Friday, November 30, 2007

Beg, Borrow, and Steal

I like to impress myself sometimes when I do something crafty (to me, the bracelets don't count), but it's not something I come by naturally. I just came upon two super awesome ideas that I have to share because they are so easy but could be SO FUN!

Simple Blank Books - My sewing machine is going to be straight stitching away making these! Thanks to kerflop for pointing to this one.

DIY Advent Calendar - What an easy fun idea! I got a fun advent calendar back in my teens from a friend. It had little cut out things to do each day, but the overall design while not difficult, would be a little painy to recreate. I like this far far better.

Acorn People - I don't know if I'm feeling quite crafty enough myself for these yet, but what a totally fun project to do with the kids.

Time to stop looking, I need to get to bed.

Next day update: I have GOT to make Melanie one of these boxes for Christmas! Perfect place to keep those little books or other fun treasures.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Family - Our Great Work

"Families mean work, but they are our great work--and we are not afraid of work."

Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President

Love that! Sister Beck's talk from the General Relief Society meeting has a lot of great quotes in it, but I really enjoy this one. It's funny in a way when people are disgruntled about the roles of wife or mother, like it's all supposed to be hearts and flowers. It's definitely a bonus when the people you care about say things like "I love you Mom!" and clean up their rooms without being told, but since the kids get together and decide when our yearly alottment of "Mommy Perks" happen so we just get enough to keep us going and THAT'S IT, then we go through a lot of droughts.

Somewhere in there a girl's got to find her own successes. Like you walk through the house and there's only one pair of someone's underwear in the hallway, or the kids start a pillow fight and after the warning "you guys better quit now because you know someone's going to end up bawling," no one does!

After the newborn six week crash course of, "Whoa! This isn't easy!" sometimes we quickly get lulled back into parental naivety. Then they start to crawl, then they start to walk, then two's hit, then another stage, and another. Sometimes with a break in between, sometimes daily, several TIMES a day, or several stages all fighting to be the biggest worst stage all at the same time! Ever wish you could go back to the ignorant bliss when you knew it all before you had children?

A scripture hit me like a ton of bricks one day. It had been a particularly rough day with one particularly rough kid. I flipped open the scriptures that night and my eyes fell on Doctrine and Covenants 82:3, "To him unto whom much is given much is required." Talk about a big dose of perspective. I HAVE been given much, and if I can trust Doctrine & Covenants 64:3, "Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great," then that solidifies Sister Beck's statement even more. If I can just keep on working at laying that foundation, I can't wait to see who all my "much is givens" grow up to be.

But on to marriage. I pity the person that thinks marriage should be all play and no work, because it's highly likely they will be very unhappy in marriage. I'm not saying that work means always doing everything for your spouse, but it does mean picking up someone else's socks once in a while, helping out with the dishes, or biting back a snide remark all in the name of keeping the peace. An even better kind of work involves taking a moment to do something kind like walking a cup of hot chocolate down to the frozen basement where your husband is working, or bringing home a favorite ice cream and dishing it up for just the two of you to share. Maybe those things are even more important when you're having an "I love you but I'm not exactly sure if I like you" moment. A bit of kindness and consideration goes a long way with us imperfect beings. Remember, do this in the right spirit, purely to delight and not to show, "See, I'm the good one." Don't forget, "Be not weary in well-doing."

I have to amen another statement Sister Beck makes in regards to women and family. "When women embrace those roles with all their hearts, they are happy!" (exclamation point not added). Any time I get grumpy about the day-to-day I realize I'm focusing on me. "I don't even have time to ________," (insert take a shower, make anything but mac 'n cheese, blog, etc.) or "I just wish I could have ___ minutes of peace!" Too bad the number-of-years-old = number-of-time-out-minutes formula doesn't apply when you're a mother, but selfishness never was happiness. Truly, I am never more happy than when I forget myself and give my very best to my family. Not my leftovers, but my very best.

