Tuesday, February 16, 2016

We postponed school by 3 1/2 hours today...

Today was a really rough day.  I was battling bad attitudes (and I'm not just talking about the kids) all morning.  I finally called school off for the morning!  It was very clear that no learning of any value was going to take place so we needed a different plan.  School was postponed a few hours.

The morning was spent doing a few errands because Mommy would have gone crazy in the house trying to get things done with a bunch of disobedient children.  Getting outside and driving around was a good "reset" for all of us.

Then when we got home chores needed to be done, followed by lunch.  After lunch we finally gathered around and did our typical morning scripture memorization and prayer.  Then from about 1pm to 5pm (with a short snack break in the middle) we did almost all our normal school work.  The amazing thing was that it was actually a productive afternoon with teachable children.  It was blessedly different than the aggravating morning.

It was sad to have to skip our typical afternoon park playdate (I only miss once in a blue moon!)  But this was necessary today.  Kids needed consequences for poor behavior and schoolwork still needed to get done.  I'm thankful that we had that flexibility.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

This Is My Home, This Is My School by Jonathan Bean

I was so excited to find this book while browsing at the library.  I didn't know such a book existed!  I immediately went to the circulation desk and emphatically told the librarian, "Thank you!"  

Here's the description from Amazon:

"Drawing from his own childhood experiences, Jonathan Bean takes the autobiographically inspired family he introduced in Building Our House through the special rhythms and routines of a homeschooling day. For young Jonathan and his sisters, Mom is the teacher and a whole lot more, and Dad is the best substitute any kid could want. From math, science, and field trips to recess, show-and-tell, and art, a school day with this intrepid, inventive family will seem both completely familiar and totally unique. Includes a selection of family snapshots and a note from the author."

There is a plethora of children's books about the first day of school and many more that have their primary setting in an Elementary School.  I have always wished that I could also find picture books that reflect the reality of my home and my children's school.  

Homeschooling is becoming more and more popular.  The homeschooling community in the U.S. is growing by leaps and bounds.  It's wonderful to finally find a book that unapologetically shows that homeschooling is a beautiful option for some families.  

Picture books are an important way to open a child's eyes to the diversity around them.  This Is My Home, This Is My School by Jonathan Bean is a positive step in the right direction for the future of children's literature.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

How Have I Built a Personal Relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior?

Today I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting.  I'm grateful I had the opportunity.  Here is the full text of what I shared in church today (well, minus 5 minutes of ad-lib testimony because I needed to fill more time.)

My topic today is “How have I built a personal relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior?”

President James E Faust said that having a personal, ongoing, daily, continuing relationship with the Savior “can unchain the divinity within us, and nothing can make a greater difference in our lives as we come to know and understand our divine relationship with God.”

This divine relationship with God is explained in the Family Proclamation. Each of us “is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father.”

This is amazing and awe-inspiring doctrine. I am literally a daughter of God. He is my Father. And learning from the example of my own father's love for me, and my husband's love for our children, that tells me that Heavenly Father loves us with a perfect love that won't end. He loves us so much and wants nothing more than for us to be close to Him, to talk to Him, to learn to be great like Him, and one day live with Him again.

Of course, regaining that close personal relationship that we once had with our Heavenly Father and our Savior is made difficult by the veil that was placed when we were born to our earthly parents. And so now, our task on this Earth is to learn to be faithful and make a daily choice to come closer to Him.

Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “anything that does not draw us closer to God takes us away from Him. We have no middle ground, no foggy gray area where we can sin a little without suffering spiritual decline.”

I see it as if we're on a slow moving escalator, trying to walk up the down side. When we make right choices (like the classic Primary answers: study scriptures, pray, obey commandments, give service, repent, etc) then we're taking steps up. And obviously sin is stepping down, or backwards. But what about complacency? If we're not actively moving forward, then we're being carried down and away from Heavenly Father.

It's like any relationship. If we don't work daily and make active choices to positively impact that relationship and draw closer, it is so easy to drift away and lose emotional intimacy.

