One Last Tradition

I've been completely inspired by my cousin in how we do sibling gifts at our house.  We tried this the last couple of years, but would simply draw names and each make one gift for that one person.  Well, this year I wanted to have the kids make something for each of their siblings.  AND surprisingly I found it much easier than doing just one gift per person.  Mass production??  Here is the list of things we made this year:

Addie covered sketchbooks with pictures, stickers and stamps.  We then modge podged them hoping they will last longer. 

Brooklynn made rainbow crayons.  This was trickier than I expected, but they still turned out cute.

John decided to tie dye shirts.  I learned I am not a patient crafter.  This one took longer and was much messier than I expected!  I don't think I'll be tie dying again any time soon!  :-)  I don't think we followed the instructions correctly or something....but the shirts turned out well enough.  John was happy with the results.

Joel decorated mittens with puff paint.  Loved it!

Ethan, recognizing that everyone else was making something with mom started to protest, "I want to make something for my brudders!!!"  So, I got out the water color paint, printed off some pictures and let him at it!  Yes, they are wrapped under the tree as well  (even though he told all the kids what he made them!).  :-)

This was my favorite thing to work on this week!  I loved watching the kids thinking of one another.  I loved the comments, "Oh!  I think so&so would love that"  or "She's going to love this!"   And then to watch Ethan want to follow in the spirit of giving, love it! 

So, now all the presents are wrapped & under the tree.  We're going to start making sugar cookies for Santa and then get our lovely dinner ready for tonight.  Then it's time for opening the first gifts of Christmas and the anticipation of tomorrow morning!

Merry Christmas!!


More Traditions

I love traditions!  As I said in my last post, that's what Christmas is all about at our house. Here's some more of what we do....

The Movies
My hubby and I watch Family Man every year.  It's a great movie to refocus us on what is most important in our lives.

Every Christmas seasons starts with Home Alone... the kids insist upon this!

Other must watch movies at our house: 
Santa Clause (with Tim Allen), Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas and Holiday Inn

If we fit others in, it's a bonus!

The Glass Pickle
12 years ago, for our wedding, J. and I received a large pickle ornament.  This began the tradition of hiding the pickle in the tree.  Whichever child finds the pickle, they get to open an extra (family) present. 

The Paper Christmas Tree
Last year, J. was reading somewhere in the Old Testament where the Israelites would travel back to a certain place every 7 years to remember who they were and where they came from.  He decided that our family needed to have a similar tradition.  Well, it just so happened that seven years before we had decided to save some money by not putting up a real Christmas tree (I refuse to buy a fake tree to put up every year, I need the fresh evergreen smell!).  So, we made a paper christmas tree and paper ornaments to put up on the wall.  It was fabulous!  Last year, to commemorate every seven years of being a Hathaway, we put up yet another paper tree!  We'll do the same in seven more years!

The Treats & a Bowl of Nuts
And, of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without the music and the goodies!  Our home is filled with the music of Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, and Celine Dion. 

Every year we also need to have a bowl of uncracked nuts on our kitchen counter.  This one I brought from my own family growing up.  It's a must!

And here's our family's special holiday treat recipe.  It's a recipe my mom adapted to create a yummy pastry. Enjoy!

Sour Cream Twists
1 c. shortening, melted
1 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. yeast (in 1/4 c. water)
2 eggs, beaten
3 1/2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine shortening, sour cream, salt and vanilla.  Blend in yeast and eggs.   Add flour.  Mix.  Place in greased bowl and cover with damp cloth.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.  Combine sugar and cinnamon.  Spread on board or counter.  Place dough on sugar mixture and roll into a rectangle.  Fold into thirds (like a letter).  Roll out again.  Repeat 3times until sugar is gone.  Roll into a rectangle about 1/2"  thick.  Cut into 1"x4" strips.  Twist and place on greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.  Glaze.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!


Christmas Stories

I know!  My posts have been few and far between.  I keep trying to write something intelligible, but then I stop.  Tonight I'm going to finish!  :-) 

Christmas for me is all about traditions!  I gave up a LONG time ago trying to do everything every year.  I think that was about the time I had 3 kids ages 3 & under and decided to make like 5 different kinds of cookies for everyone I knew.  I ended up spilling some of the cookies all over the inside of the oven!  My husband came home with the kids (and kitchen) covered in flour and his wife in tears.  That was when he put the ban on neighborhood Christmas cookie deliveries!  Since then I've (hopefully) tried to center our family on at least a few important traditions to help Christmastime be magical for them.  Mostly that entails Christmas stories and holiday movies.  

Here are some of our MUST reads each year.

A story of how love & sharing goes all the way around!

I LOVE Norman Rockwell, so when I saw this book I knew I needed it! 

This one is a MUST at our house.  This was the book my mom read to us every single year on Christmas Eve. 

We read this one each year and then share our own chocolate orange. 

And we always take a break from Christmas on December 23rd to commemorate the birthday of Jospeh Smith by reading this lovely children's book.

I saved the best for last!  Our overall favorite, the one I read every Christmas Eve! 


Piles and Piles of . . .


Dear Friends,
Have I told you how much I hate doing laundry?  Well, if not, I will now.  I hate doing laundry! 

Maybe it's my distaste for having things unfinished or needing to be done ALL THE TIME.  Bathrooms and other weekly tasks don't bother me so much because they're at least finished for one day.  But laundry is a whole different story! 

Maybe my dislike has excalated because I'm tired and pregnant.  Maybe it's more evident because we use thicker and more clothing in the wintertime, so it feels like there's more of it.  Maybe it's just that I will forever have a bad attitude about laundry  (you can't really like everything about homemaking can you??)

It was getting better when I had the two older kids doing their own laundry.  But then JW decided to go to school and threw that plan out the window (curse that public school once again!).  It used to take me only one, maybe two days to get it done.  I don't know where those days have gone.  And doing a load or two a day really doesn't work for me because I forget and then leave wet laundry in the washer for a day or two.

And along the same lines (since I'm on a roll) I hate mismatched socks.  And again, with wintertime it seems like they are everywhere

Okay, I'm done griping and will now go get some sleep.  :-)  You can all tell me your wonderful, beautiful and perfect plans for keeping your laundry down and I will graciously accept (even though I know I have tried them all!!).  Actually, will you please just give me sympathy and tell me I'm a great mom even though I don't like washing the clothes!!!!



