Monday, December 31, 2012

Ringing in the New Year

I'm not a huge participant of New Year's celebrations.  The fact is that I'm not a late-night person.  If I don't get to bed before 10 pm, I have a hard time sleeping at all and just feel gross the next day.  I've always been this way; this isn't something brought on by motherhood or being over thirty.   I've never been much of a late sleeper, either, even when I do go to bed too late.  I physically can't sleep in--I get too hungry (even when I'm not pregnant, when I'm pregnant, this is ten times worse) by about 6 am to stay in bed, and I always always have to use the bathroom around that time, so it's pretty impossible to sleep in.  Which is why I'm not a huge fan of New Year's celebrations.

But I do enjoy one aspect of ringing in the new year.  I love to set goals for myself.  I love fresh starts and new beginnings.  Even if the goals I set are the same, or very similar, to the goals I set the previous year, it gives me a time to start fresh and try again to do better.  Most of my goals aren't anything you can accomplish, set out and finish, say they're done, and move on anyway.  I tend to set goals that are continual circles to keep on with personal growth.

1.  I will lose the baby weight after this baby is born by eating better and starting an exercise program, to be determined at my six week date from having the baby.
2.  I will read the Sunday school reading assignments and the reading for Relief Society every week.
3.  I will read the books for my book group every month and keep up with the other books on my "to-read" list on Goodreads.
4.  I will (with my husband's help) keep a tighter reign on the budget so we can get 75% or more of our debt paid off this year.
5.  I will try to go on a date at least every other week with my husband.  This is hard for us because his schedule changes weekly and it's very difficult to find babysitters on weeknights or during the day, which is when he's usually available for a date.  Friday and Saturday nights are rarely free for him as he has to work.
I'm excited about the new year and the chance to work on improving myself again.  Here's to 2013!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Every Christmas since becoming a mother, I've reflected on what it must have been like to be the mother of Jesus. I think about all the things mothers face, both temporal and spiritual.

Temporally, we deal with dirty diapers, wiping runny noses, endless sleepless nights, endless piles of laundry, food preparation, and other household duties. We manage chaos, quell fights between siblings, and try to teach them to be good people. We hug our children when they are tired and crying, we kiss away the pain when they hurt themselves.

Did Mary do all these things? What was Jesus like as a child, I mean, really like? Was he ALWAYS good? I mean, he was perfect, so it seems right to assume that he was perfect as a child too. Does that mean that he never cried? Or did he cry when he fell down and got hurt?

Spiritually, we are to guide our children to make righteous choices. Jesus was perfect. How much guiding did Mary need to do when Jesus was a young child? Was the veil closed to him at a young age? Or was it always open?

What was it like?

Ever since having my kids and realizing the difficulty of raising them, I often ponder on this topic during the Christmas season and what a beautiful thing it is to be a mother.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How the Gospel Comforts in Times of Tragedy

Post after post on Facebook have been tributes to the innocent children and adults killed in the shooting last Friday.  I already posted some thoughts on this and how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change the hearts of the people, which in essence, will change the world.  In addition to that, this gospel brings us comfort in times of tragedy.

Many people question where God is when such tragedies occur.  Some of my favorite writings have always been those of President Spencer W. Kimball.  One such writing is called "Tragedy or Destiny" and discusses this very topic--how we can still know God is there when horrible tragedies occur.

Could the Lord have prevented [this] tragedy?  The answer is, Yes.  The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents, drive all planes and cars, feed us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even from death, if he will.  But he will not...

...If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity.  But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective....

...In the face of apparent tragedy, we must put our trust in God, knowing that despite our limited view his purposes will not fail.  With all its troubles life offers us the tremendous privilege to grow in knowledge and wisdom, faith and work, preparing to return and share God's glory.[1]

The Gospel of Jesus Christ brings us peace in the face of tragedy.  Also, consider these words, taken from "The Salvation of Little Children" by Bruce R. McConkie:

Are all little children saved automatically in the celestial kingdom?

To this question the answer is a thunderous yes, which echoes and re-echoes from one end of heaven to the other. Jesus taught it to his disciples. Mormon said it over and over again. Many of the prophets have spoken about it, and it is implicit in the whole plan of salvation. If it were not so the redemption would not be infinite in its application. And so, as we would expect, Joseph Smith’s Vision of the Celestial Kingdom contains this statement: “And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.” (D&C 137:10)

It is sometimes asked if this applies to children of all races, and of course the answer is that when the revelation says all children it means all children. There is no restriction as to race, kindred, or tongue. Little children are little children and they are all alive in Christ, and all are saved by him, through and because of the atonement.

Why do some children die and others live? Are those who die better off than those who remain in mortality?

We may rest assured that all things are controlled and governed by Him whose spirit children we are. He knows the end from the beginning, and he provides for each of us the testings and trials which he knows we need. President Joseph Fielding Smith once told me that we must assume that the Lord knows and arranges beforehand who shall be taken in infancy and who shall remain on earth to undergo whatever tests are needed in their cases. This accords with Joseph Smith’s statement: “The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth.” (Teachings, pp. 196–97.) It is implicit in the whole scheme of things that those of us who have arrived at the years of accountability need the tests and trials to which we are subject and that our problem is to overcome the world and attain that spotless and pure state which little children already possess.[2]
I cried when I heard about the shooting.  I have both a five-year-old and a six-year-old right now.  I have two other older children who are school age as well.  But I never felt like I needed to rush to the school and pull them out or felt afraid to put them back in school on Monday.  I think I felt reassured by the Gospel's teachings regarding the Plan of Salvation.  They bring comfort during times of great sorrow.  I'm grateful to have the Gospel and the knowledge of life after death and the tiny speck in the line of eternity that mortality represents.  It truly is a Gospel of Peace.

[1] Tragedy or Destiny?  Spencer W. Kimball

[2]  The Salvation of Little Children, Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign April 1977.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Love One Another

Friday's awful tragedy in Connecticut has left me pondering.  I tend to spend way too much time online and often I get sucked into reading stories and the comments that follow or spending time on question and answer boards.  In response to Friday's shootings, the debates are raging over gun control, awareness of mental illness, and school security.

I truthfully don't know all there is to know about gun laws in this country.  I only know what the second amendment says about having the right to bear arms.  I do know how to shoot a gun, not well, mind you, and I don't own a gun and nor do the majority of the people I know and spend time with regularly.  But it seems to me (personal opinion, not based on any facts or statistics or laws) that guns do not cause people to act heinously, nor does access to guns.  Guns aren't the only type of weapons out there--people can find out how to make a bomb from the Internet--not to mention knives, axes, screwdrivers, rocks, baseball bats, automobiles, etc.  In fact, if you think about it, since guns came about, people have owned them and used them and it's only been in the last few decades where we've had a rise in the number of such mass civilian shootings.  So I'm not sure that gun control laws would be the solution to this problem.

Mental illness is a big issue and a very real one too.  However, from what I understand, not all the shooters in these types of cases were dealing with a clinical mental illness.  Many of them had simply felt victimized or "screwed over" in life and had a lot of rage.  I guess excessive rage can be a form of mental illness, but anger is something we can all learn to control.  However, most people can't be forced to learn to control their anger, even if a judge assigns them the punishment of taking anger management classes.  They will still choose what they get out of such a class.  I do know there are a lot of people out there who deal with very serious mental illnesses, but the majority of them aren't going and shooting up an elementary classroom.  So is mental illness really at the root cause of such a tragic occurrence?

