you would like, except for the 6th one must be done last since it is also the sweet reward which represents the sweet joy you feel in life as you overcome the world and walk in truth and light.
-Each obstacle starts with a quote.  Read it to your blindfolded daughter before you begin the obstacle.
-Some of the obstacles have papers taped to them which represent what they are - try to use the representative name as you guide your daughter. For example: Instead of saying - stop there is a chair in your way - if the chair has a paper on it that says “Wrong kind of music”, you would say, “Stop - wrong kind of music is in your way”  - read as many of the papers as you can to your daughter.

There were six obstacles.  The first three were set up on tables in the cultural hall.  #4  was set up in the hall way.  #5 was in a classroom, and #6 was in the back of the cultural hall (the partition was closed).
I had the following instructions taped to the beginning of each obstacle.  (Except for the parts in parentheses - those explain the set-up)

Obstacle #1:
(A table set up with notecards and pens)
Speaking with the “Tongue of Angels”

“Sisters, there is no place in that magnificent spirit of yours for acerbic or abrasive expression of any kind, including gossip or backbiting or catty remarks.
“Speak hopefully. Speak encouragingly, including about yourself...Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail...[speak] only that which is good and edifying...”

                                             -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

You may take off your blind fold for this obstacle.
Mothers:  Write 5 things that you like about your daughter     
Daughters: Write 5 things that you like about your mother
Do not show your notecards to each other yet, but take them with you.

Obstacle #2
(A table set up with scriptures, pens and notebooks)
Learning to receive “Personal Revelation”


“The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.

“Qualifying for the Lord’s Spirit begins with a desire for that Spirit and implies a certain degree of worthiness...Many answers to difficult questions are found by reading the scriptures because the scriptures are an aid to revelation. Insight found in scripture accumulates over time, so it is important to spend some time in the scriptures every day. Daily prayer is also essential to having the Lord’s Spirit with us.  Those who earnestly seek help through prayer and scripture study often have a paper and pencil nearby to write questions and record impressions and ideas.”
-Sister Julie B. Beck


Blindfolded, find the following scripture: 1 Samuel 3:9-10.  Have your mom read it.
Write: “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.” in the journal. 
You may remove the blindfold at the end to see how you did!

Obstacle #3
(a table set up with a several button-up shirts inside a box)
Making our bodies a place where the “Spirit can dwell”


Your body really is the instrument of your mind and the foundation of your character...If you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit of our Father in Heaven and exercise a wholesome influence upon those around you. To be unkempt in your appearance exposes you to influences that are degrading...Avoid immodest clothing. Dress and groom to show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. -Elder Boyd K. Packer


Daughters: Blindfolded - Find a shirt, put it on, button it up. 
You may remove the blindfold at the end to see how you did!
Mothers: Guide, but let the girls do as much of this on their own as they can (no metaphor here - just for fun), don’t worry if the shirt is inside-out or buttoned funny.

Obstacle #4
(Chairs in the hallway to obstruct the path - quotes taped on to the chairs and some to the wall - the ones on the chairs signified a "block" to progression.  The ones on the wall had arrows pointing the way and signified the way to go to progress.)

Finding wholesome recreation

“The leisure time of children must be constructively directed to wholesome, positive pursuits” -Ezra Taft Benson

“We can live as a Zion people, if we wish to. Will it be hard? Of course it will, for the waves of Babylonian culture crash incessantly against our shores. Will it take courage? Of course it will”
. - Elder David R. Stone


Mothers: Guide your daughters through the obstacles.  Read them what the obstacles represent as you come to them.  Some obstacles will block your way and some will guide you.

Daughters:  Listen to and trust your mothers.

(Here are the quotes that I chose to put up):
 The Right Books
“Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom”
-D&C 88:118

The Wrong Books
“With the abundance of books available today, it is a mark of a truly educated man [or girl!] to know what not to read.” -President Ezra Taft Benson. 
The Right Music:

“Inspiring music may fill the soul with heavenly thoughts, move one to righteous action, or speak peace to the soul”
-President Ezra Taft Benson

The Wrong Music: 
“Music can also be used for wicked purposes. Unworthy music may seem harmless, but it can have evil effects on your mind and spirit. Choose carefully the music you listen to.
“Pay attention to how you feel when you are listening. Don't listen to music that drives away the Spirit.” -For the Strength of Youth

The Right Media: 
“Whatever media we read, watch, or listen to has an effect on us.