Relishing in the Moments

 Okay, so normally I destest snow.  I have loved living here for that very reason . . . very little snow.  But this year is a whole different story, and it's a good thing because it came record-breakingly early!!  For some reason I just couldn't wait to get the kids out in the snow.  Maybe it's because I've been feeling cooped up in the house for the past 8 weeks (yes, we are expecting #6 and morning sickness if finally subsiding!).  Or maybe it's because JW was home for a whole week and I wanted to just make it a week of fun and games!  Or maybe it's because the snow actually made it feel like holiday time because we've had such a warm, sunny autumn.  I don't know why, I just know that I was eager to take the kids sledding!  So, I had each of the kids invite a friend to go sledding with us.  We only lasted a short 45 minutes before most of the kids were frozen (mostly mine because we really aren't equipped for snowy weather!).  Afterwards I brought them all to our house for hot chocolate and sour cream twists (a yummy pastry created by my very own mother!).  Delicious!  We had all the fixin's for good hot cocoa, too . . . flavorings, cinnamon, wipped cream or ice cream.  And then the kids just stayed to play for a good couple of hours.  It was fabulous. 

Also, thanks to the snow, our travel plans were cancelled which means we got to stay home and have our own quiet and lovely Thanksgiving dinner and day!  Don't get me wrong, I love our families, but it was sure nice to have a week of nothing but our own family, games, movies and yummy food.  I tried a small turkey breast in the crockpot this year (our large, ancient dictionary came in handy keeping the lid tight) and it was so fabulous & easy, I don't think I'll want to do a large turkey ever again!  Loved it! 

And so this week I got to relish in the simple, the fun and the joyous parts of being a mother and a wife!  Again, I attribute a lot to the fact that I'm actually feeling so much better and ready to start the 2nd trimester.  The pressure of being a wife and mother was starting to weigh on me as the weeks dragged on these past couple of months.  It's always nice to know the bad moments don't last forever.  But it's also just as bitter, sometimes, to realize the good and great moments won't always last forever! 
This week was a reminder to me of all that I truly am grateful for and to be even more grateful for the small moments that add up to many great memories! 
This week reminded me to remember what truly matters most!


Mawwage. Mawwage is what bwings us togedow today

My marriage has never been better!  Maybe it's after having lived together for almost 12 years.  Maybe it's because I haven't been pregnant for longer than ever before in our marriage.  Maybe it's because he has finally learned how to deal with me.  Maybe it's all of the above!  But I do know one thing.  It's because I changed.  I, not he, changed

Life has been very good to us.  Our marriage has been normal, I would say.  Happy.  Good.  Nobody even close to threatening to leave.  But I just discovered that it can be better.  It can really be the best!  I've hesitated for a long time even writing a post about this because #1) marriage is a personal thing #2) I know we've all got our ups and our downs when it comes to this most important relationship.  So, this isn't so much about marriage as it is how I have changed, thus enhancing our marriage.

I read Dr. Laura's book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands several years ago, when it first came out.  Love it!  Love it!  And highly reccommend it!  For a couple of weeks after reading it, I was completely head over heels in love with my husband.  It was fabulous.  But, as we know, "Old habits die hard."  It's so easy to sink into those behaviors that soon became habits.  It's so easy to follow the traditions or patterns that were set forth by others in our lives. 

Recently, several things happened that literally changed me.  I felt the change, it was that literal.  Like I said, I've always thought our marriage was good and I've been very good at preaching how to have a great marriage.  As Elder Bednar says, however, "What we know is not always reflected in what we do."   I can now say I do more of what I say I know.

The first thing that happened was a visit with a couple I know and love.  They, too, have had what you would call a successful marriage.  They're still together!  However, while we visited I saw some definite patterns that have trickled into my own marriage.  Communication was often lacking and feelings of frustration and bitterness were evident.  I looked at them and saw myself.  The rose-colored glasses had been removed and I was terrified.  I wanted to change.

Within a month or two of arriving home, I happened to be listening to a couple of Dr. Laura calls that were touching exactly on what I'd observed.  She talked about letting go of pleasing those in your past when your husband should be the one you're now trying to please.  I realized that was exactly what I was doing.  I was trying to please those I love by acting the way they acted, doing the things they did, not thinking of how it was hurting my husband (though he's way too nice to say it in those words!).  I continued to pray to know how I could change our marriage. 

And then it happened.  While reading Dr. Leo Sax's book, Girls on the Edge,  I was given beautiful (and painful) insight about myself.  Not to go into too much detail, I will just say that I had some personal obsessions that were affecting how I treated those around me, particularly my husband and children.  I realized why I wasn't completely happy.  I mean, I was happy on the outside and have been living a good life, but the internal worries were lifted.  It was then that I realized I am living my fairytale dream.  From the time I was ten years old, all I've wanted was a husband and some children! 

Sometimes we tend to mock the newlyweds with their idealistic viewpoints on life.  Well, I say, why not!?!  I can imagine in my head every day the marriage I dreamed of "back then" and make it happen today.  There will still be road bumps.  The realities of life still sometimes encroach upon this fairytale life I long to live.  But if we are meant to have celestial marriages, why not start now?  For us, my change of perspective has made all the difference. It's turned the mountains into molehills because we know we're climbing it together, in love.  It's no longer one dragging the other up the hill!  Some day we'll be riding off into the sunset and I hope to look back and be able to say, "I lived my life by living my dreams!"


Cirriculum Choice of the Week

Our current order from Amazon.com showed up a couple of days ago. Yay!  New stuff!
I have to say that we are LOVING the Draw Write Now series.  The kids are sprawled out as I type, working on their drawings.  Even JW, yesterday, got in the car after school and said, "I want to go home and do Draw Write Now!"  I'm sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but for now we're raving about this!


Back to Excellence

"Can you know excellence if you've never seen it?" - - The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

I just re-read one of my favorite Newberry Award winning books and was struck by this statement.  How do we expose our children to excellence?  If they don't see it in our home, can we guarantee they'll see it outside in the world?  I don't think so.  We can hope.  We can surround ourselves with greatness and let it filter down to our children.  But ultimately we need to show immerse them in excellence in our homes.  How can we do this?

I recently read this quote from Arthur Henry King on another blog I freqently visit:

Every single object in a room is of relevence to our education and to the education of our children...Children are affected from the beginning by what they see and hear within the walls of their home. Their environment creates their taste"

I like that, "Their environment creates their taste." 

Elder David B. Haight once said that every home should have three things:  a piano, great books, and love.  That's it!  How do we expose our children to greatness? 

Beautiful music.  Uplifting music.  Sometimes in our home we're in the mood for good ol' dance music.  Other times we need the classical works of Mozart.  On the Sabbath we particularly enjoy listening to spiritual music  (i.e. the Mormon Tabernacle Choir).  Thanks to Pandora, we are blessed with all these types of music in our home.  We also love the Suzuki piano CD's.  Something else I would put in the beautiful music category are the great musicals of our time:  The Sound of Music, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, State Fair, Annie Get Your Gun, Singin' in the Rain, etc.  We also just recently watched The Magic Flute performance, exposing my children to the sounds of opera.  So many ways to bring in greatness through music!