That brings me to school security, or security in general, I guess.  Many of the people on the sites I frequent are blaming the school for not having enough security.  However, if you really think about it, what could they do to make a school more secure?  People suggest metal detectors.  Many schools already have them.  People suggest a police officer guarding the one entrance to the school.  A gunman with rage could easily take out one cop.  Many schools already have screening processes (most do not truly make schools safer, either, as someone without a history of crime would easily pass the process).  The school my children attend has one open entrance during the day, all other entrances are locked and require a key card (worn by teachers and staff) to open, and the one entrance goes straight to the office where you have to check in.  However, you can easily see how this could be bypassed.  A gunman intent on getting in a school could take a teacher or staff member hostage and force entry by the key card or they could skip the office altogether and not check in.  In the case of many school shootings, the shooter was a student.  A metal detector may have helped in such a case, but there are ways to get past even that.  Clearly there are ways to get past such devices or there wouldn't be any "terror scares" in the skies in America anymore since airports have such heavy security that we must all pass through.  And personally, I don't want to have to go through such security just to drop off something to my kid at school or check them out for a doctor's appointment.

So then what do we do?

In order to fix these problems, we need to focus on where everything begins–the family.  If families would stay together and teach children to love one another, they would grow into adults who would do the same thing. There is a lot of anger out there–a lot of people harbor anger and grudges and cold hearts. Even on Internet forums (even on Facebook where we KNOW each other!) you see name-calling and bashing and unkindness. When parents are unkind and uncivil, their children learn that. Even if they have a tight-knit family, if they are teaching these attitudes and habits, that is what children learn and they will behave the same way. It’s become okay to act out in rage over the smallest, silliest things. When you hear of stories where a parent becomes outraged over something, most people stand there nodding their heads in agreement–that parent was right to react that way. Road rage, kids’ sports, etc., the list can go on and on. Yet we as a society have become more accepting of such behaviors because we feel we are “entitled” to being mad when our feelings get hurt. We have forgotten about forgiveness and love and those two things together have the power to change the world. Banning guns, treating mental illness, increasing security everywhere…those all seem to be logical solutions, but the solution truly lies in changing men’s hearts. Until that happens, we will always be hearing these stories in the news.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what will change men's hearts and keep them from turning cold.  Gun control, mental illness awareness, beefed up security might make a tiny dent in the problem, but the real problem lies in men's hearts.  That is where the change needs to happen.  Taking the Gospel, a gospel of love, to all the world is the only thing that will initiate true change.  Not an easy thing to do, for sure, but the way I see it, all these other things are like putting a bandaid on an arterial cut--not going to do a whole lot of good.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You ThinkSelfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think by Bryan Caplan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was looking forward to this book, mostly because of the raving recommendation I got for it.  I really thought that, given my view on having kids, it would really jive with me.  However, the nature vs. nurture premise of it really bothered me.  It's not that I don't believe the results of the twin and adoption studies that showed nature was more powerful than nurture--I'm sure there were such results as the author claims.  However, I disagree that parents have little effect on huge things like alcohol and drug use and teenage sex and pregnancy.  Parents have HUGE impacts on things like that and to say they don't, you might as well say, don't bother having rules or teaching morals or training your kids to work hard because nothing you do will count for anything.  That goes against scripture, which says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he shall not depart from it."  In church we are told as parents that what we do teach our kids matters a lot and I tend to believe what the gospel teaches parents over what some economist doing research finds on the subject. 

There isn't a whole lot of detail in his research given about the studies, just that he found that the studies he looked at made it seem that parenting doesn't matter.  And that wasn't what bothered me most--it was the fact that he went on for chapters and pages about nature winning over nurture but then he goes back and says that we should discipline our children.  Why, if the lessons won't stick?  A lot of what he is calling "nature" isn't nature, it IS nurture.  If I was raised by parents who are very pessimistic and also very self-disciplined, and I turn out that way, it's not genetics that caused me to be that way, it's learning from how they acted to act the same way.  Genetics don't cause you to be a pessimist or a perfectionist.  That's learned behavior because it's behavior you CAN change if you put your mind to it.  If it was truly genetics, it couldn't be changed, like eye color or height.

I did like the section where he talked about how the population and the economy have a reciprocal effect on each other and the section on grandparents was interesting.  However, this book was rather a disappointment for me as I thought it would be taken in a completely different direction.

Again, if nature so rules over nurture, then what is the point of me doing the best job I can as a parent to teach my kids right from wrong (something they don't know when they come) and teach them self-discipline and hard work and how to manage money, etc.  If nothing parents do matter, then nothing anyone else does either in the life of a human being and teachers can't affect a student and peers can't influence them either because "they are who they are".  What nonsense!

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Friday, November 30, 2012

You Are Special

We have the board book version of You Are Special which is a more concise version of the Max Lucado book.  Almost every day I read this to my 20-month-old at naptime, and almost every day, I tear up while I'm reading it to him.

The first time I read this book while in college, it really gave me food for thought.  Self-esteem is something I've struggled with my whole life, and I still do.  I don't like how I look, I often feel very incompetent in everything I try to do, and I compare myself to others all the time and always find myself coming up short, no matter what I'm comparing.

Reading this book every day to my child has helped me reflect on this concept.  It's a constant reminder to me that I need to not let what I perceive others to think about me matter so much.  And every day that I read it, I get choked up because of this reminder.

Book Review: Strangling Your Husband is Not an Option

Strangling Your Husband Is Not an Option: A Practical Guide to Dramatically Improving Your MarriageStrangling Your Husband Is Not an Option: A Practical Guide to Dramatically Improving Your Marriage by Merrilee Boyack

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I was disappointed with this book.  I was expecting so much more, considering how stellar I thought Merrilee Boyack's "The Parenting Breakthrough" was.  The first five chapters she goes on and on about how men are different from women and we just have to live with how they are, blah, blah, blah.  It wasn't until the sixth chapter that she actually gives practical advice at  how to deal with the annoying things he does and how to approach discussing issues with him.  I still am not sure anything she said would be useful in applying to my marriage.  Much of it was the standard advice (go on a date every week, keep up your appearance, etc.) that is all good and nice but not helpful.  I was hoping to find ways to improve the communication so that we can start having those "deep conversations" again and such and got no practical advice on how to do that, other than to "talk like you used to".  Hard to do if your spouse ain't interested!  Overall a really big disappointment.  Just more of the same non-helpful tips that I've been hearing for years.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: The Parenting Breakthrough

The Parenting Breakthrough: Real-Life Plan to Teach Your Kids to Work, Save Money, and Be Truly IndependentThe Parenting Breakthrough: Real-Life Plan to Teach Your Kids to Work, Save Money, and Be Truly Independent by Merrilee Boyack

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great book to really give your family direction and give you a solid reason and purpose in parenting.  I liked it so much I am going to buy it and get my husband to read it so we can work together to form a plan of our own that will work with our family to get our kids to be independent.

I especially liked the section on finances and teaching your children about money.  I feel my parents did pretty well in this area, but there are some suggestions and ideas that she gives that I had never thought about and even didn't know that I would like to implement to give my kids a real leg up in the matter of finances when they hit the real world.  I also want to implement some of her strategies to get my children saving their own money for missions and college and their futures.  I have always been a firm believer that it is NOT the parents' job to pay for their children's college educations and this book confirmed that for me, but gave me tools and ideas as to how to get them able and ready to fund a college education themselves, or mostly themselves, without having to take out a lot of money of loans and such. 

This book is going to be my new "parenting Bible", so to speak, because it just really resonated with me and how I already am trying to parent.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Art Teaching Experience

On Friday, I had my first run at teaching art at the elementary school.  I was at the school from 8:30 am until 1:25 pm, the full school day (Fridays are early-release days here).  I taught each grade level a presentation about the artist Henri Matisse, complete with pictures on a screen using a "dot-cam" (not sure what that is short for and we didn't have those when I was teaching nine years ago).  I gave an overview of the artist's life, the art period he was from, and a new vocabulary term.  We also discussed some elements of the artwork the students were going to recreate.  Then the classes separated and teacher's aides taught the actual drawing portion in the individual classrooms while I waited on the next grade level of students.

