What's to Celebrate

Boy, oh, boy!  April flew by for us! 

This week we are FINALLY celebrating Park Week!  It was actually a couple of weeks ago, but our lives have been packed.  So, since the kids are testing this week and I'm ready to de-junk this place, I figured it would be a good week to spend at the park.  During this week each child chooses a park to visit, 1 for each day.  It's great fun and something my kids look forward to every year! 

And, while we're talking of celebrations, check out the "What's There to Celebrate" tab above for some great ideas in May! 

Happy Spring!


What to do with Three Less Kids?!?!

Today I was home practically alone!  Well, it was so quiet, it felt like it.

It was "Take Your Kids to Work Day" and at my hubby's workplace they have all sorts of cool events for the kids to do.  So,  he got to have all the mayhem of the older kids while I entertained and appeased the little guys. 

I did find myself asking inwardly, "Now what do I do?" after awhile.  Yes, I could have cleaned my house more, folded socks, etc..etc.. but who wants to do that when they're childless? 

I did connect with a dear friend over lunch (Applebee's Carside To Go...my new favorite thing to do for a treat).  She and I seriously haven't stopped to sit and chat since getting pregnant with our most recent babies!  Crazy!   So, it was good to visit.  The rest of the time it was just be with my boys and do some planning.

And you know, it's nice to have these moments, to take time to evaluate what's really going on with your time.  What would YOU do with an extra hour without kids, family, life, busyness, plans, schedules, etc?  It's a thought worth pondering. 

Today was a good day.


The last two days I've had the opportunity to go hiking...the same mountain.  It takes about an hour up and down...unless you're with kids.  :-)

It's interesting to contrast the two experiences. 

Tuesday a friend in need of some emotional support called to see if I'd hike with her.  Gladly!  And the weather has been so lovely, making it all the more enjoyable.  We talked about much-needed items of motherhood and wifehood business and then went on with our days, both feeling uplifted and ready to take on the challenges of the day.

Yesterday...with four 12 year old boys and my own passle of children (minus the two youngest, thank goodness), we trekked the mountain again.  This time the discussion was on The Hobbit and the wisdom we gleaned from that excellent book. 

Both experiences, however, gave me the same sense of gratitude for two things.  1) The Lord's creations, the newness of spring, and the joy that sunshine brings!  2) Friendship.  For my kids and for myself.  We all need it!  I thrive on it!  Having good friends has been a great blessing in my life.

And, as always, when hiking a mountain I think about hiking the metaphorical mountains in my life.  As was quoted in The Hobbit, "This is your expedition.  Just think of the treasure at the end."  Recognizing the blessings from the Lord and appreciating the friendships around us makes these mountains so much easier to climb!


Relative Righteousness

Recently I have been struck by the term "relative righteousness." 

"...Relative righteousness means nothing . . . Each person's payment at the end of hte day has nothing to do with the work of others.  We are each working out our own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord (The Peacegiver, pp.98-99)."

There is so much good in each of us.  And just as Elder Wirthlin has said, "There is greatness in everyone."  I think we all can admit we've struggled in some sense of the word with envy.  Or with the feelings of inadequacy simply because someone else has a particular talent, skill, or blessing. 

This brings to mind Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's most excellent talk from the recent General Conference, "We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin...(Laborers in the Vineyard, CR April 2012).

This has all been a great reminder for me to stop judging, stop comparing and to start living more fully the life that I have been given!


It's Working!

Something has changed in me.  I'm just not as bothered anymore by the mistakes of my children.  It's weird.  No they are not perfect, nor am I perfect.  I do feel I havea firmer grasp on a couple of principles with regards to parenting though. 

1) In Nephi 8:12 it says that Lehi "preached unto them," "exorted them to obey," and then "ceased from speaking."  I'm sure I've said this here already, but I really do talk too much at or to my children.  I've been working on teaching once, instructing them to obey, and then no more talking! 

2) To help with the no talking we all discussed together what the one consequence would be for minor misdemeanors in our home.  The consensus:  run across the park and back.  It's simple.  The kids love it and hate it all at the same time. Sometimes they will ask, "Can I run across the park?"  Sure.  Why not.  ???

