Touch the Top of the World

I just finished a great book.  It is the autobiography of Erik Weihenmayer, a blind man who has climbed Mount Everest (and others).  His story is remarkable.  He believe that people focus more on their limitations (what they can see with their eyes) rather than on their possibilities.  His book was inspirational, his thoughts are motivational and who he is made me believe in my own visions for the future.

 "No one suffers the way one does on a mountain simply for a beautiful view.  A summit isn't just a place on a mountain.  A summit exists in our hearts and minds.  It is a tiny scrap of a dream made real, indesputable proff that our lives have meaning.  A summit is a symbol that with the force of our will and the power of our legs, our backs and our two hands, we can transform our lives into whatever we choose them to be, whatever our hands are strong enough to create."  --Erik Weihenmayer


Our Bodies: Precious Gifts

These last two weeks have turned out to be so fabulous!  I have been learning and pondering and reading, trying to make the best of this otherwise depressing situation (I am now functioning to almost my normal level of activity). 

However, these weeks have also been grueling as in my pondering and studies, I have learned weakness-revealing lessons.  Elder Christofferson has said, "Divine chastening has at least three purposes: (1) to persuade us to repent, (2) to refine and sanctify us, and (3) at times to redirect our course in life to what God knows is a better path (CR April 2011)."   I think I've been receiving a bit of the #1 & #2  types of chastening, which ironically is leading to #3 as well.

I already mentioned last week about "feeling compelled" to change my diet.  For those curious, I'm basically looking into delving into a more anti-inflammatory diet and a diet/lifestyle change to boost my immune system.  

This week's inspiration has been primarily with my exercise habits.  I'm not anti-exercise, I just haven't made time for it in my full life.  I have shied away from gyms because I can't think of anything less appealing than being in a windowless room full of sweaty people.  Sorry, not my thing.  For me, hiking, walking and Yoga are my exercises of choice.  But with all of those I have never been very consistent.  Plus, with back problems, I have limited myself where exercise is concerned because of it would hurt my back.

This week I have been going to physical therapy with amazing results!  I love it!  Basically, I am learning how to strengthen my core in a way that doesn't  hurt my back.  Yay!  On top of the exercises they are also working with some other inflammatory decreasing therapy methods.  Very relaxing and making a huge difference in my pain level. 

Most importantly, though, I am realizing just how much the body plays a role in our spiritual lives.  I don't know if I mentioned it here, but when I go on to get my master's degree I've decided I want to study pseudo neuroimmunology - that is, the study of how the body, mind and spirit all work together.  I guess you could say I am getting some field study on just that very topic! 

Looking back on this past year I realize I have been putting so much energy into my spiritual growth to the point where I thought if I took care of that my body would just follow suite.  Well, that obviously hasn't been the case.  What is true is that if I am to perform the purposes for being in this world at this time, I need to recognize that my body is essential for serving in His kingdom.

In Mosiah we find a list of all the things we must be doing to serve:  not suffer your children to go hungry, succor those who stand in need of succor, administer your substance to those in need, share your riches, deny not the beggar, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, administer to the sick "both spiritually and temporally (Mosiah 4:14-26)."  And then King Benjamin states, "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order;  for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength (v. 27)." 

Of this scripture President Eyring remarks, "That counsel can be hard to apply when the choice seems to be balancing a desire to do all you can to help others with the wisdom to be prudent in meeting your own needs to retain your power to serve  (CR Oct. 2012, emphasis added)."
We mothers are very self-sacrificing, almost to a fault.  Sometimes we use our caretaking as an excuse to not do the things we know we must be doing.  Sometimes we blame and resent this role, leaving us to feel we just can't take care of ourselves.  Sometime we feel selfish taking care of our bodies.  Sometimes we think we're above reproach and do not need to obey the commandment to take care of that which we've been allotted.  Still, most mothers are very good-intentioned in their service and truly sacrifice their needs and wants for the love they have for their children.  These are very good things, but we need to heed President Uchtdorf's counsel and guage whether it be a good sacrifice or a bad sacrifice (CR Oct. 2011). 

I have used all of these reasons (justifications) for not taking care of this precious body, a gift from my Father in Heaven, and for that I have had a couple of really difficult challenges regarding my health.  I want to be around and functioning 10, 20, 30 years from now.  I want to be an active mother and grandmother in my children's lives.  I'm realizing now that there are greater things I must be sacrificing in order to make those dreams come to fruition. 

