Thursday, December 31, 2009

Master Schedule, January 2010

Here is a Master Schedule I made for my Home Management Binder, we'll see how it goes. Obviously some days will vary depending on planned activities, and of course tweaking is expected.

Early morning
Get up, dressed
Personal Devotional Time
Fix breakfast
Children up, dressed
Breakfast and Morning Devotional
Morning chores (kitchen, bedrooms)

Late Morning
1st Workbox rotation
Break/outdoor time
2nd Workbox rotation
Break, Lunch

Early Afternoon
Afternoon Chores (Kitchen, Living Room)
Nature Study/Art/Project time (hands-on)
Quiet Time/Nap Time (Start short, work up to 30-45 minutes)

Late Afternoon
Break/Outdoor Time/Playdate
Music Review Practice (Concert Time--regular practice is part of the workbox rotation)
Dinner Preparation (children help)

Family Dinner and Scripture Reading
Evening Chores (Kitchen, Bathrooms)
Family Time—reading, games, walk, etc

Bedtime prep begins between 7:00 and 7:30, when children are in pyjamas, teeth brushed, prayers said Mom/Dad will read stories until 8:00
8:00-8:30 children may listen to recorded music or stories
Parents bedtime routine—quick sweep of house, journal writing, discuss day, plan

Decade in Review

It didn't occur to me that we are at the end of a decade until I read Decade in Review posts on other blogs. The first decade of the 21st century has been an eventful one for me, and certainly deserves a review.

I will start with where I celebrated New Year's day for each year of this decade:

2000: Fukuoka, Japan
2001: Managua, Nicaragua
2002: Utah
2003: Kiev, Ukraine
2004: Texas
2005: Utah
2006: Stockholm, Sweden
2007: Texas
2008: California
2009: California

Now for what I did in between:

Completed a term of missionary service for my church.
Got Married.
Graduated from college with a BA in Anthropology.
Was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force and moved to Texas.
Had a baby.
Left the Air Force to be a full-time mother.
Moved to California.
Had two more babies.
Started homeschooling.
Experienced countless challenges and times of trial and and was blessed with immeasurable growth and joy.

I look forward to the next decade.

New Years Resolutions

1- Gain some weight. Based on where I am right now, adding about 25 lbs by June would probably be good. Of course, loosing said 25 lbs between June and December would also be good, but realistically it tends to take me at least a year to get back to more or less pre-pregnancy weight (the exception was the year I tandem nursed--I think I lost all my pregnancy weight in about 3 months, and did it while eating a good 4000 Calories per day...)

2- Enjoy my children.

3- Love my husband.

4- Keep a more orderly home. This is the one that is going to take the most work. If you've ever lived with me you'll understand...

A Happy New Year to everyone! May the challenges and blessings of 2010 bring true growth and joy to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


You know how exciting it is when you go in for a prenatal appointment and get to hear that racing heartbeat that says your baby really is alive and well inside? I hate waiting between appointments, so I got myself a fetal stethoscope, also called a fetoscope, to listen at home. I heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time today using the fetoscope--I must have caught the baby just right, it's hard to get a heartbeat consistently with a fetoscope until the third trimester, and I'm a long way from that.
Hi baby! glad to know you're happy and healthy in there!

Birth Choices Part 2

I blogged a few weeks ago about my need to research and carefully review my birth choices with each pregnancy. At the time, I had not yet settled on a birth setting and provider for my current pregnancy that I felt comfortable with. I interviewed several homebirth midwives and found one I liked, a CNM with lots of years of experience and a great reputation among mothers. Unfortunately, her usual back-up doctors practice at a hospital at the far north end of her delivery range, and I am at the far south end--further than I was comfortable going in an emergency. We live less than 3 miles from a hospital, but none of the OB's there are willing to provide backup for home birth midwives. I went back to my OB from my last two pregnancies, who I like very much. She was willing to be my back up if I chose a home delivery and agreed with me that I was probably as low risk for complications as anyone, but the hospitals she delivers at are still about 45 minutes away (which is part of why I didn't want to go back to her for this pregnancy-that, and the fact that she missed the births of both my last children).

I kept praying to know what birth situation would be best for me and my baby. I really wanted to feel right about choosing a home birth, but I didn't. And I knew I needed to feel confident going into labor. A friend mentioned that she had heard of one doctor who delivers at the local hospital who was more friendly towards natural childbirth, but she didn't know the name. I decided to take the maternity tour at the hospital and see what I could learn. At one point during the nurse's presentation, an OB walked into the room to steal a cookie and made a couple of comments. The minute I saw her, I thought "I like that doctor". During the tour of the unit, I asked lots of questions. At one point I asked about squatting bars and if any of the providers who deliver here did squatting deliveries--the nurse said "you just met Dr. W". Bingo! When everyone trooped back to the classroom I hung back and went to find Dr. W, who cheerfully agreed to talk to me for a few minutes. We talked for several minutes and my first impression was confirmed--I like this doctor. She told me her philosophy is that doctors should not intervene in labor and birth unless it is truly necessary, and she is very supportive of natural birth and of letting women labor and birth as they feel best. Of course working within a hospital environment still means some limitations, but having a provider who is supportive is a huge benefit. I suppose you can never really know in advance how a doctor will act at the actual birth, but I feel confident in trusting my instincts on this one. I feel like I've found the right provider and setting for this birth, and I'm not stressed about it any more.