3) Staying calm works!  Oh. My. Goodness.  I've been re-reading The Peacegiver for a class I've been attending and this helps tremendously with the concept of staying calm.  There are two aspects to this principle...a) don't take their choices personally, and b) forgive in the moment.  I think I get caught up in the self-talk of "they just don't respect me enough" or "why won't they learn?"  These type of thoughts lead to impatience and frustration with my kids.  When I can look at them and say, "Go run" without getting emotionally pent up inside, it just works so much better.  Are they happier?  Maybe not in the moment, but in the end it works for all of us if MOM stays calm.  I've noticed the most change in one particular child who reflects and magifies my own weaknesses and behaviors!

4)  Just love them!  I've gotten this same response from several people through the years.  It's a response that has litearlly caused me to roll my eyes with the "Yeah, right?" kind of attitude (I hate to admit that).  Recently, I heard it one more time and yet this time it really struck a chord.  After about a month, I can say that this answer is truly working (with the help of the three ideas mentioned before)! 

All children want to feel is accepted, loved and important.  I want my children to know and FEEL that I love them.  Telling them is one way.  But speaking those words is so much easier for me than showing them.  When I express anger, frustration, and impatience with their imperfections I'm not showing them the way to "love one another and to serve one another."


Cirriculum Share

Today I'm showing off a couple of cirriculums at a Materials Fair.  I thought I'd share them here as well:

Real Science-4-Kids
LOVE THIS SERIES for science!  I wish I'd tried it sooner.  I've seen Biology, Chemistry and Physics sets in this series. 
What I like
 -  If I wanted to I could just hand it to my older kids and say, "Here, do this."  But it is also simple and fun for younger kids.

 - It's comprehensive from start to finish  (list of materials, chapter on what it's all about, experiement, quetsion to answer, and a "Why you did this" section).  This is the worst part of science for me, explaining the why of the experiment.  So, I like that!

 - There's not grade level!!!  You just start at pre-level and go through the series. 

Downsides:  There really aren't any (from what I've tried thusfar).

Life of Fred
This is a fun math cirriculum that is more just one big, gigantic story problem.  Each book has a topic: Fractions, Decimals & Percents, Pre-Algebra w/ Biology and another with Economics, etc.  They also have a new elementary series that we are trying for the first time right now. 

Why I like this
 - It teaches HOW to think mathematically.  Rather than rote memorization the student needs to think about the process in which to do the problems. 

 - It is an entertaining series.  Great for sparking interest in math if you have a struggling student.

 - It is not all encompassing.  For instance, there isn't a lot of practice problems so I need to supplement with extra problems and worksheets. 

 - Sometimes there are problems where the author never explained the process.  This can get confusing and time consuming for Mom. 

My recommendation:  I'm going to try just reading the elementary series with my 5 year old this summer/fall, doing the problems along with him rather than having him do a math cirriculum.  I don't necessarily like having them do actual math textbooks at least until they can read on their own.  Once my kids hit 4th grade they can choose between Life of Fred and Saxon math. 



I'm too busy visiting...so I'll just post my latest find.
I found a new source for great books!  Check it out...

Book Talk

Have a Happy Weekend!



I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my best friend today!!  I can't wait and I can't believe it all at the same time.  My friend, Kelly, and I met LONG ago... almost 20 years, I guess (that's weird to say!!).  She and I met at Stake Girl's Camp in California.  Just imagine putting an all-too-talkative teenager with a more reserved, quiet teenager... a perfect match (I'll let you guess which is which!).   :-)  Since then, she has found her voice and I have...well, I haven't changed.  But it all still seems to work!  And even better, our husbands and kids love each other, too!!  :-)

In our youth we started writing letters back and forth...through high school...through college...through early motherhood...to today!  We started with snail mail and have evolved through emails and now keep our own private blog writing posts back and forth to one another...almost daily!  When I mentioned this to a local friend she asked, "What do you say to each other?" 

The real question is, What do we NOT say to each other.  From sleepless babies, to picky eaters, to what we're reading, to homeschooling ups and downs, to getting older ourselves . . . the list is endless! 

