Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hopefully Helpful Random Thoughts and Ideas

A friend called me the other day, she had found my blog and had been trying to figure out what she wanted to implement in her home.  "A lot of your entries on this were from more than a year ago, so I'm wondering what had worked and what you are still doing."

I made sure to tell her that my blog is often my ideal of what I would like to do and what I feel strongly about, but that not all of my ideas stick at first and sometimes I have to revisit them later or just accept that they aren't going to work for my family.

So this post is a little view at what we're doing now.  It is all a work in progress and I'm sure things will continue to change (for the better hopefully!)

One of my favorite things is our morning music.  It is our variation of "Miracle Music".  If you're not familiar with Miracle Music - basically you get an instruction: "Time to make you bed" and then you have until the end of a song (or more depending on the task) to finish.  If you finish before the music ends, you get a point for that task.  I heard about Miracle Music before I started homeschooling from my great friend, Angela.  She told me how her variation of it was working so well at her house, and it sounded nice, but I guess I didn't think it sounded nice enough to actually implement it.  So I forgot about it and recently another friend mentioned how well it was working at her home.  She was just using the CD and varied it slightly, like if her family needed more time for breakfast she would just play the breakfast songs twice.  Ordering the CD seemed much easier than trying to create my own, so I figured I could give it a try.  Our biggest problem with family work was staying on task.  The kids knew what to do, and would generally get it done, but it would take so long as they distracted each other throughout the morning.

The CD was incredible.  It helped all of us (including me!) to stay on task through the morning.  Finally, since it was working so well, I figured it was worth making my own adaptation of the concept.  If we were listening to the same thing every morning, I wanted to choose what that would be.  I recorded the kids voices saying what the next task was and I chose some great learning songs (like the Declaration of Independence, The Preamble, The Gettysburg Address, The books of the scriptures, The Articles of Faith) as well as some songs that invite the Spirit to our work (like If the Savior Stood Beside Me, Nephi's Courage, etc).  I am so happy with how fast we are getting our work done and how good everyone is staying on task.  Our tasks are:
1. Make Bed
2. Clean Room
3. Clean Zone
4. Put Pajamas away and Get Dressed
5. Animal Care
6. Weekly Job
7. Monthly Job
8. Breakfast Job
9. Eat Breakfast
10. Breakfast Clean up
11. Brush Teeth
12. Do Hair and take a shower (if needed)
12. Ask Mom to Check your Work
13. Ask Mom what else she needs

I want to make an evening one too, but I haven't gotten to it yet.  If you like details to spur your own ideas, here are our weekly jobs

Mon: Car and Clean Animal Cages
Tues: Bathrooms
Wed: Straighten Hall closets
Thr: Mopping
Fri: Vaccuuming
Sat: Project (ask dad)

Here's our monthly jobs (the kids pick one from the list daily (except Wednesdays) until we've done all of the list.  Then we start over.

Windows, Sills and Blinds
Kitchen Drawers
Kitchen Cupboards
Bathroom Drawers
Bathroom Cupboards
Bedroom Dressers and Drawers
Bedroom Closets
Chicken Coupe
Walls and Doors
School Supplies
Craft Room
Sheets and Pillow Cases
Paper Work/Junk Drawers
Game and Movie Closet
Special Bins/ Backpacks/ Purses
Toy Room

The whole thing takes 2 hours (if you don't count the 30 minutes of instrumental hymns that play to wake them up and remind them to read scriptures before the tasks start). 

Ideally, we start the CD at 6:30 am and we're done by 9am.  But there's been some glitches in the system.  First of all, I've been trying to get up early to do yoga, but James has been waking up at night lately so I sleep in.  I do yoga anyway, but then the CD doesn't get started until closer to 8.

The other problem is that sometimes making breakfast (depending on what's made) or monthly jobs take longer than the 14 minutes given to each by the music, so the kids ask if they can pause it since they were working hard the whole time.  I say yes, of course, but then we're done closer to 10 or 11 (especially because we often forget to turn the music back on and then we take 1 hour to eat breakfast instead of the 20 minutes that is given us by the music).

But overall it's working great!  I love to see everyone happily working as the music plays and staying on task and trying to beat the music to get done early.  There's something to knowing that the work will end when the music does that motivates you to get it done.