We are soooo not perfect. I lose my cool, my house is never clean, my husband says things like man b... nevermind, I'm not even going to say it, but I tried to give him that "Oh brother I can't believe you said that" look but I lost it and laughed instead. A lot. So yah, not perfect. But I think we're going in the right direction. As long as he keeps bringing me ice cream and I keep on working.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Chocoholics Rejoice!

We got a phone call last night from my mom. She was shopping at Sam's Club, and wanted to find out the name of the amazing truffles we got last year as a gift, Petit Tresors Belgian Truffles. Hip hip hoory, Sam's Club has them again this year! We didn't find out where they came from last year until it was too late to get more.

If you love dark chocolate, WOW. Don't walk, run, and buy extras!

We celebrated the news by finishing off the last melted bit that we had from last year.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Feed vs. Inspire

Since Adam had been through 5 years of school when we decided to homeschool, the school way of 'education' was a lot more ingrained in him than the rest of the kids. The day school started, he parked himself at the kitchen table and said, "What are we learning today?" "What do you want to learn about?" I asked. "I don't know," he replied.

Thereafter came a discussion of how homeschool is different than going to school. They don't show up for me to feed them new knowledge every day, the educational meal being entirely decided for them. A lot of what they would like to learn about is up to them, and I am delighted to help them along that process. I'm happy to introduce topics, new flavors if you will (to keep the metaphor going), but if interest isn't there, we'll put it away until another time.

I'm sure this idea is entirely baffling to many, and truth told, several months back I was highly skeptical of this approach myself. The more I've learned and the more I've thought about my own education, I see this as at least another way to go about things. Superior? Could quite possibly be.

For instance, I've always done very well at English, grammar, and the like. It all came very easy to me, and I enjoyed it. I was also introduced to computers at an early age by my dad. They were always available in our home, and he had lessons in computer programming available to use if we would like (well, we were told that to play we had to give equal time to the learning, and yes, there was a time log). Compared to other kids I went to school with, anything computers also came very easily, thanks to the many opportunities at home. Fast forward to my college degree, and though it took some discovering on my part, I ended up majoring in Techincal Writing, which is basically English and computers. You know what they say, hindsight is 20/20.

I had been fed many other things through my years at school - biology, geometry, physics, calculus - some which has stuck, others, not so much. I mentioned a portion of my history education in my last post, but besides those two high school classes I had been taught history from elementary school to college. With all that teaching it stands to reason that I should have done much better than 65% on that test. I wasn't a poor student - through all my junior high and high school years I had a 3.9 GPA and if I remember right I received an A in my college American History class. But the fact remains that I was being fed, not inspired. Not that the information wasn't interesting, but I had apparently learned the fine art of learning to the test, then clearing space for the next bout of information. No time to dig for more depth and understanding. Sad how it all works, isn't it? And yet, we keep doing it.

Whether the kids and I homeschool to the end or for just a year or two, the biggest thing I want my children to learn is that education is their responsibility and life-long. If we wait to be fed, more often than not we'll end up with not enough or of a variety that doesn't sustain.

I still feel like we're going through the deschooling process, but starting to become more... something. (Not sure if structured is the word I want to use.) I'm still learning about homeschooling myself, so I'm glad we haven't jumped too quickly into anything, but so far it's been very cool. We find an interest and run with it. For instance, last Wednesday we thought we would do some science with hot and cold water. I introduced it using the freezer, showing how the cold air goes down when we open it, but steam of course, rises. Cool, but let's do more. I remembered an experiement I had seen at some point during my education with red hot water and blue cold water, showing how when the hot starts on the bottom the two mix very quickly, but when the hot is on top they stay separate for a very long time. They were totally wowed. (Even the Star Wars dudes had to come in to check it out - see the pic.) That led us to try similar experiments with water the same temp, but some with salt and some regular, and even Melanie hypothesized that the salt water should be on the bottom to keep them separate longer based on the science we learned from the other experiments. And from there we made salt volcanoes which applies the same science in an even different and cooler way. I should have counted how many times we refilled the salt shaker they enjoyed that one so much.