These are our husbands...???  Sadly, I could not find a picture of Kelly and I anywhere in my files.  So, that will be my goal while she's visiting this weekend!
Women need friends.  Dr. Leonard Sax has mentioned that times have changed.  We no longer have the visits across the back fences as we hang up our laundry to dry!  Women need women, it's an emotional stability of sorts.  I can attest to that as I've not only had Kelly in my life, but numerous friends to whom I can confide on many different levels.  For this I am eternally grateful!


Consequences for Moms

Yesterday I had an interesting experience.  I was giving a presentation at a winter blues group meeting, leaving my kids home to tend the baby (with movies and candy as well!) for a few hours.  I told them I would be home at 3:30pm.  Well, those who know me know that once I start chatting, it could be hours before I'm done.  Because of that nature of mine (sigh!) I was an hour late getting home. 

As I drove the 30 minutes to home I pondered on this fact.  If I wanted my kids, as teenagers, to be home at 3:30, I would expect them home at 3:30.  Didn't I owe them that same courtesy?  I had followed the right proceeders of calling them a couple of times to tell them I would be later than expected, but I still felt like I needed to "come clean" so to speak.  So, in my pensive mood I decided to lay it out to them and have them decide what my consequence should be for being late. 

When I finally walked in the door, I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.  It was almost like they didn't even notice or care.  One was playing computer games, a couple of others were doing Wii karaoke, the baby was sound asleep in bed, and the others were somewhere else doing something peaceful.  My first instinct was to just forget my thoughts, serve the pizza and get on with our night.  But, I still couldn't help but think of my future teens in the same situation.

So at dinner I told them something very important happened.  I was late!  I explained that if they were late they would get a consequence.  I plead my case by saying that I did call them & would expect the same courtesy from them.  We then took a vote as to whether I "deserved" a consequence or not.  The boys said, "No" and the girls said, "Yes."  Let me rephrase that. One girl said no but said she knew there would be no other opportunity to ever give me a consequence again, so she wanted to say yes.  :-) 

Long story short, they all decided that I could just clean the kitchen without their help while they played Capture the Flag in the backyard.  Fine by me...we used paper plates!  :-)

The point(s):  I think it is vitally important that we do teach by example.  I could have pulled the parent card and said, "Tough.  I was late."  But, if I expect them to respect me and my time, I must do so for them.  Now, maybe if they hadn't been watching the baby I wouldn't have been so concerned.  That was a huge favor they were doing for me!

Another thought is that I want my children to understand that it's not always an "us against them" environment.  Home should be the safest place to make mistakes.  I made a mistake (whether the kids noticed or not) and I needed to apologize and be ready for the consequence.  Now, I don't expect to go through this process with every mistake I make...don't want to give them too much power!  But, for this particular instance it felt like the right thing to do.

As the kids were getting ready for bed my oldest said, "Today was a really fun day, Mom!  Thanks."  Maybe I should leave more often!  :-)


Book(s) of the Week: World War I

The last few weeks I've attempted to teach the kids about World War I.  It is SO HARD to find great materials from WWI that would be approriate for children.  It was such a depressing war.  We did manage to discuss the causes:  pride of the nations and battle for power;  which led to a discussion on Alliances and ended in a game of Capture the Flag at the park across the street! 

Nevertheless, I did read some books on my own I could highlight. 

This book I could have read to the children...had I prepared better.  It was a bunch of stories within a story, all centered around a soldier's good luck charm, a silver donkey. A heartwarming story of four children helping a diserting soldier to find his way home across channel between England and France.  Older children and adults can also find deeper meaning in the several stories found within this great novel. 

The more I think about this book the more I like it!  This book was for youth and adults.  The novel had a haunting feeling throughout as the main character had a sixth sense.  She had the ability to see the death of a person just before it happened.  This sense leads her into the thick of battle in search of her fighting brother.  An unexpected ending makes this book a fabulous read!


The Law of the Harvest

It looks like the weather is going to be staying warm signaling that Spring is finally here.  :-)  I've been wearing quite a bit of yellow lately... Must not be that excited!  ;-) 

So, in anticipation of spring we FINALLY got our planter boxes done and filled with dirt.  No plants as of yet, but I am eager to get it going and to watch the fruits of our labors (with a lot of finger crossing, of course!).  I also got some beautiful flowers to add more color to our yard. 