After morning music the kids do their "Skill Practice": Math, Piano, Writing, or whatever other skills they are working on).  Those that get done before devotional get free time.

Around noon, I put the baby (and sometimes the toddler) to bed and we have devotional.  We sing, pray, and do a lesson from The Family School while we snack.  Ideally, we would do this everyday except Wednesdays, but it's usually more like 3 times a week.

After Devotional (Ideally around 12:30, but usually around 2), the children have their free time and they go read, explore outside, study, play sports, play some imagination game together, etc.

Rock gets home around 3:30 and I start dinner and we eat around 5.  Then we clean up, get ready for bed and do our family reading ideally around 7, but usually around 8.  After the family reading, we tuck the kids into bed (again, ideally around 8, but they always seem to want to have long conversations at night and usually they go to bed around 9).

That's pretty much the plan of our day most of the time.  Most mornings are pretty routine and afternoons are more flexible  (like Tuesdays for piano, Wednesdays for our groups or Fridays for choir and sometimes Thursdays for art).  Usually that means I get less prep time for dinner and the kids get less free time, but they enjoy what they do, so I guess it is sort of like free time since it is what they are choosing to do with their time.

 I have no idea why any of this would be of interest to anyone, but I know I enjoy hearing other people's schedules and getting ideas for my own.  In fact, probably most of what I do came from hearing other people's ideas and then getting inspiration as to how to apply them to our family, so hopefully some of these borrowed ideas will be of help to someone else.

I think I'm still applying the Headgates principles for the most part.  I have allowed a few more toys and clothes then when I first go rid of things, but I think I try to keep things pretty simple still.  We still don't have battery powered toys and we try to get rid of things pretty often.  We no longer have "screen time" for two hours on Saturdays, but we do let the kids watch something when Rock and I go on a date, so I guess we just moved screen time to a more convenient time.  We also allow a movie if it's something we are watching as a family, but that doesn't happen very often.

Speaking of movies, I recently saw The Odd Life of Timothy Green, The Life of Pi and Lincoln.  I must have been on a movie kick.  I have to say that Timothy Green was better than I expected.  I loved the message that family is the most important thing and that we should take our parenting seriously.  It's a message most needed in our culture.  Life of Pi was great.  I loved the message.  I would recommend it, although I wouldn't take my kids to see it since there is some difficult suffering (especially of animals) that they would not like to see.

Lincoln left me thinking...  I thought I liked it, but upon further reflection I wasn't so sure.  I thought Lincoln's character seemed to be fairly portrayed.  I enjoyed the dramatization of that period of time and how it must have been to be in such a difficult position.  I even thought the politics were interesting and fairly portrayed.  I loved so much of the thought-provoking dialogue. After thinking about it, though, what bothered me was the underlying message through the whole film that the ends justify the means - that it is okay to use your power to get what you want if it is for a good purpose.

It is a dangerous message.  It can be true message.  If someone with a pure heart is sincerely doing God's will, then he must do it - no matter what stands in his way.  However, most people do not have a pure heart, but they do have causes that they believe in.  A message like this in our day, could be very dangerous, as there is already an abuse of power in high places to get what they believe are righteous ends.  Only they and God can examine their hearts, but I fear a message like this may be misleading to them and anyone in a positition of power.

In my opinion, there was not enough done to show the pureness of Lincoln's heart.  You didn't see him pray in the movie, though it was a regular part of his life.  There is one part that looks like he may be praying as he sits on a chair and looks down at his hat and then he looks up and makes a decision, which after some discussion with some young men, he decides against and does something different.  There is one other time I remember someone praying.  It was right before a vote on the 13th ammendment, and after his prayer he votes against it.  I wonder why the two instances in which prayers are offered in the movie seem to lead to wrong choices.

The other thing I did not like was the very violent war scene at the beginning of the movie.

Anyway, I think that is it for my movie reviews ;-)

I have been reading an incredible book about how to parent.  I think every parent should read it.  It's though to get through in one sitting, but I would recommend buying it and reading a section every day.  It is full of great thoughts and truths.  It has opened my eyes to see more clearly the nature of the spirit and how to nurture that spirit to walk in the light.  It is called Gentle Measures by Jacob Abbott.  Thank-you to my friend who recommended it!  I would love to have a book discussion on it with someone.  Anyone up for it?