Monday, December 28, 2009

8 Years Ago...

I have many reasons to love the month of December. Today is one of the most important. Eight years ago we became husband and wife, and a new family was born. We were surrounded that day by our families, and I remember seeing our joy mirrored in their faces and feeling the approval and encouragement of generations. The dress I wore was my grandmother's wedding gown, made for her by my great-grandmother; I knew that as we worked to forge our own link in a family chain, we would always be upheld and supported by those who loved us.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thoughts about Christmas

Every year, we have a marvelous opportunity to celebrate not only the birth but the life and atoning sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I have always wanted Christmas in my family to be centered on the Savior, on his life and gift to us. Our secular world, of course, twists Christmas around: instead of gratitude, we are offered greed. Instead of worship, we are offered parties. Instead of the Son of God coming to earth to be born in humble circumstances, to live, die and rise again in fulfillment of the ancient promise of Salvation, we are offered a "magical" Santa with flying reindeer, bringing trivial gifts of no lasting significance.

I don't believe that Christmas needs to be stripped of fun. I enjoy singing "Jingle Bells" and reading "The Night Before Christmas". I enjoy decorating a tree and exchanging gifts. But it seems to me that the "fun" of Christmas can all to easily overshadow the true joy of Christmas.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about ways to make Christmas in my own family a time of rejoicing in the birth of our Savior, a time of gratitude and giving. We intentionally make the receiving of gifts a low-key event--our children were delighted to find that Santa (they know that means mom and dad, but it's still fun to pretend) had filled their stockings with a few small gifts. We didn't have a gift exchange within the family--my family always had the children draw names and exchange gifts, but I had decided to have them exchange gifts for their birthdays instead. Christmas Eve was spent taking Christmas music to a friend and reading and acting out the Nativity story. I felt very, very content on Christmas day. But I feel that there is a lot more we could do, especially in the area of GIVING at Christmastime.

I liked this post over at Choosing Joy. This family thought a lot about how to invite Jesus to his own birthday celebration, and came up with some wonderful ideas. Instead of exchanging family gifts on Christmas Day, they chose to focus on a birthday celebration for Jesus and their gifts to him. In addition to any private, internal gifts, every family member had a budget they could use for charitable gifts to various organizations. I like this idea and see it as something that even small children could participate in a get excited about--could they donate chickens to a family in the third world? Or blankets to an orphanage? There are various organizations that make such gifts possible. In addition, it would be really nice to do some hands-on work: perhaps sewing receiving blankets, knitting baby hats, putting together hygiene kits or school kits to be sent where they are needed. I would also like to find more local ways to serve--adopting a family for the season, sharing musical talents, anything we can think of. I would love to have input from others on what they have done that has worked with small children, or what they think might work.

We could make Christmas day purely a celebration of the birth of Christ, and choose another day for a gift exchange. In many European countries, Saint Nicholas leaves his gifts on his feast day, December 6th. Maybe we could do our Christmas stockings then. Epiphany, or the feast of the Three Kings, celebrates the coming of the Wise Men on January 6th--this might be a good day for an exchange of family gifts. I know some families that exchange only home-made gifts, and I like this idea too.

I like the idea of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas from December 25th through January 5th. Maybe this could be a time to focus on special family activities and acts of kindness within the family and beyond. I also like the idea of paying special attention to the Advent season before Christmas. Formal celebration of Advent seems to originate with the more liturgical church traditions, but many other Christians seem to be adopting aspects of the celebration of Advent that help them focus on the coming of Christ. I like the idea of studying the prophecies about Christ's coming, and making the weeks leading up to Christmas a time of expectant waiting for the great miracle of His birth. In addition, this can be a season to remember that, like the people in ancient times who awaiting the First coming of the Messiah, we should be just as ardently awaiting and preparing for his Second coming.

So--my mind is full of thoughts and ideas about celebrating Christmas. I would really love to hear what others are doing or would like to do to use this season to truly center our lives on Christ.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Making A Home Management Binder

Home management is on my mind today, and someone pointed me to this blog article on how to make a home management binder. I think I will try it.

