Monday, January 31, 2011

Learning Practical Wisdom

I heard someone say the other day (somewhat in jest) that the Bible tells you the rules or commandments in the first few pages and then goes on to show how you can break all the rules.  Of course this isn't totally true, there are plenty of examples of how obedience brings blessings, but I did think there was an element of truth in what he said (sometimes people were commanded to kill, etc)

My initial thought was that the reason for this is because Heavenly Father gives us commandments to keep us safe, but then expects us to follow the Spirit because that is how we grow and learn.  We are not expected to just be puppets following a script of behavior all of the time (isn't that what the Pharisees tried to do?)

I listened to this interesting TED talk the other day.  He gives several great examples about the importance of using practical wisdom.  He talks about the difference between simply following the rules and truly choosing wisely.  Watch it if you get a chance, it's very thought provoking.

He convinced me that this "practical wisdom" is something that is desperately needed in our world today.  I asked myself, "How do I teach my children this practical wisdom?"  The answer was simple.  They learn it from the scriptures.  The scriptures are full of stories in which people have to make difficult decisions and then they explain how they go about making the right one.  They show example after example in how to develop the ability of making the right choice under any circumstance.  They are a powerful, essential took in learning how to live in this sometimes perplexing world.

I have sometimes shared something with someone that I was inspired to do with our children (and every family is different so it doesn't mean that it is necessarily something someone else should do with theirs), but the person that I'm sharing it with might make some sort of comment like, "If the prophet thought that was so important, he would say something about it at conference," or something along those lines.  I wonder why we sometimes think that the leaders of the church are expected to give us some sort of script to follow and all we have to do is follow that script.  Didn't the Lord say, "Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you."?

A man came to our ward to give us the 5th Sunday lesson yesterday.   I was so impressed with it.  He mentioned that if the only time we are receiving revelation for our family is twice a year during general conference then we are living below our privilege of having direct revelation from God about the stewardship He has blessed us with.  One of the things he said was that he has pictured himself talking to Heavenly Father and when asked why he didn't do something he might reply, "You never told me to."  To which God might reply, "You never asked".

Anyway, I am going to work harder at being anxiously engaged in a good cause while being a diligent seeker of truth and guidance for myself and my children.  I don't want to waste this short, precious time I have with my children.  I know I could do better.  I'm going to work really hard on it today!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Mischievous Children

I tend to think very highly of my kids.  I think they are pretty awesome.  I think it may sometimes come off as bragging in my posts, but I hope those of you that know me would know that I don't intend to brag.  I want to be honest in how some of the changes we are making have been really beneficial for the children so I write about the positive benefits that I see.  There are, however, some not-so-positive moments :-)

Here is some proof of the latest:

A little while ago, I fell asleep on the living room floor (I was probably listening to someone read to me - that always gets me drowsy, I can't sit in one place too long without falling asleep).  I half-way woke up when I felt little hands tapping on my leg.  It took me a couple of minutes to start wondering why little hands were tapping on my leg.  I sat up and saw that little Ray had found a small canister of white tempera paint that his sister had left on the counter and was decorating my pants.
 Monday, I asked the kids to keep an eye on Ray while I got into the shower.  While I was in there, Bud, Little Miss and Bazinks decided it would be fun to stuff some long socks with smaller socks and use these socks as weapons.  They got on my bed and proceeded to hit each other and fall.  Bud was backing away from a hit, slipped off the corner of my bed, put his hand back to catch himself, and started screaming.  I hurried and got out of the shower to see what was the matter.  His wrist looked a little swollen so I put some ice on it, bandaged it up, and took him to Knights of Freedom (I figured we would keep an eye on it to see if it kept hurting and if I should take him to the Doctor).  Yesterday, it still hurt him to twist his wrist, so I took him in.  After lots of waiting and driving (to the Doctor, to the Hospital, back to the Doctor) he came out with a nice, new blue cast that he is very proud of.
When he learned he had a slight fracture on his wrist, he jumped for joy and exclaimed - "That means I won't have to do the dishes for three weeks!"  We'll see if he's still so happy with it in a couple of days :-)

Yesterday, I was fixing lunch and realized I hadn't heard from Ray in a little while so I asked Spice to go check on him.  I heard her say, "Oh no!  Mom, you better come see this."  That's never a good thing to hear.  I went upstairs and found that Bud had left a permanent marker on his dresser after making himself a chart for scouts.  Ray found it.  Here is the pretty art he created on the bedroom wall (I took this picture after scrubbing the marker with some magic eraser - obviously the eraser didn't work).
 Ray is learning to eat with utensils.  He's doing a pretty good job, but once in a while he decides his hands are easier and that he would rather wear his food instead of eating it.
I know I should put a stop to this behavior as soon as I see it, but he's often too quick for me.

