Sunday, November 1, 2015

My Journaling Blog

I recently go a new phone with a fun little stylus and found it really convenient for writing in at night when I didn't want to wake my husband by turning on the light. So I started writing in my journal at night electronically.

After writing a few entries this way, I thought I might like to try a journaling app. I tried several, but I finally realized that I really like all that blogger can do - so I started using a blog to journal my thoughts. With each entry, I could think of someone I wanted to share that thought with.

So I decided to try making my journal blog public. I hesitate, and I may change my mind in the future... I want to be really honest with myself, and that can be hard to do when I think others may read it. But I also want to practice being vulnerable and accepting my weakness... so I am going to give it a shot. Please be gentle with your judgement if you go check it our and you have never met me. Feel free to follow it, leave comments and share it with your friends if a thought I write seems like something they could use. I am writing it for myself, but also with the hope that my experiences and thoughts might bless another individual, once in a while, along the way.

It is:

I am not sure how often I will write in this blog since much of what I wrote here came from my journal, but it may be that I find different purposes for each and I come to this blog for those purposes. I guess we'll see. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Steps to Happiness

I have been deeply studying happiness. I am beginning to understand it on a more profound level. As part of this study, I am making myself a "happiness plan" based on my current understanding of happiness.

These steps are to be used any time I find myself feeling "off" or in despair. "Desperation" is a strong word, but I think we are all familiar with that feeling of being stuck in drudgery and staying really busy, or distracting ourselves with something mindless,  as if we could get ourselves unstuck by our efforts.

Here is my plan for when I find myself in that situation:

Step 1) Start right were I am.
Instead of continuing forward in quiet desperation. I can stop and take note of where I am, accept that I am here and that God knew I would be here. I can remember that He has prepared a way, through His son, for me to return to His peaceful Way whenever I choose - regardless of where I am at the present moment. A friend at church today said, "'We are saved by grace after all we can do', but all we can do is to go to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite Spirit." What a beautiful truth to remember.
Taken from

Step 2). Recognize my triggers and the lies behind each one.

I am aware of several things that put me in a "stuck," selfish, or unhappy mindset and they are each connected to a lie: inability to forgive myself, a belief that I am stuck, a desire to control, and whacky hormone levels.

Plutarch once counseled a friend to be aware of true principles to guide his actions and "to rehearse them before the passions arise to have them in stock for greater effectiveness". This list should help me do that.
"Mastiffs bristle at every voice and are quieted only by the one they are used to; similarly passions of the soul are not easily laid when they go restive unless there are familiar and firmly held arguments to check their rioting" -Plutarch On Contentment* 
Inability to forgive myself:
One of my triggers to selfishness is my inability to forgive myself. I find myself feeling "off" because I am wishing I had done something differently in my choices that day or that week or in the distant past. I find myself thinking "I should have just..." or "If only I had..." I have a testimony of the atonement's cleansing power and I know God doesn't like me to dwell on "if only." So from now on, when I find myself thinking these negative thoughts after I have repented, I plan to cast them out and tell myself, "I am grateful for the lesson I learned from that wrong choice, God knew I would make that choice, I am a wiser person because of it. I will now start from where I am and move forward." What a gift it is to be able to choose, at any moment,  to accept my past choices, learn from them, and move forward with a greater ability to make better choices. What a precious gift is the atonement of God and the process of repentance!
False belief: Things would be better if only...
Solution: Gratitude for atonement and repentance

Feeling "stuck":
Another things that puts me in the wrong mind-frame is the false belief that I am stuck. It is enlightening to realize that I am choosing to do whatever it is I am doing at this moment. If I am doing something mundane it is because I am choosing to. It ceases to be mundane once I remember why I chose it. And if I can't find any reason for why I'm doing it, I can always choose to stop and do something else.  I am so, so grateful for the gift of agency. I know the path of happiness starts with a simple choice.