Christmas Day

We kept Christmas simple--Santa brought only stocking stuffers, there were a few gifts from family members. Everyone was happy. Lily enjoyed decorating the gingerbread village, Esther's favorite present was her pink mittens, and Luke spent hourse making playdough eggs.

Funny quotes:

Lily, going to bed on Christmas Eve, to mom: "Santa, don't forget to fill the stockings!" (Yes, ma'am. I won't forget. Why is it you assume I am responsible for that job and not dad?)

Luke, on Christmas morning: "I gave my jelly beans (from his stocking) to Esther because I'm trying to stay off of sugar."
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Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve

We stopped by a friend's house to share some Christmas music with him, then went to the Los Angeles Temple to enjoy the lights and read/act out the Nativity story. Esther played the part of the angel, repeating the words I whispered to her very seriously: "behold, I bring unto good tidings of great joy!"

Good tidings indeed. We are grateful not only for the birth of our Savior but for his ministry and especially His atoning sacrifice.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Me''y Guguff!!!

That's Merry Christmas in Esther language. She says it often and enthusiastically these days.

I hope you all have a joyous Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Somebody is TWO!!!

Wow what a difference two years can make! Here's Esther in December 2007

And 2009 (Actually, I think this was November, but I don't have any more recent photos, oops...) Happy Birthday princess!!!

Gotta love the two different shoes. She's convinced that's how shoes are to be worn--I haven't been able to get her to wear two from the same pair together in months! OK, so I admit to not trying very hard. I think it's cute, and definitely not worth fighting over...

We didn't even celebrate today, I was too exhausted after being up all night with a sick 4 year old--Luke caught the stomach bug that Lily and I had earlier in the week; I think he threw up at least 10 separate times last night, about every half hour for most of the night. Poor kid...he's been sleeping all day. I'm going to have to go wake him up in a bit to get some juice or something down his throat, I've had trouble getting him to drink more than a couple of tablespoons at a time, but at least he's keeping it down now.

If you missed Esther's birth story, you can read it here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pay thy debt, and live

When we were first married, my husband was working in the mortgage department of a bank. He saw firsthand the problems people ran into with debt. It was so easy for people to take out a mortgage larger than they could really afford, or with terms they didn't understand. Others took on debt with payments that were manageable until something in their life circumstances changed, and they found themselves unable to keep up. I credit that job experience with turning my already frugal husband into the most debt-averse person I know.

Within a few months of our marriage, we moved to Texas. Real estate was inexpensive, and after some consideration and prayer we decided to buy a home. It was nothing fancy--a small but pleasant home in a cookie-cutter subdivision. We signed our names to the 30 year mortgage note, but committed immediately to paying down our debt as quickly as possible. The intervening years have brought their share of challenges. We faced periods of unemployment, and other times when the money coming in could barely stretch to cover living costs. A job opportunity brought us to California, and knowing the (truly outrageous) state of the real estate market when we moved here, we chose to rent out the house in Texas and move into an apartment here. But over the years we have also been greatly blessed, and our means have mostly been more than sufficient to cover our needs. We live frugally, and we have continued to make additional principal payments on our home loan as resources have allowed.

This week, we celebrated my husband's birthday and the children and I were able to present him with this:

Yep, that's the original promissory note from our mortgage. It's been worth every small sacrifice. I don't know what life may throw at us in the future, but I know that if we need it, we have a home to go to.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Luke (still in pyjamas): "I can't even find pants"
Mom: "Have you looked in your drawer?"
Luke: "No, I haven't looked in my drawer."

Hm, that might explain why you can't find your pants...

Kids and Food

Luke has moved into a picky eating phase. I remember Lily going through a similar phase--she would reject most foods without tasting them. Often, if she could be lured into tasting, she would like the food.
Last night we had baked potatoes for dinner, and Luke wouldn't have anything to do with them. This morning, I cut up some of the leftover potatoes and cooked them with a little butter, salt and pepper. He looked at them and said "I don't like potatoes", in his best whiny voice. I put some on his plate anyway, along with his fried egg. A few minutes later he came and found me in the bedroom. "Mom, those potatoes are really good, thank you!"
You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Education for young children, part 1: Teaching children to love and serve God.

When my oldest child was about 3, I started reading books on educational methods and philosophies, and especially on home education. I discovered there are a lot of methods and theories out there, all with their own adherants. Some are commonly identified by the name of a principle proponent--Montessori, Ruth Beechick, Charlotte Mason, etc. Others are given names supposed to describe their methods or philosophies: Classical Education, Leadership education, Unschooling...and of course there exist both variations withing these methods and overlap amongst them.
Drawing on what I have read, on discussions with others, and on my own experience and philosophies, I have developed my own ideas about what my children's education should look like in the early years, up to about age 8. I'm not saying this is what it does look like; rather, it is the model that is in my mind, and that I am working towards. If I had to give a name to what I am trying to do, I would call it Service Education--I want my children to grow up with both the desire and the abilities that will equip them to serve God, their families, and their fellowmen. This post address my first goal: preparing my children to love and serve God.