This morning, I saw a bucket of flour in the middle of the kitchen.  Spice had made cookies last night and left the flour out.  I didn't put it away because I wanted her to remember to clean up everything she gets out when she bakes, but I did lock the lid on so no one could get into it.  I went to the couch to read my scriptures.  Ray likes to sit next to me as I read (no one else is awake), after a while, he got up and wondered into the kitchen.  I didn't think much of it because he loves to play with the cookie cutters on the bottom drawer and hang them up on the handles of the cupboards and drawers.  After a while he peeked out at me and I saw flour on his face.  I went to the kitchen and this is what I found:
I took a picture, of course, and then cleaned him off, swept the kitchen (today is mopping day so I didn't bother mopping) and locked the lid on the flour again, but I didn't put it away.  Don't ask me why.  Obviously, I wasn't thinking much.  I went upstairs to start this blog post, Bazinks was up by then, and he and Ray were playing together in the front room.  A little while later Bazinks came upstairs to tell me that Ray was playing with the flour.  I hoped he had caught him before the mess was too big, but he hadn't.  This time he decided to put it in his hair and throw it in the air so there was flour in all the nooks and crannies of the cupboard doors and drawers.  

Maybe it's time to start putting this child in time-outs?  Who could ever be mad at that sweet innocent face though?  Notice he had the broom out and was trying to clean up his mess.  As I was cleaning up, he tried to take the lid off the flour again and I sternly said, "No!" so he gave me a sweet hug as if begging me not to be cross with him.  I got flour all over me, but he's too sweet for me to care.   He's very good at getting his way.

As curious as this child is, he's not the one that's causing me the most worries.  Bazinks has picked up a strange new habit of picking out his eye lashes.  He has had the longest, most beautiful eyelashes.  His sister once told him he could make a wish and blow away his eyelash and he decided it was fun to pluck them out.  I don't know how to stop it!  They are almost all gone :-(  Any suggestions?

He is also developing this new habit of yelling out annoying noises at random times which are becoming more and more frequent.  Bud does this, so I'm sure that's where he picked it up, but he's doing it so much now that it's starting to drive me a little crazy.  Maybe it's a call for attention?  I'll make an effort to give him some one-on-one time today and see if that helps.

You may be wondering why I haven't said anything about the girls.  They do get into trouble, but theirs is a more emotional type, not something you can take a picture of or really document in specific words.  Except, Little Miss has decided that making nests with blankets and pillows is the best game to play and she's not very good at remembering to clean it all up when she is done.  I'm getting a little tired of finding blankets and pillows in piles all over the floor.  She's cleaning some up right now.  They are sweet girls, but do have their moments of emotional turmoil that they are learning to calm down.  They are getting pretty good at it though, so I can't complain.

My kids are telling me that Ray has a poopy diaper.  Their rooms are a mess (even though they think they're clean) since we've been mostly out of the house the last couple of days and I haven't been checking up on them, so I guess I better go and get started on our day!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Headgates Change, Technology and Update

I wanted to quickly clarify something about a couple of posts.

First of all, I don't intend for my kids to grow up to be computer illiterate and technologically handicapped.  I should have specified that headgates change as children mature.  While I do think that staying away from even educational computer games, TV, electronic toys and such things is best for children when they are young, I do think that some of these things have their proper place as children get older.  I do use the computer when my children ask a question that I don't have the answer to and I often print out some things I find.  I really like my iphone.  I also sometimes watch movies with the children - I especially like musicals or plays that we can see on TV, but may not be able to afford to take all of the children to very often.   I must say though, that I don't think those things are necessary or important to their education at a young age.

When children are young - at least until the age of eight - they thrive on a concrete environment.  This is true for even most of their education until the age of 12.  They learn best when they have things that they can smell, feel, and taste - the more senses in involved the better!  They need nature and other real experiences.  This is how they build concrete connections in their brain that will help them make sense of the more abstract ideas they will encounter as they get older. 

Creating a simple technology-free environment with plenty of outdoor time where they can make their own play and use their own imagination is ideal for young children.  As children get older, providing books and writing utensils will get them interested in learning and hearing new ideas.  When they are ready for a more scholarly study, technology can really enhance the opportunities for learning.

Right now, Spice is doing her math online (Aleks math). She chose to.  She likes the structure and the record keeping that this provides.  I don't intend to let her use the computer for anything else until she expresses an interest in typing papers, then I'll probably let her try a typing game to learn to type fast.  Once she expresses an interest in doing more detailed research on specific topics at a scholarly level, and she knows how to adequately research books, I'll teach her how to do research on the internet and how to use various programs to present the information that she learns when she desires to express it.  Until then, technology will only hinder her from learning the more important things she needs to be learning at her age.