Sammy, by his very nature, was never so ingrained in the system even though he had been there for 4 years. Thank goodness his curiosity wasn't lessened by the methods, especially since I think his brand of creativity would suffer more from it. Or maybe it's that his teachers would suffer more from trying to break him down, LOL.

Right now on his own Adam is learning about baseball and hunting, and I'm good with that because one, he's a MANIAC when it comes to reading about that stuff so he's learning good study skills, and two, we go in other directions as well so he's not left entirely to his own devices. In our history reading he's realizing how dumbed down it is at school because the Founding Fathers mention God and religion so much they can't even be quoted. Bummer, because they've got a lot of great advice regarding our country.

I have to keep wondering where this all will take us. I'm looking forward to the 20/20 backview someday.

P.S. Do note, this is the first picture I've included on my blog. It is a special, special day. :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Slacker Update, and Lots of Misc

Sorry to all those waiting to hear, Erin started walking on her foot two evenings after the sliding incident. Whew! She is still kind of wobbly and seems to favor it sometimes. Makes me worry that there is something going on there still, but it could just be that she's an unsteady 13 month old.

The kids and I have been studying early American history which is extremely interesting. Last week we watched "Johnny Tremain." Adam had been asking about the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre, and I knew it would be a great introduction of the time. We've done some other reading and discussing since then. It's fun answering their questions and helping them learn more about it. I'm looking toward reading a lot more about it on my own, too.

President Samuelson encouraged all students at BYU to study the Constitution this year. You can read more about that here. Cool to see the whole school united in learning about it.

I took this quiz yesterday and did horribly. I beat the students by far, but still only got 65%. Shows how much sunk in from my AP American History and AP Government classes! I vow to improve.

We watched "Meet the Robinson's" last night. Very fun movie with a lot of great lessons. I highly recommend it. I have to share this quote shown at the end of the movie:

Around here, however, we don't look backward very long.

We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious... And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

-- Walt Disney

I love following the curiosities of my children. I consider myself curious as well, but it's so much more fun to have someone to be curious with. Keep moving forward!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Amish Don't Know What They're Missing

I overheard someone say that today while waiting for Erin to get her leg x-rayed.

The kids and I were at the park this morning with some neighbors, and Melanie took Erin for a trip down one of the slides. They got to the bottom and Erin started crying a LOT. I walked over to get her, brought her back to the park bench, and tried to console her, but she was very upset. She finally settled down and cuddled up with me and her blankie and thumb. I was surprised that she cuddled so much and so long, until about 45 or so mintues later she acted like she wanted to get down... then quickly changed her mine. I quickly realized something was not right. I tried to get her to stand, but she wouldn't put any weight on her left leg. Uh oh.

I suddenly had visions of my then 1 year old sister in a cast to the top of her thigh, after she decided to play rodeo on the neighbors dog and got bucked off. Okay, okay, our brother and I put her on the dog, she didn't get bucked she fell, but she landed on the grass - the grass! But just going down the slide couldn't be too much worse.

But enough of that. Long story short, I left the kids at the park with a neighbor, raced home and got an appointment with a doc. X-rays didn't show a break, but he wants me to keep an eye on it because at her age something small could be hard to tell on an x-ray for a few days.

And the comment about the Amish? That was regarding how cool technology is nowadays, and he was right. The x-ray was available almost instantaneously. After it was done, we walked right back to the doctor's office downstairs, he came in the room, pulled the x-rays up on the screen, and could lighten and darken them to help check things out easier. Pretty darn amazing!