I want my children to learn to know and love God, and desire to serve him. This means I take them to church with me on Sundays, we read from the scriptures daily as a family, we pray together daily as a family and teach the children to pray individually as well. Scripture memorization is important, and can begin as soon as a child begins to talk. When my oldest was about two and a half, I sat down with her one day and taught her a scripture that I wanted to make our family theme for the month. The scripture was Moroni 7:45 from the Book of Mormon: "And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Not a particularly short or easy passage, but within about 15 minutes she could say it perfectly. I would say a few words, she would repeat them, I would repeat them again, after doing this a few times I would add on a few more words, until both of us had the entire verse memorized. She can still repeat this verse today. We have since memorized other scriptures and passages as a family, ranging from the short and sweet (John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.") to the more complex (the parable of the sheep and the goats, Matthew 25:32-46). Don't underestimate you children's ability to memorize. Ideally, I would like to learn at least two new verses each month, and continue reviewing as a family memory work we have done in the past. We're not there yet, but I figure whatever we do learn together will benefit every family member.
Music is particularly powerful and memorable, and children will naturally learn to sing what they hear. I love to hear a toddler singing "I am a child of God" or "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam". They may not understand all the words, or be able to pronounce them correctly, but they are starting to build in their minds a storehouse of sacred music that will bring them comfort and encouragement throughout their lives. We sing at home the songs the children learn in Sunday School, as well as hymns and other songs I want to share with them. For small children, adding in hand motions or some sign language to make the music more interactive is always a bonus. I love to hear my children making up their own songs. With Christmas music in the air right now, my toddler has started making up her own songs about Baby Jesus; I can't think of anything sweeter to listen to.
I have been blessed with a husband who takes seriously his responsibility to be the spiritual leader in our home. It is Daddy who presides over family prayer and scripture study, who makes sure we are at church every Sunday, we hold Family Home Evening (almost) every week, and who makes sure the children are saying their personal prayers in the evenings. I take the lead in morning devotionals, which we try to do at breakfastime (after Daddy has already left for work). During devotionals we read from the scriptures or from scripture story readers, we practice memory verses and songs. When we start the day this way, everything seems to run more smoothly.
Above all, I believe in the power of example. As children see father and mother trying to model their lives on the Savior's teachings, they will naturally seek to do the same themselves. Our testimonies are transmitted most clearly in the way we live our lives.

Birth Choices

Every time I am pregnant, the question of where and how I will give birth looms large for me. During my first pregnancy, I mostly studied how to have a natural birth; I didn't want any unnecessary medical interventions, and especially I did not want to do/have done to me anything that might increase the risk of having a c-section. I believe operational deliveries can save lives, but I also believe many are not necessary, or would not have been necessary, had it not been for a cascade of prior interventions. I didn't really have an option at the time, or didn't know I had options, regarding where to give birth. I assumed my autonomy as a patient would be respected in the hospital setting. It turned out I was only partially right. I had a birth plan, and things I specified on the birth plan were generally respected--but only things I had spelled out specifically. Otherwise, the medical personnel apparently felt they had free reign to manipulate my body however they pleased--at least that was how I felt when the Dr. who attended the delivery reached inside me five minutes after the baby was born to manually remove the placenta, a procedure that was both extremely uncomfortable for me and a potential source of problems such as infection or partial retained placenta. I was astounded that someone would take such liberties with my body without consulting or even informing me. The experience made me much more cautious regarding future births, and taught me a lot of new questions to ask--and new things that might need to be included in my birth plan!
Now with every pregnancy I carefully evaluate my options. I tour hospitals. I interview OB's. I interview homebirth midwives. I need to go into labor feeling confident not only that I have the medical support I need to birth my baby safely, but also that I will treated both supportively and respectfully through the labor and birth process. I am not comfortable checking my autonomy at the doors of a hospital.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I stumbled upon a blog yesterday written by an OB. In one post she defended the escalating c-section rate in the United States (currently over 30% of births,) arguing that many countries with high c-section rates also have low infant and maternal mortality rates. She acknowledges that many c-sections are performed in which the baby could have born vaginally without problem, but considers these justified by the few infant lives that are saved. By the way, I'm not really arguing with that premise, nor am I anti c-section; I recognize that this procedure does save lives and I may need one myself some day. I do think our c-section rates are unnecessarily high for a number of reasons, but that is not what this post is about.
What shocked me was that, after reading this post about how critical it is to use every intervention possible to save a few infant lives, I came across a post on the same blog in which this same OB justifies the elective abortion of children with Down's syndrome because of the burden they pose to their families and to society.
In other words, we should use every possible technology and intervention that might possibly save the lives of a few babies, unless of course the babies are genetically sub-par in which case we are better off killing them outright.
I'm sorry Dr., I really don't follow your reasoning.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