So, yeah, the body, the mind and the spirit all work together for our good.  Each must be looked after "in wisdom and order."  At education week I was taught to look in the mirror each morning and really take a look at yourself.  Look to see how you're really doing with each of these three elements that make up your soul.  It would have been so much easier had I taken these thoughts into consideration 13 years ago.  And yet, the Lord knew this was the lesson I needed to learn, when I needed to learn it!  For that I am grateful for His patience and mercy on my account. 


The Holy Week

Easter has for a long time been my most cherished holiday.  Maybe it's because of the sunshine of Spring or the fact that we've done away with most of the cultural traditions making it much more family and Christ-centered.  I have been pondering the last few days how I can make this week more special for the kids.  There are so many ideas online for how to make Easter more Christ-centered, so many it's overwhelming.  I think our family will just have a simple devotional each day in place of our typical family scripture study time.  As preparation for my own heart so that I may teach more fully with the spirit here are a couple of articles:
None Were With Him by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland  (one of my favorites!)
Reflections of the Savior's Last Week by Eric Huntsman

Monday: Triumphal Entry  (Mark 11:1-11)
Gospel Art Kit #223
Video: The Lord's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
Discussion topic:  Is there significance in the donkey? Is it significant that Mary rode a donkey while travelling with child at Jesus' birth?  How does this connect with His birth in a stable, laid in a manger?

Tuesday: Cleansing the Temple  (Mark 11:15-17)
Gospel Art Kit #224
 Discussion Topic:  We have learned that our bodies are a temple.  What can we do to cleanse our temple as did Jesus in His time? 
Activity:  Have a bowl of water and talk about how clean it is.  Talk about how we make many mistakes in our lives, sometimes even with great sin.  As you do so, sprinkle pepper in the center of the water.  Talk about how the pepper dirties the water.  Then, pour a drop or two of dishsoap over the pepper.  Watch what happens to the pepper and discuss the meaning of cleansing ourselves from sin.

**May also want to watch two other teachings of Jesus on this day.

Wednesday: The Last Supper & Washing the Disciples' Feet (Mark 14:12-26, John 13:4-15)
Gospel Art Kit #225 & #226
Video: The Last Supper
Discussion Topic: Based on the discussion from the night before, how can we use the sacrament in our lives?  What was Jesus teaching when He washed the disciples' feet? 

Thursday: The Garden of Gethsemane and the Betrayal (Matthew 26:36-57)
Gospel Art Kit #227 & #228
Video:  Christ in Gethsemane
Discussion:  After watching the video and reading the verses, simply ask the children if they have any questions.  Ask them what they think or believe about the Atonement in their lives.  Give them opporunity to bare testimony of the Savior. 
Friday: Peter's Denial, The Crucifixion and The Burial  (Mark 14)
Gospel Art Kit #229, 230, 231
Videos Peter's Denial, The Trial, The Crucifixion, The Burial
Discussion:  Why do you think Peter denied the Christ?  What do we do sometimes that might show we deny the Savior in our lives?  Why was it necessary for Jesus' death to be full of so much suffering?  

Saturday:  Christ in the Spirit World & The Americas  (3 Nephi 8)
Gospel Art Kit #316
Discussion:  Why did darkness signify the death of Christ? What is significant about the earth's destruction during the Crucifixion? 

Sunday: Christ Visiting Mary, The Empty Tomb (John 19:38-42; 20:10-18)
Gospel Art Kit #232 & #233
Videos: Resurrection of Jesus and  He is Risen
Discussion:  Again take time to bare testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

In Conclusion watch None Were With Him


Book of the Week

image from amazon.com

This one is a definite to read.  I mean... FABULOUS!  I just finished it while in my convalescent state and WOW!  I wish I'd read this ten year ago, it's that good.  I love that this book is more principle-based rather than a "how to" parenting book.  I think we can all be a little more soft spoken, right?  I wish that my solutions to the problems that arise with child-rearing were always based on scriptures or following the spirit, rather than the impulses of the natural man.  I'll be reviewing this one for years to come!   Have a happy weekend!


Make that Change

It's time for me to make some drastic changes and I'm not sure I'm ready.   I've been warned (more than once) that I need to make changes in my diet and my lifestyle, but I have been so rebellious.  I've used all sorts of excuses to justify why I eat the way I do (which is no different than most Americans these days); excuses such as:

"My kids would totally rebel."