I'll be sure to let you know how things go with the baby. Poor little thing. Tonight she would crawl around, but wouldn't walk. She would stand, but you can tell she's doing it in such a way to not put pressure on the leg.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Review: Clearing Your Clutter with Feng Shui

If you read past posts of mine, you know keeping the house clean is a real issue for me. I've tried so many systems and schedules, till I realized one day that it was all the 'stuff' that was killing me and I needed to get rid of more 'stuff' before I could even start to feel ahead. Unfortunately, it is deeply engrained in my genes to hold tightly to whatever enters my home. While opening wedding presents my mom told me I should save the paper and bows. I'm not sure where the paper is, but I still haven't been able to toss that box of bows! Weeded it down, but many still there ("If I ever wrap a present ahead of time, I could dig through the box for a nice bow to top it off!").

Anyway, wandering through the library at the end of October I noticed this book on the shelf and thought what the heck, I'm always looking for good ideas. I knew nothing about feng shui (not entirely sure I know much more now) but I figured I would take that with a grain of salt and go digging for the good clearing clutter ideas.

What a find! Since I've been reading this I've found myself tossing and organizing like crazy. If I didn't have so many things to do besides, I could truly "ninja through [my] home like a white tornado, decluttering with glee" as Ms. Kingston mentions at one point in her book. As it stands, I'm just part-time ninja, or when-I-get-the-chance ninja, though still doing it with glee.

Here are some of her other words of wisdom as a record for myself, if nothing else:

"[When you hold on to clutter] you tend to look back rather than forward in your life... You have to release the past to create a better tomorrow."

"After clutter clearing you are likely to surprise yourself by wanting to do things you have put off for a long time."

"Write a list of all the things you would love to do if only your clutter were sorted, and let this be the inspiration for you to get on with it."

"Keeping things 'just in case' indicates a lack of trust in the future... The more you can learn to trust that life will take care of you, the more life will take care of you."

"Life is constant change. So when something comes into your life, enjoy it, use it well, and when it is time, let it go. It is that simple. Just because you own something, it doesn't mean that you have to keep it forever. You are just a temporary custodian of many things as they pass through your life."

"Get in the habit of leaving a trail of discarded clutter in your wake, and start to think of it as a sign of progression!"

"Everything you are holding on to through fear is blocking you having more love in your life; clearing it allows more love to start pouring in. Fear stops you from being who you truly are and doing what you came here to do; clutter clearing brings you greater clarity about your life purpose... Letting go of clutter leaves you free to be you, which is the greatest gift you can ever give yourself."

On books, "Your books symbolically represent your ideas and beliefs... Learn to let your books go when it is time." Besides all the obvious ones like cookbooks you don't use and textbooks you haven't used for years, "There are books that inspired you deeply years ago but whose concepts are now so much a part of you that you no longer need to read them anymore. Aim to end up with a collection of books that represents you as you are today and the intended 'you' of tomorrow."

"Sit down and make a list of the many things [you] want to do in [your] life that [you aren't] allowing [yourself] to do because of unfinished jobs."

"Working with a clear desk increases productivity, creativity, and job satisfaction... It is psychologically far more uplifting to start with a clear desk than with mounds of paperwork, which makes you feel defeated before you even start."

She goes a bit into physical, emotional, and spiritual clutter as well, but I think I'm doing okay there, with a big yikes at her discussion on colon cleansing (I'll stick with my basement, thanks). All the advice has been motivating so far. So much to do, so little time.


One thing I learned through high school and college English classes (not necessarily taught there, but learned through) is that it is nice to get your thoughts down about things and let them ferment for a while. Then when you go back, you can look at them with fresh eyes and see where things are lacking and/or need more explanation.

I have a few posts fermenting.

Seeing as how I'm a procrastinator, even a day of fermenting time was a blessing during school. This is nice to let things just sit as long as they need. The only problem with not having a deadline is forgetting they are there.

I never fancied myself a poet, but lately here and there I've had bits of poems jump into my head. How odd is that? One is about feet of all things. I believe that one day they'll appear on here (the poems, not the feet).