False belief: I am stuck
Solution: Gratitude for agency and an acceptance of responsibility

Random picture to show off my cute kids. Spice was off dissecting a squid :)
Attempting to control:
I also find myself in an unhappy place when I am trying to control things I cannot control - other people, unplanned interruptions, pretty much all of life outside myself.  It can bother me when things don't go according to plan. This is silly. Things always pop up that are not in my plans - how sad to only be happy during those rare times when nothing pops up to surprise me.  I need to recall the knowledge that I cannot control what others do or what unexpected challenges come my way. It is tempting to try to control things through my emotions and manipulation, but this is a false control. If I want lasting change, I must have a heart filled with love. Love inspires change. That is my only job towards others - to love them. Anything else is only an appendage to that love - the teaching, the serving, the correcting. So when I find myself getting upset by things, I plan to remember that the one thing I do have control over is how I react to those people or surprises. I do have the power to choose my thoughts and actions towards anything that comes my way. I can always choose love. I have seen this over and over in my life. I know it is a true and empowering principle.
False belief: I can control others.
Solution: Don't try to control - focus on filling my heart with love.
"Sensible people behave like bees; bees get honey from thyme, which is very tart and dry, and sensible people often get something appropriate and useful to themselves from the most untoward situation" -Plutarch
Whacky hormone levels:
The last pattern I have seen in my life that contributes to a selfish mindset has to do with what is going on in my body. Hormones affect my mood and so many things affect hormones: what I eat, how much sleep I get, heredity, exercise, cycles, and the thoughts I have. Dr. Maurice Harker has a whole program about how the adversary is using "chemical warfare" by flashing a thought into our minds that causes a "chemical spill" (hormone changes) which changes our mood, then our thoughts start seeking for what caused that mood change and we start recalling everything we can think of that we may have done wrong, which causes more negative feelings until we find ourselves in negative thought pattern loops that can weaken our defenses. My experience tells me there is truth to what he is saying. Learning to recognize these feelings will help me cast away my negative thoughts and look forward with a brightness of hope that these feeling are temporary and are not really who I am. (Dr. Harker suggests we fight back with chemistry by blocking those hormones with the "fight or flight" response - after all, this is a real war -  and then putting our thoughts on a higher plane by remembering the "why" of our fight)

False belief: My mood is who I am
Solution: Move forward knowing that it will pass as I stay focused on God (for some, having this focus requires extra help - like getting out in nature, talking to other people, or, in extreme cases - hormone therapy - it can be really difficult to look beyond oneself to God when our body is out of whack).

Neal A Maxwell said something similar to Plutarch about fixing true principles in our minds:
"Now, since we are not always free to choose just when and how all of life’s interactions will occur, we are nevertheless free to choose our responses to these moments. Since we can’t compute beforehand all our responses, it becomes vital to set our course as immortals on the basis of immortal principles to be applied as reflexively as possible." From The Pathway of Discipleship

Step 3) Choose my next step.  This is where I ask my Heavenly Father, "What lack I yet?" and make plans to move in that direction. The reason I do this is not because I think my actions are somehow the means to earning happiness. It is because I know that happiness lies in the arms of my Heavenly Father. I feel closer to Him when I am focused on Him. He is always there, but I sometimes remove myself from feeling His love with distractions and busyness. The way to see past these things is to be willing to sacrifice them. I put these barriers between Him and me so all I need to do is take them down. I will go to Him in sincere prayer with journal in hand and ask Him what my next step is. I know from past experience that I usually need to start writing down my thoughts before they become clear. My mind is too distractible for me to sit there and not let my thoughts wander. The pen in my hand keeps me focused. I will remember that it helps to write my prayer: "Dear Heavenly Father," I'll begin. Sometimes I won't know the next step due to ignorance of true principles in that area, but I know from past experience that Heavenly Father will lead me to that book or that talk or that friend that will help me see a better way. I can then apply that principle to my life and see the fruits I was seeking. Taking this step could be called "Faith."
"Seeing that all men desire happiness, and happiness, as has been shown, is gained by a use, and a right use, of the things of life, and the right use of them, and good- fortune in the use of them, is given by knowledge,--the inference is that everybody ought by all means to try and make himself as wise as he can" - Socrates in Euthydemus by Plato