“Choose only entertainment and media that are uplifting.

“Wholesome entertainment promotes good thoughts and righteous choices and allows participants to enjoy themselves without losing the Spirit of the Lord” 
The Wrong Media: 
 "If we do not make good choices, the media can devastate our families and pull our children away from the narrow gospel path.

Often media's most devastating attacks on family are not direct or frontal or openly immoral... Rather the attacks are subtle and amoral—issues of right and wrong don't even come up.

Immorality and sexual innuendo are everywhere, causing some to believe that because
everyone is doing it, it must be all right.

This pernicious evil is not out in the street somewhere; it is coming right into our homes, right into the heart of our families"  
-M. Russell Ballard

Wrong Type of Recreation:

“Team sports and technology toys like video games and the Internet are already winning away the time of our children and youth.
Some young people are amusing themselves to death—spiritual death.”

Dallin H. Oaks

Right Recreation
The leisure time of children must be constructively directed to wholesome, positive pursuits.  -President Ezra Taft Benson

Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children
-Dallin H. Oaks

Obstacle #5:
(see set up description below)

Bombarded with Messages:


“Today we are barraged by multitudes of voices telling us how to live, how to gratify our passions, how to have it all.... Our young people are bombarded with evil and wickedness like no other generation... Satan’s tactic is to “turn their hearts away from the truth, that they become blinded and understand not the things which are prepared for them. He creates a smoke screen that obscures our vision and diverts our attention... He throws dust, so to speak, in their eyes, and they are blinded with the things of this world...”
 -James E. Faust


You may take off your blindfold for this activity:
Mothers and Daughters: Go in the room, Sift through the bombardment of messages of the world (take from Elder Faust’s talk with some examples) on the balloons and help each other find a balloon with the solution for overcoming the messages.  Whoever finds it, show it to your mom or daughter and then put it back for the next girl to find.  There are hints about the solution from Elder Faust on the walls of the room.

(Set up:
A Room filled with balloons.  Hints taped to the wall (also from Elder Faust) The balloons had messages on them from Elder Faust's talk here.  One of the balloons had the solution to overcoming the bombardment of voices.

Here is what we wrote on the balloons (the last one is the solution):

Murmuring voices that conjure up perceived injustices.
“It’s not fair”
Whining voices that abhor challenge and work.
“It’s too hard”
Seductive voices that offer sensual enticements.
“Wear this or do this so boys will notice you.”
“Think and worry about boys - have a “crush”"
 Soothing voices that lull us into carnal security.
“It’s not that bad”
Intellectual voices that profess sophistication and superiority.
“You’re too smart to believe things you can’t see”
Proud voices that rely on the arm of flesh.
“That commandment doesn’t really apply to you.”
Flattering voices that puff us up with pride.
“You are so much better than....”
Cynical voices that destroy hope.
“You’ll never be good enough.  Why try?”
Entertaining voices that promote pleasure seeking.
“You are here to have fun!  Don’t take things so seriously!”
Commercial voices that tempt us to “spend money for that which is of no worth, [and our] labor for that which cannot satisfy.”
“If you buy that, you will be so happy!”
Delirious voices that spawn the desire for a ...death-defying thrill.
“It’s dangerous, but it’s such a rush!”
“Ponder the things of the Spirit and to respond to its promptings”

Here are the hints that were taped to the wall in the room:
"This is an ancient solution, even eternal, and may not be popular in a society that is always looking for something new"
"It requires patience in a world that demands instant gratification".
"This solution is quiet, peaceful, and subtle in a world enamored of that which is loud, incessant, fast paced, garish, and crude."
"This solution requires you to be contemplative while your peers seek physical titillation." 
"This solution is one unified, consistent, age-old message in a world that quickly becomes bored in the absence of intensity, variety, and novelty".
"This solution requires us to walk by faith in a world governed by sight.")