One thing I gleaned from this was that I really do enjoy teaching.  I  have enjoyed teaching my own kids preschool.  I have enjoyed doing summer learning with them each summer, including art and music and culture.  I even enjoy tutoring them in their homework.  But I also learned that I am very glad that right now I'm doing what I do.  I stay home with my kids and it's the right place for me to be right now.  Maybe some day, when my kids are grown, I will return to teaching.  I will enjoy this year's opportunity of teaching art, but I'm glad it's only once a month and only for six months of the school year.

I'm glad I have the skill set I have for teaching school so that I can use it if I need to, but I'm glad that right now, I get to stay home and focus on being a mother to my children.

*Goldfish by Henri Matisse, 1911.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My PTA Participation

PTA.  If you're the mom of a school-age child who attends public school, you know about PTA (or PTO).  Because I used to be a teacher, I always felt that I needed to contribute to the school.  I should volunteer.  I should join PTA.  I should be at the school helping out as much as possible.

The reality is for me that I don't really like to do it.  When the teachers find out I used to teach school, they always want to put me with a small group of struggling readers and have me do a reading group.  Or help a student who needs help with math one-on-one.  But it's very uncomfortable for me.  Often they do it with no guidance, so I'm not sure what it is they really want me to do.  It's one thing to be in charge of your own class, have a curriculum that you use and are familiar with and do what you want with it.  But when you are helping out a teacher, you aren't the one in charge.  They are.  I once had a kindergarten teacher hand me a packet of letter activities and a list of students' names and thanked me for helping.  I had no idea what I was supposed to do.  Therefore, I have sort of avoided helping out in the schools.  I sign up for the teachers to send work home for me to do, like cutting things out or sorting through papers, even grading.  But I try to stay away from being in the actual classroom.

At the end of last year when PTA papers went out, I decided that it was time I did my fair share.  After all, I will have three kids at the school and I have experience teaching school.  So I decided instead of just paying PTA dues and doing work for the teachers at home, I would try to do something more.  I looked at the choices of what committees to sign up for and picked a few that seemed interesting to me, thinking I could help on at least one committee.  The things was, there was just a list of committees, no explanations attached as to what you actually did on that committee.

About a week later, I got an email from the PTA president asking me if I would be the Art Commissioner.  No explanation as to what it was, no information about the art program.  I was promised I would get more information in a couple of weeks and told that I would be helping with the school's art program.  I thought I have experience with art and know a little about it, this could be interesting, so I accepted.

I finally found out a few weeks ago what would be expected of me.

I get to teach art to the school.  Once a month, the second Friday of the month, I get to go to the school and teach an art lesson on a famous artist to each grade level.  It will be all day, from 8:30 am to 1:20 pm (Fridays are short days here) and I will see each grade level come through.  I'll give them a fifteen minute lesson as a grade and then they'll separate back into their classrooms to do the artwork and I'll walk around checking to see what help is needed.

I am very excited about this.  I do have a little bit of an art background--I studied art in high school and took some art classes in college.  Art was a favorite subject of mine to teach too, when I got the chance, which was rare, based on the 100% focus on reading and math these days.  I have been pondering the idea of teaching again when my kids are all in school, missing teaching.  But I don't miss dealing with the district and the parents and the contract, etc.  This will fill  my desire to be teaching again without all the hang-ups.  Plus, the curriculum is all made, all I have to do is follow the lesson outline and teach it.  Once a month.  It's just the perfect thing.

The best part is, they had no idea I had teaching experience and was knowledgeable about art when they handed me this assignment.  I'm so excited about this!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: These Is My Words

These Is My WordsThese Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is currently my favorite book. I really felt like I could relate to the main character on many levels. I loved reading about life in the Arizona Territory as well, having lived in Arizona for some time as a young mother. I always love a book from that time period (end of the 19th century). There are so many things we take for granted in our modern lives that they just dealt with back then. It makes me appreciate what I have. I also feel like we could learn something about hard work, even from fictional books from this period, or at least hard manual labor. I think sometimes, after reading a book like this, that we have it too easy. I would recommend this book to anyone. Even the romance wasn't gushy or overdone like in other books, and it was clean.

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Well-Rounded Education

American public schools are failing all over the nation.  They are failing to teach literacy.  They are failing to prepare students for higher education.  They are failing to prepare students for life. 

Reading and math, reading and math.  I just read an article from some small town U.S.A. (outside of New Jersey) about how they are introducing all day kindergarten.  Because of more hours in school, the article stated that they would be able to spend 30 percent more time on reading and 40 percent more time on math.  The other 30 percent of the time was to be spent on building social skills.  Let me ask this question.  Whatever happened to science, social studies, art, writing, music, speech (as in public speaking skills), and P.E.?  Why are these subjects being removed from schools all over the country in favor of reading and math?  Don't people see what a disparity this is, how this takes us from what used to be a well-rounded education and makes it so lopsided and boring that young kids, who have a natural thirst for knowledge, are completely disinterested and bored in school by the time they are only seven years old?  No wonder the public schools are failing--they are driving children away from loving learning and only teaching them to despise it.

I had a very well-rounded education.  In elementary school, we went to P.E., art, and music once a week.  They were pull-out classes with a certified instructor in that subject area that went for an hour each time.  We also had one library day, which was 45 minutes.  Those times were teacher prep times for our classroom teachers, plus we learned a lot in those classes.  In art, we learned art history and about various artists in each period in art history and their contribution to art.  In music, we learned about singing and various musical instruments.  In P.E., we learned how to play many different sports and participated actively in doing them.  In our classes, we learned science and social studies.  I remember learning about how batteries worked and how the incandescent lightbulb worked, all in elementary school.  We learned about the different time periods throughout world history, and that is when I developed my love for history.

Today's kids get plenty of instructional time in language skills.  They have "balanced literacy" (something I'm actually on board with and I think is great, but too much time is focused on it).  They have guided reading, shared reading, independent reading, and writing and word study (spelling).  Guided reading is when they divide into leveled reading groups and read.  Shared reading is when they read together as a class.  Independent reading is just that, reading independently.  They focus on phonics (now called something else but it slips my mind) and whole word studies.  They do spelling.  They touch on writing, but I feel they don't do enough with writing.  It's mostly reading.  This "balanced literacy" takes up much of the day, about three hours.  If they are in school for 6.5 hours (which mine are), they have 45 minutes for lunch, 15 minutes for a separate recess, that only leaves 2.5 hours for everything else.  Since math is also a priority, they usually spend 1-1.5 hours on math alone.  Our school has a time set aside for extra help, to help kids who have fallen behind or give enrichment to kids who are keeping up and need more stimulation.  I think that's great.  We are lucky to still have P.E., although it's only 30 minutes and is very different than what it was when I was growing up.  Library is 30 minutes, and they have computers too.  As far as music and art, that's not really required anymore so many schools skip them altogether.  Science and social studies are also often neglected, which is why 4th graders no longer know how to read maps (this should be taught in 1st and 2nd grade) and 5th graders no longer know much about history.

Education is always a big issue in elections.  Everybody realizes that our system isn't working very well but nobody seems to know what to do about it.  I suggest bringing us back to a well-rounded education.  Bring back science, social studies, music and art.  Include dance and theatre arts in that as well.  When I was studying elementary education, I had to take classes in each subject area and learn the basics of that subject as well as how to teach it.  We also took classes on how to integrate subjects into one another because time in the classroom is limited so it works to teach more than one subject at a time (like writing a history report using proper grammar and mechanics).  I don't know if this is how teacher education still works, since it has been more than a decade since I went through my program, but if it is, it doesn't make sense that they aren't doing this enough in school. 