Step 4) Step through the darkness. In turning to God, I often see the vision of what things could be as I keep moving toward Him. I love this because it motivates me to take the next step. However, if I confuse this vision FOR my next step - I could feel rather overwhelmed. Each time I try to implement this vision into real life - the agency of others and my own weakness brings me to the realization of how far I am from that vision! This is where the mist of darkness usually sets in. I see that the vision is impossible despite all of my efforts. But this realization can be a great thing. It will keep me from trying to rely on my own efforts. It is that feeling of being "hopeless but hoping" that Paul talks about (See Joseph M. Spencer's For Zion chapter 2 for a great discourse on this). . I am hopeless in myself, but hopeful that God's promises are sure and that I can trust Him to lead me step by step to Him - that He will make that vision come to pass. I believe this is is the essence of "Hope."

Image from

Step 5) Share the fruit. Those of us familiar with Lehi's vision of the tree of life will recall that those who held on to the rod of iron (Word of God) and kept stepping forward in faith, past the mist of darkness and the great and spacious building, eventually made it to the tree of life and tasted of the fruit which represented God's love (the fruit which is "desirable to make one happy"). I know these steps work because I have gone through them in the past and have tasted the fruit of moving towards God. It is joyous, healing, and nourishing. Each time I taste it, I want to share it with those around me. It is why I parent the way I do, it is why I teach, it is why I write. I love the fruit of coming unto God. I know it is real. It is what fills our hearts with "Charity" - the pure love of Christ. There is nothing like it in the world. It is worth any "steps" I must take and worth any sacrifice.

I hope my happiness plan has inspired others to consider their next step on their journey through life. I know everyone's "triggers" and challenges are different, but I also know that the way to God and real happiness is simple and true for everyone. I will continue to search for other happiness principles as I strive to apply the ones I have discovered. After all, each day is FILLED with opportunities to practice.
"For to miss the joy is to miss all" - Robert Lois Stevenson in The Lantern Bearers

*(I put some quotes through this blog post from some of the things I have read in my study of happiness. I did not do this for show-off-y-ness, but because this is what I asked of the youth I mentor in creating their happiness plan and I wanted to show them what I meant through example)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Feeling "Off"

I have been feeling "off" the last couple of days. For some reason, everything I normally do started to feel really hard. Why does that happen? I was doing really well with reaching for good goals (see previous post for our daily schedule) and I was feeling motivated and excited about the challenge of reaching them.  And then yesterday I hit a slump and motivating myself to get anything done was really hard. Writing can be therapeutic for me, so this post is my therapy today.

We were away from home for much of last week. It is so hard getting back into a routine after I have been away from one for a bit. I looked at the fridge with the intent to clean it several times yesterday, but I never got around to actually doing it. I am behind on the school work the kids are supposed to turn in online so that is the other thing I planned to get to yesterday. I didn't get to it. I feel like I cleaned some, but everything still felt messy.

I got on my phone with the intent to get on Librivox and listen to something while I cleaned, but I kept getting distracted on there and never pulled up a book. I did spend some time with the little ones... I wanted to go to a homeschool conference that I had tickets to, but felt I had too much to do and yet didn't get much done.

That night I went to women's conference. It was amazing. I needed that reminder of why I do what I do. Things felt right and I was ready to go home and do good things.

Then again today, after a rough night with whiny dogs who don't let me sleep, doing anything felt hard. Church was nice, but the rest of the day has seemed blah. Usually starting a job is the hard part, but once I get going it gets easier. Making dinner today was hard the entire time. Each moment felt like drudgery. Why was it such a big deal?

I am grateful for new beginnings - new weeks, new moments. I think I will go see if anyone wants to go for a walk. Then maybe I'll make my bed. And then I will cuddle my kids and read them a story. Maybe I just need a Sunday.

Whew. I don't know why anyone would want to read this post, but I do feel better, strangely enough. I guess I needed to remind myself that I have choice. I can choose each moment to start over and make it better. I made dinner today because I had to, I forgot that I was choosing to - because I love my family and I love my God whose children these are.

That's what it was. I forgot my cause. I forgot my why.

I am reminded of a quote that my good friend shared with me "It is not about you, it is about the God you love and those He died to save."