Some people argue that technology is okay at a young age as long as there is a daily time limit on how they use it.   There are a couple of things that I think are a problem with this.  First of all, sometimes making something scarce makes it more valuable in the eyes of those who want it.  For instance, I tried limiting Bud's Wii time to 20 minutes per day at one point (I never intended to get a video game system in the first place, but we got one given to us for Christmas and I couldn't make myself be the bad guy and return it).  What ended up happening was that he would look forward to his Wii time throughout the day.  He would periodically ask, "Is it 4 o'clock yet?" as if it were the highlight of his life.  I didn't like that.  So I tried limiting it to once a week.  I was worried that this would only make him look forward to Saturdays.  At first, that is what happened.  However, since Saturdays were the only day they could have ANY screen time (they were allowed 2 hours) - if he wanted to watch a game with his dad or if we wanted to watch a movie as a family, then there would be no time left for the Wii.  Also, Saturday was often a day that we went out to do things as a family so there was no room left for any screen time.  I guess I tried to change screen time from a parent-limited activity to wholesome recreation we can do as a family when we choose to on Saturdays.  He forgot about it after a while of doing without it and now he rarely remembers to ask to play the Wii if it is Saturday.  If this wasn't the case, I would have had to get rid of it altogether (which would be fine for me, but might imply a sense of distrust that I wanted to avoid).

The second concern with this mentality is "why?"  If there are better things for them to do with their time at their age - why resort to the addicting games or mind-numbing television shows, even if limited?  Some people would say that it is so that they (the moms) can get things done.  I empathize with this because when I had only small children at home - there were no older kids to play with them so it was tough to get things done when they wanted my attention so often.  However, we are taking away from the time in which they could figure out how to make their own play when mom is busy and where they could practice not-being entertained by someone or something all of the time.

Someone said to me the other day that if she didn't allow any distracting, mind-numbing things in their house - she would be breaking up fights all day long.  If this is the case, then we are using distractions to keep our kids from learning how to get along with one another.  They need to socialize and have differences of opinion to learn how to work through those differences in appropriate manners.  If we keep them distracted from each other, they will likely not learn to get a along with members of their family (and others whom they'll get to know on a deeper level) - and this would have very detrimental effects in the long-run.

Anyway, those are my experiences and thoughts.  Maybe limiting screen time daily would work for some children.  My girls didn't seem to care about playing the Wii when they had only 20 minutes per day, but then again, I wouldn't have felt the need to set a limit on it for them because they didn't care about it in the first place.  Different kids have different interests that attract them.  If these interests are the kind that will help them become better people or help develop their ability to serve, then they are possibly talents that we should help them pursue, but if they are time-wasting, creativity-mimicking, useless hobbies then we should direct their passion to something better that will help them grow in ability and character.

The other post that I wanted to make a clarification on was my post about being over-zealous.  I didn't mean to imply that there is no such thing as being over-zealous.  There is definitely a danger in getting so caught up on one principle of the gospel that we neglect other principles and duties.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave an excellent talk about how our strengths can become our weaknesses if we get too caught up in them, but in it he also makes the point that I was trying to make in my post (except he does it much better).  He said,
"As I conclude, I need to caution myself and each of my readers that the very nature of this message could tend to the same downfall that it warns against. The idea that our strengths can become our weaknesses could be understood to imply that we should have “moderation in all things.” But the Savior said that if we are “lukewarm,” he “will spew [us] out of [his] mouth” (Rev. 3:16). Moderation in all things is not a virtue, because it would seem to justify moderation in commitment. That is not moderation, but indifference. That kind of moderation runs counter to the divine commands to serve with all of our “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2), to “seek … earnestly the riches of eternity” (D&C 68:31), and to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:79). Moderation is not the answer."
He then talks about how the answer to not letting our strengths become our downfall is humility.

Okay, and now that I've tried to clarify a few points, I do want to briefly mention how we are doing this week.
  • Ray is sick and I'm home from church today taking care of him.
  • Bazinks has discovered a love for numbers and is often asking what something plus something is or showing us a number he can read.  He can add quite fast in his head numbers up to 20.  We are rather impressed with his newly-found talent.
  • Little Miss and Spice are half-way through The Chronicles of Narnia (Bud is a great inspirer - when he gets excited about something - everyone else seems to catch it).
  • Bud finished the Chronicles of Narnia and is now reading Huckleberry Finn
  • I finally finished Les Miserables - It was beautiful, insightful and beyond my level.  I think it would have helped if I had read Homer and some French history (and other things he references that I wasn't familiar with).  However, I still gained a lot from it.  I loved the way he used language to create some powerful insights.  I was frustrated with Marius through the entire book, but that's probably more because the play made him out to be some sort of hero where in the book he was more of an absentminded dreamer.  I'm glad I read it, though.  It is definitly worth experiencing and I plan to read it again when I'm more educated and can grasp more of it's significance.
  • Sorry, the last bullet-point was too long for a bullet point.
  • We got to experience the Carl Bloch exhibit at BYU yesterday.  If you live anywhere within 100 miles of it - you need to go!  It was incredible.  The kids gathered around each painting, pointed out the details and we discussed their significance.  They loved seeing the texture, brush strokes, actual size, vivid colors and many details of these paintings they have seen often in church publications.  What a beautiful talent to develop - putting colors together to create such beauty and emotion.
  • Maybe I shouldn't attempt to write in bullet points.
I hope everyone else had a great week.  I really appreciate all of your comments and insights.  It's great learning from you all.  I forgot to thank "kitchenrecovery" earlier for her comment about Elder Christofferson's talk.  I'm going to watch it right now since I'm home missing church.  And thank-you all for your encouraging comments and kind words.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