I think more testing should be done.  Not end-of-the-year type of standardized testing, but testing that finds the child's abilities and strengths and then places them according to that.  Teach all the subjects but utilize methods that work for that type of learner.  Allow children to use their strengths as a ladder and then help them with the areas which which they are weak.  Allow them to excel in the areas they are naturally good at and praise and reward them for it so they feel good about something they do.  With the curriculum so rigidly focused on reading and math, that leaves a lot of children in the dust who are intelligent, even brilliant, but just struggle in those subjects. 

I realize none of these things will probably happen in my lifetime, but it's nice to imagine.  I'm starting to understand why home schooling is such an attractive option for many people because if done properly, it allows you to do just this, focus on your child's strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses.  Focus on their learning style and adjust your teaching style to help them.  Perhaps, though, if all these home schooling advocates spoke up about what needs to change in the public schools and then initiated that change, we'd have better schools. 

Writing this has made me miss teaching in a lot of ways.  I did love teaching all the subjects, especially finding neat ways to incorporate one subject into another.  I think it's even gotten harder to do that with so much emphasis on reading and math.  Reading and math are important, true.  However, more can be done to make public education in America more well-rounded and inclusive. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Marriage and the Plan of Salvation

I recently read an article written by a gay man who actually said that "Jesus had nothing to say about sexual behavior of any kind."  He went on to say that Jesus taught love for one another, which is true, but he didn't teach us to love sin.  He didn't teach us that sinful behavior is okay as long as it is done in the name of love.

I guess if people want to be literal, then no, in the New Testament, Jesus himself did not say anything specific about homosexuality.  However, his prophets and apostles, who taught what Jesus wanted them to teach, did speak about it.  Recently, I saw an infographic going around Facebook.  Click over to the infographic and read it.  What gets me is how they compare homosexuality in the Old Testament with eating shellfish, pork and wearing clothes woven with different fabrics.  Now, I'm not an Old Testament expert, but I can differentiate between what are God's never-changing laws and what was cultural Jewish law of the time period.  They are not the same thing.  God's law never changes.  Cultural laws that reflect the time period did and do change.  I especially love the part on the graphic that says, "Have fun living your sexist, chauvinistic, xenophobic lifestyle.  The rest of culture will advance forward without you."  I don't understand why these people think that by accepting homosexuality and allowing same-sex marriages, culture is "advancing".  How does that make it advance?

It is clear in scripture that homosexuality is sinful, as are all other types of sexual sin.  These days, though, many people do not feel that sex outside of marriage is sinful as long as you are in a "committed" relationship or that you are "old enough" to make that choice.  The scriptures never say those things and certainly don't advocate any type of sexual relationship outside of marriage.

Let's take a look at marriage, then.  According the The Family: A Proclamation to the World, "Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan."  It also states, "God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife."  Can this be backed up by scripture?  In 1 Corinthians 7:13, Paul says "Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband."  Also, Doctrine and Covenants 49:15 says that "marriage is ordained of God." 

Now that we've established a definition for marriage according to scripture and modern revelation, we should discuss the Plan of Salvation.  According to LDS theology, the Plan of Salvation is God's great plan of happiness.  In this plan, we lived in a premortal existence before coming to Earth.  When we are born, our spirits are given a physical body.  Our Earth life is a test of faith.  The plan includes the Savior's great redeeming sacrifice--his suffering for our sins and dying on the cross.  This part of the plan satisfied God's requirement for justice and also allowed mercy.  Our sins were paid for.  But we have to come unto Christ and follow Him in order to accept this sacrifice.  This includes faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end by living a life full of love and service.  Then, we die.  At death, our spirits are separated from our physical bodies and go to the Spirit World, which is divided into Spirit Prison and Paradise.  One huge part of the plan is that all will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and accept it, whether that be in our Earthly life or in the Spirit World.  After all have heard the Gospel and either accept or reject it, there will be a resurrection and then great day of judgment.  At the resurrection, our spirits and our physical bodies, now perfected, will be reunited to live forever.  The judgment is when we are judged for how we lived our lives and whether or not we accepted Christ's sacrifice.  At that time, we will be separated into three kingdoms:  Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial.  The highest kingdom, the Celestial, will only be for those who accepted Jesus Christ and all of the priesthood ordinances done and lived worthy lives.  The Terrestrial Kingdom will be for those who lived good lives, many who accepted Christ even, but didn't have the saving ordinances done (baptism by those in authority being the first of those ordinances).  The Telestial Kingdom will be for most everyone else, people who didn't accept Christ, people who lived immoral lives, people who murdered and thieved and never repented and changed.  The last place people will be sent is Outer Darkness.  Only the very worst will be sent there, the Sons of Perdition.

I realize that is a brief explanation of the Plan of Salvation, which is many Sunday School lessons for each part of the plan.  However, you can see from that plan that if we don't follow it, we won't end up in a place where we will experience eternal joy and happiness.  Following the commandments of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ lead to happiness, both in this life and the next.  As the scripture in the Book of Mormon says, "Wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10).

Now, many people argue that homosexuality is not a sin.  In and of itself,  it is not.  However, when people act upon homosexual feelings and choose to express their love in that way, therein is where the sin lies.  So many people seem to misunderstand the LDS Church's doctrine regarding this issue.  Yes, people may have the tendency, the temptation, the trial of homosexual feelings.  I don't pretend to know why Heavenly Father would allow people to have such a struggle.  But I also don't pretend to know why he allows some people to have cancer or get into terrible debilitating car accidents.  There are many struggles we face in our Earthly life.  Some of them are perhaps merely the result of having a physical, carnal body.  Even heterosexual men and women in the Church are taught to restrain from certain physical affections before marriage, and even to control our very thoughts outside of marriage in that area.  It seems unfair to some, both in and out of the LDS Church, that homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to marry and finally be able to express those feelings.  However, if you look at marriage in light of God's plan of happiness, gender as "an essential characteristic" (Family Proclamation) of who we are and how that all fits into the eternal plan, it is more unfair to allow them to marry in this life because they won't be able to be with that partner in the life hereafter. Others say it's unfair to expect them to remain celibate throughout their mortal life, but the Gospel teaches that anyone who never marries should remain celibate. Why would the Church, which teaches love and eternal happiness, want to condemn someone's eternal state of being by allowing them temporary pleasure in this Earthly life, which we know to be merely equivalent to the "blink of an eye?"  It just doesn't make sense. 

This quote has been going around the Internet for some time:  "Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate." -Rick Warren

You can still be compassionate and loving toward those who struggle with same-sex attraction without changing your convictions about traditional marriage.  Not supporting same-sex marriage does not mean you hate your gay brothers and sisters or that you want to restrict their rights.  It means that you believe wholly in traditional marriage and that same-sex marriage does not have a place in God's plan of happiness.  You can still love them and treat them kindly and compassionately, as you should.  Definitely love your brothers and sisters, your fellow men, and treat them kindly.  That is something all can do.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Behind in Blogging

I know I have gotten really bad about keeping up with this blog.  I do actually have quite a few mostly written posts that need a little revision, just waiting to be published, but I just haven't had the motivation to finish them.

Here's the big news...I'm pregnant again.  I knew pretty much right away and at about two weeks started in with the terrible morning sickness, which I've now been dealing with for eight weeks.  I had some bloodwork done a couple times already and an ultrasound at six weeks (an extensive ultrasound), and this pregnancy is not molar.  So far, so good.  I'm ten weeks along now and am due on March 26th.  I really don't care if it's a boy or a girl, all I care about is getting past the horrible morning sickness, which usually (mostly) dissipates by about sixteen weeks (although I still usually have it in the morning the rest of the pregnancy).