"It's easy for me to change but I'd have to get my kids to change, too.  I dont' want to put up the fight."

"I'm just not a chef, I don't like being in the kitchen more than I have to."

"I really don't eat that bad."  (really!?!?)

"All this food and diet stuff is just a fad right now and I do no want to jump on the trendy bandwagon."

See how easy for the adversary to "lull [us] away into carnal security...and...cheateth their souls, and leadeth [us] away carefully down to hell (2 Ne. 28:21)." 

That may sound a bit harsh, but in reality whenever we are not listening to the warnings or promptings we've been given and justify our way out of following counsel, we're choosing  be led down some other path.  It is MY choice what I do or don't do with my body.  It is then my responsibility to accept the consequences. The consequences at this point are that I cannot serve, I cannot take care of my family's needs.  If I continue down this "justified path" I am not looking at a very smooth path up ahead. 

So, this back injury is yet another call for me to treat my body with greater honor and respect.  It's a call for me to rise up and do better so that I can be an instrument in His hands and be a functioning grandmother when that day inevitably will come. 

Oh, how I pray for the strength and the desire to continue forward to truly making the change.  "Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble."  (Alma 32:16)  I've been compelled and I don't want to be compelled again.  So....here's to making the change!


Happy Birthday, Bach!

Thursday, March 21st, we will be celebrating the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach. Join us with some of these fun ideas....

Language Arts: 
Johann Sebastian Bach biography by Mike Venezia. Venezia is a great biographer. I like anything by him. Talk about the biography genre in literature and have each child choose a person they admire and have them write their own biography.

The Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine
Learn about the lives of great composers while listening to their music. Take time to study the different types of instruments that make up an orchestra and sort them into “families” (winds, strings, etc.). You can end with a field trip to the local orchestra.

History & Art: 
Color the Classics is one of my favorite series. Each book comes with a CD. You read the excerpt from the life of the great composer, the kids color a picture as you read, and then you listen to and discuss the music by that composer. It's simple, easy and liked by all.

Math and Music go hand in hand more than one might think. As you listen to one of Bach's compositions, count the beat with your children. Teach them about measures and how music is organized on paper. Time signature is a great thing to introduce as well. Listen to several pieces of music and have the children figure out the time signature of each song.

The Science of Music website is a great resource for information and has some fun interactive elements. Have the kids write their own music with “Dot Mixer.”

Here is a really fun science experimenton sound.


Forgetting the Joy

You know, you forget how much JOY comes from being a mother.  You know, those items that are generally on a busy "to do" list? 

preparing meals for the family
taking care of an 18 month old
grocery shopping
mopping the floor
doing the dishes
playing games with your bored 5 year old
driving the kids around to their various activities
making the bed
scrubbing bathrooms
pulling weeds
washing windows

Until these responsibilities are taken away from you, I think you forget how fulfilling they really are.   This week, and especially today, having these things removed from my life has been really hard.  These activities are truly where I get my greatest satisfaction.  I'm trying to be patient, to enjoy the "break" and to use the time wisely for other things I can do.  But that fulfilled feeling is missing at the end of my day. 

I will be so grateful to load the dishes, mop the floor, and drive the kids around once the pain is gone.  Until then, I will do what I can to fill my spirit and heal my body so that there will be such a day and so I can welcome it with open arms.


Layin' Low

Well, the Lord sure knows how to get me to stop.

Friday morning I went to get up from my prayers and couldn't.  After laying on the floor for an hour, I finally started to call for help from my sleeping children.  They soon aroused themselves and tried to come to my aid.  They resorted to calling my husband home from work instead who tried his best to help also.  But, as he got me to a vertical position pain shot throughout my whole body and I couldn't help but scream and cry in agony. 

Thus, an ambulance was called and I sat in the ER the rest of they day while the doctor got me well medicated enough to come home.
So, as I sit here waiting for my follow up appointment to be scheduled, I will type.

I've always thought it ironic:  when we're busy and moving we wish we had time to sit and then when we're forced to sit we wish we could be up and moving.  I've been telling J. for a few weeks now, "I just want a Walden Pond experience."  Well, be careful what you wish for (though this is not quite as relaxing as I'd hoped).