Classic literature.  There's always so much out there about classic literature.  From another post I read a great description of why we need to read classics, and what constitutes a classic.  She wrote:

EVERY TIME I read [classics] I am recommitted to ... principles.... So, I may be wrong, but I think truly to be a classic it must not only change us because we learn, grow and have a different perspective, BUT we must truly come closer to God by reading it. The book must give us courage and strength and righteous desires, and virtue, knowledge and ability to BE better. To be more like God is. It should help us see ourselves and others for who we truly are and who we truly must become. It should leave us wanting more...not because we wish the story would not have ended, but because we have been spiritually edified.

Note:  I do believe there can be great modern literature that could be placed in the classics category.  Classics do not only need to be those "difficult to read and understand" works of literature.  :-)

All they need is love.  One of my favorite quotes, by Avi, says, "If you can convince your children that you love them, you can teach them anything."  We can expose our kids to all the greatness in the world, but what greater lesson than teaching them how to love.  One of my favorite sciptures, my motto scripture as mother is found in Mosiah 4:14-15:

"And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.  But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another (bold added)." 

So.  These are the things I think about when I try to surround my children with excellence.  Music.  Literature. Love.  How hard can it be?  :-)



"The water you touch in a river is the last of that
which has passed and the first of which is coming. 
 Thus it is with time present.  Life, if well spent, is long."
 - - Leonardo da Vinci - -

I believe in letting kids be bored.  In my house growing up we were not allowed to say, "I'm bored."  We called it the "B" word.  This wasn't a bad thing.  We had a home with a learning environment with plenty of time and resources to make ourselves useful and creative.  I have mostly kept up that same motto in my home, "If you're bored, I have plenty of work for you to do!"  But I'm changing my ways (as with so many other things in my life).  I'm no longer wanting to turn to chores to "cure" their boredom.

Before JW started public school, he would practice the piano for 1-2 hours every day.  Not all in one chunk, of course, just minutes here and minutes there. It's just where he went when he was bored.  Since starting school, however, he comes home almost deflated.  He wants to use his few hours of free time playing with siblings and relaxing.  Can't blame him.  But I hate to see his love for piano dwindle simply because of the time factor. 

Similarly, our home schedule has changed and with a more unstructured schedule, my kids have plenty of time to get bored.  Several times throughout the day I'll notice their state of boredom and pull out one of my planned activities for the day, or we'll simply read some books aloud.  I'm noticing, however, that B has been having more spurts of boredom than the younger kids.  Results?  My "I'm not a reader" child picked up a book and read it in one day.  Why?  Boredom. 

In today's world, everything is structured for our kids.  They go to school.  With the few hours between coming home and going to bed we cram in music lessons, organized sports, and dance classes.  If it's not one child, it's the other, leaving the rest of the family in the car during transportation. 

President Uchtdorf's recent conference talk rang true to me.  We need to SLOW DOWN.  He said, "If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most."  

I miss JW's continuous music throughout the day.  I'm loving our new schedule that is a little bit more conducive to my children using their creativity.  Kids need time to explore, to explore the world and to explore themselves.  Now when my kids say the words, "I'm bored,"  my response is not longer, "Get the chore list."  Instead, I will respond, "I'm sure you'll think of something great to do.  Do you need my help to get the ball rolling?"  

"Life is to be enjoyed, not simply endured"  (President Hinckley).  That's my goal for myself and for my children.


Mentoring Mothers Meeting: Relationships

It's that time again!  Time to report on our Mentoring Mothers Meeting for the year.  It was fabulous!
Today we were still focussing on the Core Phase.  This is the phase where we want to strengthen relationships, establish natural schedules, train our children in principles of right and wrong, use work and play as the tools of learning.  This morning we specifically discussed our relationships.  And if you listened to General Conference, I'm sure you heard President Uchtdorf's talk on simplicity wherein he mentioned the four crucial relationships: family, God, yourself, and your fellowmen.  We did not focus on those same relationships today, but that talk is still worth reading again.  :-)  And remember, we're going through our own personal journey through the phases, not just what we expect our children to do during each phase. :-)


We opened up first by talking about what we gained (strengths and weaknesses) from our own parents. Leo Buscaglia, author of Living, Loving and Learning (see previous post) was the King of Quotes today! :-) I love that man. Anyway, he said, "You can't keep blaming your parents unless you're still a child."

We can change the negative patterns and continue the positive patterns set by our parents . . . in a healthy manner. I, for one, had to make an almost literal "cut of the apron strings" only recently and it was hard!  For me it has been hard to make that conscious change of pleasing my husband rather than pleasing my parents (even if I was doing so subconsiously).  Others in the group, however, were able to recognize along the way that there were some things they wanted to change when they created their own families.  Dr. Laura has said, "You have two chances at parenthood:  the first one, you don't choose;  the second one, you do."  Take some time to think about the many wonderful things your parents have done for you in your life.  How have them helped to get you to where you are, to who you are?  Then, take a briefer moment to find a thing or two that your have gained that is not in accordance with who you now want to become and learn from that. 
M. Catherine Thomas has said, "You were placed in your family, with their strengths and their weaknesses, so you can become who God needs you to be." 

We then shifted to our own parenting. Oh, boy! I can't even remember all we talked about because it was so great, and there was so much, and it went so fast!! The main thing we discussed really were EXPECTATIONS. Again from my friend, Leo:

"We also try to create models of perfection. We spend our lives trying to make the outside world fit our notion of what is perfect. We relaly do! And, what is, for example, the idea of a perfect day for us? A day that meets all of our needs, that goes just as we want it. And what is a bummer day? A bummer day is one that doesn't quite come out the way we wanted it. Well, tough for us! That's too bad if the day doesn't turn out the way we want it. The day was perfect - - it's we who were tampering with perfection. These expectations reinforce themselves. They shut out all possibilities of anything new coming at us which doesn't meet our addictions."

An interesting word there at the end, "addictions."  That's exactly what our unrealistic expectations can become. 

The question was raised, "We talk about not having them meet our expectations, but we need them to still do stuff. How do we balance that?" We basically came to terms that we do need to make sure our expectations are not too high for them to reach. We need to be clear that our expectations are not simply our addictions or views of perfections, but reachable and attainable expectations. In this we talked about, then, setting boundaries and having natural & logical consequences for our children. We still need to have those limits set, but not only based on our idealistic expectations.