In light of gardening season I learned a new aspect of the Law of the Harvest this last week.  I've been studying in the Book of Mormon, Jacob 5 (aka The Allegory of the Olive Tree).  Usually when we think of the law of the harvest the phrase, "You Reap What You Sow" comes to mind.  Though true, I discovered  a new meaning.  "Let us prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it a little longer, that perhaps it may bring forth good fruit unto thee, that htou canst lay it up against the season (Jacob 5:27)." 

The Law of the Harvest requires that we wait.  We cannot force plants to grow.  We cannot force trees to produce fruit.  Likewise, we cannot force our children to walk, to read, or to feel the spirit.  Nor can we force our own weaknesses to become strengths in an instant.  We must nourish, prune, dig...and then wait...only to prune, dig and nourish some more!  Why?  Because "ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft...wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow, that the root adn the top may be equal in strength (5:65-66)."

And so we will plant our garden this year for the first time in awhile and we will diligently labor, waiting upon the law of the harvest to work it's own magic!


Art Appreciation the Charlotte Mason Way

If you want to bring art culture into your home, this is a great way to do it! This calendar has a different piece of artwork to display each day of the year.  Paintings, sculputers, historical items, etc.

A couple of years ago I was introduced to a simple way of exposing my children to art.
Charlotte Mason believed in short and simple lessons so as not to overwhelm the children and cause them to lose interest in learning.  The lecturer explained the following steps:

1) Choose an artist to study for about 6 weeks.

2) Choose quality pieces of artwork from that particular artist (I think she suggested one a week).

3) Have the children each take turns viewing the piece of artwork for a minute or two. 

4) When all have viewed the artwork, hide the picture and have each person take a turn telling what they remember from the painting (youngest to oldest).

That's it.  It's basically like the game played at baby and bridal showers where someone comes in with a tray filled with lots of items and then you are to remember as much as you can of what was on the tray in 30 seconds.  My husband has also taken this to another setting.  Say you're in the doctor's office...waiting...Have your children look around for a minute or two and then ask them to close their eyes.  Ask them questions such as, "What color is the door?" or "How many kids do you remember playing on the floor?" 

So, not only do the kids learn to appreciate different styles of art, but they also learn the art of observation...and it makes waiting all the more fun and easy! 


Choosing Out of the Best Books

I remember several years ago a friend of mine said that she wanted to get more into reading.  Then she was like, "How do you find the books to read?  I don't even know where to start!"

I have always loved reading.  Babysitter's Club and Sweet Valley Twins were the books I devoured growing up!  Anne of Green Gables probably came next.  Even now I think of some books that made some sort of impression on me:  Milly Molly Mandy, 100 Dresses, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Littles, and others.  I never loved the books we were supposed to read for school.  Looking back it might have just been because I didn't recognize the value in them.  Books such as The Crucible, Cry the Beloved Country, The Scarlett Letter, and Cantebury Tales
Things changed when I hit college. I didn't know how I could possibly fit in time to read amidst classes, a job, homework, and dating (of course!).  I had a roommate who was always found reading a book, from her bedroom to the bathtub, and I marvelled at how she did it! 

So, when college ended and I was now "only" a stay-at-home mom (ha! ha!) I went crazy over reading and read 13 books in 2 months!  I was just so eager to read, read, read.  I found that as I started to read one book, it would lead to another book and another and another.  It has gotten to the point now where I have a fat file folder full of book lists.  So, it's no longer, "What do I read?" but rather, "How do I choose 'out of the best books.'?

How to Choose the BEST Books

**  CLASSICS.  What consititutes a classic?  A common response when I tell people I love to read classics they kind of wrinkle their nose and say, "I like some of those."  When people think classics they think only Dickens, Defoe, Hemingway, etc.  All of these are great authors, but not the only classic authors to choose from.  There are modern day classics as well.  A classic for me is one that I can read over and over, recommend every time someone asks if I have a book for them to read, or one that enhances my learning and language  (see The Necessity of Classics).  C.S. Lewis said something to the effect that if it's not good enough to read twice, it's not good enough to read.
**  SET GOALS FOR YOURSELF.  One of my lifelong goals is to read ALL of the books on the Newberry Award Winning list.  I may not get to all of the honors books, but I'd at least like to read all of the winners.  Another goal I've set is to read 10 Classic books in each subject (science, math, literature, history, etc.).  A great resource for that is The Well-Educated Mind by Bauer.