I recently read a book called Following the Light of Christ into His Presence by John Pontius.  I read it after a friend told me that it changed her life.  Knowing her to be a person who is incredibly close to the spirit, I decided I better read this life-changing book.   I would agree that it is life-changing in that it opens your eyes to see some gospel truths so much more clearly in how to hear and obey God's voice.  I heard him speak at the women's retreat I attended a little while ago and I enjoyed his sincerity and desire to share the truths he has come to understand.  I bought another of his books "The Triumph of Zion" - I am looking forward to getting to it!

We just finished reading Yearning for the Living God by F. Enzio Busche as a family.  It embodied the truths I leaned in Following the Light of Christ and how we often live far below our potential.  We really enjoyed learning from this true disciple of Christ and his experiences.

My latest goals are to pray more sincerely - to pour out my soul unto God daily and put forth my sincere efforts to exercise my "spiritual muscles" (faith) by hearing and obeying his voice more diligently.  I want to rid my heart of all contention and watch it spread to my family.  It's a tall order, but I am feeling great joy as I try and increased gratitude for my Savior as I become more keenly aware of my rebelliousness (my choice not to think before I act sometimes) and weaknesses.  I feel such joy in so many moments in my life and I am just so grateful for this mortal experience.

I think that is enough random thoughts for now.  I really should try to just write more often so I don't have to try to fit so much into one blog post, but I can't seem to find much time these days.  Life is quite the adventure!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Please Be Aware

Whatever direction the education of our children takes will be the direction that our country takes.  Many people know this, including people with agendas that are anti-freedom and who want power to further their cause.  We are too trusting sometimes.  Please take time to inform yourself about what is going on with our country's education system! Even if you think you can't do anything about it anyway - being informed IS doing something.  You can even go the extra mile and share the information with someone else.

Here are some videos to help you get the basics of what is going on.  She doesn't dumb it down for us so I wasn't familiar with everything she referred to, but it is easy to research those things I wanted to know more about, but even without any extra research the videos themselves tell you the basic information you should be aware of in regards to the direction of education in our country.

There are 5 videos but the total running time is only 30 minutes.  Just listen as you wash dishes or fold laundry.  It is worth your time.
(I do wish she wasn't quite so blunt in the first video since it has the tendency to turn some people off, but the information is important).

I don't want to sound like a nut with all of my concern, but I do feel I would be adding to the problem if I just sat back and did nothing when I see the downward spiral we are embarking upon.  Writing a blog post isn't much, but at least it's something right?


I know most people have other things to be thinking about, but if you want to know more, another great website (not just for Utahns) is It's where I saw the videos (after a great friend sent me the link). Please take the time to watch and share.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Healing Arts

I have some friends that are kind of nutty.  They use "essential oils" as medicine and talk about learning to use energy to help heal emotional and physical problems.  Now, if I didn't highly respect these people, and know them to be good, intelligent ladies, I would probably have dismissed their thoughts as somewhat "looking beyond the mark." Instead, as I listened to them, I could sense there was truth in what they were saying, but I did not know what that truth was or how it fit in with my understanding of the gospel. I was being drawn to learn more about it though, and I even bought some essential oils to start experimenting and learning.
At the retreat I went to a few weeks ago, a lady named Tamara spoke about the "Healing Arts" and how they fit into the teachings of the prophets and the gospel in general.  You can visit her blog here:  She used a lot of quotes from scriptures, prophets and scientists and again, I could see there was truth there, but didn't know how to discern the truth from the "teachings of men mingled with scripture".  I bought her book because she seemed like a very sincere person who was very concerned that all she did was in alignment with the words of the prophets and who wanted to follow the spirit.  I also knew that the spirit would guide me to what I needed to learn.  I felt impressed to talk to a particular friend and schedule an energy session with her to see what they were talking about for myself.  Truth can be found almost everywhere so I figured that whatever truth I learn from all of it could be beneficial.  Besides, for some reason I was feeling drawn to it, so I figured it would be good to find whatever truth I needed to learn from it.

The energy session was interesting.  I had learned a little about energy (life-force, chi, ki, prana, mana... whatever you want to call it) from when I was in Kung Fu for several years.  They had us do what they called "internal power" which was a form of meditation in which we learned to channel energy into our hands.  It was kind of mysterious to me, but I did learn to feel energy in my hands, even though I didn't know if it was in my mind or actually there.  Anyway, in this session, she started by working around my feet and I was amazed that I could feel heat coming from her hands - or from my feet - I couldn't tell which.  Anyway, I thought it was interesting and somewhat strange, but I felt good and still intested in learning more so she told me of some books to read.