Like I said, because of the veil, moving forward and building a personal relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus requires faith. Moroni 10 teaches us that “exceedingly great faith” is a gift of the Spirit. Some of you have received this gift. And some of us have to work a little harder to gain it.

I grew up in the Church and so had learned the gospel since I was little. As I grew older and started working to gain a testimony of my own, I never really questioned the doctrine that I had been taught. It all seemed so logical to me. Everything made sense. And furthermore, I had received on several occasions the powerful and undeniable witness of the Holy Ghost of the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

However, in the last few years we have watched as a couple friends and associates have chosen to leave the church. The world is in so much turmoil and Satan is so good at finding our doubts and weaknesses and then twisting them around and using them against us. In trying to understand why they would choose to step away, I've read many of the arguments of the groups and people that they sympathize with online. They have a logic to them, too. And so I've been forced to reevaluate my own beliefs and testimony.

Reconciling doubts with faith has been a struggle in the back of my mind lately. Then a couple weeks ago I was reading the Janurary Ensign as I pondered this. Yes, I have had personal spiritual experiences and revelations in the past, but how can I know the true source . Doubt can so easily explain away or dismiss faith-building experiences.

And so, as I read the Ensign I read some good stuff, but nothing Earth-shattering. Then I casually flipped through the pages, lightly skimming the paragraphs in search of something interesting. As I did, I suddenly and totally unexpectedly felt what I know to be the Holy Ghost. And I heard repeated over and over in my mind, “This is Truth. This is Truth.” I couldn't help by cry. That's what I needed at that moment.

I'm grateful to know that my loving Heavenly Father was aware of my situation and sent the Spirit to testify to me at that moment and help me stay on track. I know that He is always aware of us, our struggles and our needs. And I think that if I hadn't been doing my part in building a personal relationship with Him (by pondering doctrine, praying, reading the words of the Prophets) then I wouldn't have been open to that special revelation.

As baptized and confirmed members of the Church, we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, meaning that we can have that constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, that's so important in helping us build and maintain a personal relationship with Heavenly Father.

David B. Haight said that “to feel of the Spirit we must experience a change in our hearts.” I'd like to share about a time when I experienced a profound change of heart. I've shared about this before in different contexts, so maybe some of you remember.

Several years ago I went through a huge trial. It was my refiner's fire. A loved one was struggling with an addiction. And I was being codependant. That means that just like my loved one's mood and actions were tied to their addiction, my mood and actions were tied to my loved one. If my loved one was doing well, then I was happy. If my loved one was doing poorly, then I was a wreck. I felt like I wouldn't have peace until this person changed.

A book that I love called Hold On to Hope says, “codependency occurs when a person becomes so focused upon or preoccupied with working out another person's salvation that his or her own salvation becomes neglected and jeopardized.” This is what was happening to me. During this time, I was just a bundle of anxiety and depression and was completely preoccupied with worry, fear, low self esteem, and other unhealthy codependent thought patterns and behaviors. I thought if I could just get this person to repent and overcome the addiction, then that would solve everything. I thought I could save them. I took so much responsibility for the situation that I shouldn't have. It was not healthy. And it wasn't making a positive difference.

I was in utter despair. So many nights I cried myself to sleep. And since everything was tied into this unhealthy, codependent relationship, my other relationships were suffering. I especially was not being a very good wife or mother. But the relationship that suffered the most was with my Heavenly Father.

I was still attending church and serving in my callings. And I was still praying pretty regularly. But it was usually a desperate plea to God to just snap His fingers and fix everything. Now.

And then I hit my rock-bottom. Addicts have to reach a rock-bottom or breaking point where they recognize that the pain of the solution is less than the pain of the problem. At that point they will finally choose recovery. For codependents, it's the same. I started to know that I was at bottom when I realized that I didn't want to pray anymore. I knew that if I prayed for my loved one, the answer I would receive would be, “forgive.” And I didn't want to hear that. And I didn't want to do that. I wasn't willing to try that solution and so I chose to not pray.

