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? 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Monotheism and the Trinity

I got to go on a field trip with our youth group to the Cathedral of the Madeleine yesterday.  It was awe-inspiring!  The deacon taking us through the tour explained a lot of the symbolism in the art and some of the beliefs of his church.  I came away with a greater respect for their religion and beliefs.  They were beautiful.

On the ride home, I got to talk to my friend (who is Lutheran) about some of her beliefs and the difference between ours.  She also came to my house and helped the youth with a discussion about the Nicene creed.  She is a deep thinker and I enjoyed listening to her testimony.

One of the optional articles we could have read to prepare us for the discussion was Is the LDS view of God consistent with the Bible?  It was a great article and it sparked great discussion between Cassia and I as she read it to me.  She asked, "So are we polytheist if we believe in a Godhead with a Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?"

I explained that in my mind I view this idea as a circle that radiates light (love, peace, truth, beauty) in which Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are all together in the middle and their light shines upon all of us to lead us to that center (thus their commandment to be "one" with them - Zion), but we sometimes turn our backs on that light and then it is time to re-turn to them (or repent).  And we can do that only because of our Savior's atonement.  I think Salvation is about which way we are turning. If we were polytheist, we would believe there were several circles radiating light, but if we go towards one - we'd be moving away from the other one (kind of like the Greeks when they would make one god jealous by paying too much tribute to another god).

I love this video about light:

I am so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life - for the opportunity I have to seek truth and live it and find joy there.  I am grateful for the clarity the restored gospel blesses me with as I come to understand, appreciate and love my Savior better and better each day.  I am overwhelmingly grateful for His love for me, who fail Him often, but He is there for me at every stumble.  He can be there for me because He has paid the price and suffered for each fall so that I can keep on moving toward Him - towards eternal life with my family.  I am making the effort to know Him better, and it is a joyous journey.

We were discussion Hypatia in class the other day, and how her father had really high expectains of her.  The mentor pointed out how he didn't just tell her to jog up a mountain on her own, but that he would jog up with her.  Spice raised her hand and commented that God is the same way, He gives us commandments, but He is there with us every step of the way (and I would add has suffered everything we might suffer).  I know this to be true for I have felt Him with me many times.

On a side note, the deacon at the church remarked how he has done many tours with many youth groups and high school students, but that our group was first rate, that he enjoyed the time with them and that he would love to have them back anytime. They really were so respectful, asked great questions and were so reverent in that place.  It is an honor to get to know so many incredible youth!  I see great hope for our world in them.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Communicating with God

"How do I really know how God answers prayers? How do I know it's not just me projecting my own wish and want onto God, feeling good about it, and calling it his answer?"

These are some question Stephen R. Covey asks in one of the clearest speeches I have ever heard about how God communicates with us.  I had to share the speech because it has become one of my favorites.  I think there are some deep truths and incredibly helpful insights throughout it.  It's one that I want to share with those I love.

Here is the link to it - I listened to it as I folded laundry at first and then I had to read it an take notes later.

An Educated Conscience

Speaking of great speeches, I recently read one that was recommended at the LDS Homeschool conference I attended.  It was so good that I went through it and read parts of it with the kids during devotional (which I don't usually do unless it's a conference talk once in a while).  I think it gets to the heart of how to have unity in our homes and in our lives.  Here's the link to that one:

Zion and the Spirit of At-one-ment

How about you?  What are some of your favorite speeches?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Incredible Curriculum

I LOVE the Foundation for American Christian Education.  Everything I read on their site or from their books just resonates so strongly with me.  I've been trying to read their red books (hard, deep, enlightening reading!) and I feel "smarter" every time I read a chapter.  They present things, from original sources, that help you see into some of the great minds of the past and I love the depth that I find there.

Anyway, they have different curriculums (the Noah plan) and things.  I've bought all of their curriculum books, and I have gained a lot from them, but I have found them hard to implement them with such varying ages of children. 

I've tried to implement them into our youth group as much as I could.  One of the reasons I parted ways with some friends in my last group was that I felt so so strongly about understanding and applying the principles F.A.C.E. speaks of.  They were already applying some, but I wanted more.  My friends liked what they heard of it, but I don't think they liked me coming and messing with an already good thing, so there was some resistance, and since I knew what I wanted for my daughter, we parted ways.

I'm mentioning all of this because I want to emphasize how much I believe in this this type of education - learning to become something - not just to know stuff.  I think any learning done just to "know stuff" is a waste of time if you don't live better because of your knowledge.  A big reason I have not followed a curriculum with my children is I hated wasting our time on "knowing stuff" when there was so much more depth that I wanted to take them to.  The problem was that it took me a long time to prepare a "depth lesson" so the result was that we had about one good lesson per week or two and the rest of the time they learned as they lived life (which has some pretty awesome learning opportunities) so it's worked out alright.

I did love what we were doing in our youth group, though, and I wished I could do it a little more with my little children.

Well, guess what?  I just learned of a new curriculum for homeschoolers that does exactly what I've been looking for!  It teaches children to apply the information they learn, to "test" it's truth by living it, and recording the evidence of the truth they've learned.  It's learning in a gospel-centered way (instead of to pass a test).  I am so excited about it.

The website where you can find it is  You can see their history and the curriculum there, as well as some free samples.  I'm excited to use it this year for our devotional.  I probably won't go as fast as the schedule they have on their site (although I'll try), but I think each lesson is worthwhile and even if I don't cover all of them, we'll learn a lot as we go. 

This is kind of a blind testimonial since I've only done two lessons so far with my children, but I believe so strongly in the principles, that I think much good will come from it.

I just had to share :-)