Obstacle #6
(tables set up with different flavors of cupcakes, frostings, and decorating supplies.  Boxes to take the cupcakes home in)
Learning to Serve

“And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another. -Mosiah 4:13”

You may remove your blindfold for this obstacle
Decorate a cupcake for each other.  Give each other the cupcake along with the notecard with the 5 things you wrote about each other.  You can then “serve” your other family members by decorating some cupcakes for them too (one for each family member).


We had such a great time!  I hope this helps a few people out there who are looking for ideas :-)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Educational Planning for the Fall

I've been trying to come up with an educational plan for this new "school year".  I'm constantly revising our "educational plan" so it's not like I'm doing anything out of the ordinary, but I do find that Fall does feel like a time for new beginnings and I'm looking closely at ways to improve.

I have found that the following words, from this talk, by David R. Stone of the seventy are very true for me:
And with the encroachment of Babylon, we have to create Zion in the midst of it. We should not allow ourselves to be engulfed by the culture which surrounds us. We seldom realize the extent to which we are a product of the culture of our place and time....What an insidious thing is this culture amidst which we live. It permeates our environment, and we think we are being reasonable and logical when, all too often, we have been molded by the ethos, what the Germans call the zeitgeist, or the culture of our place and time.

Our culture tends to determine what foods we like, how we dress, what constitutes polite behavior, what sports we should follow, what our taste in music should be, the importance of education, and our attitudes toward honesty. It also influences men as to the importance of recreation or religion, influences women about the priority of career or childbearing, and has a powerful effect on how we approach procreation and moral issues. All too often, we are like puppets on a string, as our culture determines what is "cool."
Much of what I think I need to teach my children comes from the culture in which I live.  My culture tells me, not only what I need to teach my children, but at what age and in what order.  It can be a bit overwhelming to look at a school district website and see what a child needs to know in a certain grade. I haven't looked at one in a while just because I don't think a particular school district necessarily knows what my child needs to learn at a certain age, but they do give you an appreciation for the vast amount of information and knowledge that is out there for us to seek!

There is also much to avoid that drains energy and time. I liked this thought from the above talk as well:
We can create the real Zion among us by limiting the extent to which Babylon will influence our lives.

I try to ask myself what my children really need to know so I can make sure I teach it.  I've tried to categorize it into "good, better, best" (Oaks - see here) or "nice to do, necessary, and essential" (Beck - see here).  This way I can make sure that I always do the "essential", usually do the "necessary" and then try to do the "nice to do" as often as time permits.  Actually, I couldn't think of any reason I would have to schedule in the "nice to do" since I have no problem doing them when they come up so I changed that category to "important".

I'm trying to get rid of my pre-conceived notions about what an education is and see what the Lord has said in the scriptures and through latter-day prophets.  It's a process and I'm sure things will change as I understand it better, but I'm learning a lot as I try.

These words form President Ezra Taft Benson (from here) are helpful in knowing what to teach:
Not all knowledge has the same worth—nor are all truths equally valuable. The truths upon which our eternal salvation rest are the most crucial truths that we must learn. No man is truly educated unless he knows where he came from, why he is here, and where he can expect to go in the next life. He must be able to adequately answer the question Jesus posed, “What think ye of Christ?"

This world cannot teach us these things. Therefore, the most essential knowledge for us to obtain is the saving knowledge of the gospel and of its Author—even Jesus Christ...

While the gospel includes the more crucial saving truths contained within theology, it also embraces truth in other branches of learning. The Lord encouraged the early missionaries to be instructed more perfectly in “things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.” (D&C 88:79.)

I would add here the following verse  (verse 80) which states why we need to learn all these things: "That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you."

I also like this point from president Benson:

With the abundance of books available today, it is a mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read...The most essential temporal skills or knowledge are being able to use our hands and minds to provide food, clothing, and shelter for ourselves and our families.
I won't bore you with what I wrote in each category, but here is what our days look like lately (ha, ha...don't I wish!  This is what they look like in my mind, but they usually look a lot more sporadic and interrupted in real life.  I'm learning to be happy with that, though, and to embrace the interruptions as the real hands-on work of building character and "being" as the Savior would have me be):