A couple of other Leo quotes.
"90% of what adults say to children is talking at them, not with them."

"Perhaps [the definition of] love is leading you gently back to yourself."
This of this with parenting our own chidren. We are leading them to themselves. That is love.

Last, but not least by any means, we discussed the marriage relationship.
We talked about how you can't go 50/50, you need to go all the way. Because if you only go halfway and sit there expecting him to come the other half, you're both going to be disappointed. My husband recently reminded me of this. I was telling him that we needed to be sure we hugged every time he came home from work, you know, had some physical contact. He said, "That's true. I will work on it. But you can't be sitting in some other room waiting and expecting me to come and find you." I had to agree. How many times had I thought, "He knows we were going to work on this, why doesn't he do it" instead of me being the one to go to him. It's got to be 100% both ways. :-)

"If you love someone, your goal is to want them to be all that they are and you will encourage them every step of the way." - - Leo Buscaglia

In this discussion I really wanted to go a step further than what we've already known and been taught from church leaders, talks, books, etc.  I wanted to talk about having real intimacy with our husbands. No, I do not mean sexual intimacy alone (although, that is important, too), but having those moments where you really look at each other. Where you are truly seeing one another.We get so caught up in being parents together. In running a household together. In our different & defined roles and responsibilities.  And though it may be working fine and you're mostly happy, without that intimacy between one another, then you're really just going through the motions of having a good marriage instead of making it the BEST marriage.   We can talk about going on dates together, but even those dates can become a "check off list" item or a time for the wife's "deep discussion agenda" to come out on the table!  STOP deep discussing and just BE together.  ENJOY one another.  LIVE LIFE TOGETHER!  Allow and encourage your spouse to be who he/she truly is meant to be! 

 In my opinion, this topic is the MOST important part of the CORE phase. MOST Important! And our relationships with one another cannot be neglected.  One of the most neglected relationship is the one you have with yourself.  Are you the best example of who you want the world to be?  Or your home?  Here's Leo's last thought on that:
"A wonderful realization will be the day you realize you are unique in all the world. There is nothing that is an accident. You are a special combination for a purpose - - and don't let them tell you otherwise . . . You are that combination so that you can do what it is essential fo ryou to do. Don't ever believe tha tyou have nothing to contribute. The world is an incredible unfufilled tapestry, and only you can fulfill that tiny space that is yours. 'Oh, God, to have reached the point of death,' says Thoreau, 'only to find that you never lived.'"

Books to read:
Love & Logic series
Magic for Early Childhood (I think this is part of the Love & Logic stuff??)
Living, Loving and Learning - Leo Buscaglia
Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands - Dr. Laura
In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms - Dr. Laura

My Friend, Leo!!

Book of the Week!

I read this years ago and remember loving it.  In preparation for our Mentoring Mothers Meeting today (see next post) I decided to pull it out and read it again.  Amazing the second time around, too!  This man is full of those one-liner (or paragraph) gems that you want to ingrain in your mind for forever.  I'm sure those at the MMM were sick of who I fondly call, "My Friend, Leo."  :-)

Basically, his whole purpose is to teach others how to truly love. How to love one another.  How to love your parents.  How to love your spouse.  How to love learning.  How to love life.  And he exemplifies it in his speeches, it's amazing.  As you read you can just hear this passionate, Italian man telling you to get off your duff and start living your life. 

As a glimpse of who this man is, I want to share what he calls his "Essentials:"

1. Right Knowledge, to supply you with the tools necessary for your voyage.

2. Wisdom, to assure you that you are using hte accumulated knowledge of hte past in a manner that will best serve the discovery of your presence, your "now."

3. Compassion, to help you accept others whose ways may be different from yours, with gentleness and understanding, as you move with them or thorugh them or around them on your own way.

4. Harmony, to be able to accept the naturla flow of life.

5. Creativity, to help you to realize and recognize new alternatives and unchartered paths along the way.

6. Strength, to stand up against fear and move forward in spite of uncertainty, without guarantee or payment.

7. Peace, to keep you centered.

8. Joy, to keep you songful, and laughing and dancing all along the way

9. Love, to be your continual guide towards the highest level of consciousness of which man is capable.

10. Unity, which brings us back to where we started - - the place where we are at one iwth ourselves and with all things.


Getting Comfortable without Structure

I was just reminded again the other night about just how structured I am.  I have been very proud of myself the last couple of weeks in being a little less so structured.  I realized that being so structured was actually inhibiting my daughters' love of learning.  I also wasn't feeling like I was getting "my time" in because the kids always needed me duirng the two hours they weren't supposed to need me!  So, if you've read my schedule for the day you can see that I do like to have structure to my time.  But our days really don't look like that anymore.  This is what we do:

Breakfast and Devotional
Chores in the morning
Free Learning Time in the late morning and all afternoon

That's it. 

I will plan a few activities to use throughout the day. Usually a math game or activitiy; a reading activity or some sort; and then a history, science, art or music something or other.  Then, when I  notice the kids are getting bored with playing, I pull out an activity or we do some reading aloud.  This time they are much more resonsive to what I have to teach them.  I have heard virtually no complaining, whereas a couple of weeks ago it was, "Do I have to?"  Yesterday my 5yo son asked if he could do some math pages on adding and subtracting.  My 9yo daughter, who has claimed herself a nonreader picked up a book I'd gotten at the library and read the whole thing!  I have been trying to teach A the concept of adding ten to any number without any success.  Yesterday we played a fun game and the concept clicked in just a few minutes!  And I'm not feeling interrupted during "my time" because I snatch my time in between while the kids are playing so happily together. 

So, as much as I thought I would hate being so unstructured, I'm actually finding that I love it!  I'm also better aware and able to give more to my children.  I can actually stop and play a game when my 5yo asks.  I am noticing that B is really entering in the love of learning stage but doesn't really know what to do about it (I will be having an interview with her to get her steered in the right direction).  I'm just excited to see that this change is giving me the results I was so desiring a couple of weeks ago!  Love it!


New Math Adventures: So Far, So Good

I just have to write down (after my post the other day) how I "snuck" math in the past couple of days!  :-)

I'm trying to get a timeline all across our wall downstairs, something we can add throughout the years.  It's not fancy . . .just a long piece of paper stapled to the wall! 

So, yesterday the girls helped me finish it and we added our first events.  Here's the math:

We had to measure the walls to figure out how much space we had to divide.  I had A adding up one wall measurement to another wall measurement and then B would divide that number by the number of spaces we needed.  Next, they each got to write the years on the timeline, thus learning about centuries and writing larger numbers. 

