Sunday, April 28, 2013

Marriage Enrichment Weekend

About a year ago, I heard a podcast from a Thomas Jefferson Education conference titled "Building Happy Homes" by Dean and Joan Connolley.  I was impressed with what they had to say about marriage.  During the podcast, they mentioned that they do a "Marriage Enrichment Weekend" about 3 times a year.  They do not get paid for the weekend, they volunteer their time because they feel so strongly about strengthening marriage (you do pay for the hotel costs, food and handouts). I thought to myself that it sounded like a worthwhile thing to do someday and I filed it away in the back of my mind.

Well, recently the thought started popping back into my head.  I realized I had become so preoccupied with the kids and homeschooling that I was probably guilty of neglecting my marriage and we were both so tired most of the time that we tended to communicate on a rather superficial level.  I dedided to look more into it.  I found their site: and found that their next enrichment weekend was in April.  I asked Rock if he'd be willing to go, and he agreed that it would probably be a good thing, so I signed us up.

The site mentioned that they do not do any public disclosure kinds of things or counseling.  They simply teach you some powerful tools and let you practice them as a couple.  It sounded like a lot of the educational conferences I like to go to (except the practicing as a couple part).  We departed for our weekend on Thursday night, not quite sure what to expect.

Well, it was an incredible weekend.  Having graduated with a degree in Marriage, Family and Human Development, I figured that I would know most of what they had to say, but that it would be a good review.  While some of the information was not new - the way it was presented and then practiced was so eye opening!  I learned a lot about my husband of almost 15 years and we were able to see into one another's hearts in a more much honest way.  Our marriage was so greatly enriched!  We'll never be the same.  We also got to meet some really great couples, including the "leader couples" who taught the presentations and were willing to share some of their struggles, but exemplified what "couple power" and unity looks like in a marriage.  What a great service they do!  They are engaged in a great work.

When we first got there, Rock was a little leery about what this might be like.  After the first presentation he said, "There is a really good spirit about this." After that, it only got better.  I knew I would enjoy it (I like educational and self-improvement conferences and things), but he was surprised by how much he enjoyed it.  We were both so glad we had gone. 

At the end, we all got to say something about the weekend (if we wanted to).  Every person who was there mentioned how grateful they had been to have had the opportunity to be a part of the weekend, and how much they had learned. We all had an increased appreciation for our spouse and an increased sense of unity - plus a whole new set of tools to keep deepening that unity and closeness.

Anyway, I recommend it to everyone!  It was a worthwhile, enriching experience - whether your marriage is "hanging on by a thread" or seems to be going really well.   Check out their site - they also do "date nights" with guest speakers and different things.  I am so inspired by their passion and desire to help couples with this most important of relationships!  I want to be like them someday.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

God's Way to Educate vs World's Way (plus some family adventures)

I could write a book about this so this post is not meant to be comprehensive, but I recently read a speech that made me think about two very important differences in the way the world educates and the way God would have us learn.

He shared many important principles, but he mentioned two main ways that the 2 types of education differ.  The first is that the Lord is interested in educating the whole soul while the world is simply interested in the mind.  Elder Bednar's Increase in Learning is a great guide on how to do this.  Put simply - it comes down to acting on the principles that we learn so they become part of our character,and we become better because of what we learn.  Principles are everywhere and in everything that we learn if we know how to find them.  They don't teach you that in school, though.  At school we get taught stuff we need to know (to pass a test and get to college).  God would have us learn how to better live because of the principles we discover in the world around us.

The second way worldly education differs from God's is that the world is competitive as we try to get ahead.  Instead, a crucial way of educating our whole being is by lifting others to where we are.  We have all experience learning a new truth and wanting to share it with everyone because of how great it makes us feel.  As we do this we grow in truth, our knowledge expands, our character develops and we become truly educated.
"If we are living as the gospel requires, when we ourselves are learning, we are unwilling to leave others behind. An essential part of our growth comes in helping others grow. And then those we help in turn help others—among them, in many instances, our own posterity. This draws us close to one another, even across generations, and we become united, a Zion people. Fundamentally, education in the kingdom of God is different because it operates on the Zion principle of love."
The youth group that I have the opportunity to mentor is built on these principles.  It is amazing to see them repeated over and over as I read words of the prophets, Christian books on education, and as I receive inspiration on teaching my family and those around me.  Recently I have noticed them in the new youth programs of my church.  A book I am reading right now mentions that the home, school and church are what build the character of our youth and our nation. Unfortunately, the modern schools are secular and are failing and the homes are often places of distraction and entertainment instead of houses of learning.

I guess that is why I think it is important to invest my time on our homeschool youth group.  I want this education to be available to all, and I am sad when I see so much potential going to waste because we are neglecting the education of our youth. I am amazed at the insights and spiritual power of the youth I mentor as they are learning with the spirit of God present in their studies and discussions.  I am encouraged by their power and as I learn about similar schools and homes that are dedicated to this education of the soul.

And now to some fun family memories this last month:

 Dissecting Owl Pellets:

 Medieval Feast with Vanguard families:

Ray got volunteered to do challenge some knights in order to win the princess' hand in marriage.  One of the contests was a jousting contest.  This is how it was supposed to be done:

This is Ray trying it:

He had a blast being the center of attention.  I need to remember to put my video quality from "normal" to "high".  Everything is so blurry.

Doodles during conference.  I have to admit it made my heart so happy to see my older children taking notes the ENTIRE four 2 hour sessions!  I didn't even ask them to, they got out their journals and paid attention.  I was so proud of them.  The little ones had a harder time, but doodling and naps kept them happy a lot of the time.