On a barren world God caused the sun to shine.
He caused the plants to grow.
He filled the seas with fish, the skies with birds, the land with marvelous creatures of all kinds.
On a world filled with life and beauty God placed his children.
He sent rain to water their crops.
He sent teachers to make Himself known to them and to show them the way to happiness.
He sent His son to suffer and die for their transgressions.
Sometimes he sent famine and war to remind them of their need for him.
He told them they need only ask and he would answer.
Sometimes, when life was hard, they remembered to ask.
Sometimes they recognized His answering blessings, often they did not.
And only a very few ever remembered to thank Him.

Have we remembered?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trying to be good

The animal shelter called today asking if we could foster four pit bull puppies. I regretfully told them this wouldn't be a good time for us to take that on. I was really sad to have to say that--and of course I shouldn't have been. I'm more than overwhelmed right now with taking care of my family, being pregnant, and being in school--I really don't need four puppies that need to be bottle fed, cleaned up after, etc. But puppies are so incredibly cute...

On another note, here's a random quote from our day that I found amusing--especially taken out of context: "The large intestine broke off. Luke was yo-yo-ing with it."

Why I check my online accounts frequently...

I admit to using a credit card regularly. I like the convenience. I treat it as cash and never carry a balance, and I track my accounts online to keep an eye out for any surprises. Well, this week I got a surprise--I logged onto my bank's website and was surprised to see about $1500 dollars in unexpected charges on a credit card. Of course I immediately called the bank, closed the account, and got the fraud investigation started...then I started thinking. All these charges were local, including over $700 in hotel bills from the town next door. I called the hotel, had them look up the card number--yes, someone with a name I didn't recognize had used that card. They would investigate. We got a call last night from the police department in that town--the people using the card were still staying at the hotel, the police waited until they returned to their room and made an arrest. Would we be willing to testify as victims?
We don't know at this point if these people had just stolen our card number or actually had a card in hand--I have my card, my husband doesn't know where his is but then it's not a card he usually carries or uses. Which of course means it could have been missing for a long time and we just didn't know--or it could be at the bottom of a drawer somewhere here in the house and the criminals just got hold of the card information somehow. I have to wonder who uses a stolen credit card to pay for a long stay at a luxury hotel--seems way too easy to track!
Anyway, hopefully things get resolved smoothly and quickly. In the meantime, I will keep checking my accounts online frequently!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Only Four More Weeks of School!

I knew I was stretching myself thin when I decided to start classes for a Master's program this fall, but I also felt like I should give it a try or I would always wonder if I could have done it. I've enjoyed my classes, my parents would be glad to know I get all my assignments in on time (a major improvement over highschool days). But I won't be continuing next semester--the strain on the family is too much. And I really don't feel bad about quitting--I have higher priorities. So now I just have to get through four more weeks of school (not counting Thanksgiving week as I have no classes). Four more weeks...I think we can survive that. Actually, this week will be one of the worst; I have a 15 page paper due on Thursday, and while I have done a lot of the background research and bibliographic work, I haven't actually started writing yet. I guess I know what I'll be doing tomorrow!
Now if only I can get over the icky part of this pregnancy quickly...everything would be so much easier if I weren't feeling sick all the time. I think I've tried every suggestion out there--ginger, vitamin 6, sea bands, eating snacks throughout the day...but based on past experience the only real remedy for morning sickness is Time. In my past pregnancies I've dealt with the nausea anywhere from four or five weeks to four months...of course I'm hoping for shorter rather than longer this time around!

Everybody needs a sand drawer of their own...

The kids and I were in the kitchen fixing lunch earlier today. Lily opened a drawer and discovered it was half full of...sand. Luke promptly declared: "That's my sand drawer I made!"
Of course. Everyone should have a sand drawer.
This evening, Lily was helping Dad clean out the "sand drawer" (i.e., remove the odds and ends that had originally been in there and separate them from the sand so the sand could be returned to its natural outdoor habitat) and decided this was the perfect time for an archaeological expedition. She found a small paint brush and used it to carefully reveal various hidden "artifacts" in the sand.


How do you know a child should be weaned?

I took my guitar out this afternoon to practice a fingerstyle version of Silent Night I am trying to learn. Esther came up to me and said "put guitar away". I told her I was practicing. She went and got the guitar case, held it up and said very emphatically: "Mommy, put guitar away". I was impressed by her perseverance and put the guitar in its case. She then said: "take off sweater" and proceeded to unzip the sweater jacket I was wearing. With that accomplished, she happily climbed up on my lap and said expectantly: "Mommy, milk!" All preparations accomplished, she was ready to nurse.