Okay, so nothing spectacular, but mathematical nontheless!

Oh, and our first entries on the timeline:  the birth & death of Marie Antoinette, the birth of Mozart, the birth of Jesus (in the center) and the creation (as the beginning). 

Then, today I bought calculators at the $1 store for the kids  (we've had several but they keep getting lost!).  When we got home I heard A ask B, "Do you want to go play 'Cash Register'?'  They skipped joyfully downstairs and played for a good hour.  Then, later A came up to me and said, "Mom!  I'm going to make a math book!  I'm going to do problems on my calculator and write them down!" 

I don't know why I keep going back to the drudgery work when I am constantly reminded that leaving their minds free to roam does way more for them than I even could.  A is my daughter who "hates" math, but when I let her be creative, she'll do it on her own.  This reminds me of the time we  had journal writing time and JW taunted, "I bet I can write more than you!"  We sit and wrote for a good half hour or more.  He beat me!  But that was another moment where I let go and didn't push, simply inspired. 

So, pat on the back for me.  I've been spending the time planning and plotting some fun math & reading games and activities to pull out of my hat when the need arises. I'm so excited!

And, to top it all off, I just checked out the book, Math and the Mona Lisa.  I've been wanting to read it for a long time.  No better time than now!


Finally Really Jumping Off

photo courtesy of http://photos.igougo.com/images/p65119-Acapulco-Cliff_Diver.jpg
Today I made a decision (after pouring out all my sorrows at midnight last night to a friend).  Today I decided that I'm no longer going to follow math textbooks.  There has been a battle going on inside of me (and partially with my dear spouse) on the principles of "Inspire, not Require."  As much as I full-heartedly believe in inspiring our children to learn, as much as I have been telling other people to just "let their kids be kids," and as much as I've wanted to practice what I preached, I have been a slave to one subject:  MATH.  It's the one subject I thought I was willing to deal with the tears over and require my children to do, only to see this mentality backfire. 

My focus this year, especialliy with JW in school, has been to strengthen the relationship between my daughters, as well as my own relationship with them.  As pressures of life all seemed to hit at once during their "more formative years,"  I think I have been pressuring my girls faster than their little minds could take in.  Stronger than ever, I'm beginning to believe Raymond Moore's motto that "Better Late than Early" is spot on!  So, after the first week of adrenalin and happiness (everyone is excited the first week!) I found myself fighting the whines and moans and complaints of "I don't want to!" or "I don't understand any of this!"  That's when it hit me that, the kids were right!  They hadn't fully grapsed the concepts from before so WHY was I pushing them to move forward so quickly?  Well, I can say that now I'm taking the final step and hoping it will be more fruitful!

So far, the first day has been spectacular.  We did our chores.  We read aloud (finishing Summer of the Monkeys through tears and choked voices).  I had some "get stuff done" time while the kids played who knows what.  We played a game (matching is a math concept, right?).  We read some more.  Then we did an afternoon project making swords and magic wands out of dowels, ribbons and string.  Now my girls are excitedly putting together a spell book for more imaginative play!  This may not sound too productive or successful to some.  My girls are 8 & 9 . . . they should be reading and doing their math homework.  But listen, amidst all that playing one daughter spent time writing thank you notes to friends while the other worked on cursive . . . without any "hint" from me.  My boys contentedly made shapes on the geoboards.  I got plenty done and still have an hour of time to fill as I please  (something that I'd been missing though it's been "scheduled" in).  And now they are reading their spell book!!

Where does math fit in here?  Don't worry.  My hubby wiill be sure to keep me accountable for that.  He has a "math every day" policy . . . and I agree.  So, what am I working on?  This week we're just going to kind of take a break while I plan my mathtime fun!  What I did is go through the Core Knowledge series by E.D. Hirsch.  I made columns: 1st, 2nd, 4th.  Then I made rows listing all of the mathematical topics that should be covered in a year. In each box, I then wrote down the more specific goals for each age/grade.  We are now going to study math in TOPICS rather than textbooks.  I'm not sure exactly how I will structure it, but I do know there will be lots more books, games and fun involved.  

I feel free.  :-)


Humanitarian Aid Jar

This year we tried something new!  I've wanted my kids to be as little more aware of what goes on in the world around them.  I have a goal for them to realize they are not the center of the universe!  :-)  Taking an idea from The Christmas Jar, we created a Humanitarian Aid Jar.  Since January 1st, all loose change we find around the house has gone into this jar.  Then, at the beginning of September we counted out the money and created kits to donate to the Small Things Gathering event our church holds each year.  It's amazing how much money you can find around the house (mostly in the laundry!).  We were able to provide 4 hygiene kits, 3 baby kits, 5 pairs of flip flops, 5 t-shirts, a sweatshirt, 2 receiving blankets, 1 baby sleeper, 4 different sizes of medical gauze, some little girl hair ribbons, & 2 ace bandages.  It was great to see my kids so involved!  I think we just might have come up with a new family tradition!

Life According to Children

I just overheard this conversation between my 9yo and my 5yo:

9yo: Nerds are smart.
5yo: Yeah, I'm a nerd because I know 40+40


Must Read Books of the Month

All of these books are by the same author, Leonard Sax.  He is amazing and his books just grab you in! 

These books are more than self-help books, more than parenting books.  These books, each one in their own way, changed my perspective on male/female roles and how to teach my children!  Phenomenal books that I am literally telling EVERYONE about  (apparently there is now a long waiting list at the library, get your name on there now).  :-) 

Why Gender Matters:  Great for undestanding gender differences but not like Men are from Mars or whatever that popular book was all about (you know, put two different species together from different planets and see what you get!?!).  It's more about the fundamentals of gender, how the differences are not societal pressures but truly hardwired into us, and how we can foster these seemingly ancient traditional roles.

Boys Adrift:  Are you wondering why there are so many young men still living at home with their parents at the age of 30!?!?  Example:  watch the movie Failure to Launch and you'll see what this guy's talking about (but I do recommend ClearPlay if you do watch it!).  This book addresses the WHYs of this epidemic and how to solve the problem. 

Girls on the Edge:  Oh my goodness!  I think every parent with girls needs to read this book.  I rarely "force" my husband to read a book.  This one will be the one!  And the great thing about this book, too, is that I learned so much about MYSELF while reading it.  Excellent!

So, go forth and read!! 