TV and Other Headgates: what I have noticed so far

When we lived in Texas, a little over two years ago, my oldest two kids went to school.  Since I just had the youngest two at home, I would usually put on an educational TV show in the morning so that I could "get stuff done" without interruptions.  My time limit on TV was one hour, but it would occasionally go to an hour and a half and sometimes even two hours on the really busy days - which were more often then I'd care to admit.  During the summer, I had the same "one hour" rule with the TV for all of the kids, but I would also let them play educational games on the computer sometimes.  By then, I had stopped watching the TV shows I liked (mostly TLC), when the kids were awake (at least for the most part) because I had noticed that even though it appeared that they were not paying attention, they could recount everything I thought they hadn't been listening to.  I kind of wanted them to occupy their minds with their own thoughts.

I remember having one friend who didn't let her kids watch TV shows (Joanne - and her kids are amazing, by the way).  I honestly thought they were missing out.  I thought of all the educational shows that were available and I thought it was too bad that her kids didn't get some of the good benefits of TV.

When we moved to Utah and I started homeschooling, I decided that TV wouldn't be an option during the weekdays.  The older kids were home and I wanted them  to learn to work instead of keeping them entertained while I did the work.  At first, work was pretty minimal for them, and I still had stuff to do once "school time" was over and they went out to play, but I found that even the younger kids could do quite a bit and were benefiting a lot from helping out.  I realized that I should have been having the kids work with me all along instead of putting them in front of an educational show.  The character building that takes place when a child learns to contribute and do hard things is so so so much more important than learning the ABCs from Sesame Street.

As I've cut out more of the wrong "headgates" in our home like the electronic or scripted toys, the computer games, too much "friend" time, etc.  I have seen some things taking place that I hadn't expected.

We are left with toys that one needs an imagination in order to play with, so I see some pretty elaborate imaginative play.  They are not used to the fast paced images on the TV or in video games so they are able to focus on the slower pace of beautiful music and language.  They read, they practice piano, they write, they sing, they listen - because they choose to.  They feel the intrinsic value of these activities, they are not so dulled by constant stimulation that they think these things are boring.

I've been thinking about this ever since we went to the Church History Museum last Friday.  When we walked in, the sweet ladies invited us upstairs to the "children's exhibit".  We told them we'd work our way up there, but that we wanted to see the other things first.  The children were so involved in the things that they saw.  They would read the captions and would excitedly tell me about them.  Even Bazinks was facinated by what everyone was saying.  We had visited the museum over a year ago, but the children got bored after a while and I found myself trying to read as much as I could, as fast as I could before they started getting into mischief.  Not this time.  The Sisters that were there were so happy to have such a captive audiance that they would occasionally come up to us and tell us some interesting facts about the displays.  The kids paid close attention to everything they said.  A couple of the ladies told us how impressed they were with the children.

We liked the children's display at the end of our visit, but they all were much more enthralled by the real things they saw downstairs (except maybe Bazinks, he liked fishing off Nephi's boat and building the Bountiful Temple at the children's display).

We watched a musical production the other day.  Everyone paid attention the entire time (except the baby, of course, but he did like the music).  Yesterday, they watched the entire "I have a dream" speech on Rock's iphone and they were glued to it like it was the most interesting thing to them.  Only Bazinks asked how much longer it was, but he still watched the whole thing.  They can sit through a Shakespeare play.  They can notice the subtle beauty in the world around them.  They delight in the way a certain violin plays a certain part in a symphony.  They enjoy the way words create images, "Ooh, that's a cool way to say that," they'll point out.   They are aware.

I was hoping that simplifying our lives and getting rid of distracting things would help them want to learn things, but I didn't know the extent of sensibility that they were capable of.  Heavenly Father endowed them with a keen sense of beauty.  They are capable of truly seeing things if we don't dull their senses with entertainment and stimulation.

People have expressed to me the concern (one I'm sure every homeschooler has heard) that if I shelter my children too much that they won't be able to function in the "real" world.  I would say that my children are learning to actually see and understand the "real" world and will recognize the counterfeit when they see it.  I think too many children are living in a warped sense of reality and will eventually have to have a jolt into the "real" world.  Unfortunately, it won't always be too pleasant.  Especially if the jolt comes late in life, or even more so,  if it comes in the next life.