The next evening, I realized that a physical problem I had had since college was gone.  I was amazed.  It hadn't even occurred to me that something like an energy session could heal this problem. I knew it was not coincidence since this problem had been constant for a long time, but I wondered how long the "healing" would last.  I had gone to a chiropractor about the problem before, but the adjustments would only last for an hour or so.  (I had also looked at the option of surgery, but it was expensive and it was a battle with the insurance about how much of it they would pay).

Anyway, the problem has not come back yet.  I still don't expect it to never come back, but how long it has been gone has convinced me that there is a lot of truth in "energy work" and I am more motivated to learn more about it.

The big question that has lingered in my mind, though, is "Why?"  Why did Heavenly Father wait to heal my body until I was willing to look into this stuff? You don't hear about this kind of thing very much in "mainstream" culture.  If it there is truth there, why don't we talk about this stuff? 

I think it has a lot to do with our culture.  We are seeped in Western medicine for healing our bodies.  I believe there is truth in Western medicine, but there is a lot of truth in other healing practices as well.  I don't know all of the answers, but I have come to some answers as to why I was personally inspired to learn more about it.  I have found that learning about the relationship of our bodies to our spirits will strengthen my family relationships.  I have learned that it is easy to confuse our emotions with the spirit, so learning to manage our physical emotions can help us be better conduits of the spirit.  I have learned that healing our spirits can heal our bodies and emotions, but also that we can use our bodies to help us heal our emotions and better receive the spirit.  There is a reason that it was important for us to receive bodies to become like God.  Our bodies are amazing and have much power and Heavenly Father is willing to teach us about them when we want to learn.

So I guess I am becoming as nutty as some of my friends ;-)  I only hope I can become like them in other great ways too. 

I found some great articles about some of this in Meridian Magazine.  They talk about emotional healing techniques from an LDS perspective.  You can read them if you are interested in learning more:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

I know that, as with any truths, Satan can confuse and deceive, so I am trying to be very careful and to pray for discernment as I come across new information.  Like I said, I don't know a lot about it, but the more I learn, the more things seem to fit together and make sense with what I already know.  Some things still seem pretty strange to me so I am dismissing them for the time being and looking at what I think will be a blessing.  I am focusing on the doctrine or principles behind these practices to see if the doctrine stands up to the truth I know.  It's an interesting study and I'm thankful for the insights I have received so far.

Monday, October 22, 2012

In Preparation for the Debate Tonight

I really enjoyed a speech given by Mark DeMoss, a baptist that spoke at a BYU forum in January. I thought I would share it in preparation for tonight's presidential debate and for the rest of this sometimes heated political season.

Also, while I'm in a resource sharing mood, I went to a retreat last weekend in which I learned all sorts great things. I'd like to write about several of them, but since I'm talking about politics right now, I'll just mention that I got to hear from a man named Connor Boyack. You can read what I got to hear here: How Latter-day Saints Can Create Zion. He talks about how "bipartisanship" is another word for trying to create "unity", but that unity should not be an end in and of itself if it is not connected to righteousness and wilfully giving to the poor (unity, righteousness and having no poor among us being how we create Zion).  I was so impressed with his insights, demeanor, and principle-mindedness that I bought his book Latter-day Liberty: A Gospel Approach to Government and Politics.  I haven't read it yet, but I'm looking forward to learning more about what he has to say.  He is a Ron Paul supporter, but don't discount him as a nut if you don't like Ron Paul.  I think there is much truth in what he shares.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Careful and Troubled about Many Things

I had a tough day emotionally yesterday. Nothing bad happened, in fact the day was full of blessings (as is everyday with such a beautiful family that has so much more than everything we could need - including a home full of modern conveniences and comforts and plenty to eat, living in a free country with the ability to access so many good things, and having the fulness of the gospel in our lives!) I even had the chance to interact with incredible women and be around uplifting friends.  My emotional state had nothing to do with my outward circumstances and everything to do with my heart (which added to my feeling of guilt for feeling so anxious and unhappy).