I need to put that in my kitchen somewhere :)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Clearing our Time for the Most Important - Enriching the Soil

Or How do I Motivate my Children to Want to Learn Step 3

Step 1 was to Clear the Soil or Detox - to rid our homes of things that distract us.
Step 2 was to Fill the Environment with Sunshine - or to build relationships of love instead of battles
Step 3 is to Enrich the Soil with the proper nutrients

Here is how to enrich the soil of your home:

1. Observe. Think about your typical day. How do you spend your time? Maybe go through your day tomorrow and write down what you are doing and how long it is taking. Or you can take pictures of the different things you do through the day and then go back and get a vision of you typical day.

2. Ask. The first question to ask yourself now is, "What is my goal?" Think big - what is your overarching goal for everything you do? When I think about this question, I would say that my goal in life is to lead my family back to Christ. That is what I want to spend my time doing.

As I look at my life through the lens of my goal, I can ask myself, "Are the things I do in my day helping me reach my goal?"

3. Evaluate. I can look at my typical day with this question in mind: I get out of bed (important part of progress ;-) ) Next, I pray and think about how I can dedicate my day to God. Then I make my bed...does this contribute to my goal? Well, yes - it reminds me to start with myself in creating a loving environment. Making my bed is a daily reminder that my heart must be full of love in all that I do. For someone else, making their bed could remind them of starting fresh each day... the point is that even something as simple as making a bed can help me reach my overarching goal. I go through my day to see if what I do helps me reach my goal.

4. Discard. If I come across something in my day that does not seem to contribute to my goal, I get rid of it. Seriously. I know some people want to disagree with this. "What? You mean you have to have a spiritual reason for everything you do???" Well, to be honest, I can find a spiritual reason for almost everything, but if I cannot - then I know I need to let it go. If I can't find a spiritual reason for teaching my kids math - I don't teach them math (I have found some, though, btw) I don't have time for things that don't contribute to my goal. And neither do you.

Don't be afraid to discard things. If you take something out of your life that Heavenly Father wants you to put back in - He will guide you to the spiritual reason for it - which will bless you with the motivation to put in the effort (like He did for me and math). Discarding is an act of faith and He will bless you for it.

5. Prioritize. I have found many, many things that can help me lead my family back to Christ. Such as: personal scripture study, prayer, journal writing; family scripture study, prayer, home evening; family morning devotionals, family work, nature time, wholesome recreation, wholesome meals, eating together, preparing meals together, regular one-on-one time, date night with my husband, daily dialogues with my husband (a communication tool), family learning time, individual learning time, exercise, temple, fasting, serving in our home and community, mentoring in the community, magnifying callings, family reading time, teaching my children basic skills, teaching values, etc.

Obviously, I need to prioritize and figure out what is most important as well as what needs to be done first each day, each week, each month. And then I make a flexible plan (open to changes according to the Spirit) to make it happen.

6. Remember. Once you have a plan in place - it is important to remember the "why" as you go forth to act on each item. I could do the dishes just because it is on my list, or I could do the dishes remembering that I put this on the list because I wanted to serve my family, there is a symbolic beauty in cleaning the vessels we use to nourish our bodies, I want a clean kitchen where family wants to gather, etc. If I can remember the "why" of each thing I do as I do it, it will keep my thoughts focused on Christ (always remembering Him), it will help me live in the moment with joy, and it will bring His Spirit to my heart and home.

It is important not to rush through our "to do" list, but to stop, remember, embrace the reason we put that action into our lives.

7. Evaluate. At the start and end of each day I can see what went well and what didn't. I can learn what I need to change or if I need to discard some good things to make time for the best things.

For an example of what this may look like, here is how I am structuring my day right now. This does not happen everyday (right now the thing that keeps getting skipped the most is exercise, so I need to reevaluate how to make time for it), but this is the ideal that I practice achieving each day. I attach a reason to each section of my day so my "why" is obvious to me as I look at my schedule.

1. Connect with God:
Clean my room (prepare my personal environment),
Read my scriptures,
Pray and listen,
Write in my journal and plan my day,
Exercise (tune the instrument of my spirit).