I am sure glad children are resilient.  It has taken me longer to start noticing and being sensitive to the beauty and reality around me, but they are helping me along.  I started this experiment for the sake of their education.  I didn't realize the effect it would have on their character, their vision, their feelings and their whole being.  If I were to put my older kids back in school now, I would be sure to guard those precious hours they have at home with a simple, plain environment where they could think and ponder their own thoughts, learn to see true beauty, find who they are, and see the world as it really is.  Their childhood is so short.  It is a shame to waste it.

Here are some pictures of the children's display at the Church History Museum.  I didn't think to get my camera out earlier.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

His Brain Becomes as Soft as Cheese

My friend wrote a post today that I loved so much that I just had to link to it.  My oldest three kids have read the book, but I haven't, even though they have all recommended it to me.  I think I'll have to read it now.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


What is it that gets me up in the mornings?  What is it that drives me?

Joseph Smith said that faith is the motivator for all of our actions:
Were this class to go back and reflect upon the history of their lives, from the period of their first recollection, and ask themselves, what principle excited them to action, or what gave them energy and activity, in all their lawful avocations, callings and pursuits, what would be the answer? Would it not be that it was the assurance which we had of the existance of things which we had not seen, as yet? Was it not the hope which you had, in consequence of your belief in the existence of unseen things, which stimulated you to action and exertion, in order to obtain them? Are you not dependant on your faith, or belief, for the acquisition of all knowledge, wisdom and intelligence? Would you exert yourselves to obtain wisdom and intelligence, unless you did believe that you could obtain them? Would you have ever sown if you had not believed that you would reap? Would you have ever planted if you had not believed that you would gather? Would you have ever asked unless you had believed that you would receive? Would you have ever sought unless you had believed that you would have found? Or would you have ever knocked unless you had believed that it would have been opened unto you? In a word, is there any thing that you would have done, either physical or mental, if you had not previously believed? Are not all your exertions, of every kind, dependant on your faith? Or may we not ask, what have you, or what do you possess, which you have not obtained by reason of your faith? Your food, your raiment, your lodgings, are they not all by reason of your faith? Reflect, and ask yourselves, if these things are not so. Turn your thoughts on your own minds, and see if faith is not the moving cause of all action in yourselves; and if the moving cause in you, it it not in all other intelligent beings? (from Lectures on Faith #1)
W.W. Phelps mentioned that he was astounded by the energy of Joseph Smith.  He was a man who knew he had a mission and was driven to do his best.  This faith gave him the energy and zeal to accomplish his many tasks.

I think of Gordon B. Hinkley at the age of 97 - still traveling and getting up every morning with a pace that would have tired out many men younger than he.  He had faith in the importance of his work and mission and he was filled with the energy to go and do.

Do I have as much faith in my mission?  Do I understand it's importance?  Do I truly see the great work that I am undertaking?

I know that being a mother in today's world is a daunting, critical calling.  I know the forces against me are great.  I know my work is just as important as the prophet's work (yes, I really do).  It may not have as much public notice, but it is the work of saving souls and each and every soul is so precious to our Heavenly Father.  I work with them one-on-one, everyday.  I influence their thoughts, their actions, their priorities, their testimony, and their relationship to their Heavenly Father.  I know they, in turn, will influence many others.  This is a serious work.  Do I go at it everyday with the zeal that such a knowledge would warrant? (The answer is "no", by the way, which is one reason this has been on my mind lately and why I've recognized my need for more faith).

Zeal is often looked down on in our culture.  The word "zealous" leaves us with a negative image, I think.  For example, when I tell people (if they ask) that we only allow the children 2 hours of screen time per week (that includes all screens - TV, movies, video games, camcorders, computers, etc) (and most of the time they forget about it), some people say that maybe we are being "extreme" or "over-zealous".  Isn't that interesting?  I've wondered if they were right and pondered on these things.

It is interesting that in the scriptures that "zeal" is looked on in a positive way.  Just yesterday I read Paul's words in which he said, "[Christ] gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." - Titus 2:14

There is a danger in being zealous for the wrong reasons - for the sake of looking good, or even for the sake of rules and laws.  I don't think there is any danger, however, in being zealous to become more like Christ.

Can one have too much love?  Can one keep the Spirit in his heart too much?  Can one follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost too often?  Can one be too much like Jesus?

I think sometimes Satan uses the words "balance" and "moderation" as a tool to destroy our zeal for the right.  He knows in destroying our zeal, he destroys our energy and motivations - or in other words - our faith.  I think if we are sincerely trying to follow Jesus, truly examining our hearts and making sure we are doing the right things for the right reasons (namely love of God and His children), and recognizing the Spirit as we do so - we have no need to fear.

I should add that one of the Savior's attributes that I am working on developing is patience and that includes patience with myself - with my very slow progress at times and with my weaknesses and sins.  We need to see ourselves, not just others, as Heavenly Father sees us and then be happy with our sincere efforts.

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned. -D&C 58:27-29
And one more scripture, just for fun:
"But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing..."-Galatians 4:18

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Little Miss

Little Miss has turned 7 so it's time for a birthday post.