To find out more about what Dr. Sax is doing go to http://www.leonardsax.com/


Mentoring Mothers

Last year a few of us were talking about how nice it would be to create a setting where we mothers could sit and chat about the principles and keys of TJEd.  We wanted to see how others were applying things and create an edifying support group of sorts to hash out our educaitonal goals and purposes.  So, I started holding what we call Mentoring Mothers in my home once a month.  So far, each time has been so edifying for me and those who participate.  Last year we just took a principle/key (i.e. You, not Them or Classics not Textbooks) and explored them more in depth.  This year we will be exploring the PHASES (core, love of learning, scholar, depth, mission) under the principle of YOU, not THEM.  We mothers need to become secure in who we are first, understanding and accepting who we are and the phases we go through in life.  I thought I would just share some of the things we discussed.

This month we talked about three keys in the CORE phase:
** Virtures - putting the important things first
** Balance of Work & Play
We started with the question:
(put this up on your mirror!!)

"All I could think of [after she asked me that question] was that I didn't have time to be good example because I was so busy doing so many urgent and important tasks that never stopped coming. I ran around getting a lot of good things done, but I knew I wasn't any model of peace, sustainability, or healthful living. If people lived like me, we'd have a world of exhausted bodies and despairing hearts. But I also knew it was time - - time to be able to say it with integrity in my heart. So, can YOU say it out loud? "I am a great example of how I want the world to be!!" It is possible to say this with integrity, it really is, and it's worth working toward. It's the quickest way I know to deep happiness and peace, but it sure doesn't just happen."  - - Cat Charissage, It's Time (see tjedonline.com)

With this in mind, we talked about goal-setting . . . not necessarily as tasks we wanted to accomplish, but character traits we want to build, more like a personal mission statement.  One friend gave a great idea on how to write a mission statement.  Instead of putting things that you wanted or wished to be, make the statements as though it is already YOU. "I am smart. I am energetic. I am...."

We talked about putting virtures ahead of academics (for moms that means being too task oriented that we forget to make time for the character building) and how important it is that we make that time for ourselves to be alone, to evaluate our needs, and have interviews/discussions with our spouse and children.

Work vs. Play. Being women we can be so emotionally driven, right?!  We can get so caught up in the "to do" lists we forget to live in the moment.  Okay, maybe I just speak for myself on that one!  :-)  But seriously, sometimes I just wish I could be calm, cool and collected all of the time or be more playful with my children.  An article on tjedonline talks about Emotional Intelligence. 

"Emotional intelligence involves being aware of one's own feelings and being able to manage them effectively and being able to respond appropriately to other's feelings. This awareness of feelings in oneself and in others hould lead to quality relationships." - - Marilyn Robb

This quote spurred on a great discussion on how we can become "emotionally stable" (Secure, not Stressed!) and how part of going through the Core Phase personally requires letting go and/or accepting how you became who you are  (strengths & weaknesses!). 
We need to use them to "get back to our roots." Oliver DeMille suggests that we look at where our ancestory came from and read the classics from that location. Spanish: Cervantes, English: Shakespeare, Italian: Virgil, Greek: Homer, etc.... These are the books your ancestors were reading. These were the books that shaped their culture. Getting back to your roots brings that culture into your home for you and your family! I loved this. :-)

These meetings take place the 2nd Wed. of each month.  Next month we will be exploring relationships and gender roles.  I'll try to keep the notes coming after each one.  :-)


Books mentioned/used:
Joyful Mother of Children - Linda Eyre
Spiritual Lightening - M. Catherine Thomas
The New People Makers - Satir
Books that Build Character
Say Go Be Do - Tiffany Earl



Many years ago I read A Joyful Mother of Children by Linda Eyre and was struck by the idea of watching and listening for the "tone" in your home.  She said, "parents are the 'sound system' in the home, and the mother is the 'volume, balance,and station selector.'"  If you were to enter our home on any given day you would see we are not the quiet type.  We are loud!  We are talkative!  Loving, but strong-willed!   I've come to accept that family trait as "ours." However, oftentimes I've noticed that we will "freak out" before we communicate our needs. And I'm sure we all know what I mean by "freaking out!"

"Mom! He won't stop bugging me!" 
"Get out of my room!" 
"Stop playing with my things!"
"I can't concentrate!!" 

And so I am now training myself and my children to communicate before the frustration hits.  For instance, the other day A. was stirring marshmallows on the stove (for our delicious peach pies) when suddenly, without warning she blurted in exasperation, "I just need a stool!!!"  I simply asked her, "A., did you communicate that need before getting frustrated?"  That's it.  One simple question. 

I'm thrilled to say it's working!  I have seen progress, mostly in myself.  I react less often to their reactions because I have a question in my head just for these moments:  "Did you communicate before the frustration hit?"  Or if I hear some sibling rivalry happening, I simply say, "Communicate" and they (sometimes) catch the hint.

Changing the Tone in Your Home
Eyre also gives a guideline of how to make these types of changes in our homes. 

1. Write downt he behavior that causes problems in your home.  This can be a collective family weakness, the behavior of an individual child, your spouse or in yourself. 

2. Write how you usually react to that behavior when it occurs.

3. Write how you will react in the future

You cannot change bad habits simply by saying, "I'm not going to _____."  There needs to be a positive to replace the negative.  There needs to be a planned response.  For me, this week, it has been, "Did you communicate that need before getting frustrated?"  Just having that question in my mind has helped me to be calm rather than stressed, in control rather than reactionary.


A Personal Note

All were happy at our house today! 

Mom (me) was happy because there was FINALLY a schedule to follow, some structure for the day!  Yippee for that.  This summer was the worst for me in that aspect and I have been itching to get started again.

 For Group Learning Time  today we had a fun activity.  I hid fairytale words around the room.  Then we wrote a fairytale together.  Each child would find a word and add to the story.  They had a blast . . . I'm sure we'll be doing it again.  We also started our family read aloud book, The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker.                                                                                            
JW (10yo son) was happy today because he started public school today (5th grade).  I cried, of course, as he entered the classroom door and on the bike 
ride home.  But once coming home and having the other four to distract me, I was able to smile instead.  :-)  And  he came home pretty pleased with the whole experience. 

B. (9yo daughter) was happy because she caught a spider eating a bee!!  I should have taken a picture  (duh!).  We put it in our bug magnifier. . . the best thing we have found by far for observing nature!! And she got to let Penny (her bunny) run free in the yard.  We have been waiting all summer to find a bunny run for cheap.  Finally, today I just said, "Let her run free."  Both B. and Penny were elated!

A. (8yo daughter) maybe wasn't all that happy to do her spelling but we had a beautiful moment together reading books.  So, that made up for the unpleasantness of everything else.  And she got to make "after school cookies" for JW.  :-)

I think JL (5) & E (3) were the most unsure of what to do with themselves.  They've always had JW around to entertain and harrass them.  Not anymore!  I seriously think they spent half the day wrestling!  Boys will be boys! 