5:45 - Exercise
6:30 - Scriptures (children get up and start working on their morning list and then join me and read their scriptures)
7:30 - Morning lists (for me and for those who missed certain things.  Basically, zones and rooms are clean and we are ready for the day)
8:00 - Morning devotional (hymn, prayer, scripture story, journals, memory verse, history story or biography)
8:30 - Smoothie/fruit (sometimes combined with the morning devotional)
8:45 - Family work
10:30 - Brunch (I read them some U.S. history if I get done before they do)
11:30 - Afternoon Devotional (Spanish hymn, prayer, Ensign thought, poetry, memory poem, short story)
12:00 - Skill practice (times tables speed drills or math book, penmanship or dictation)
12:30 - Take turns reading out-loud to mom (everyone gets their books and reads to themselves and I call each one out individually to have them read me a little of their book).
1:30 - Free time (they often continue reading, work on a project, practice an instrument or play in the backyard).
3:30 - Dinner (I'm blessed to have a husband who's usually home by then - during dinner I'm trying to remember to have the narrate what they've learned that day or recite something they've memorized to their dad.)
5:00 - Evening Lists then some free family time or I'll offer a lesson (in art, nature, music, creative writing etc).
6:00 - Evening Devotional (includes family reading time)
7:30 - Supper (sometimes combined with the evening devotional) then Bedtime - individual reading in bed
8:30 - Lights out

That's how I would like it to look, but I haven't had a day yet where it actually looks like this - and I'm just fine with that.  Partly it's the worthy interruptions, and partly is because I'm lazy and I have a hard time establishing new habits.  I'm perfectly happy when it's the former.  I'm frustrated with myself when it's the latter.  Fortunately, the latter is becoming less frequent over time and habits are beginning to form.  Yay!  At least until I change things up again...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back to School and Finding Fault and Updates

I've been feeling a little confused lately and so I haven't  been sure what to write.  I've been talking to several people as they send their kids back to school and how they feel about it.  Most say that they will miss their kids, but that they know it's good for them.  I talked to one mom whose 6 year-old daughter took a picture of their family to school to put in her pencil box so she could look at them when she was missing them.  I mentioned that it would be nice if they could have a shorter school day and she replied that it would be nice, but that they wouldn't be able to fit everything into it that the kids needed to learn.   I wanted to ask what a six year old needed to learn so urgently that they had to be at school for 8 hours to make sure that they learned it.  I didn't ask - she didn't seem to be wanting my opinion.

I talked to another mom who was going to miss her kids, but was glad that all of the fighting would be over when they went back to school.  I wanted to say that an important part of their education is to teach them to not "transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another... But [to] teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness...teach them to love one another, and to serve one another"(Mosiah 4:14-15), but I stayed quiet - she wasn't asking my opinion either.

Another mom learned that I homeschooled as we talked. She told me that she and her husband had been left with a bad taste for homeschoolers after they had met a family that homeschooled all of their children and their curriculum was The Book of Mormon. She waited for my reaction and when I just smiled and nodded, she went on to say, "I mean, you need to know more in life than The Book of Mormon to function in this world! They didn't do any math - their oldest went to high school to be on the swim team and he didn't know anything - we had to help him catch up. He was a bright kid and he did fine, but I just couldn't believe it." I wanted to know why it was so wrong that the child spent the first years of his live learning The Book of Mormon if he caught up just fine with the rest of his classmates that had spent the first years of their life learning the stuff that took him several months to catch up on. I was too confused to say anything right away and the conversation moved on to different topics so I never said anything to her either.

I know that everyone receives direction for raising their children and some people pray and feel that they should send their children to school, but they work hard to teach them the important values at home with their limited time. I admire these mothers, even though they do things differently, because they are proactively seeking to the the Lord's will with their children . I don't think one way is always better than another, like this post so beautifully explains.

The reason that sometimes I get frustrated is when people have these reasons that seem so misguided, and I want to help, but I think that saying something would probably not do any good because they are not really seeking for a different way - or maybe they are, I don't know.  I was in the same position not too long ago. I sent my children to school because I thought it was good for them, but I didn't like it. I just didn't see the alternative very clearly. It seemed too strange and potentially harmful to me. If I had known, I would have done things differently. It's just probably one of those things that you have to realize on your own.