My kids have been super helpful.  My nine-year-old has bathed his baby brother and gotten him ready for bed on more than one occasion when my husband hasn't been around.  Both the nine-year-old and the seven-year-old have been helpful in bringing me food that we have on hand that I crave.  They've helped with chores, like loading the washing machine, and doing the dishes.  So it's been great this time around to have older kids who can really help out.

I will try to catch up on my blogging when I'm feeling better, but don't be surprised if you don't see any posts from me for another several weeks or even more than a month.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Difficult Children

My five-year-old is driving me to distraction.  I have to leave the room sometimes to cool down because he makes me so angry that I feel like screaming in his face or worse.

He is a very intense child.  Two days ago, my husband had gone to work for the night shift.  We had eaten dinner and I was allowing the kids to watch a little TV before winding down for bed.  The five-year-old was upstairs watching something else than the other kids, who were downstairs.  I was on the computer checking email.  The power went out for about one minute.  Then it came back on.  We have Direct TV so the satellite had to power back on, which sometimes can take up to thirty minutes after a power outage.  The three kids downstairs shrugged their shoulders and said, "It will probably be on again as a re-run anyway" and went upstairs to brush their teeth and get pajamas on.  Not him.  He started screaming and wailing because he couldn't finish his show.  I told him that because the power went out, the TV company's system had to restart and sometimes it takes a while to get working again.  He continued to scream and wail as if he hadn't heard a word I'd said.  I told him that there wasn't anything I could change about what was happening with the TV.  I told him that we could look for that same episode of that show later to try and record.  We could even try to find it online.  Nothing would calm him and he screamed like that for a good twenty minutes before he found something else to wail about.

The above scenario is pretty typical.  He probably does something similar at least twenty times a day.  He wanted white milk and I gave him chocolate.  He wanted a sandwich not cut and I cut it.  He wants to ride his bike but it's raining.  He wants to play Legos with his older brothers but they want to play something else.  He doesn't want to do his chores.  Any and every little thing, a change or something he doesn't want to happen or anything unexpected comes along and he goes nuts wailing and crying.  I do try to forewarn him when it's time to change activities, like if his time on the Wii is almost done (this is a daily battle, even though he KNOWS he only gets 30 minutes and he KNOWS when he's down to the last few minutes and he KNOWS he has to get off or  he's grounded the next day, he still throws a tantrum almost every time), but I can't forewarn him about everything, like the power going out. 

I have tried to soothe him, ignore him, tell him "too bad", empathize with him, but nothing works.  He ignores everything and everyone around him and wails and wails.  I just don't know what to do anymore.  And I'm nervous because he starts school this fall and we all know that things don't always go your way at school and sometimes things change without warning too.  How will he handle that type of thing at school? 

Has anybody ever dealt with something like this? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Favorite Book and Book Group

I haven't reviewed this book on Goodreads yet, and I actually want to post that one when I do it.  So this isn't the actual review I will write on this book.

I recently read the book "These Is My Words" by Nancy Turner.  It one an Arizona Book Award and was nominated for a Willa Cather award.  A friend of mine told me about the book several years ago when I still lived in Arizona.  She had read it for her book club.  I put it on my list of to-reads, and it kept getting pushed to the bottom.  A few times, I tried finding it for fun at the library while I was there, but it was never there.  Finally, I moved it to the top of the list because I felt like reading something from that period of time, late 1800's.  I reserved a copy at the public library and within days I had it in my hand.

This has got to be one of the best books I have read.  I loved it.  I couldn't put it down.  It wasn't exactly a page-turner, but I fell in love with the story and the simplicity with the way it's told.  I have always loved that time period and I think that was one of the factors that drew me to the book.

I was so excited about it that I decided to finally try and organize a book group, something I've been wanting to do for a while now.  So I sent out messages and suggested the book and got quite the response.  Tonight is our first meeting where we will discuss this book and I am quite excited.  In fact, I ordered a copy of the book for myself in the mail and got it on Saturday and have been re-reading it ever since.  It is just as good the second time around, even after only a month of having read it the first time.

I am excited about a book group.  One thing I have really missed about being in school the last 12 years is the discussions about learning.  Admittedly, a book group won't be like learning new things, but I'm looking forward to discussing what I'm reading with other people who've actually read it, not just my husband after I tell him the story of what I've read and then proceed to tell him what I think about it.  This will be much more enlightening and much more rewarding.  I have always wished I could put together a group of ladies who love learning as much as I do and would be willing to research out topics to learn about and then get together periodically to discuss them and share what we've learned.  I'm not sure anyone would want to form such a group, so I figure a book group is second best.  We won't always be learning new things, but we'll be discussing what we've read, and that is something I really look forward to doing.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Vacation vs. Real Life Addendum

I was thinking more on my previous post and decided that there are a few reasons why I felt that way.  First of all, when I was on my vacation, much of the time we spent in our car driving.  Therefore, I had the complete, undivided attention of my spouse, something I don't often get.  Lots of times, he is so engrossed in a TV show that he doesn't hear what I tell him even though he acknowledges me and acts like he heard.  When I bring up the same subject again at a later time, he never knows what I'm talking about because he didn't listen the first time.  Or he's checking voice mails or responding to texts from people at his work.  Or playing the Wii.  So having his complete, undivided attention for 2500 miles was wonderful.  Of course, we did use a lot of that time listening to some audio books, but being able to turn it off and talk was rejuvenating for me.

Second, I got to see some of my favorite friends and family members.  I thrive on social activity and being shut away from the world in my house most of the time is hard for me.  I try to go to Girls Night Out every time I can, and I try to attend play group.  I just recently am attempting to start a book group, so we'll see how that goes.  But when I go for several days without talking to anyone but my kids (and my husband, who usually isn't listening), I feel like I'm going to go mad.  Being able to have conversations with lots of people, particularly some of my favorites, was refreshing to me as well.

And lastly, we had the money set aside for the trip.  We used cash the whole way.  I never really felt like we were over spending or that I had to take note of what we were using the money for because it was already there, allotted for this very vacation.  I think that really took a burden off of me because one of my tasks is to manage the money.  Though we discuss it often and remain open about it, it still falls to  me to make sure the bills get paid and paid on time and that we keep up with the checkbook and the budget sheet so we know exactly how much money is coming in and going out.  It's a big job.  It's time consuming and stressful for me.  This trip took me away from that for nearly TWO WHOLE WEEKS!

Plus, I had quite a bad first week back.  Two of my kids have had the runs all week.  I dealt with the stress of trying to get the van repaired from our little mishap on the trip.  I had to jump back into real life full force--attending a funeral for a beloved family member, tackling mountainous laundry, trying to regain the summer routine of chores, school work, and music and art instruction, taking a child to Urgent Care for an earache, and getting back into the chore of managing the money.  It's been a lot to deal with for me this week.  Getting back into the groove is never easy, I guess.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Vacation vs. Real Life

My daughter trying to cheer up her baby brother on the beach.  He did not like the sand one little bit.

I have decided that I don't want to be in real life anymore.  I want to be on a permanent vacation.  Even though our vacation consisted of driving 2500 miles with five children under the age of ten, I still found it to be enjoyable and relaxing, at least once we got on the road that first day.  Planning it and doing all the preparations for it gave me major anxiety, but on the trip, the only moment I felt any anxiety, or panic really, was when we walked out front of my brother's house in California and discovered our car was not there.  Fortunately, it had only been towed, wrongfully towed, I might add, and a window got busted during the tow, something we still haven't had fixed.  Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

I loved the drive and almost wish that we didn't have an exact destination and a time crunch.  We took the Pacific Coast Highway from Monterey all the way down to Santa Monica and, although it was slow-going at times, it was a fabulous drive and I enjoyed looking out over the ocean and stopping at a few different beaches along the way.