And Mom (me) was happy yet again to enjoy some pleasant afternoon time with JW again and to get all the juicy details about the last 6 1/2 hours of his day.  :-)  Though I've had normal nervousness with this big transition, I have not regretted nor felt any apprehension whatsoever.  This will be a good change for him, my girls, and myself. 

Oh, and Dad was happy because he got a BIG breakfast of eggs, sausage and pancakes.  :-)


Getting Back to a New Year

Yes, it's time!  Back to schedules and lots of activities.  This year, I am so ready to get back to our normal schedule.  I'm excited to start teaching again . . . I've been slacking with my kids this summer.   I'm excited about the things we're going to learn!  Here are some things that we plan on using:

Sequential Spelling - This has been great for my non-readers.  It helps with learning how to decode words.  I'm hoping this will inspire them to write more and to feel more confident with their reading!

To Be a Princess - This is our whole history cirriculum for the year.  Yes, we will supplement with other books and throw in some US history as we go along, but for the most part it's all about royalty at our house this year!  When my girls said they wanted to learn about royalty, I went on a hunt for something that taught about the "real" princesses in history.  I stumbled upon this book on Amazon and instantly fell in love with it.  It's just short biographies of twelve princesses:  Elizabeth, Marie Antoinette, the last Hawaiian princess and others.  Each princess will lead us on a journey into their country, their culture and more.  I'm really excited about this one!

Singapore Math - This will be used for my younger children  (K & 2nd).  I wasn't planning on getting anything for my K child but when looking at math books for the other kids he asked, "What math book am I going to use?"  I told him I wasn't going to get him anything and he didn't like that answer.  I asked if he wanted to just finish the K workbook I'd gotten him for last year and his response was, "No, I don't like that one.  It's too easy!"  And then when his book came in the mail I have never seen someone so excited about math!  I'm also hoping this will be more appealing to my 2nd because she needs a little more nudging.  I will be using Saxon with my 4th.

That's ALL the "cirriculum" I'm using this year.  But we've got a LONG list of read aloud books that I hope to get through.  That is one thing this summer that was so successful.  We read and read and read!  We're almost done with our third read aloud book this summer.  That may be nothing for some families, but that's a big deal for ours!  What did we read?  The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, How to Train Your Dragon by Clarissa Cowell, and Summer of the Monkeys.  

Oh, and science we're going to do lots more nature studies, kitchen chemistry and some human body unit studies. 

I hope everyone's summer went well and that your year is all ready to get started!  Good luck!


Daughters and Liberal Education

I just got back from a wonderful vacation with family.  More on that later, maybe.  I first wanted to post my response to an email I had waiting for me upon my return.
"It doesn't seem logical for a woman to train for a career in the event of widowhood or a rare emergency, if by so doing she bypasses a rich cultural education which would make her a better wife and mother. A man may as well train for motherhood and homemaking if this logic is sound.

The best education of a young woman is a broad, liberal, education. It better prepares her to understand her children, and help them with their education and their life ahead. It helps her equally as a wife. She's more interesting, more open to new ideas. She has a better understanding of the world and is therefore a better citizen.
The woman with a liberal education is actually better prepared to meet and emergency than the woman who has been trained for a career. Her broad education is more inclined to develop creativeness, intelligence, sound reasoning and wisdom. When faced with an emergency she has more ingenuity to solve problems. If she must work, she can find her way into the working world and qualify for a job better than the woman who trained for a career ten years earlier and now finds it out of date."
-Helen Andelin, Fascinating Womanhood

My first thought was that this quote goes against what we've been taught by our prophets and apostles to "get all the education we can in case of calamity."

My second thought was that there is not reason why we women can't get an education for a career AND a liberal education at the same time. I don't necessarily believe we can get a liberal education and automatically get a career. I do believe that you can still get a liberal education while seeking a specific career. Now, if your whole goal in getting an education is to get a degree and a career, then you're not fully preparing yourself for the future. All people must be educated and able to figure out what's next if they lose their jobs. All people need to get as much education as they can.

Liberal education is termed "a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a stronger sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement ... characterized by challenging encounters with important issues, and more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study" by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU). (Wikpedia definition)

A liberal education originally consisted of language and mathematics. Then Plato and Aristotle came along and added grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. "These seven were the requirements in order to become a bechlor of art." (from How to Speak, How to Listen by Mortimer Adler). These requirements now constitute what we call "the generals" in college. Most people (myself included) believe these generals to be unimportant and mundane steps in order to get to the classes we really want to study. I no longer believe this, and wish that I'd taken advantage of these general classes thus more fully receiving a liberal education simply by my attitude. Does that make sense?

So, yes I agree that to get a degree for degree's sake "in case of emergency" may not be the best reason to get an education. But I do believe that we can have BOTH - - a liberal arts education AND an education leading toward a specific career. I agree with ____ that I want to teach my daughters their number one priority is in the home (see Family Proclamation) but that they can be prepared for either emergencies or "out of home" type opportunities. Sister Hinckley once encouraged her granddaughter to not major in Home Economics so that she would have more interesting things to think about while she did her ironing. :-) That's the kind of attitude I want to raise in my daughters.


Parenting Principles to Practice

As the children get older, I'm starting to recognize how parenting changes and how significant early habits really are!  I also just read the most fabulous book, Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax.  WOW!  I have been quoting this book everywhere I go it seems.  People are surely getting sick of me.  There were three very real take home messages for me that I have been pondering since reading.  Three parenting principles that I have somewhat confused me all along, but suddenly became clear. 

Principle #1:  A Familiy is not a Democracy
In the book Sax talks about how it's not logical to give children choices when they don't know what they're really choosing.  For instance, if you say, "Do you want to go to Disneyland or to the museum?"  The kids are most likely going to choose Disneyland simply because it either sounds more fun or their friends have talked about it.  Sax says, "Your job [as a parent] is not to maximize your child's pleasure, but to broaden her horizons." 

I was talking to a friend about this concept and she said, "Well, this is what we've been taught to do.  Give your toddler the choice, 'Do you want the green shirt or the blue shirt.'"  Though this is an appropriate choice to give, we need to be careful of what choices we are really giving them as they get older.  And even with that simple choice, I still find my toddler screaming that he doesn't want either shirt rather than letting Mom just put whatever shirt she wants for that day!  I'm starting to think that maybe we give choices to our children too young. I also think that when we focus on "not requiring" in the TJEd world, we think we need to not ask them to do anything that might make them unhappy.    Still simmering on this one. . .