 Park day:

Doing a "flash mob" at Arctic Circle after a choir performance (they are quite giggly at first, but they get into it after a bit):

A couple of performance songs (they will be performing for friends and family on April 26th at 6:30 if anyone wants to come watch! Email me for the address).

(I asked a friend to hurry and film Little Miss for me since Gem was on my lap so the first part is of her rushing. I really need to adjust the video quality when I film! Good thing they have one more performance)

These video do not do credit to how awesome these guys sound:

And the last thing, we went to an ultrasound on Saturday and we learned that we are expecting a GIRL!  I hadn't let myself think about what I wanted the baby to be, but I was really excited to find it was a girl.  I haven't had a baby girl in nine years.  It will be so fun!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Latest Projects

Project 1: Mind Organization:

Guess what?  I am learning to organize my mind!  Isn't that exciting?  For those of you who know me personally, you know I have a lot of goals and passions and idealistic pursuits, but my follow-through is sometimes lacking.  I jump from one ideal goal to another before I have firmly established habits and then I look back and remember how awesome that one goal was and I try to bounce back to it again.  While this is kind of fun and keeps life exciting,  I know that if I was a little more organized in my goals and ideals, my family would benefit so much.  Normally, I just have a hard time holding on to thoughts for very long - I misplace so many things because my mind is racing through several thoughts and is not quite aware of what my body is doing sometimes. 

I have a friend who is really into organizing and she told me of this great program called "Mind Organization for Moms".  As I've been implementing it for about three weeks now, I am so much more at peace! I no longer do things with the worry in the back of my mind that, "I ought to be doing something else that is important, but I can't remember what it is".  I have a time and a place for all of my ideas and goals.  Refreshing.  I am not perfect at it yet, but it has been such a blessing for me and my family.  Being more present with my children has been the biggest blessing, since I am not tripping over thoughts all of the time.  You can find more information about it here:

Project 2: Quality Family Work
Our family has gotten relatively good at our schedule, but I often found that the quality wasn't quite up to par.  To work on quality, I made some checklists, put them in a page protector, and put them on a clipboard with a dry erase marker attached with some yarn.  They check off their checklists before asking me to check their work.  It's pretty detailed - it says things like "Check behind the door" or "Put cleaning supplies away" - the little things that often get neglected.  I've even had to make a couple of revisions when I notice a detail that often goes unnoticed. The house has been looking so much cleaner!  While I am determined to keep at it for at least 6 weeks until the habit is firmly established.... follow through is the hard part.  Being kind of a softy, I don't always make them check their checklists on days that they are "too tired" or busy (or that I was), but I have to remember how important it is to their character and be strict about it.  On the days that I have let things go, I could sense that it was not good for them - so I'm putting on my determined mind right now and sticking to it! :-)

Project 3: Vanguard - wrapping up the year
The other thing that has been on my mind lately has been the end of the year activities for our homeschooling youth group.  I can't believe it will be over in a month!  The year went by so fast.  What a blessing it has been!  I am developing a testimony of the Lord's methods of education.  As we have tried to incorporate the principles we have learned about from great books such as "Increase in Learning" and others, the youth have thrived and are catching the vision of how/why the Lord would have them learn.  Mentoring this incredible group of youth has been amazing - their insights are profound and I feel edified every time I get the opportunity to be around them.

Watching Spice "increase in learning" as she applies the things we have taught her at home, and as she is inspired by her peers and by the truth she learns, has been a delight.  Below are  all of the books and articles that Spice has read and discussed this year.  The youth are asked to prepare to teach something from their reading before they come to class, so she has also had a chance to teach from these readings.  These are the readings from the last 7 months of Vanguard that she completed:

TJEd for Teens
most of 5000 year leap
7 Miracles that Saved America
Otto of the Silverhand
Trumpeter of Krakow
Child's History of England (through ch 22)
Music Talks for Children
Three Questions by Tolstoy
The Journey of Al & Gebra in the land of Algebra
Several short mathematician biographies
Racing to the Moon
Men of Iron
The Hiding Place
The Happy Prince - Wilde
Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers (chapters 1-7)
Story of Liberty (3 chapters)
The Story of Europe
Genesis Chapter 1 (very slowly with a lot of word studies)
Several LDS articles (You were Born to Lead; Decisions for which I've Been Grateful; Perry talk; Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge; Finding Inspiration in the Arts; Terror, Triumph and the Wedding Feast; The Constitution - a Glorious Standard; The Arts and the Spirit of the Lord)
The Message
Unlikely Heroes
The Story of Rolf and the Viking's Bow
The Proper Role of Government
Science books/chapters of own choosing (about the weather, rock and water cycles, astronomy, human body, and others)
6 short biographies of artists
The Story of the Crusades
Declaration of Independence
Magna Carta
The Constitution
The Living Christ
The Nicene Creed
Sleeping Beauty
Mystery of the Periodic Table
Bill of Rights
The Travels of Marco Polo
Jungle Book
Yearning for the Living God
The Merry adventures of Robin Hood
Remembering Isaac
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Fascinating Fibonacci's
The Traveler's Gift
Joan of Arc by Twain - vol 1
Galen and the Gateway to Medicine
The Giver
The Chosen

This means she has read 28 books, 5 partial books, 19 articles or short stories and quite a few short biographies and science concepts.  Not bad for 7 months!  I am so happy with the education she is choosing (none of this was mandatory or graded, but she wanted to do it since she values getting an education - how cool is that?!)

Those are pretty much the latest projects (besides de-junking and spring cleaning - how do we pile up so much stuff so quickly?! And implementing some of the great ideas I got from general conference - I'll have to find time to blog about that too - wasn't it awesome? And I now have an organized way to follow through with the great inspiration!)  I have several pictures I need to download and memories to record, so hopefully I will get to that soon also.  I just didn't want to let another week go by without an update.