I think a child who is this independent and resourceful is ready to be weaned.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Worth It

Sunday was challenging, to say the least. I was feeling really sick all day--first trimester pregnancy I-want-to-curl-up-in-a-ball-and-hibernate-somewhere sick. I managed to get the kids fed, dressed and to church (OK, at least one of them didn't have shoes on, but we were there before the opening song ended). My husband had a meeting in the morning, so he was there already. I spent Sacrament Meeting in the hallway with restless kids, spent the second hour teaching music to the primary children, and spent the third hour huddled in the car feeling miserable. Esther fell asleep in the car on the way home; I carried her inside and collapsed on the bed next to her for a badly needed nap. The rest of the day was filled with the usual mayhem--my four year old brought a big bowl of sand into the house, and the toddler proceeded to dump it by spadefuls all over the living room floor. Lily managed to shatter not one but two glasses on the kitchen floor. I fed my family frozen pizza for lunch and boxed macaroni and cheese for dinner. I sometimes think when the Lord called the Sabbath a day of rest he forgot to take mothers into consideration! (I do need to say that my husband was incredibly kind, patient and supportive throughout the day. And in the evening he took us all out for a nice family walk, then put the kids to bed while I took a nice long shower. Thank You!)

In any case, complaining is not the point of this post. The point is that the things in life that are worthwhile, the things that bring true joy and have an eternal impact, also take a huge amount of effort. Things like building (and rebuilding, and shoring up, and deepening...) a solid relationship with our spouse. Things like bringing children into the world--then caring for them and helping them develop the skills, attitudes and faith that will enable them to successfully forge their way in the world. Things like repenting when we have erred, and forgiving when we have been hurt. Things like turning away from pride and being humble enough to learn the lessons the Lord wants to teach us. It's hard. It takes work.

When I think of work, this comes to mind:

The Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints took 40 years to build. It was a work of great love and dedication, the fruit of faith and hope. Here is one story among many of the sacrifice and devotion that went into building this sacred edifice.

John Rowe Moyle was called to serve as a stonemason for the Salt Lake Temple construction. He and his family lived and farmed in Alpine, Utah, some 22 miles from the temple, and the only transportation available to him was his own two feet--the family owned a horse, but it was needed for work on the farm. Brother Moyle made this trip every week, arising at 2:00 AM Monday morning in order to arrive at 8:00 for the day's work. On Friday afternoon he would retrace his steps, spending the weekend at home with his family and tending his farm. One weekend he was kicked in the leg by a cow he was milking, causing a serious compound fracture that resulted in the amputation of his leg. As soon as he was able, he set to work carving out of wood an artificial leg. He practiced walking on this leg until he felt he was ready to return to the temple work. Early one Monday morning he set out, walking now on his wooden leg, and once again took his place among the stoneworkers. He continued his work on the temple for many years. One of his contributions was the carving of the words "Holiness to the Lord" on the East side:

I think Brother Moyle has set an example worthy of emulation by each of us who seek to live a life of "Holiness to the Lord". The lesson? Keep working. What we are building is worth every effort we can make.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Music While We Wait

I was waiting on hold to talk to a government agency this morning, and found my ears assaulted by some loud, clangy, and very repetitious music. After completing that call (unsatisfactorily, but it wasn't entirely their fault), I put in a call to Lampstand Press (creators of the Tapestry of Grace curriculum, which is truly delightful); again, I ended up on hold, only this time I got to listen to "Be Still My Soul", which certainly deserves a place among my favorite hymns. Ahh...
Now here's a question for you: which group of customer service representatives do you think ends up with more cheerful customers on the other end of the line at the end of their wait?

And for those of you who like loud, clangy, and repetitious music: I feel truly sorry for you...

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Tribute to the life of Ezra Taft Benson

I just listened to a delightful and touching tribute to Ezra Taft Benson given by his son Reed Benson. The talk was give just a few days after President Benson's death, the day before his funeral, in fact. Reed Benson had been scheduled to speak at an LDS Home Educators Association conference that week (he and his wife were pioneers in the LDS homeschool movement). In light of his father's passing, he spoke about him.
Ezra Taft Benson was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for many years. Eight of those years he also served as the Secretary of Agriculture, appointed by President Eisenhower. In the aftermath of World War II, Elder Benson was sent to Europe with the responsibility to re-build the Church organization there and coordinate the distribution of humanitarian aid. The story of that mission is told in the book On Wings of Faith by Frederick Babbel (who accompanied Elder Benson on that trip).
In 1985, Ezra Taft Benson became the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As a youth I looked to him as the Lord's Prophet, called to lead His church in our time. He passed away in 1994, when I was 16 years old. I was touched listening to this tribute to his life and work given by his son Reed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Put away that camera, mom...