2. Connect with my Family to God:
Family Devotional (hymn, prayer, conference talk)
Science (we look at the lessons in God's creations - it is like an object lesson for a spiritual truth), Spanish (to remind us to serve all humanity and that service begins at home)

3. Family Service and Basic Skills (or weeding in the sunshine)
-We clean the house, or in other words, get rid of distractions (each person has a daily job - room, zone, laundry, kitchen job; weekly job - vacuum, bathroom, or mopping; deep clean job; meal prep job; weeding zone) This helps us learn to be disciples of Christ as we practice obedience, hard work, service, cleanliness and kindness toward each other
- Each person has some skills they must work on before they can move on to learning the things they want to learn about. Skills may include reading, writing, math, music (depending on what that child needs at this time).

4. Breakfast*  (nurture the instrument of our spirit and build relationships)
-Share personal ah-has from scriptures and practice kindness
*Breakfast usually happens sometime in the midst of working on #3

5. Lunch (see breakfast)
-Some share their ah-has here if they didn't read their scriptures before breakfast

6. Personal Prompting List - (learning to hear the Voice of The Lord)
-I encourage everyone to write down promptings they receive each morning, or through the day, on a list and to try to get some done each day.

7. Learning Time - Increase in Learning and Wisdom (the application of what we learn)
-Most of us read or prepare for classes. We were prayerful about which classes to sign up for (would they help us in our goals to grow closer to God?)
-The little ones play and practice kindness.

8. Family Dinner (family bonding and teaching one another)
We quick-clean the house while we prepare for dinner
We share our ah-has from our learning time,
Dad usually updates us on what is going on in the world,
We serve and clean the kitchen together

9. Family Scriptures and Classic (family unity)
-We read and discuss scriptures
-Mom reads a classic to everyone
-Dad takes little ones to bed (or anyone who is not able to sit still and listen to mom reading).

10. Bedtime Routines (one-on-one time)
-Mom or Dad pray with each child
-Little ones always ask for their mommy cuddles
-Older ones often talk or share at bedtime too

11. Couple Time (the marriage relationship is the foundation of a happy home)

12. Evaluation time (journal writing, prepare for the next day)

We also have some things we try to fit in weekly or monthly:
Dates with kids (Tuesday nights), nature time (Tuesdays and Thursdays) temple (Saturdays), callings (Wednesdays), classes, shopping, etc.

Again, this is the ideal. It is how I visualize my day and what I keep in my vision as I go through the reality of each day (which often looks rather different ;-) )

Everyone will structure their day differently, but I hope this example gives a picture of what I mean by "enriching the soil" and putting things in our day that get us to where we want to be.

Here are some more pictures I just uploaded from my phone of our summer (most wouldn't transfer - if any techy can tell me why that would be - I would love to get the rest of the pictures off my phone!):








Manti Pageant

swim lessons


Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Letter to Virtuous Young Ladies (a call to help the young men!)

Dear Young Ladies,

I am thinking of some specific girls that I know as I write this, but I would also speak to those who are like them. I know you to be women of goodness. I know you are examples of light to the people around you. You do much good in your circle of influence.

I write because I don't think most young ladies quite understand how much power and influence they have on the young men around them.

These young men have it so tough in the world right now. They are surrounded by billboards, movies, books, TV shows, internet, people that make them have to constantly battle unworthy thoughts that are put in their minds. The world tells them that women are for pleasure and for fulfilling selfish desires, while their divine nature knows that these women are God's beloved daughters.

To counteract the constant messages the world is sending them, they NEED to have young women of virtue around them. By seeing in you God's representation of women - living examples of pure, good, powerful, womanly beauty - they will gain the awareness that the images on the billboards are merely Satan's representation of women.

You can help them aspire to that goodness God has blessed you with, you can help them want to reach for higher things, instead of the baseness of lust and selfishness which the world tells them they want.

They need your friendship and example. They need to see that model of virtue within you. Oh how them men in this world need to see this! You have the power to help them want to fight for that virtue.

Please point them to the One who will raise them to become their best selves. If a young man is preparing for a mission, don't distract him by getting him to focus on you instead. He can't afford to loose that focus on God - don't be a tool in Satan's hands to entice him to do so.