Now I was really turning my back on God, my Father, the one who had the power to actually make a difference in the situation because I couldn't let go. When I realized that's what I was doing, I finally knew I had to make a change. And not a change in my loved one, but a change in myself.

I attended the Addiction Recovery Program and then the Spouse and Family Support Group and learned to apply the 12 Steps to my own life. The Addiction Recovery Program utilizes the well-known 12 Steps of AA, as applied to gospel principles. The 12 Steps changed my life. They work because they're a step-by-step way to apply the Atonement of Christ. And really, it's the Atonement that I needed to repair my broken relationship with Heavenly Father.

Moroni 10:22 says, “And if ye have no hope, ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.” Sure, my loved one needed to apply the Atonement, but more importantly, so did I.

In Step 1 I had to admit that I personally was powerless to overcome the addiction of my loved one and more importantly, that I was powerless to overcome my codependent weaknesses on my own.

In Step 2 I had to come to believe that the power of God could restore me to spiritual and emotional health.

In Step 3 I had to choose to turn my will and life over to God. I had to put my loved one in His hands. I had to come to trust that He knew best. I had to come to trust His timing. And I had to turn my focus back where it belonged, on my own salvation and my own relationship with Him. I used to think that I could drag my loved one up to heaven with me. But that's not how it works. I have to focus on making my own choices so that I can get there.

Then in Steps 4-10 I learned how to repent and apply the Atonement in my life.

Before, I felt like I was in this bottomless pit of worry, fear, depression, and other negative thoughts that I couldn't see any way out of. No matter how much I clawed at the sides, I was making no progress on my own. But with the help of my loving Heavenly Father who didn't give up on me, and the Atonement of my Savior and the guidance and comfort of the Holy Ghost, I was finally able to climb out.

D&C 101:16 says, “Therefore, let your hearts be comforted...for all flesh is in mine hands, be still and know that I am God.” This is what applying the 12 Steps and the Atonement did for me. I was comforted. I had hope again. I had joy. And it didn't matter as much anymore what my addicted loved one chose to do. I could choose to respond in a healthy way and stay focused on what I needed to do to improve myself. I felt free.

I had received this important change of heart by studying the gospel, praying sincerely, and repenting. I was back on the path, on that escalator, stepping forward toward my Father in Heaven.

President James E. Faust said, “We should earnestly seek not just to know about the Master, but to strive, as He invited, to be one with Him.”

I bear my testimony that this is Christ's true church, that has the fullness of the Gospel. I know that God is the Father of my spirit and that He loves me and wants me to return to be with Him. I know that Jesus Christ died for me, so that I could improve daily and become closer to my Heavenly Father. I have felt the Holy Spirit testify of such to me. And my life is enriched by it. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

I'm so glad I turned down that amazing business opportunity...

Last January, on the encouragement of my mother-in-law and others, I started the process of turning my little Christmas-season fundraiser into a legal business.  It was a daunting task and I experienced a lot of self doubt.  But I got it all taken care of and turned my attention to lining up places to sell.  

In March I made some samples, printed out pictures, and nervously went to craft fair jurying at a local Catholic school.  This school holds a three-day fair every winter.  This is the big one.  If you're a vendor, this is the one you want to be invited to.  They invite back the top 75% of vendors every year, leaving only about 25 available spots to be fought over.  

I felt under-qualified and very anxious.  In the car on the drive home, I prayed to Heavenly Father and basically put it into His hands.  "If this is what you want me to do and it would be a positive experience for my family, please make it so."  Two months later, I didn't receive an acceptance letter in the mail as I hoped. Bummer.  Oh well, I guess it wasn't meant to be.  

Then in late September I got a surprise phone call from the school.  They had a spot open up and wanted me to fill it!  It was so exciting and validating!  But then two days later I realized that in order to be a vendor, you're required to commit to selling on all three days of the fair, including Sunday, which is my Sabbath.  Why didn't I notice that when I first applied?  I felt so stupid for not knowing beforehand and wasting my time and theirs by going through the jurying process.  