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Heron--I watched this fellow alight on a tree outside early in the morning

Alum crystals

We grew these for about 4 weeks. We used regular rocks as a substrate for the crystals to attach too--that's what you see in the top picture.
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Spelling Lesson

Lily and Luke both enjoyed this game--I wrote letters on post-its, stuck them to one wall, then told the children to go find the letters for a word (say, "bat"), and build in on the other wall. Luke even helped write some letters (you can see them in the top picture). I haven't had much luck getting Luke interested in reading before, so I was happy that he enjoyed this game--and seemed to "get it" :-)
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More Foster Babies...

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They were soldiers, I was told...

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Another Doll

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Pipe cleaner doll

We made these dolls today out of bead heads and pipe cleaner--it was a fun, quick craft.
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Update on Life

We started school a couple of weeks ago--homeschool, that is. Despite my best efforts, I can't understand the excitement of my friends over sending their children off to kindergarten for the first time. Really I've tried, I just don't get it!
I'd hoped to post a few pictures here, but my camera is (not surprisingly, if you know me!) missing in action. When I find it and get the pictures onto my computer I will try to remember to post them. We've been doing lots of science (because it's fun of course!)--growing alum crystals, examining rocks, pulling iron dust out of the playground sand with magnets (turns out our sand is full of iron!). We're about done with studying Egypt, Sumeria, the Hebrews, and Ancient India, and ready to move on to China, Greece and Rome. I've started reading Farmer Boy to Luke. Violin group lessons start in a couple of weeks. So we're busy on the home front.
I'm busy too with my own school--I started a Masters program in Literature and Composition last week. I'm in class two evenings a week, with reading and assignments in between. Hopefully I can create a workable balance that won't stress my family too much. So far, I'm enjoying being back in class.
In view of starting school, I'm cutting back on other activities including blogging. I'll post occasional updates but have to limit the time I spend.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why Homeschool Revisited

I started to write a response to a comment on my last post suggesting I had not considered the benefits of school away from home. It was a long exposition of my analysis of the pros and cons of institutional schooling as opposed to home schooling. Maybe I will post it sometime--but today I have decided to take a different tack.

We live in a world of choices--in fact, I believe learning to make choices is a crucial part of our experience here on earth. Every choice we make means we are giving something up--what economists call the "opportunity cost". We cannot have all opportunities.
Robert Frost expressed this more poetically than I ever could in his poem The Road Not Taken:

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

How then do we choose? When we take one path we must of necessity give up the opportunities of the other. In most cases, the first step in making a decision is to analyze as well as we can the opportunities afforded by each choice. In doing so, we are usually looking for which road will lead to the greatest good, which choice has the more compelling claim to helping us reach our ultimate goals.

This is how I see the choice to keep my children home or send them away to school--both choices have benefits, but which offers the more compelling benefit? Unlike the poet, we cannot choose a path based simply on which is more or less traveled--we are not exploring in a wood but guiding the growth and development of our children. Such high stakes surely require careful and prayerful consideration!

In my discussion, I will especially emphasize the early years of childhood, up until about age 8. While much of what I say applies as well to later years, I believe these first years of a child's life are the most critical in laying the foundation for their entire lives. During these years, children are both growing and learning faster than at any other time. We often say that little children are like sponges, soaking up everything around them. Should we not be especially careful, then, in choosing our children's surroundings during these years?
As parents, we have a solemn obligation to teach our children to pray, to walk uprightly before the Lord, to know and understand the gospel of repentance and forgiveness. These early years are the most formative years of a child's life, the time when the foundations of faith are most easily laid.
We know that Jesus Christ paid special attention to children. We read in Mark chapter 10:

13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. 16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

Sadly, we live in a society which no longer acknowledges the God of Christianity. In it's place we have set up the god of Political Correctness, with one great commandment: thou shalt not offend. As some take offense at the mention of Christian faith, it is no longer permitted not only to be taught but even to be mentioned by those who teach our children. There are those in society who have taken great pains that our children should be forbidden to come to Christ, at least at school! Instead, they are carefully trained in the art of Not Giving Offense: a powerful deterrent to speaking the Truth in the world because the Truth has always offended those who do not want to hear it.

But this is not so bad, we say. After all, we still have many hours when our children are not in school to teach them Truth. We can send them to school, let someone else teach them their reading and math, have a few hours a day without the constant responsibility of taking care of them, and still teach them the Gospel in the evenings and weekends. Ah, but what is the opportunity cost here?