I've gone through the whole gamet of emotions. I thought of all the things I could get done while just sitting around (i.e. more blog posts), things that I usually wish I had more time for.  But, my brain isn't really working that way.  I think the the counselor in our ward Relief Society was right, "The Lord needed you to stop so you could hear something.  Just let it pour in."  

I have such a hard time being helped.  I've been trying to keep in mind something from the last General Relief Society meeting.  President Eyring said this:

"[King Benjamin] goes on to warn those of you who might fail to respond to the evidence that you are pushing on too far and too long in your loving service.  'And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order;  for it is not requisite that a man [or any caregiver] should run faster than he has strength.  And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize;  therefore all things must be done in order.'  That counsel can be hard to apply when the choice seems to be balancing a desire to do all you can to help others with the wisdom to be prudent in meeting your own needs to retain your power to serve."  (italics added)

Ironically, just before this happened I had been praying for one thing:  that I could continue to be an instrument in His hands to bless the lives of others.  Maybe this is one way to bless others' lives, by allowing them to serve me while I'm down.  It's a humbling thing to need help.  It's humbling to know that He knows what we need to progress and become more like Him.  I only pray I can learn the lesson He has prepared for me while my hands are idle.


Joyful Mondays: LIPS

Saturday, March 16th, will be Lips Appreciation Day!!

What would life be like without lips?  Do you love your lips?   Here are some fun activities you can do to celebrate your LIPS!

Read Fox in Sox by Dr. Seuss.
 The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Capling
picture from amazon.com

Write an acrostic poem about your

Explore and laugh with these  tongue twisters.

Math: Compare and Contrast each child's lips.  Are they thin or fat?  What color are they?  Are they soft or dry?  Are they short or long?

Science:  experiment with the sense of taste by having a tasting table.  Do your lips play a role in the tasting process? 

What would it be like to not have lips?  Tape their lips and have the kids try to communicate with one another.  What ways of communication do we have that don't require our lips?  Sign language and Morse Code would both be fun to try!

Study the anatomy of the lips.  Study some of the defects that can occur with lips (i.e. hairlips).

Music:  Get some recorders (at the dollar store) and have a recorder band.

Fun and Games:
Lipstick game:  Pair the children.  Accumulate several different colors of lipsticks.  One child is to apply the lipstick on the lips of their partner.  That chlid then kisses a 3x5 card.  Next they need to take the names of the lipstick colors and match them to the right color of lips.

Minute to Win it challenge:
Materials:  uncooked spaghetti noodles, 3 empty soda cans per team.
The goal:  To get the soda pop cans from one table to another.
How:  One player places the spaghetti noodle in their mouth.  He then tries to slide the spaghetti noodle through the hole of the soda can tab whereupon the other team mate places the other tip of the noodle in his mouth.  Together they try to carry the can to the other table.  If the spaghetti noodle breaks, get a new one and try again.  


Just Say...


I had a strange epiphany the other day.

I was just doing the dishes, pondering on many things, when a thought occurred to me (probably more for me than anyone else).

Oftentimes we hear, especially among women, that we need to learn to say no.  We're so busy because we can't say no.  When we tell others we're busy the joking response is, "You haven't learned to say no yet, have you?"

Well, yes, I think it's true that sometimes we do say yes to more than necessary, but I don't think we have a problem with saying no because how many times do we say no to our children.

I had to think about this for a minute.  How many times do I say no to the kids when they ask me to play a game or read them a story or make them a snack or to sit and color with them or print out a coloring page for them or .....  you know how it goes.  The same women who have a "problem" saying no to the world do not seem to have a problem telling their children no multiple times a day.  And why am I saying NO to my children?  Usually it's because I've said yes to too many other things.

I remember reading Sister Hinckley's biography where she recounted how she had made a pact to herself to tell her children, "Yes" whenever possible.  Marjorie is my hero!  Whenever I feel the need to be a better mother, I read her book!  And I think I've forgotten that little step with raising my children.  My goal as a mother really should be to say YES whenever possible.

I'm not saying this just in the sense of playing Candyland 50 times in one day (a mother who does that has some boundary issues....a post topic for another day).  As mothers we need to say YES you can do it.  YES you are amazing.   YES I will spend time with you. YES I love you!

At the end of each day, may we be able to say yes to the questions:  "Have I done any good in the world today?  Have I helped anyone in need?'   - - Elder Russell M. Ballard, Oct. 2012
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