I called the school immediately and bowed out.  Our family Christmas budget depends on the success of my sales each year.  And now with all the expenses I incurred with license fees and insurance, it was extremely important that I move more product.  I was so sad that I would miss this incredible opportunity, but keeping the Sabbath day holy is non-negotiable for me.  And for me, that means not working on my business on that day.  

I prayed hard.  I knew Heavenly Father knew what was going on and I exercised faith that all would work out.

The fall and winter went on, I was able to sell at 4 different fairs (one ended up being on the same Saturday as the "Big One"), I got a ton of custom orders, and it seemed to be going well.  And yet, as I recorded my expenses and sales as I went along, I began to doubt myself and worry.  It appeared that I wasn't going to turn a very large profit this year, if any at all.  I was putting too much work into this to have such a sad balance sheet!  I cursed the state of California and it's oppressive small business regulations.

I counseled with Hubby and he assured me that even if I didn't turn a huge profit this year, that it was ok and nothing to fret over.  Yes, our financial situation sucks and a successful small business would be a huge blessing (not just for Christmas), but we've always managed somehow before.  If nothing else, this was a valuable year of learning!  

True to form, I stressed out while Hubby was calm and faithful.  I worried about how to provide a nice Christmas for the kids while he told me to chill out and reminded me that things always work out one way or another.

Then we started to experience blessings and miracles.

With the assistance of wonderful friends, we were able to find a few nice presents for the kids at great discount or free.  I was content.

And then just a few days before Christmas, after all my fairs were done and orders delivered, I sat down again to evaluate my balance sheet.  I discovered a huge accounting error!

I don't know how it happened, but somewhere along the line I must have recorded something wrong.  It turned out that I had made a profit much larger than I thought.  It felt like one of those "tithing testimonies" that I have heard so many times. The ones where people say, "I was faithful and paid my tithing even though it looked like I wouldn't have enough room in the budget for it.  And then at the end of the month I miraculously had enough for everything.  The math didn't add up but everything was provided for."

As I sat in Sacrament meeting this Sunday, the talk was about blessings of keeping the Sabbath day holy.  I felt the clear impression that this unexpected profit was to teach me that I was right in trusting in God and turning down that big fair.  I was blessed for not hesitating to stay true to my convictions.

Heavenly Father knows the end from the beginning.  I didn't need that three-day fair.  Heavenly Father knew that my family would be just fine without it.  And furthermore, I believe His hand helped guide and inspire the friends who told me about three of my four successful fairs.  I was having no luck in doing my own research, but these ladies each knew about opportunities and thoughtfully passed the info along to me.

Having faith means to believe something even though you can't see it.  That includes acting according to your beliefs, even though you don't know what the outcome will be.  Sometimes our faith and trust in the Lord is rewarded with immediate blessings.  And sometimes we have to wait a little while (or a long while.)  God loves us and He knows perfectly our situation, personality, struggles, what we need to learn, and how and when we need to learn it.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Homeschooling Means...#20

...to confuse people, I'm tempted to say m children actually attend an "exclusive boarding school."  It's so exclusive, you have to be related to the principle to enroll!

(This series is meant to be mostly lighthearted and fun.  Some may be serious, but most will be silly, braggy, or of the keepin'-it-real variety.  Not every homeschool is the same.  And some of these things could be said by public school parents.  This is just to highlight MY experience with MY homeschool and MY children.  Enjoy these little insights into our life and feel free to share your own "Homeschooling means..." in the comments!)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Homeschooling Sick Days

Today I'm thankful that homeschooling works for us.

This week our family is battling illness.

Yesterday we sat comfortably on the couches to do some reading and math pages.  Then by lunch time I was in desperate need of a nap.  So I passed out on the couch while the kids learned about the Revolutionary War by watching "Liberty's Kids."

Today the kids are playing with Pattern Blocks while listening to an audio book of A Christmas Carol.  