Little Miss the day she got her hamster "Theodore"
For her birthday, she chose to go miniature golfing with the family and then watch a movie.  She decided to watch Harry Potter 1.  She was a little frustrated with the golfing at first because she didn't want to hold the club the right way because it was too complicated, but the ball didn't go where she wanted it to go when she held the club the wrong way.  She got it figured out toward the end and liked improving.  Bud was, of course, very diligent about keeping score and trying to "win".  He did pretty well, but he is sure competitive :-)  Spice insisted she was just playing "for fun" and refused to keep score.  Bazinks was surprisingly good, and made several holes in just 2 tries.
She loves to sit and figure songs out on the piano - usually by ear, but sometimes by reading them.
She picked Subway for dinner and then we came home and watched the movie.  I must admit that every time I watch a movie I feel less and less like watching another one.  We had a good time though and no one has complained of nightmares so I won't go into all my reasons for not loving it since I would just sound negative and no-fun.
Don't ask me why there is cleaner next to her cake, it was a busy day.
The pretty girl in the background is my brother's girlfriend whom he needs to just marry already.

The next day was her actual birthday so she opened presents (clothes, a little purse, some hamster toys,  a pretty CTR ring, some hair clips and some PEZ).  Later, my parents, my younger brother and his girlfriend came over and we made our own pizzas, had cake and ice cream, and played games.  She seemed to have a great time and she milked her "no chores" day for all it was worth.  I asked Spice and Bud to clean her zone for her in the morning, Little Miss had several things in there she hadn't put away, but they went and cleaned them without complaining and then Little Miss would say something like, "Bud, make sure you put that on my bed because I'm going to use it later."  It was kind of funny, but they were good sports about it and didn't tell her to go put her things away herself. 
This was late last month and the Christmas tree was half-way taken down.
Little Miss made a train and she and Bazinks played on it for hours.

Little Miss is a very sensitive and sweet little girl.  She has a lot of empathy for everyone around her and it is not uncommon to find her shedding tears when someone else is having a hard time.  She loves taking care of her baby brother even though he's getting too big for her to try to hold and he often just gets mad at her when she tries to comfort him.  I think she has an especially hard time when someone teases her because she would never try to hurt someone's feelings on purpose so she thinks that a person must really dislike her to do something like that.  We're working with her to understand that people see things differently and sometimes just think it's fun to play that way (we're also working with the culprits to understand that teasing is not okay...)
Playing games on her birthday. 

I'm often impressed with the things Little Miss chooses to do.  She is often practicing the piano, reading to Bazinks, or just playing whatever the boys want to play.  Lately it's Harry Potter (she's Hermoine or Ginny) and Chronicles of Narnia (she's Lucy), but often it's Lord of the Rings (she's Eowynn) or Star Wars (Princess Leah).  She also surprises me with what she chooses to read.  Last month she read Alice in Wonderland, the Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit and a biography of George Washington along with other shorter stories in between.  She thinks very deeply about things and I love to hear the way her mind processes things.  She's very matter-of-fact about things and loves to play on words when they don't seem to say the exact thing you are trying to say or if they could mean something differently.  "On the refrigerator?  I think you mean in the refrigerator, because you couldn't really put that on the refrigerator..." or such comments.
She loves to sing.
I am so grateful for my little girl. She brings a spirit of love and caring to our home and she sure is a fun little snuggle-bug to cuddle.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

So Tired...

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" Philippians 4:13
One of the challenges when I'm expecting a baby is that I'm not only tired physically, but I'm tired mentally. I think the hormones must have something to do with it, but I sometimes feel unmotivated and anxious about things. I'm not depressed, but I get a small taste of what that must feel like (I get a good dose when I nurse my babies as well - but only while I'm nursing, the feeling passes shortly after the baby nurses). Anyway, it is a growing experience.

I woke up one morning with a list of things to do in my mind and a house that wasn't looking so good since we had been so busy with Christmas preparations. I desperately wanted to just stay in bed. I read my scriptures in bed and the thought occurred to me that Heavenly Father would give me strength to accomplish whatever work He would have me do. In my prayer, I asked him to guide me to what He would have me do with my day and for the strength to do it. I was kind of hoping I would feel like going back to sleep was a good idea - after all, pregnant women need their rest right? But I didn't feel that way. I thought that I should get up and make my bed. Not the most important thing you would think that Heavenly Father had in mind, but the amazing thing was that a minute before I was so anxious about my list of things to do and now I had one thing in my mind - make my bed. I could do that. I got up and made my bed. I had to fight the urge to jump in it as I made it, but I was even able to focus on putting one foot in front of the other until the task was complete.

Next, I looked around and I thought to take the laundry downstairs. I started the laundry, and one by one each task that came to my mind got completed. I was no longer anxious and worried about the many things I needed to accomplish that day - I was only thinking about "What would Heavenly Father have me do right now?" And then I did it, knowing He would give me the strength to do so. I didn't get everything in my list accomplished that day, but I felt wonderfully about it anyway. I knew I accomplished those things that Heavenly Father wanted me to accomplish including spending some time just loving my children.