**  GOODREADS.  This website has made choosing books easier...and also much more daunting.  I think GoodReads has popularized reading, making it "the thing to do."  My friends on GoodReads usually have great suggestions for me...so I know where to go when I'm in a slump.

** READ MANY GENRES.  I tend to get bored reading the same type of book all the time.  I like to change it up by asking myself, "What genre haven't I read in awhile?" Or thinking about a topic I want to learn more about.


The Sibling Effect

I forgot!  Tuesday was Sibling Day!  So, in honor of that day, our book for the week is The Sibling Effect by Jeffrey Kluger.

There really is very little reading material on the sibling relationships, so when I stumbled upon this book I was ecstatic!  This is a touching memoir of the author's life with some scientific data intermixed.  Touching as well as educational, this book is a fascinating read.  I love this statement:

"Every individual in your family has a separate one-on-one relationship with every other individual, each of those relationships representing a discrete, stand-alone pairing...Each such pairing in any one family has strengths, intimacies and challenges that are peculiar to it, and this is particularly so in the case of siblings."

As I've thought about my own siblings this week, I've looked at each relationships separate from "just all one family."  I see that I have an example in my oldest sister, paving the way before me as one who loves her role as mother.  My next sister helped me through the growing up years during college as I pined over the prospect of marriage and experimented with awful hair colors!  Without my one and only brother I may not have learned how to tie my shoes, blow a bubble, or ride a bike (I also might have been beat up at the bus stop years ago!).  And I can't say enough about growing up with my younger sister and best friend through childhood to now.  As a whole, without my siblings I wouldn't be able to share the many stories from Christmas Eves spent all in one room laughing, crying, fighting, and singing "100 Bottles of Milk on the Wall."  Those memories can never be replaced.


Being a Kid Again

Is there something you like to do but think you are too old to do?

I do.

The parking lot at my favorite grocery store is on a slope.  And so every time I go shopping there I just have to ride the cart down the hill to my car.  I jump on the back and coast.

Just this weekend I was waiting in line to ride on a large waterslide and couldn't help but think (surrounded by all the kids and teenagers), "I'm much too old for this."  But going down the slide, it sure was fun to pretend I was as young as I once was.

I still love to swing on the playground swings (though too much makes me nauseous, reminding me I am getting older).

Last week I played Capture the Flag with my kids.  Next I want to play Kick the Can to bring back even more childhood memories.

I just think there's always going to be a part of me, and maybe all of us, that doesn't want to grow up.  I think that's one thing I love about being a mom...Seeing childhood for a second time, only this time through the eyes of my own little ones and running along side them at least some steps of the way.  :-)


Validation Statements

The other day I was listening to how my 12yo spoke and reacted to different scenarios. 

Which led to me thinking about how I speak.  Oops!  We do tend to lead by example, don't we! 

And so I am re-reading one of my favorite books  (see picture courtesy Amazon.com).  It's a great refresher course and so much more eye-opening with older kids in the home. 

At breakfast the other day we created a list of Validation Statements on our white board:

I understand...
I'm sorry you feel that way...
What can I do to help?
That would stink!
What would you like to do about that?
I agree!!  (my favorite)

And then someone thought of one word:  LAUGHTER
Instead of getting defensive, laugh about it  (within respectful boundaries, of course).  Sometimes we take life a little too seriously.

That's what we've been working on.


Book of the Week

I have a very large collection of Christmas books...But Christmas is not my favorite holiday.  So, when I stumbled upon this book several years ago I just had to have it so I could capture my favorite holiday in a reading memory for my kids.


Saying Good-Bye

How can we say good bye to this!?  I wish I knew how and had the time to make an inspiriation YouTube video about how this woman has influenced me over the past few years...but I can't.  :-)

I have to admit that I cried when Sister Julie B. Beck was released on Saturday.  Every word she has spoken has touched my heart and enlivened me to become better.  Julie Beck speaks in boldness and accomplished many great things while in service.

I know Sister Burton has been called now to do things with this work that no other woman could at this time.  I will simply mourn for a little while and then move forward again.  :-) 

Thank you, Sister Beck.  You will be missed!
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