I enjoyed not worrying about paying bills (took care of that before we left) or caring for our aging dog (we hired someone to come take care of him) or the day-in and day-out issues of raising children.  Though we still had to deal with exhausted and bored children and dealt with the usual sleepless nights with our 16-month-old, it seemed less serious, less urgent to take care of these matters.  We were on vacation, after all, so I felt like we dealt with things with a little more patience and a little less stress.

The best part was seeing all the family we saw.  Three of my five brothers and their families.  My parents.  All of my husband's siblings, their families, and his mom.  Many members of the extended family on both sides as well.  Visiting with them, talking with them, relaxing with them, all of that was so wonderful for me.  Probably because I crave such contact with other people and at home all the social interaction I get tends to be limited to the screen of my computer.  I wish it weren't that way, but the only time I ever really get out and interact with other people is at our ward's once-a-week playgroup and those conversations just aren't enough for me to feel fulfilled intellectually.  I rather enjoyed the deep conversations I had with my parents about child-rearing philosophies and ideas about higher education and other social issues.  I enjoyed discussions I had with siblings on gospel topics and also conversations that took us down memory lane where we reminisced about the past.  Why is it so hard for me to find deep, meaningful friendships now that I am married with all these kids?  It seems like often the only people I can have such discussions with are people I knew in my non-married life--family members, former roommates, and old friends from high school and college.  People who know who I am outside of wife, mom, homemaker.

Now that I'm back to real life, I can feel the anxiety acting up again.  My stomach just churns and churns about every little detail of my life and I can't seem to do anything about it.  Right now, I wish we had an endless supply of money so we could have more vacations like that.  Real life seems dreadful.  Not that it's boring--it is certainly filled with ever-changing ups and downs--but it just seems like such a drag compared to the last two weeks of traveling.

Though I must admit, it is good to be back in my own house.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

End of Hiatus and Blog Ideas

Oye!  I haven't posted anything new for several weeks.  I just got too busy with pre-vacation preparations and then I was on vacation, and blogging kind of slipped to the wayside.

Not only that, but I've been rethinking this blog.  I still feel like it's floundering, like I can't seem to make it the way I want it.  I want a place to write my thoughts on whatever floats my boat.  Most of the time, I like to mull over the social issues that crop up, especially in the political arena, yet I'm not very politically minded so I wouldn't be very successful at a highly political blog.  There are too many other times I want to talk religion and too many other times I just want to reflect on life in general.  Therefore, I would love to co-create a community of bloggers who are like-minded on social issues and religiously with whom I could connect.  I've been a member of Mormon Mommy Blogs for about four years but feel very unfulfilled by the shallow babble that takes place on that site.  I also started frequenting certain Christian blogsites (Women Living Well, Raising Homemakers) but feel like I cannot connect with others there because they believe that since I'm a Mormon, I'm not a Christian.  Even though I tend to agree with these sites more than most of the Mormon sites I've found on issues of child-rearing and living my religion, they do not accept me as one of them because I believe that Heavenly Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are separate beings and that the Book of Mormon is scripture like the Bible and that you actually have to be good in order to attain the highest degree of salvation, not just profess belief in Christ to attain it.  So I've been thinking about creating a blog site of my own with contributors who share similar beliefs and ideas.

The question is, would anyone who reads this blog be interested in partnering with me to create a new site with the target audience being LDS women who are mothers who want to become better homemakers and give ideas on how to do that and live our religion and be "in the world but not of the world?"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Cease to be idle..."

I  have no tolerance for laziness in myself and in my family members.  I should have been born in another time period when people had to work day in and day out just to live.  We have too many conveniences these days that have made us very prone to laziness.  Being idle is actually contrary to the teachings of the gospel.  In Doctrine and Covenants 88:124, it says, "Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated."  This is actually a seminary scripture, one of those scriptures that students of our LDS seminaries are instructed to memorize.  My seminary class in Texas called this scripture the seminary scripture because it talks about not sleeping "longer than is needful" and we had early morning seminary.

I have always believed that work is a necessary part of life. It really, really bothers me when people are lazy simply because they can be (the people I'm thinking of, though, are mostly people that I am around every day, like members of my own family, although it does bother me to some degree to see random people in society acting with such laziness, especially teenagers).  There is always work to be done, but they think, "it's my day off, I can be lazy."  True, we are allowed a day off from our labor, but that is the Sabbath, during which we are admonished to still remain productive.  I recall my parents teaching that even on Sundays, the day of rest, we shouldn't just spend the entire day sleeping.  It is unproductive.  Taking a nap is fine, but sleeping all day is just lazy.

This is also why it's wise to "retire to thy bed early", so that we can get enough sleep to feel rested and not be so tired the next day that we are wanting to sleep in.  Growing up, I had a curfew of 10 p.m. on weeknights, even in the summer months.  That meant I needed to be home then, but I usually tried to be in bed by then as well.  Because I'm a person who learned very early in life that I do not function well with a lack of sleep, I had no trouble keeping to this curfew.  There were occasions where I was allowed to stay out later, but I always regretted it the next day when I still had to be up early the next day.

I take this scripture to heart and very sincerely try to live it.  There are occasional days where I succumb to laziness and I always feel bad later because I allowed myself to be so indulgent and unproductive.  This is probably why I prefer to have my children do chores, piano practicing and schoolwork when they first get up in the morning on summer days.  "Work first, play later" has always been one of my mantras.  I do try to spread out the work so that I do have time for play because I also believe what Brigham Young said about dividing our time wisely between work, recreation and sleep (wish I could find the exact quote, but I can't seem to find it).  However, I've found that often when you indulge first in recreation with the intention of working later, the work rarely gets done, or if it does, it doesn't get done to the quality that it should. 

*image from Google images  

I rather enjoy being productive.  I enjoy seeing the fruits of my labors.  I enjoy feeling as if I've accomplished something, even if all I've accomplished is keeping my house clean, getting my family fed, and maintaining some order while doing it.  I hope to instill this value of work into my children.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Childhood, Then and Now

Yesterday evening as I was driving back to my house with all my kids after dropping off something to my husband at work, I saw a car cross the intersection in front of me.  It was a convertible and the people in it appeared to be a father with his tween-age daughter and her friend.  It was early evening, around 5:30, so it was still light and warm.  I had a serious flashback to when I was about that age and I went to spend the night at a friend's house.  We went to dinner with her dad and he took us in his convertible.  The memory was so thick that I had a bit of a hard time returning my focus to the road; it took someone honking behind  me to remind me that I wasn't one of those young girls in the convertible but just a mom with a minivan full of kids trying to get home in late afternoon traffic to eat some dinner.

Lately, I've been having these types of memories of childhood.  Not all of my childhood, just the part of my childhood that I spent living in Texas.  I had some really great experiences there as a kid and then again as an early teen.  I lived there from the age of four until I was almost nine, then we moved away for almost three years (Connecticut for a little over a year and Utah for a little over a year).  We moved back the summer that I was eleven and were there until after I turned sixteen.

I yearn for those days.  Not that I want to repeat them necessarily, but I wish that my children could have the same type of childhood I had.  These days it's a huge feat if you can let your kids go to the park alone, but back then, we played outside all day, riding bikes all over the neighborhood and all the other kids were outside too.  We had a creek behind our house and we would walk the creek as a shortcut to get to the neighborhood pool.  We would spend hours every day in the summer at the neighborhood pool without our parents, playing with all our school friends and hanging out.