I wish I were better at remembering this key to happiness. Then every day could be just right.

A friend recently recommended a couple of books to me about establishing Christ centered family traditions. I asked him what he was doing with his family and as he was explaining some of his traditions to me, he wrote me of his finding that Heavenly Father sometimes gives people tasks that are beyond their capabilities in order for them to stretch "that’s because the Lord doesn’t want them to be good at who they currently are, He wants them to get good at being who they’re supposed to become," he wrote. He mentioned that in the scriptures, help comes in the form of spiritual gifts and wise mentors. I asked him for more information about this and he sent me a paper he presented on personal callings.

I'm starting to pray for those gifts that I know I need and I feel Heavenly Father is helping me develop those so that can live up to my tasks. He wrote in his paper,
Resistance is always met. Remember, the devil has a vested interest in keeping us from growing. Doing so is part of his attempt to thwart God’s plan. Resistance can come externally or internally – externally from other people or circumstances, or internally from our weaknesses and fear (usually both!). If we choose to continue in our task, confronting this resistance becomes a sacred combat.
When we have fought through it with the assistance of the Lord we become more confident in our ability to accomplish more. It becomes an upward spiral of courage, competence, and faith. -Greg Loebel

That's encouraging isn't it? It makes me realize that these perceived weaknesses of mine are only tools to draw me closer to Heavenly Father and help me become whom I am meant to become.
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Ether 12:27

By the way, totally off topic, but did everyone see the link that Lara posted on my comments in my last post?  Everyone really ought to hear it.  It's well worth your time.  There is one part, at the end, during Q&A that I didn't agree with, but the rest of the talk is so great.  It's absurd at times (looking at it through our culture lens), but perfectly brilliant.  One of my favorite quotes (I have a lot) is about the media we are exposing our children to.  He's talking about how sometimes we are awakening their interest in the opposite sex too early by the media we let them watch and listen to and he says, "We are raping our children's minds instead of protecting their innocence."  I thought that was pretty powerful.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Teenage Love Songs

I want to write about something that has been on my mind lately.  It's something that has been bugging me and I hope I don't offend anyone in writing it.  I read a book a while back called Unsteady: What Every Parent Absolutely Must Know about Teenage Romance.  If you haven't read it, you should.  The title is very accurate.   It was rather eye opening to me.

One of the great points that she makes in her book (amongst many others) is that our teenagers are not sure what the word "dating" means.  They are told that they can date when they turn 16 and many of them think that this means that they can have a boyfriend or a girlfriend when they turn 16.  I've met some little girls who know they can't date until their 16, but think they can have a boyfriend or girlfriend before they are 16.  What a confusing message.  Gordon B.  Hinkley has specifically said,
"When you are young, do not get involved in steady dating.  When you reach an age where you think of marriage, then is the time to become so involved.  But you boys who are in high school don't need this, and neither do the girls" (from Unsteady pg. 12)
Maybe some teenagers don't understand that "steady dating" means having a boyfriend or girlfriend.  I think all of the terms are kind of confusing for them and we need to make sure that they understand what the terms mean.  I asked Spice a little while ago,
"When are you old enough to date?"
"When I'm 16," she answered.
"When are you old enough to have a boyfriend?" I continued
"When I'm ready to get married."

I guess it makes sense when you are young, but somehow the terms get all mixed up in their minds as they get older.  It is very odd in our society to say to kids that they should not pair off until they are actually ready to commit.  It makes perfect sense - why would you pair off until you are ready to commit?  Nothing good comes from it (emotional intimacy leads to physical intimacy - she explains this very well in the book), but for some reason, our society seems to revolve around encouraging teenage romance.  I thought this quote was interesting,
"Adolescent social life is designed around the quest for romance.  Consider the purpose of prom, homecoming, and Sadie Hawkins.  The media, particularly the music adolescents listen to, extols romance..."
Later on she continues,
"High school romance is not appropriate today like it might have been in the '50s.  People don't get married right out of high school.  However, courtship at age sixteen, when marriage isn't likely for another nine years, is a bad idea.  High school romance may once have had a purpose, but that purpose doesn't exist anymore..."
I'm not naive enough to think that my little girl isn't starting to notice boys a little.  She never talks about them and she is surprised when her friends come over and talk about the boys in their class that are cute, or their new "crush" or how their "crush dumped" them.  She thinks it's silly that they are thinking so much about it.  I think so too, but these are not bad girls.  They, and I'm guessing their mothers, think it's cute or part of life.  I think it is a shame for these little girls to be wasting so much energy thinking about boys.  It drains their interest from the things that really matter at their age like the wonders in the world around them, learning new skills, finding new interests, developing a relationship with their Heavenly Father who will lead them in the direction they should go to be ready when they find the one they want to marry.