There were, of course, outward things that contributed to my feelings - I haven't been eating very healthy, I did not get a lot of sleep, and I have not been exercising (all things that added to my feelings of guilt!)  I had lots of my list of things to do that were not getting done, including things I wanted to teach my kids and other ideals I felt were important.  I felt I had so much to do that it was almost useless to start anywhere because I didn't know what was most important right then.  I knew that I needed to do something good to help me out of my slump.  It was almost like I knew it, but I didn't want to know it, so I preferred not to think I knew it and I worked on some things that were not as important and did a lot of dilly-dallying (which also contributed to my feeling of guilt). 

Towards the end of the day, I decided to watch Women's Conference online at home (usually I go see the broadcast at the church).  The kids had been playing outside with friends all day (which added to my guilty feeling since I had told myself I would not let my little ones outside anymore without me being with them) so I thought I better be home for them since their dad and Bud were doing some father-son things downstairs.  Then I decided to go pick some plums off the tree to make some fruit leather and to not let them go to waste, and to pick up the plums and peaches that had fallen to the ground.  I also figured this would be a useful thing to do that would help me feel better since I had been putting it off.  So I put on some headphones to listen to Women's Conference as I worked outside.  I knew I wanted to watch it with a pen and paper in my hand and to give it my full focus, but I figured I could do that later.

I started picking plums and peaches up and just when I thought I was almost done, I would see more and more.  I decided this was a job that we'd have to do as a family on Monday because I couldn't do it on my own (we had been cleaning up periodically so I was astonished that it was so bad). I decided to pick the plums from the tree instead.  They were so covered with gnats and they were getting in my hair and everywhere.  And then Ray came out to help, and little Gem was crying at the door.  And as I looked at the meager plums I had picked I saw a big bug and I thought to myself, "This is not worth it! I do not like plum leather this much! But it needs to get done sometime.  I guess I'll put it of until Monday, but I have so many other things to get to on Monday, how can I get it all done?"  So I took the two little ones in to take a bath.  As I put them in the bath and thought about how I was not getting much out of Women's Conference.  I had the thought, "Karen, you are careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful."  I realized I needed to pay closer attention to Women's Conference.  I got out my journal for notes, took my kids out of the bath and let them play around my feet as I tried to pay as best of attention as I could considering the circumstances.

As I paid attention, I realized something that Heavenly Father wanted to get through to me.  He loves me.  He loves me so very much.  I also realized how much Satan wants to discourage me.  He knows the power I have for good in this world and over him and he wants to stop me.  He is in full out war against the women who want to follow God.  He is constantly whispering, "You are not good enough, you lack so much, you mess up so often, you cannot possibly do it all, you lack self-discipline, you'll never measure up." He wants so bad for us to feel like I was feeling yesterday (and a little bit today as I looked around at my messy house and thought of all of the things I didn't get done on Saturday).  And wants us to give up - to not think - to distract ourselves from those feeling with mind-numbing things.  I noticed I felt like I was on a downward spiral.  Like the picture at the top of this post - the light was in the middle, but I was slowly spiraling away.  I wanted to get out of it, but I didn't want to make the effort.  It was as if I felt, "You've already wasted so much of the day, you may as well waste it all."  And the more I listened to that lie, the more I spiraled downward.  And I knew it and I didn't want to care.  And I felt terrible inside.

Like I said, it is not the circumstances that made the day difficult.  It was my choices.  I have had way too much to do before and a complete inability to get it all done.  I know I set really high standards for myself.  I am an idealist (as you know if you read my blog).  I don't actually do all of my plans and lofty goals, but I set them high.  As I reach for the starts, I stretch and I grow.  But I can have high expectations for myself and reach for them with hope and trust that things will work out despite my weaknesses because of the atonement and love of Jesus Christ, or I can set high expectations and despair because I can never reach them. 

I am grateful for the lesson yesterday.  I hope to resist the adversary a little better and to go forward in faith to do what I can.  I'm here to learn :-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mitt Romney Speaks against Common Core

A friend sent me a link to a statement by Mitt Romney speaking out against Common Core.  I think his reasons are very valid. I hope people will start to see the potential this has for some pretty scary things.