I loved too how the school we attended had a strong arts program--we went to art class once a week and studied influential artists from history and the elements of art.  We made pottery and painted with watercolors.  We went to music class once a week and learned about rhythm and beat and how to sing, like really sing.  We also had P.E., real P.E. where we learned the rules of the different sports and practiced skills pertaining to the sports.  Now, kids are lucky if they even have P.E. and usually it consists of games or little exercise routines.  The only way the kids can learn sports these days is by signing up and paying money to play it through a city or community program.  No more sandlot baseball games or playing soccer after school at the school field.

I think this is why I try so hard to work with my kids during the summer months.  We go outside and play soccer, baseball, basketball, and football.  I've already tried a couple of times to organize a kickball game with all the neighborhood kids (although "kickball" here in Utah now is a weird game that they play with two lines facing each other and kicking the ball back and forth, not the kickball I grew up playing).  I haven't yet succeeded in generating enough interest, but one of these days, I'll get it done.

I just wish my kids could have some of the same great experiences I had growing up.  I know they'll have some great ones of their own, but I guess I worry that because of the way the world is now, where kids are so sheltered (sheltered from the good and real experiences, but exposed to a lot of crap they shouldn't be exposed to) and lots of adults don't think kids are capable of much, that they won't have the same types of opportunities that I had.  I know I need to stop worrying about it and just let them live, but when I think back to those golden years of my childhood, I can't help but feel like they are missing out on something.

 My youngest brother and I when I was about fourteen and he was about six.

 Youth Conference in Texas, me with three friends.  (I'm the one in the orange shirt, in case you couldn't tell)

 Me with my best friend from church right before a stake youth dance.  Those dances were the best.  We had one tri-stake dance each Saturday for three Saturdays every month, rotating stake centers.  We tried to go to every single one, too.

Me with two of my friends from school--the one in the polka dots was my best friend from school (she was the one whose dad had the convertible).  This was the last week of eighth or ninth grade, I can't remember which.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Our Summer Learning

I promised that I would post about our summer routine and what we do for summer learning.  I love summer especially for this learning time.  I am thankful that my children attend a good school where values are still taught and expected and the community where I live reflects that.  Our state does not have set requirements for what children need to learn in music and art and even science in the lower grades.  Our school's teachers do try to incorporate these subjects with the core curriculum as much as possible.  However, I see that these "extras" are lacking in some areas.

For example, in art, they mostly do craft projects.  They haven't learned about the elements of art, like color, line, movement, balance, etc.  They know nothing of art history or influential artists from history.  So I take it upon myself during the summer months to teach them these things.  I have a little bit knowledge in art myself having taking a few courses and really loving that subject area, so I'm able to teach them what I know and research what I don't know.  I do this with music and science and cultural studies as well.

I am a very structured person, so it's pretty easy for me to formulate a summer routine of chores and summer learning with my kids.  First of all, I determine what subjects they need to review during the summer and which ones I will teach them.  They need to read every day and it's good for them to review language arts and math.  I also like them to practice their handwriting in the summer months because they tend to get sloppy by the end of the school year and they need that constant practice.  So each day they do some practice pages in these areas, either in a workbook I have found for them or pages that I have printed from the Internet.  We alternate days, doing language arts twice a week, math twice a week, and handwriting one day.  Fridays are for art, science, social studies, and music and any other non-core-subject learning.  Every day we also have a piano lesson (each child has a different day for their lesson) and the rest of them practice the piano.  We do all these things before they can have their freedom to go play.  Also, once a week the older boys have karate and the younger two (not the baby though) have gymnastics.  Starting next week we will focus on a foreign culture for a week, learning history and culture and ending the week by having a meal from that culture.

Here is our basic routine:

6:30-7:00 am      Wake up, make beds, say morning prayers, get dressed

7:00 am    Family Scripture Reading and Prayer (this is the main reason we get up early even in the summer.  We like to have scripture reading and prayer at the beginning of the day otherwise it usually doesn't happen.  We have to have it before Daddy goes to work, and he leaves at 7:15 am.)

7:15 am    Eat Breakfast/Brush Teeth/Reading Time (about 20-30 minutes, starting with personal scripture reading)

7:45/8:00 am    Learning Time--Piano lessons and practicing during schoolwork time; Monday and Wednesday are for Language Arts review; Tuesday and Thursdays are for math; Wednesday there is also a handwriting page.  Later in the summer we will probably do some creative writing as well.  I do one child each day for a piano lesson Monday through Thursday and the rest do practice time after the lesson is over, taking turns.  On Fridays, we do Music Theory together instead of a lesson and then they take turns practicing.  We also do art on Fridays.  Starting next week, after everyone has done their individual reviews and piano practicing, we will do a mini lesson on a foreign culture.

9:00 am    We are usually done with all learning time by 9:00 am. This is when we have a snack and run some errands or have some free time.  The baby goes down for his morning nap.

10:00 am    Tuesdays gymnastics for two of the kids, Wednesdays karate for two of the kids.
Wednesdays there is playgroup at this time and sometimes there are things going on at this time  for the other days as well.  Mornings are busy.

12:00 pm     Lunchtime, then baby's nap.  After lunch the kids will often play the Wii during the baby's nap.  
They earn their Wii time by earning tokens from their daily routine.   They pay me one token for fifteen minutes of Wii time and are limited to 30 minutes of Wii time each per day.  I set the timer for them.

1:30 pm      The rest of the day is free time until dinner.  They play outside, blow bubbles, bake, play with Legos, play at a friend's, have a friend over, etc.  Sometimes we'll take a family bike ride or go to the park.  When we join the pool for a month in July we'll go there almost every day in the afternoon.

Of course, some days we don't follow this exact schedule and we vary it up.  Like yesterday, after morning learning time, we took one of my kids to a doctor's appointment that happened to be near the zoo, so then we went to the zoo when the appointment was done and spent the morning there. 

Here is a copy of our daily routine, for which they earn tokens:

They earn one token for each set of activities that is surrounded by a black box.  So they can earn three tokens a day and can use two tokens a day for playing the Wii.  The chores vary depending on the week, as we have a weekly rotating chore system.  The Saturday chore and the level of chore changes too.  This is our first week of using this system for their daily routine.  Two of my kids are eating up being able to check off boxes and earn tokens and two of them don't seem to really care about it at all.  So we'll see how it goes this summer as this is the first summer I've implemented such a structured routine.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Keeping My Kids Busy

Often I am asked how I keep my kids busy in the summer.

When I was a kid, my mother did not keep me busy in the summer and I have actually grown to think that this "how to keep the kids busy all summer" is a relatively new concept that falls in line with the new method of helicopter parenting and mollycoddling your kids so they develop no independence or imagination of their own.  If we said we were bored, my mother put us to work doing some horribly loathsome chore, like cleaning out the garage or weeding the entire garden, so we learned to never complain about boredom.  When I was a kid, we spent our summers playing with each other, reading, going for bike rides in our neighborhood.  Sometimes we'd all go swimming as a family but in one of our houses, we got a membership to a neighborhood pool and back then, kids were allowed to go without a parent as long as we were eight years old or older and passed a swim test. The swim test consisted of swimming a certain amount of laps (I think it was three), treading water for one minute, and diving from the side of the deep end of the pool to retrieve something at the bottom of the deep end.  Once we passed, we got our own little pass to the pool and we could come without our parents.  My brothers and I spent every day, all day, at that pool the summers of 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993.  It'd be interesting to find out if they have such a swim test now.  If they do, I'll bet the age has changed to older, but I'd honestly be surprised if they have such a swim test now, given the hysterical paranoia of many of today's parents. 

Since I obviously can't send my kids to the pool on their own (and even if they had a pool around here that had the same regulations only one of my kids would be old enough to go on his own), and in today's world, we can't just kick them out of the house at 9 am and tell them to be home for dinner at 6 pm, it does end up falling on our shoulders as parents to keep them busy.