From An In-Depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family, one author writes, "Our job as parents is to help children have the experiences that will help them grow and develop their agency."  Notice he says we need to give them experiences so they can make choices.  Our job, then is to expose our children to lots of different situations (whether they like it or not, more or less) so that they can thus make wiser and more appropriate decisions.  Take them to museums so they know what museum is.  Take them to Disneyland, if that's something you want your children to be exposed to.  Then, when given the choice, they will be better prepared to decide. 

Principle #2:  As your children, they have a right to the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and medical attention.  Anything else is a privilege. 

Duh!  I knew this but at the same time it's been tricky to implement. Difficult because we live in a more affluent society and "What does one dollar matter?"  Life is relatively easy where temporal needs are concerned.  Work isn't nearly  as necessary nor as difficult as it once was.  This is what we tell ourselves anyway.  So, it's easy to give when our children want.  We've been pretty good at not giving our children everything they want, but consistancy is one thing I'm striving to have more of.  I want to teach my children that they earn anything other than those 4 basic things.  I want them to understand that to earn them they must behave a certain way and do certain things.  Again, still simmering.

Principle #3:  "You can't discipline your child if you can't discipline yourself."

For me this equates to love as well.  Avi, a popular children's author once said, "First you have to love them.  If you can convince your children that you love them, you can teach them anything."  When I get unrighteously upset with the children, it's usually having to do with my lack of disciplining myself to teach them with love rather than punishment or criticism.  Again from the In Depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family it says, "We do not have the right to control anyone we do not love."  If we want our children to treat one another kindly, we treat them kindly.  If we want our children to study hard, we need to do our tasks with vigor.  If we want our children to clean the bathroom well, we need to train them in love and show them by example what clean bathroom looks like.  As always, it comes back to focussing on YOU not THEM. 

These are my thoughts on this Thursday evening.  I highly recommend this book by Dr. Sax.  There is so much more in there than I can write in one post.


What I'm Loving Now

I LOVE MATH!  I couldn't say that a year or two ago.  Thanks to this group, I read my first "fall-in-love-with-math" book, Fermat's Enigma and loved it!  My husband (a statistician) was thrilled that his wife was finally willing to "talk math" with him.  It made me happy when he'd go to work and gloat about me at work with his stat buddies. 

So, that was the first step.  Then, I recently read The Number Devil.  This was a great moment for me because as I talked about it, my 10 year old son got his hands on it and read it through. 

Next, Life of Fred came into our lives.  Great series.  Even if my son weren't into it right now, I'd still work on these books for myself because they give a whole new perspective on how to think about math.  I must admit also that my son's test scores jumped after working through the first book as well.  Yay for that!

The latest excitement in the subject of math was meeting The Human Calculator at a recent homeschool convention.  This guy was amazing and completely inspirational!!  My son has been using Mathletics the past few days on a free trial and he's been fascinated as well. 

So, I can now proudly say that I do love math! 


True Confessions of a Planner

I am a planner.                                                                               

Planning makes me happy.

I have a feddish with schedules.  Any kind.  I loved planning my college classes back in the day, making everything fit like a puzzle.  I'll admit that I was even planning my future family at the age of ten . . . names and all!! 

In all honesty, I would rather spend time planning than actually following through with the plan! 
                                                                         Picture courtesy of marthastewart.com
With that said, I have been thinking a lot about structuring my time.  I'm getting rid of many activities next year and find my schedule looking a bit blank.  Which is good.  This leaves me with more time with which to plan!  A good thing, yes, but how structured do I really need to get, right?  And, though I love to plan, I've become recently annoyed with the constant questions, "Mom, can I . . .?" and "So, Mom, what's the plan tonight?"  Can't they just be?  No, because I've always had everything planned for them. 

I just watched  a great movie the other night.  Leap Year.  It's a silly (but very clean!) romantic comedy.  I had an ah-ha moment watching this movie.  The leading lady, Anna,  was in a plane during a turbulent rainstorm.  The pilot's voice comes on over the intercom, "We will need to land in Wales on account of the storm."  Anna begins to panic, not for fear of dying but because, and I quote, "I'm on a schedule!"  Ahhh.  Thus is my life.  A scheduled, planned, perfect (not) life.  I should know by now that I am really not the one in control, but I still keep trying.  :-)

Why do I have this yearning to plan?  Better yet, why do I expect everyone else to follow my plan?  I pondered these questions last night as I read an excellent talk on patience and I found ten definitions of patience throughout the talk:

* the ability to put our desires on hold for a time
* active waiting and enduring
* staying with something and doing all that we can
* staying with something until the end
* delaying immediate gratification
* reining in anger
* resisting evil
* accepting that which cannot be changed, facing it with courage & faith
* willing to submit all things which the Lord seeth fit
* firm and steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord

Now, you may be asking what this really has to do with scheduling and planning?  It has everything to do with it!  Another scene from the movie:  While travelling to Dublin, Anna and her travelling companion, Declan, find themselves trapped by a herd of cows in the road.  Declan takes out an apple and sits, ready to wait for the cows to move on.  Well, Anna wants nothing to do with it!  She proceeds to yell at, clap at and push the cows along.  All the while she's saying, "Yeah!  That's how you do it.  That's how you get things done." 

Connection?  I'm getting there!  Sometimes we want to herd the cows along, so to speak.  We want to keep things moving.  Even without transportation, rather than waiting Anna is determined to walk the whole way to Dublin (in high heels nonetheless!) rather than sit and wait for the next available ride.  When I am scheduling and planning each detail of my life, I leave very little room for patience.  I leave very little room for more direction from the Lord.  Quoting from the talk mentioned before,  "Patience is the process of perfection.. . . without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect."  Profound words.  Bold words.  And then he says this, "If children are ever going to mature and reach their potential, they must learn to wait."  How do we teach them, by waiting ourselves. 

So today I gave myself a challenge.  I didn't plan anything!  Well, okay, I did plan to take the car into the shop and to get at least most of the laundry done.  But aside from that, I didn't plan.  I followed my kids' time table.  We went on a bike ride, played a few games, I got some reading in and some church business taken care of.  They swam while I did some cleaning and reading.  We read together, went to the library and then used their free ice cream coupons at McDonald's.  Then they wanted to go play on a big hill.  And so we did.  It was a lovely day.  We had our general schedule of cleaning, dinner preparation and whatnot, but for the most part I allowed myself to take their lead.  I don't think we'll be able to do this every day, nor do I think we need to.  I simply had to give myself permission to stop planning, just for a day.  And in the process of not planning I had the opportunity to sit and wait, to learn the art of patience with myself and my children.

"Patience is a Process of Perfection."
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