Keep your conversations pure. Don't gossip and don't talk of romance or longed-for-relationships (aka. crushes). The time is simply not right. Yes, marriage is in their future, and they do need to seek a worthy young lady to be the heart of their home, but not yet. Right now his time is the Lord's until he is ready to commit to a young lady who is willing to progress on this journey with him. But the time for commitment is not yet. The difference between a friend and a girlfriend is the physical closeness one has a right to because of the commitment they have made. Do not temp young men to this physical closeness in any way, not even through "innocent" talk about crushes.

You are aware that your body has great power over the hearts and minds of these young men. It is tempting to enjoy that power and use it for yourself. You may not realize that EVERY time you do this, you are enticing a young man to base thoughts that, when indulged, will drive that Spirit away that they so desperately need. Don't be an enticement they constantly have to fight.

I once heard a young man say, to a group of young women, "Please be modest, it is exhausting being around someone who makes you constantly fight a battle in your head."

Modesty is more than the way you dress  (though it is important to dress in a way that does not draw attention away from your face - and tight clothes - even if they cover all the right places - do draw attention away from your face!). Modesty is also in the way you speak, and how you touch and look at a young man. Young women are often not aware of how powerful their touch is. Young men will be very aware of how close you are sitting by them and how often you touch them. Each touch can be a distraction, depending on intent.

I have seen too many young men with light in their eyes after a powerful discussion, or a motivating speaker, suddenly derailed as the young women in the group rush to tightly hug them goodbye.  Ladies, please, avoid tight hugs or close dancing. You may think they are just an innocent bear hug for a good friend, but those sensitive young men are feeling very aware of every curve on your body and to them it does not seem innocent. I promise. They think differently than you do. If they are good young men, they will try to refocus after this and put their thoughts in better places. Some might choose to indulge them for a while.

What sort of friend willfully throws a warrior into the middle of a battlefield?

Please don't ever use the gift of your body in a selfish way. Be modest. Do whatever it takes to stay close to the Spirit so God's virtue shines through you. Remember who these young men are. They are warriors in the most difficult battlefield there has ever been. Do not let your desire to be noticed or liked be a weakening poison. They need the power of your virtue to be the warriors God needs them to be.

With love,
A Mother of Warriors

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Teaching Children to Care for their Stewardship

Image from:

I'm a pretty scattered person. I loose my keys often. I am always looking for a pen. My mind moves faster than my body so when I go to put something down - my mind is on something else and I end up accidentally putting it in some random place.

Needless to say, teaching my children to take care of their things, put things back where they belong, and to have a place for everything is a bit of a challenge. It's a good idea to practice what you preach.  I know God has blessed us with the use of these things (and they really all belong to Him) and that we show gratitude by taking good care of them.

I have made numerous efforts to label drawers, shelves, cupboards... in order to have a place for everything and everything in it's place, but things always get back into disarray somehow. I just can't keep up with each of the kids or with myself (urgent things seem to come up often and I don't put everything away every time).

Well, recently, we decided to try to get our house ready to sell.  I don't know if we will sell it, but we were prompted to get it ready to do so. So we've been painting and cleaning and clearing things out.  We are storing things in our garage for now. I have quite a few plastic bins full of books, 2 boxes of toys, several boxes of crafts/school supplies, some boxes of clothes, etc.

I packed everything out of my younger boys' dresser except 2 pairs of PJs, 5 shirts, 2 shorts, 2 pants, and a church outfit. I also left 2 jackets hung in their closet.

I packed up all of the toys except 2 baby dolls (for Ladybug), 2 stuffed animals, a baby blanket, a small plastic treehouse, a car, a wagon and a ball.

My older children cleared their room and left only the essentials.

I packed away most of the blankets (blankets were a big mess-contributer around here).

We each have a school box with our school supplies in them, labeled with our names, as well as a bin to put our school box in and our books and papers.

I made a rule that if anything is left out of place, it will go in a box from which we will need to earn it back with jobs.