Here is the article:

This morning Mitt Romney was at the Education Nation Summit in New York and while being interviewed by Brian Williams came out against Common Core.
(Link to transcript)
WILLIAMS: Governor, what do you make of ‘Common Core’?
ROMNEY: You know, I think it’s fine for people to lay out what they think core subjects might be and to suggest a pedagogy and being able to provide that learning to our kids. I don’t subscribe to the idea of the federal government trying to push a common core on various states.
It’s one thing to put it out as a model and let people adopt it as they will, but to financially reward states based upon accepting the federal government’s idea of a curriculum, I think, is a mistake. And the reason I say that is that there may be a time when the government has an agenda that it wants to promote.
And I’m not wild about the federal government having some kind of agenda that it then compensates states to teach their kids. I’d rather let education and what is taught state by state be determined state by state, not by the federal government.
The American Principles Project released this explaining exactly how the 2009 stimulus bill was a takeover of education when used as a weapon by the Obama administration.

Romney Takes Stand against National Curriculum Standards

Supports Local Control of Curricula at Education Nation Summit
Washington, DC – Today, American Principles in Action (APIA) praised Governor Romney’s stated opposition to a national curriculum, commonly known as the Common Core, choosing instead to let states and communities decide public school curricula.
“We applaud Governor Romney’s bold support for states and local communities to decide what’s best for their children, restoring power over education from the hands of the federal government to where it belongs,” said APIA’s Emmett McGroarty. “He is right to warn that the national authorities may have an agenda and should be prevented from pushing it on the states. Unfortunately, just as with Medicare reform, the federal government has resorted to coercing now more than 40 states into adopting the Common Core.
“Congress intended the 2009 Stimulus Bill as a life-line for the states, but President Obama turned it into a weapon through his Race to the Top program. In order to compete for Race to the Top money, states had to quickly sign onto the Common Core and related assessments without having a chance to meaningfully review the Standards and before the assessments were even developed.
“States competed in Race to the Top by demonstrating their commitment to President Obama’s education policy, in effect surrendering to an education monopoly. Their citizens were cut out of the process.
“President Obama has continued to coerce the states by requiring them to sign onto his education policies in order to get relief from No Child Left Behind.
“We urge both candidates to commit themselves to ending the federal government’s political coercion of the states and their citizens, and to ending the Race to the Top program.”
 You can read the entire transcript on this Washington Post artlicle.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Summer update

It's time for an update post...

Little Gem is growing fast.  He's not even close to walking though.  He'll be 15 months here soon so we're beginning to wonder if he'll show some interest, but so far he much prefers crawling.  All of my kids have been late walkers - I attribute it to the fact that they all have tiny feet and big bellies.  It throws them off balance.
Ice cream on his birthday

Watermelon was one of his favorite treats over the summer

Waiting patiently for a table at Olive Garden on my birthday

Looking over the side of a bridge and making me nervous

Spice took these pictures at the duck pond - cute smile

I thought this was a cute picture, but I can't quite figure out what he's got in his mouth...

Ray is still a ray of sunshine.  He thinks of the cutest things to say.  He loves for me to tell him certain stories - Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood.  We also talked about the good Samaritan once for FHE and he loves to talk about that story when he says his prayers.  He'll say "Hevny Fader, tenk you dis day. Anoder guy came, he not help him, anoder guy came, he not help him, anoder guy came, he not help him (etc), and anoder guy came and he help him! Jesus Cwist, Amen!"
One of our chickens laid a tiny egg, Ray was so excited that he made me take a picture

He got a Winnie the Pooh on his birthday.  He loves Winnie the Pooh stories and episodes.

He also got a Mickey Mouse stuffed animal, a bubble gun, and some Swedish Fish

We went to pick up one of my brothers from the airport who flew in for my youngest brother's wedding.  On the way to the airport, I looked back and saw that Ray had done some art work on himself an his baby brother with a permanent marker.  I took a picture before grabbing the wipes (which didn't quite clean it off)

Summer hike with friends

The other day he asked me to tell him a story, but I was tired and asked him if he would tell me one instead.  "About what?" he asked.  "About a boy who has to fight a troll?" "Okay! Der was a boy and he had a blue horsie, and he was riding and he saw a troll and he fight him with his sword and anoder guy came and he not help him, and anoder guy came and he not help him, and anoder guy came and he help him! Den there was a wolf and three pigs and [his own name], and dey had swords and put der swords in der pockets they went very quiet (some motions with his hands as he whispers and he acts out how they walk with his hands) and der were fireworks and a dragon and dey went to his cave and it was hard and they hit it with their swords - bink, bink, bink, [lots of binks] (there are a lot of sound effects and hand movements through his stories) and dey got in and stabbed him.  The end."  If was very cute.