Anyway, that's not really what I wanted to write about, but I had to give some background as to why this particular thing is bothering me a bit.  What I have noticed is that often these little girls are spending their time listening to music about romance and watching movies and shows about romance.  Why do we encourage this?  We know that our thoughts turn to words and our words turn to actions.  "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" - these girls are being bombarded with messages of love and romance all of the time!  No wonder it is the number one thing on their minds.   No wonder they stop caring about their studies and spend all their time planning how they are going to get an oblivious boy to notice them.  Mothers buy these songs for their girls.  It's what everyone is listening to after all, but why would we want to encourage our daughters to start thinking about love long before they are ready to be in love?  I can't say I know much about the current music trends, but I did a quick search about the popular teen songs right now. Some of the lyrics where so bad, that I couldn't put them on here, but here are some of the more innocent ones:

"Just cause I have your picture in my locker
Doesn't make you some kind of rocker
Bright blue eyes tall dark and handsome
Makes my heart b-beat like a bass drum
Yeah that is meant to be been waiting patiently
Now baby can't you see
Yeah I'm your future wife we'll start a brand new life
Boy you know just how to make me blush make me blush
And it can't be just another crush another crush
I just wanna get next to you next to you
And if you met me then you'd love me too love me too" -Tiffany Giardina

"Oh I remember you driving to my house in the middle of the night
I'm the one who makes you laugh when you know you're about to cry
I know your favorite songs and you tell me about your dreams
I think I know where you belong. I think I know it's with me.
Can't you see that I'm the one who understands you?
Been here all along so why can't you see?
You belong with me" -Taylor Swift

"Little girl you're all I've got.
Don't you leave me standing here once again?
'Cause I'll give you my life
Yes I would.
If you would let me try to love you
So please give me another chance to write you another song and take back those thing's I've done
'Cause I'll give you my heart
If you would let me start all over
Again" -Justin Timberlake

I probably didn't need to copy and paste all those. It's easy enough to turn on the radio and hear that almost all of the songs are about falling in love (as are the TV shows an movies). Sure, love is a wonderful thing, but do our little girls need to be bombarded with it all the time?

I was a boy-crazy teenager. I can tell you from experience that I wasted SO MUCH TIME AND ENERGY thinking about boys and neglecting everything that could have helped me be a better mother and wife - including my education. I can tell you that the song lyrics I listened to and movies I watched had a big influence on me. I wish I had spent more time doing something that mattered.

Anyway, I just had to get that off my chest. I hope people will take a closer look at what they are inspiring their children with, if they haven't already. I hope this didn't come across as self-righteous. I just had to voice a concern about something I see all around me. I probably phrased it all wrong, but even so, I highly recommend you read the book Unsteady. She makes a lot more sense than I do and she opened my eyes to a lot of things.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Our "Happy Holidays" Card

Here is our Christmas Card this year:
Happy Holidays!

We are a little late in sending out Christmas cards, but we do hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We appreciated hearing all of the updates and seeing the pictures that arrived in the mail and through e-mail! Here is what we have been up to in 2010:

Rock has taken up the hobby of bike riding. He finished a centennial ride (100 miles) in terrible weather and decided to do another one two months later. We were all very proud of him. He keeps busy with his job, but has also been reading and keeping up on sports when he gets a chance.

Karen is having a great time homeschooling again this year. She enjoys the time she gets to spend with the kids and is learning a lot right along side them. She is expecting another little baby in July.

Spice is enjoying choir and we had the chance to listen to her on the Mormon Channel when her choir performed “The Messiah” by Handel. She is enjoying piano, reading, and she is an avid writer. She writes in her journal throughout her day. She also became a dog owner this year and has proven to be a very responsible care-taker. Tico is one spoiled dog.

Bud has also been enjoying choir this year. He has learned to love singing so much that he chose to sing a solo in his cub-scout talent show. He did great! He is also very much into reading and has recently finished reading the “Lord of the Ring” series and has decided to start “The Chronicles of Narnia” again.

Little Miss has been enjoying figuring out songs on the piano and singing in the choir. She also has a great love for reading. Her latest book was “The Hobbit” and she is currently reading “The Princess and the Goblin”. She goes through books quickly and loves to share the adventures that she reads about. She also loves to play with her brothers. Their latest game is pretending that they are hamsters (due to the fact that she got a new pet hamster for Christmas).

Bazinks loves to draw and play with his brothers and sisters. He enjoys “reading lessons” and practicing his letters. He is also very often singing. He has a funny sense of humor and likes to make us laugh with his jokes and by telling us his imagined funny situations.

Ray is toddling all over the place. He likes to sing “Angels We have Heard on High”, or at least the “o-o-o-o-a” part in it. He is a busy explorer and likes to see what is in every drawer and how things sound when you pound them against one another. He is often smiling and figuring out someway to make us laugh or smile.