What if, instead of a morning rush to get everyone dressed, breakfasted, and off to school, we could have a gentler introduction to the day. Children get up, get dressed, make their beds, and come to the table where everyone can enjoy breakfast together. Afterwards we can all stay at the table for devotional time--singing songs, reading scripture stories, memorizing verses together. What if our children could learn to read sitting on our laps, taking turns with Mother reading a favorite story? What if a math lesson means mixing up a bowl of chocolate chip cookies while practicing measurements and fractions? What if recess is a family bike ride around the neighbourhood, or two brothers happily building forts in the sandbox? What if evenings meant playing games and reading aloud together, because no-one had to worry about homework or packing lunches for tomorrow? What if family prayer could be more than a rushed morning or evening ritual, but part of the regular rhythm of every day throughout the day? What if handwriting practice meant writing a letter to Grandma? What if a multiplication lesson meant a 12 year old brother with a bowl full of beans teaching an 8 year old sister?

OK, the picture is idealistic--but What If? An ideal is something we work towards, the pattern we are trying to follow, however imperfectly. There are two very contrasting patterns laid before us. In one, children are pulled away from their families almost as soon as they begin to talk. They learn quickly to bond with their peers, to blend in and follow the crowd, and to keep what is sacred separate from their everyday lives. They learn that their needs and interests must usually wait on the contingencies of the group agenda--it doesn't matter whether they mastered this week's spelling words last year, they must sit through the lesson. And when they are lost in math class, there is no time for personal explanations--the class must move on.

In the other pattern, children are nurtured within the family, under the tutelage of the parents whose commission to teach and guide comes not from an earthly government but from God himself. They learn not only the skills of reading and writing, the laws of mathematics and science, but first and foremost the great law of Truth, the great plan of happiness. They learn that life is not a series of separate compartments named "academic", "social", and "spiritual" but one unified whole in which every moment counts towards eternity. They arm themselves not with a hodgepodge of disjointed social and scientific theories but with the Armor of Righteousness, the Sword of Truth, and the Shield of Faith. Academics are not neglected, but are integrated and take their proper place as one element of a life lived in service to God and Man.

If we lay a solid foundation of Truth, we will not have to spend precious time un-teaching falsehoods. Children who, in the early years of their lives, have gained a solid grounding in what is right and good will have no difficulty recognizing the lies of Satan when they see them. We cannot forget that the adversary of righteousness is working overtime to obscure, twist, and distort the truth. He wants our children's hearts, and will use every tool in his power to get them. Are we working as diligently to preserve them? Are we so willing to send our children away from the sacred walls of home when they have not yet reached an age to discern right from wrong? Do we think the company of their peers so important that we willingly release our children to their influences? Do we place such faith in the expertise of teachers that we will entrust them with the molding of children's hearts? Do we so value independence that we send infants into the world to make their way armed only with our good wishes and prayers? Are we still so caught up in the need to meet society's expectations that we fear to choose a different path for our family? Whose birthright are we willing to sell for a mess of pottage?

We as parents must take careful thought before we send our precious little ones into the world unarmed. Children do not come into this world prepared to discern and choose between good and evil. They must be carefully taught and nurtured as their bodies and minds mature. Does not a mother bird shelter her hatchlings in the nest? Why, or why, are we so determined to push ours out to try to fly before their wing feathers are fledged? Do we think they will not learn to fly if we do not push them from the nest on day one? Children, like birds, need time. Feathers need to grow. Minds need to mature. They must be carefully nurtured both physically and spiritually. If we give them what they need during these early years--tender love, clear example, and true teaching--when their wings are grown they will soar. If we try to make them fly too soon, will they not end up with crippled wings?

Does this mean we should keep our children tied to our apron strings until they get married? Of course not! As children mature they will naturally seek more control over their own lives, more freedom to test their wings. We should allow them freedom within limits appropriate to their age and abilities. As our children mature, we can revisit options for schooling and other activities, and find appropriate ways for them to practice their growing independence and responsibility. Individual goals and passions may direct different choices for different children. The overarching goal, however, does not change. We are seeking to raise up young men and young women who will stand as beacons of light, with an understanding of immutable Truth, of their own call to service, of the importance of family integrity and solidarity. Both our choices for our maturing children and their choices for themselves should be made within this framework.

As we make choices for our children and families, I hope we will carefully examine the opportunity cost of sending our children too young into the world. What benefit, what reason, could be so compelling that it would induce us to trade away much of our influence during these most precious foundational years of our childrens lives?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why Homeschool?

A friend tried to convince me a few years back that I would do my children a serious disservice if I did not send them off into the world (school) as early as possible so they could learn to deal with all the stuff the world would throw at them. I disagree.

"there is a big difference between sending fully trained disciples into enemy territory and sending recruits to our enemy's training camp. If we do the latter, we shouldn't be surprised when they come home wearing the enemy's uniform and charging the hill of our home waving an enemy flag." Voddie Baucham, Jr.

Thursday, July 30, 2009