Homeschooling is allowing us to go at our own pace and take a more relaxed day when we need to, yet still be able to do some curriculum even with illness.  If the kids went to public school, they would be missing out on important instruction by taking a sick day and be behind.  Also, my nap yesterday, which went until dinner time, would have caused a problem for pick-up time.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Homeschooling Means...#19

...the teacher doesn't get fired for leaving the students with independent work while sneaking away to take a shower.

(This series is meant to be mostly lighthearted and fun.  Some may be serious, but most will be silly, braggy, or of the keepin'-it-real variety.  Not every homeschool is the same.  And some of these things could be said by public school parents.  This is just to highlight MY experience with MY homeschool and MY children.  Enjoy these little insights into our life and feel free to share your own "Homeschooling means..." in the comments!)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Homeschooling Means...#18

...enduring some playful razzing from my older brothers when they see the kids' end of the year Certificates of Achievement, signed by me of course, on the wall.

"Did they receive certificates for perfect attendance, too?"  "Who was student of the month this month?"  "Who won class president this year?  I bet it was a close race.  Did she make outlandish campaign promises like, 'ice cream for lunch'?"

I love those meanie-poo-poo-heads.

(This series is meant to be mostly lighthearted and fun.  Some may be serious, but most will be silly, braggy, or of the keepin'-it-real variety.  Not every homeschool is the same.  And some of these things could be said by public school parents.  This is just to highlight MY experience with MY homeschool and MY children.  Enjoy these little insights into our life and feel free to share your own "Homeschooling means..." in the comments!)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Homeschooling Means...#17

...having the following awkward conversation:

We were at the library after school.  We have daughters the same age.

Public schooling friend: "Suzy only has to do one page of math homework-front and back-a night.  So it's not that bad.  But some nights it takes her forever!  Like an hour and a half!  It's not that the math is too hard for her, it's just that homework time is such a fight for us!"

Me: "Oh, I know.  That's gotta be hard.  Math is sometimes no fun."

-lull in conversation- 

Me: (Trying to think of something to say to show I can relate to her.) "I let my girls do their work in any order during the week.  So they have a set amount of math pages and I don't care when they complete them.  Last week Secundus decided to procrastinate and leave all her math until Friday!  Boy, was she regretting that!"

PS friend: (Polite smile.) "Yeah."

I love that my public schooling friends don't seem to feel awkward talking about their kids' school experience -the good and the bad- in front of me!  But sometimes I just don't know what to say in response.  Or, at least, I'm not good at thinking of good things to say in the moment.  Our experiences really don't match up sometimes!

(This series is meant to be mostly lighthearted and fun.  Some may be serious, but most will be silly, braggy, or of the keepin'-it-real variety.  Not every homeschool is the same.  And some of these things could be said by public school parents.  This is just to highlight MY experience with MY homeschool and MY children.  Enjoy these little insights into our life and feel free to share your own "Homeschooling means..." in the comments!)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Homeschooling Means...#16

...my dream is to trade in my minivan for an old school bus and then paint it to look like Ms. Frizzle's Magic School Bus.

(This series is meant to be mostly lighthearted and fun.  Some may be serious, but most will be silly, braggy, or of the keepin'-it-real variety.  Not every homeschool is the same.  And some of these things could be said by public school parents.  This is just to highlight MY experience with MY homeschool and MY children.  Enjoy these little insights into our life and feel free to share your own "Homeschooling means..." in the comments!)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Homeschooling Means...#15

...every time my kids exhibit a quirk my brother condescendingly, playfully explains, "it's because they're homeschooled."

Also, homeschooling means that every time my nieces or nephews exhibit a quirk I condescndingly, playfully explain to my brother, "it's because they go to public school."

Nothing but mutual respect and love in my family!  :)

(This series is meant to be mostly lighthearted and fun.  Some may be serious, but most will be silly, braggy, or of the keepin'-it-real variety.  Not every homeschool is the same.  And some of these things could be said by public school parents.  This is just to highlight MY experience with MY homeschool and MY children.  Enjoy these little insights into our life and feel free to share your own "Homeschooling means..." in the comments!)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Candy Cane Science

Yay for interest-led learning and on-the-fly science lessons!