He also loves the stories I make up about Stinky James in which a stinky mouse wants to play with the other mice, but every time he approaches, all of the mice say, "Ewww!  It's stinky James!" and they run away.  A little mouse named by Ray's real name always approaches Stinky James and plays with him even though he is stinky.  He makes James very happy.  Then all of the mice see how much fun they are having and they join in the fun too.  Sometimes it's climbing trees, sometimes playing soccer, sometimes playing in the sandbox, or playing trains or fighting dragons.  He asks for a Stinky James story every night.  Sometimes when he's telling me a story, he can't finish it because he turns into the character that he is talking about..."And da big bad wolf come and say 'Blow your house down" Phhhhh...." and suddenly he is transformed into a wolf and he's off to play as a big bad wolf.

Bazinks is my sweet, tender-hearted boy.  He loves cuddles and stories.  He always shares.  A little bit ago, I gave all of the kids a piece of chocolate and Ray cried because he wanted a bigger one so Bazinks gave him his own piece.  He is also still working on obedience.  He is grounded from friends right now because he played with them when he wasn't supposed to.  The other night he said, "I wish I could just be obedient" :-)  Me too.  My friend, Mary, just told me about an obedience game she's been playing and I'm starting to try it with my little ones.  They seem to like it, hopefully it will help.  It goes something like this: "Ray, touch your belly button" and then he says, "Yes mam" and he does it.  "Bazinks, touch your ear with your toe." "Yes Mam", etc.  Hopefully it will start rubbing off on the other areas of his life.  He is a very good child and he wants to do the right, but he also wants to test the limits, so he is conflicted :-)  He is observant and asks thoughtful questions, "How can Heavenly Father hear people when they are talking at the same time?" or things like, "What would you rather have - no arms or no legs?"
Trying on some armor at a booth at the park during a July 4th celebaration

summer hike with friends

Patiently waiting at Olive Garden on my birhday

Little Miss is still reading during almost all of her spare time.  She's currently in the middle of Howard Pyle's Robing Hood.  Her love of language is becoming evident in the way she expresses herself or in the humor she finds in different situations.  She is also getting quite creative with words.  For example, the other day I asked them to make up a continent and label it with different map symbols.  She made her continent in the shape of a pumpkin and called it "Pumkinoppolis."  I thought that was pretty clever.  She also just got a bunny to take care of and she's being very responsible with him. When she's not doing chores or reading she is often climbing trees, playing with the boys and taking care of the little ones.  She is so nurturing!  The other day her dad took her on a daddy-daughter date to purchase a car (his broke down) and I certainly missed her help with the two little ones.  She does a lot - and she likes doing it!  She is such a blessing. 

The kids were in a play over the summer that was written by one of their friends.  Spice and Little Miss were servant girls.
Spice, Bud, Little Miss and I went to a concert with some friends.  While we were waiting they threw a football around and rolled down the hill.  We had so much fun - the company was awesome and the music was inspiring.
I didn't get any good pictures of the band so I pulled this one from online.  It was Ryan Shupe and the Rubberbands.  Great concert!

Bud is still a little scientist.  Currently in his room there are geckos, crickets, water striders, mealworms (he's breeding them), three praying mantises (in different containers), a frog (that belongs to Bazinks), a grass spider, and a wolf spider.  He takes care of all of them and observes and researches all about the new things he finds.  He just let his snake go because he kept escaping.  I found it on the stairway once and also on the tiles by the entry way.  For some reason, that wasn't nearly as scary to me as when I was cuddling Ray on his bed the other day and I saw a giant grasshopper next to my head (apparently he had brought it in his room to feed to his geckos and it jumped out and he couldn't find it so I was the lucky one who did).  After that I told him that I wanted the bugs out of his room, but he cried such big tears that I had to retract my words and leave him with a stern warning to keep them contained.

Helping Ray be a knight

He was a knight and narrator in the summer play

One of his reptiles.  He pointed out to me that we have insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals at our house.  Joy!

He's pretty crazy most of the time - he keeps us laughing.