I also made the rule that no one can get anything out of the garage without asking me first. My son asked me if he could get a book out the other day. "Yes," I said, "As soon as you put your other literature book away." (They each get to have 6-7 books checked out: math, writing, literature, leadership, history, science, and an optional skill).

I am still working on packing things away, but I have already seen great fruits from having less things to take care of.

My younger boys put their own laundry away - it is easy when the drawers are not overflowing and they can tell where each thing goes! It is easy to see if someone failed to put something away during the day. My 6 year old is actually putting his crayons away carefully and putting them back in his bin so he doesn't loose them.

I realized that this whole experience is teaching us stewardship. We had more stuff then we could handle. Once we are able to take care of a few things, we may be able to handle a few more things, but for now, this seems to be all we can do. I may even label hair brushes, plates, cups, blankets so that each person has just one to take care of - until we learn to put those things away as well. I know it sounds extreme, but desperate times call for desperate measures right?

We are actually all enjoying this clarity! Well, maybe the younger boys would like a few more toys out, but I have explained to them that we cannot handle it yet - not until I see them put the few things we already have out away every time. It is hard with the baby who plays with the toys, but she is not too young to learn either and they can help me remind her.

If we don't actually move, but we learn to take care of our things this way - it will have been so worth it! Maybe we will get to the point where we can put some of those things in the garage back in the house because we have learned to put things away and take care of them. Or maybe we will just get rid of them all (except the books) since we love living without so much stuff anyway! Whatever happens - it has been a great learning experience. Even for me... I am keeping better track of my pen!

I know I still need to write a follow-up blog post on "watering". I just was too short on time today and I wanted to mention what I am working on and why I have had little time to write. I would love to hear what people have tried in order to teach their kids good stewardship!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

How do I Motivate my Children to Want to Learn? Step 2

We have had a busy month with family in town for a bit and then a friend moved into our house for a few weeks with her family while they waited for baby #11 before moving to New York :-(. I will post some pictures of our adventures below and through the post. It has been a wonderful month, but now it is time to get back on some sort of schedule.

Last time I posted, I wrote about the importance of "clearing the soil" when we want to motivate our children to want to learn. I mentioned that I would write later about step #2 - surrounding them with sunshine - or love - by building relationships. I don't claim to be an expert, but I have had several questions about this from several people so I want to write about my experience with this in hopes that it will benefit those who are seeking some answers.

I really believe that if there is contention in our hearts, we cannot learn. It is counterproductive to try to force a child to learn something when they are battling with us in their hearts. Before we can teach anything, we must establish an environment of love and trust. I heard someone once say, "If the Spirit is gone, we set aside all of our learning agenda until we get it back, or we are just wasting our time."

I recommend that people take their time to build happy relationships before even attempting to "do school" or formal learning time.

I will list what I have found to be four very important priorities when we are working on building relationships.

First Priority: Scripture and Prayer Habits
In my opinion, the first habit we should establish in our home is the habit of family and personal prayer and scripture study. If our children are growing closer to their God, they will catch the Spirit of Learning (it comes from Him) and they will feel closer to us if we are doing the same. We like to share our morning scripture study "ah-has" or questions during breakfast. It makes for some good discussion and the children know they will be asked each day, which helps them better prepare and remember their personal study.

This is crucial for mothers. It is too hard to parent alone. We need His divine influence, guidance, and love in what we do. We cannot afford to not take the time for a personal devotional each day and throughout the day.

Second Priority: Obedience
I am really focusing on this one in our family right now. I have always known that teaching obedience was important, but I didn't realize how essential this duty was until recently. I have been reading Charlotte Mason's books on home education. She talks about how a parent must not rule by whim or that makes them a tyrant. They must rule by principle. I realized that I sometimes rule by whim because I want my children to be happy.

Last week, one of my children decided that something I asked him to do was unfair, so instead of doing it, he laid in his bed. We had planned to go to the duck pond that day and he loves the duck pond. When it was time to go, I wanted to let him come with the promise that he would do his jobs when he got back, but it occurred to me that if I did this, I would be governing by whim, because I wanted him to go. If I were to rule by principle, I would not allow him to go if his work was not done.  This was a very hard thing for me to do, but I remembered, and reminded him, that it is my duty  to God to teach my kids obedience and hard work. So he stayed home and cleaned. I thought he would be mad, but he almost seemed relieved to have a boundary he could not cross. Charlotte Mason talks about how many children spend much of their energy deciding whether or not to obey. We do them a great service by teaching them the habit of obedience.