This morning for a treat at breakfast I made hot chocolate for the kids.  I even found the candy canes I had bought after Christmas last year on sale and stirred those in.  When the candy canes disappeared as if by magic, that led to a great, quick science lesson.

We stuck one candy cane in a glass of refrigerated cold water, and one cane in a glass of hot tap water.  Then they were set on the table for observation while we finished breakfast.

It was very clear that the candy dissolved much quicker in the hot water.  The kids even noticed that the hot water was a deeper pink color and tasted more minty.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I'm the Mustard Girl!

Some of us exist as two dimensional cartoon characters in the minds of our friends' friends.  Your friend shared with their other friends some silly, funny, or endearing story about you.  Something that makes you memorable.  So now these other people know you as simply the character in this story.

For instance, perhaps you have a relative that once answered the question, "Do you prefer chunky or smooth peanut butter?" with a sheepish, "Chunky would be nice once in a while."  And then you shared that cute story with your friend.

Fast forward several weeks (or months, or years) and you have the following conversation:
friend: "What'd you do this weekend?"
you: "I helped my relative Joe move."
friend: "Which one is Joe?  I can't remember if I've met him."
you: "He was the peanut butter guy."
friend: "Oh, yeah!  lol.  He's awesome."

Sometimes these cartoon characters only have a vague physical description and one or two stories.  Sometimes, though, these characters have entire episodes or their own series.  When I was in high school my freshman English teacher would sometimes waste whole class periods telling us about his own teenage adventures with Big Frank.  Big Frank was so clearly a cartoon character.  We had never been shown a photograph of this living, breathing person; but we all had a very clear picture in our minds of this tall, broad-shouldered, dopey-looking, slightly slow minded boy who was always up for any trouble the rest of the group could think up.

As I shared this insight with some friends last night, I wondered if I was a cartoon character in other people's lives and I was curious what was said about me.

That's when Jeff laid it on me: I am the girl who is so ridiculously frugal that I don't even buy French's Mustard, opting instead to save 20 cents by going with the store brand.

To hear him tell the story that he has shared with his friends of the cartoon character of me was hilarious.  I thought I would be more self-conscious about it, but it's too funny!

What's your favorite cartoon character story that's been shared with you or that you've shared?  Are you a cartoon character?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Missed Opportunity?

I found a dead crow in the backyard this morning (the neighbors' cats are good hunters). As I went to throw it in the garbage (picking it up with a double layer of trash bags) I had this internal conflicted dialogue:

grossed-out me: "Eewww!"

homeschooling me: "This is actually pretty cool. Not rotted from what I can see."

g: "Weirdo. This is so gross! I don't want to touch it!"

h: "I should use this as a learning opportunity."

g: "The kids should stay inside. They shouldn't see this."

h: "But to see the beak and claws up close would be a unique opportunity."

g: "But it's dead and therefore icky."

h: "Oh, wow, it's so light! Hmmm...hollow bones make it easier for birds to fly because they're lighter. Cool."

g: "Ew. Ew. Ew. I'm holding it! Put it in the garbage fast!"

So no, the kids did not get to dissect or even investigate a dead crow today. But Secundus did find a feather and thought it was so cool that in the light it actually looked bluish instead of black. So not totally wasted?

Another fun note:  as I leaned down to pick it up, Secundus was like, "What if it's still alive?" Not helpful!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Can she please just remain this innocent forever?

For our spelling lesson, I was reviewing with the girls when to use "k" and when to use "ck" at the end of a word.  The rule is that "ck" comes only directly after a short vowel.

Primus was being silly and decided to should out various "short vowel-ck" words.

"Stick!  Sick!  Truck!  Duck!  F*ck!"  

Then she stopped, giggled at herself, and declared "Oops!  That's not a word!"

Can she please just remain this innocent forever?