I want to help and show people that the alternative is more joyful than one can imagine and that it really isn't beyond them, but I also don't want to offend. Maybe I should say what is on my mind anyway - if I say it with love and respect, since I really am thinking loving thoughts, maybe it wouldn't go over as bad as I think - or maybe people would just stop talking to me :-) I'm just so happy that I want to share how wonderful it is! No, it's not always fun and games, but it is so fulfilling.

Anyway, since I didn't say anything, I had to write about it and share my frustrations. I'm sure if I stay close to the spirit, I can be guided in what to say and when.  Maybe I should refer them to this post about false traditions - I know I haven't let go of all of mine (including several of the ones she mentions in the post)- maybe just noticing different ones can help us know which ones we need to look into. The trick is noticing them in the first place I think.

I was reading about the bishop in Les Miserables the other day. I was inspired by these lines:
What enlightened this man was the heart. His wisdom was formed from the light emanating from there. He had no systems but many deeds...His humble soul loved, and that was enough...There are men who work for the extraction of gold; he worked for the extraction of pity. The misery of the universe was his mine. Grief everywhere was only an occasion for good always. Love one another: He declared that to be complete; he desired nothing more, and it was his whole doctrine.
That is how I want to live. I want to stop stressing about how people could be happier and about the state of our world (I was up at 3 am and couldn't get back to sleep the other night because of it), but instead just love people and serve them, especially when they are unhappy, as we all are at times.  I want to go about doing good, as the Savior did. I know it starts in my own home. I often tell the children to "cease to find fault one with another", from a scripture we memorized (D&C 88:124), but I'm finding it is much easier said then done as I try to live it.

Anyway, that's what's been on my mind lately - establishing habits so that we can do those things that I know are essential while making sure I am living in the moment,  feeling love towards others and guidance in my thoughts and actions as I go.  I have a long way to go :-)

Some family updates (for grandmas and for me to remember):

Ray is finally learning to walk (he's 15 months old!):

Here's just a cute one that Spice filmed at grandma's over Labor Day weekend:

One of Ray's favorite tricks is to spin.  He spins often :-)

I realize that we say his name on the videos, but I figure if it's not typed then people can't go searching on the internet for him and it's safe right?  Sometimes I'm paranoid about these things.

Bud and Spice like to bear their testimonies on fast Sundays.  I've explained to them that they don't have to feel like they need to bear their testimony every time, and they don't, but most of the time they want to and  don't try to stop them.  I love to hear their sweet words.  I always mean to write them down.  A few months ago I remember Bud saying, "I want to always be good."  There was another time that he said the sweetest things and someone behind me told me that I needed to write that one down, but I didn't, and I forgot it despite my attempts to remember it.  I did manage to write his down last Sunday though!  He said:

"I love to bear my testimony.  I'm grateful for Heavenly Father and Jesus and my family.  I'm grateful for all that he..that Jesus has done for us.  I hope that we can not be mad at each other and we can love each other.  I know Thomas S. Monson is good.  I know that he is the right prophet.  In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

I wish I could remember Spice's testimony word for word.  I had forgotten exactly what Spice said by the time I got done writing Bud's down, but it was beautiful and heartfelt.  Maybe I'll write hers down next time.

The devotional boxes are going well.  I think it's cute when I ask them to write down what they want to work on that day and Bud often writes down "Obeying mom" or "Working for mom".  I sure love that goal! (We don't show each other our goals very often, but I glanced at his the other day).

Making Raisins:

Bud's "Box Costume" he made at grandma's house (I just had to take a picture):
The kids filled up their bean jar so we took them miniature golfing and then out for ice cream:
I couldn't stop taking pictures of Ray eating my cone:
Ward Swim Party (it was a bit cold for swimming - I didn't get in the water, but there were many brave souls that did) Spice went off the high dive!  I couldn't get her to do it again so I could snap a picture though :-(
 And some more cuteness:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Doing and Being

I don't know if many of you followed the comments after my post about the disclaimer, but Tricia and I got into a conversation about doing and being.  She had some great insights, as always, and helped me clear some things up in my mind.    Are we always so worried about getting things done that we forget to just be in the moment.  We discussed how you become by doing, but you also know what to do if you have become.  Confusing, I know, but I've been thinking about it since.  I like having goals (as you well know) and I like working towards something, but I will admit that the goals can become a distraction from what Heavenly Father would have me be doing at a particular moment.  I liked how my friend, Deanna, phrased it here.  She said she would still have goals, but they would look different - more focused on the purpose and not on the goal.