I'm lucky that my kids have been independent and entertaining themselves since they were little.  I attribute this to the fact that I'm not the coddling sort of mother--I kind of have a bigger personal space and never really wanted my kids climbing on my lap and bothering me, so from the time they were walking, I've been telling them to go away and find something else to do.  Very nurturing, I know, but when it comes to summer break, I really don't have to do much to keep them entertained.

They like to create works of art and stories galore.  My oldest will spend hours piecing together instruction manuals for Lego sets that he creates out of the Legos we own or he'll make a book of facts about dragons that he comes up with on his own.  Then he'll take his books and get the other kids together and they will use the information to build a giant Lego city or to track and hunt dragons.  Lately, they're obsessed with Indiana Jones (courtesy of our Wii game, Lego Indiana Jones) and they found some cheap Indiana Jones-type hats at Hobby Lobby.  They'll spend hours playing Indiana Jones, using the rope that I got when I made Jedi costumes for them a couple of summers ago as a whip.  So really, them needing me to entertain them isn't really an issue.  Oh, and I also let them play outside unsupervised, so that's another thing they do all the time--ride their bikes and play Indiana Jones outside.

I do actually have a routine that I stick with and some expectations for them regarding summer learning and chores and things, which I will share in another post, but I like to make sure they have lots of free time to stretch their imaginations.  I think that is a really important part of childhood that a lot of parents forget about or don't think is very important anymore and lots of kids end up so scheduled with structured activities that they never develop this ability to entertain themselves and be creative.  This is one of the reasons I love summer--my kids have more time to do this than they have during the school year.

Monday, June 4, 2012

10 Reasons I LOVE Summer

This is a direct reaction to this post over at Mormon Mommy Blogs. 

1.  I love not being tied down to a schedule.  While I don't care to indulge and sleep in every day, and my kids certainly make sure I never get to anyway, I love that I don't have to get up and get ready.  I don't have to  make sure the kids are up and dressed with backpacks packed and lunches made and breakfast eaten.  

2.  I love being able to make my own schedule.  I am a structured person; I thrive on structure and routines.  I think it makes it easier to manage a household of children as well.  I love being the one calling the shots in our daily routine.

3.  I love sunshine.  Long, cold winter months and fickle springs make me anxious and annoyed.  I enjoy heat and sunshine.  I need both of them to keep my sanity.  That's perhaps why I dealt with less depression in Arizona, as I had both of them for long periods of time.  I could live a happy long life if I knew I'd never have to face another cold winter.

4.  I love swimming outside.  I am not an indoor swimming person.  I loathe the smell of chlorine that is trapped inside and the lack of sunshine pouring down while swimming.  I love being able to get out of the pool and go to my towel and dry in the breeze.

5.  I love summer learning.  I like being able to set up learning programs for my kids to keep them learning in the summertime.  Tracking their reading for a prize at the end of summer, practicing handwriting and math, teaching them music and art and science.  Family field trips to the zoo, the museum, the farm, the park.

6.  I love family bike rides.  Another reason to hate winter, being trapped inside all the time.

7.  I love just hanging out with the kids.  Doing what they want to do.  Playing outside and teaching them kickball or four square or learning how to catch and throw the baseball.

8.  I love the temptation of a vacation.  Of being able to jump in the car and drive four hours north on a random Tuesday if we want to.  Or to decide last-minute that we need to see the grandparents, both of which who live a 12 hour drive away.  That's something we have to plan in advance during the school year but in the summer, we can just drive and we don't have to deal with bad weather to drive either.

9.  I love Popsicles, snow cones, ice cream cones, ice cream bars, and walking to the nearest place that sells these things on warm summer evenings.  I miss not being able to do this during school because it's too dark too early, too cold, and they have school in the morning.

10.  I love rodeos.  My kids love rodeos.  I love how in Utah in the summer there is one rodeo after another it seems about every weekend.  We don't make it to all of them, only a couple usually, but just being able to go makes summer fun.  This goes for all other fun summer events as well.  Where we live, all the little cities and towns around have their own festivals and "town days" and there are lots of free, fun activities that go along with these.  I love all these events.

I just love summer.  I think I love it mostly because I'm just a warm weather person.  I'll take 100 degree heat over snow and ice any day.  I do enjoy the end of summer and the start of a new school year, as I talk about in this post here.  But summer, to me, is the feeling of sweet freedom.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Great Plan of Happiness

Today I'm reminded of our Heavenly Father's great Plan of Happiness.  I'm so grateful for this plan, for the peace that it brings.

Today is Memorial Day.  All over the United States we are honoring fallen soldiers who gave up their lives for the price of freedom.  I like to use Memorial Day as a time to remember all of those people in our lives who have passed on.  My grandparents, all four of them.  My uncle that I never knew.

I am reminded of Heavenly Father's wonderful plan because of this.  Earlier this year, a friend of mine started posting about her friend whose 4-year-old boy was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  Yesterday, that little boy died. 

As I read the most recent posts about this little boy and then went back through the family's blog and looked at pictures of him from his birth until he died, I was reminded of this plan.  That plan that when we die, our spirit is released from our imperfect mortal body.  That plan that when we are resurrected, our bodies will be perfect.  That plan that we will be together again someday.  And I'm reminded of an especially beautiful part of that plan, the doctrine about the salvation of little children.  This part brings such great comfort in the wake of such tragedy.

Among all the glorious gospel verities given of God to his people there is scarcely a doctrine so sweet, so soul satisfying, and so soul sanctifying, as the one which proclaims—Little children shall be saved. They are alive in Christ and shall have eternal life. For them the family unit will continue, and the fulness of exaltation is theirs. No blessing shall be withheld. They shall rise in immortal glory, grow to full maturity, and live forever in the highest heaven of the celestial kingdom—all through the merits and mercy and grace of the Holy Messiah, all because of the atoning sacrifice of Him who died that we might live.[1]
In the article, I especially love the part where he talks about how the family will get to raise that child again.  I only know a few people personally whose children have passed away.  But through the Internet, I know of quite a few families who have lost little ones, either to terrible diseases, such as little Atticus, to sudden tragic deaths.  I am so grateful for the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and the comfort of the knowledge of the life hereafter that this brings.

Rest in peace, little Atticus.  Rest in peace.


[1] The Salvation of Little Children, Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, April 1977

Friday, May 25, 2012

Focusing on Darkness

Making happiness is not easy for me.  I have dealt with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager.  I have never been medically diagnosed with either one, but I feel certain I struggle with them.  I have sought counseling and it did help, but that was the problem.  Because it helped, my therapist said I probably didn't need to keep coming, so I didn't.  But it was because I was going that I was feeling better.  That was last fall.  I have been in conflict with myself whether I should go back.  My anxiety has been worse than ever.

Every day it is a struggle to be happy.  It is a lot of work.  Is it this much work for everyone or just some people?  Are some people just naturally happy and optimistic?  For me, it's a choice to be happy and optimistic, one that I struggle making. I feel that I am naturally a pessimistic person and the first thing I see is the negative, even if I'm not trying to see it.  I have to look hard for the positive in every situation I'm in, every situation, even the little day-to-day things like getting up in the morning, paying the bills, living life.

One main concern of mine is why does the world seem so bleak to me?  It's like my worries and fears are so much bigger than anything else that they overshadow everything.  I can't seem to find anything happy to focus on because even those happy moments seem so fleeting and small that they just don't overshadow the bad.

I remember reading or hearing once a general authority talk about beautiful vistas in life.  He gave an analogy of riding along on a train through tunnels and darkness and every once in a while you emerge from the darkness to a beautiful vista.  I think I have missed many beautiful vistas because I seem to only know how to focus on the darkness.

Is it even possible to learn to focus on the light when you've only ever known about focusing on darkness?


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