He's also very into football and is always trying to get boys together to play it with him.  He wants me to sign him up for a team, but I'm not ready for the time commitment yet - those practice times are pretty intense!

Spice seems to be getting more grounded on "scholar phase" (a term that refers to a youth who loves learning so much that they want to study almost all of their spare time).  When I fist heard of such a thing I wondered just how realistic it was, but it felt true to me so I trusted that it would happen and I built my educational philosophy on that premise. I have seen enough homeschooled kids that actually do choose to study in their spare time that I no longer doubt that it works, but it is neat to see Spice studying so much from her own desires with no pushing from me.  Our Vanguard group gives her the structure she needs and she is taking it and running with it. 
Bridal Veil Falls with her dog while my brother and his wife were visiting
With her homeschool youth group at Saint Mary Cathedral
Baptismal font at the cathedral.  It was a beautiful Church
She also loves to draw in her spare time.  Right now she is into anime.  When she first asked me for Sharpies so that she could draw anime, I was worried about encouraging this form of "art".  I wanted her to use her talents for something more real, but I felt that I should let her explore it.  I'm glad I did.  I have loved seeing what she creates - she makes pictures of things that mean something to her.
Baby Gem before his hair cut

This one is hard to see because it's just a sketch, but I loved it

She also go into some sidewalk art during the summer :-)

I also had a great summer.  Starting the homeschool youth group kept me pretty busy, but I have enjoyed it.  I also went to Florida for my brother's graduation from medical school.  I took Gem with me, and my other 2 brothers and one sister-in-law and my parents all stayed in a hotel in Ft. Lauterdale.  We played in the waves on the beach there, went kayaking, saw Miami beach, and did some shopping.  I loved being with my family again, we have so much fun together.

Later on in the summer, my youngest brother got married.  It was a beautiful wedding and they both looked so happy.  I love my new sister-in-law.  She is really laid back (which is good for my somewhat intense brother :-)  )  and she is kind and good.  I think they will be really happy.
I've also been trying to figure out how to eat more healthy.  I've been making my own Greek Yogurt and granola, trying to keep a garden (maybe someday I'll get good at it), and I even bought some Coconut Oil that I need to figure out how to use.  We made popcorn with it today - so good!  I also put it in our waffles and that was yummy too.

I also got called to be the emergency preparedness person for our Relief Society.  It has been a good calling for me because I am getting my food storage organized, I put together our 72 hour kits (we just need some batteries for our headlamps now, and clothes), I now have a car emergency kit, and I almost have enough water storage and I have something to filter water with.  Yay!  It feels good to feel like we're getting prepared and that if there was an emergency, my kids would have water and food.  Now maybe I can ask my ward to get prepared without feeling hypocritical!  I got to do a booth for an emergency preparedness fair yesterday and I got some cool ideas while I was there (I learned how to can butter!)  I'm getting excited because as I buy this stuff, I am also making it much more doable to go camping and maybe even backpacking with my family.  In fact, we've decided that we'd rotate our 72 hour kids by going on a three day camping trip around general conference time.  Isn't that an awesome idea?

Rock has been busy car shopping and is happy to have finally settled on one.  He is busy being a kind husband and a caring dad.  He has been staying really busy at work so we're not seeing him as much as we used to, but we're grateful that he works so hard.  He took the kids shooting with his dad a few weeks ago and is planning to take some gun safety classes with the kids because his dad won a gun for him.  They also went fishing a few times this summer and he's hoping to some day catch a fish with them ;-)  He is usually also busy this time a year with BYU football.  He and Bud go to all of the home games and watch all of the other games on TV.  Sometimes Spice goes as well.  I tried getting into football once, but I gave up on it so I'm glad they can share the hobby together. 

That's pretty much the summer in a nutshell.  I'm sure I left some cool things out :-)  I need to write these updates more often so that I remember the cute things that are said and done, but they take so long!  I do want to remember this stuff in the future so I'm glad I finally got around to it :-)  I'm sure there are typos and grammar mistakes all over, but I took so long writing this that I'm just going to post it.  Besides, who am I kidding? I'm sure there would be mistakes all over even if I took the time to edit so I may as well just ask you to overlook them and I'll not worry about it.  Besides, I doubt too many people are going to read through it all anyway, and those who do are just going to be close friends and family so you'll love me anyway right?