So the goal right now is that I only ask them to do something once. If I have to ask them again, we do "obedience practice" and then I ask again. "Obedience practice" may be picking up certain items, or doing jumping jacks, or running somewhere and back as fast as they can. Then we talk about how good we feel when we obey. We have only been doing this for a few days, but I have already seen a drastic difference in their behavior and attitude. It has been a very good thing.

Third Priority: Serving One Another
Establishing a family work plan not only teaches children to work, but it also teaches them to love and serve one another. It may not seem that way since it appears that many struggles and contentious moments arise during family work, but it is in learning how to work through these differences that we grow closer and build solid relationships.

This will also put to the test how well they have learned obedience and will allow them to practice it. In addition to that, your house will get clean which makes learning time a lot more peaceful for all involved. I have written before about family work. We have a good system right now that I might write about later, but really everyone needs to experiment on what works best for them and where their children are at this time. And then change it as the need arises.

Fourth Priority: Nature Time
Spending time outdoors is very healing for the soul and for relationships. Some of the most peaceful moments with my children have been when we have been outdoors in the midst of God's creations. Relationships have been healed and we feel whole and closer to Him. Nature is a wonderful place for all to be taught by God.

Ladybug tries to run outside whenever a door opens. Little children are especially sensitive to His influence there, but even my teenagers seem to feel more calm and have a clearer perspective when they have been stressed or frustrated. Charlotte says, "Never be indoors when you can rightly be without." We are trying to get out everyday this summer. It has been very good. I now find myself really craving nature's influence when we are not able to get outside. A bonus benefit is that younger children are able to find sticks, bugs, leaves, flowers to play with instead of the silverware, books, blankets and dishes they seem to want to get into after we "cleared the soil" and took away their entertaining toys.

The Proclamation on the Family by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states: "Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities." Time in nature is about as wholesome as it gets.

I may write some ideas about some of these things in my next post. And then I want to write a post about Step #3 - Watering our plants - or nurturing them with the educational environment they need to fulfill their unique work on earth. Happy Sabbath!

More pics:

Donut Falls with family from Georgia (how I miss them!) and from around here (I love you all!).

We left our dogs at my mom's house that night, knowing we would be back to visit them early the next day and not wanting to pick them up after our hike. It happened to be the night our dog, Daisy, had puppies. I woke up the girls and we drove an hour to her house to watch the puppies be born. Then we drove back home early the next morning for theater practice. She had some pretty cute puppies though.

We also went to the Natural History Museum with them (no pictures) and to the Zoo.

We also spent one day bowling, playing mini-croquette, doing a ropes course, and playing laser tag. I only got some bad pictures of the bowling portion!

After family left, I took the kids to Zion National Park and we met our friends up there. Rock couldn't go with us and we missed him. Especially in the tent in the middle of the night during a loud lightning storm. I wan't sure what I would do if the tent blew over. We survived, though, and had a great time with our friends even though we got rained on a lot :-)


We stopped at a hot spring on the way home with our friends:

When we got home, our friends moved in with us (like I mentioned before). We had some fun times with them. They just left us yesterday and we miss them already.

We went camping by a reservoir for Ray's birthday. Some friends joined us there for lunch.

 The kids made lots of creations on our picnic table out of the things they found.

 Ray opening presents  in the evening when Rock got there.

 Family Time on the Beach:

Whittling with friends and playing in the river on a different "nature day:





My friend had her baby at my house last Thursday. I had the honor of getting to be there. There is an incredible feeling when a baby comes into the world. You almost feel like you could touch Heaven. 
This weekend I spent time preparing for next week and figuring out our summer schedule. I am excited to try it even though I know that things always look better on paper than when you actually try to  execute them, but it will be fun to shoot for the ideal and see where it takes us :-)