As I've tried to figure out what this looks like in "real life", another friend sent me a link to an article.  (I love her blog, by the way, she doesn't post very often, but her posts are so wonderful when she does).  It is from a speech at BYU Idaho and it cleared things up a bit in my mind.  It is by a lady named Lili Anderson.  She wrote a book called Choosing Glory, which I may one day get around to reading if I can find it used (I have a hard time paying full price for books), the article was great, and this particular part really helped me:
Terrestrial Law

Terrestrial law might be characterized as self-control and deferred or delayed gratification. Terrestrial living requires the harnessing of the natural man and it is through obedience to the commandments of God, or even a willingness to comply with the basic rules of society, that we are able to do that. These rules and God’s commandments require that we increase the strength of our spirit over our flesh, controlling our appetites in order to refrain from hurting others and to do what is pleasing to God. Of course, human appetites are not of themselves evil, but if left unrestrained create enmity between us and God (see Mosiah 3:19) as well as making us pretty tough to live with. Living terrestrial law brings at least external peace and safety. I think it’s easy to see that if we control our desires, appetites, and passions, and those around us do the same, we can have peaceful, safe lives.

Celestial Law

Celestial law, I believe, can be defined as Christ-like being, as distinct from Christ-like behavior, which can be found at the terrestrial level. If we have self-control and we can delay gratification, we can behave like Christ, but we still are not as He is. In order to truly become as the Savior is, our heart and behavior must be integrated. That is, not only do we do the right things, but we feel the right things. We are not kind because we should be and it works better, but because we see people as God does and it is no longer in us to be unkind. The laws of God are not just observed, they are engraven upon our hearts. Coming to live celestial law is a line-on-line, precept-on-precept experience, a process dependent on our cultivating a sensitivity to the tutorings of the Spirit (see 2 Nephi 32:5). The outcomes of living celestial law are the peace that passeth all understanding (see Philippians 4:7), and creation/rebirth. This kind of creation is not only a reference to the future... but a reference to the birth of the new creature in each of us (see 2 Corinthians 5:17, Mosiah 27:26), as we are born of the Holy Ghost and sanctified (see Alma 13:12, 3 Nephi 27:20).

I realized that I need the goals to help me overcome my "natural man", but as I am able to do that better, I start to understand and see a new way of being - I start learning to "Be still and know". I start to see things in a new light - every moment is precious. I begin to see people as Heavenly Father sees them, I begin to notice the beauty in all the things around me.

I am not living in that celestial way most of the time yet - like she said, it comes line upon line, but I am starting to glimpse it's reality and I want it always.

Now, if I could just learn to overcome that natural man....

I am also learning that children need a strong "terrestrial" foundation before they can begin to see things in a celestial way. It makes more sense to me why obedience is such an important lesson for my little ones to learn, as well as learning to control their anger, the things that they say, etc. Once they understand the Christlike behaviors they will begin to learn line upon line, with the gift of the Holy Ghost, and their hearts will grow to know their Savior.

We read this scripture in Matthew 16 yesterday morning and I saw it in a new light:
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

...but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

And, just because it's so cute, here's a little poem we've memorized that goes along with this post - I had my little girl recite it (I chose her to do it because I think it's especially cute with her little lisp as new front teeth are growing in):

Go Forth to Life by Samuel Longfellow
Go forth to life, O child of earth!
Still mindful of thy heav’nly birth;
Thou art not here for ease, or sin,
But manhood’s noble crown to win.

Tho’ passion’s fires are in thy soul,
Thy spirit can their flames control;
Tho’ tempters strong beset thy way,
Thy spirit is more strong than they.

Go on from innocence of youth
To manly purity and truth;
God’s angels still are near to save,
And God Himself doth help the brave.

Then forth to life, O child of earth!
Be worthy of thy heav’nly birth!
For noble service thou art here;
Thy brothers help, thy God revere!

And just in case I haven't put enough links in here for good things to go read, here is a link to a wonderful article by Elder Bednar from this month's New Era about learning line upon line and precept upon precept.