Tuesday, October 18, 2011


This was a horrible weekend. My chickens were killed by my neighbors dog. The black lab broke free of it's tether, dug a hole under the fence and attacked. We were devastated. They were more than egg layers, they were our pets. We knew their quirks and personalities and it has been very difficult to let them go in this way. Shortly after everything happened, a friend from the ward came by to see how I was and I told her what happened. She was pretty sympathetic, having grown up on a farm.
We got to talking about it and saw some interesting gospel lessons in what happened. She had just gotten back from her sister whose husband had just left her for younger, prettier girl. They had been married in the temple, both served faithfully in their callings, had 4 daughters, and appeared to be a very happy, normal family.
On the surface my backyard looked pretty safe. Fully fenced, lots of places to dig, and fully fenced. And I took that fence for granted. I knew of the weak spots, but I knew no animals lived in that yard. I never, ever could have imagined a dog digging under the fence so I let my guard down. And as each day my ladies remained unscathed passed, the more relaxed I became.
I do that with my family too. We go to church, pray, have FHE, read scriptures...our family is fully fenced, right? But Satan is there, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Do we really know our childrens' friends? Do we nitpick at our spouse or yell at him and the kids? Do we spend so much time worrying about the kids that we neglect our marriages or even ourselves? How many times have I skipped personal scripture study because I read with the family?
We can't be paranoid, but we can't just assume that having a spiritual fence up means we're safe from Satan. Even the prophet and apostles are not immune to him. Let's be careful to not be these people:
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. 2 Nephi 28:21

And if you have chickens or ever plan to get some, protect and watch them like you would a 9 month old.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Plan Meals and Use Up Food to Show Gratitude to God

That's right.  I belive we can show gratitude to God by using the blessings we've been given instead of throwing out that perfectly good grilled chicken because we forgot about it.  Now in the interest of not being hypocritical, you should know I took an entire bag of grapes out to the chickens this morning because I forgot about them.  It was very wasteful and I was very ticked at myself.  Here's how I'm combating this thriftless habit of mine.
We've been massively organizing our home over here at the Small House.  Part of that has been adding cleaning charts, and rearranging things to make them easier to use/keep organized.  I'm writing about it more at that blog (because that's the kind of stuff I blog about), but I wanted to show one of my favorite new things here.  One of the most helpful things has been the addition of this whiteboard.  It helps me keep the food organized. 

 I labeled it like a restaurant board because it made it more fun and less chore-like for me.  For the days of the week and the titles I used wet-erase marker and I use dry erase for the rest so I can easily wipe it off without having to rewrite everything.  We have a couple of meal traditions that make planning easier like Sunday brinner and pizza Tuesday.  The rest I decide as I see what we have and what needs to be used (I have extra sausage from Sunday so were' having egg & sausage muffins tomorrow), and what's on sale. 
My favorite has been where we write leftovers.  We keep all food storage containers above the dishwasher which is to the right of the board.  We put the food in, then write what's in the container with dry erase (why didn't I think of this before?!  It comes right off!) and then write it on the board.  When the container is emptied and goes into the dishwasher (again, right by the board) we erase what's written on it (usually with a finger) and then erase it off the dry erase board.  Viola! (pretend I know how to type the accent mark)
I felt we needed a picture so here's a drenched chicken happily full of worms coming up from the wet earth

I detest wasting perfectly good food, especially when I want so much to keep our grocery bill down.  Now when I notice something needs to be used, like the starting-to-go-limp-broccoli, I add it to the menu.  We're eating better and I'm buying less because we're using more.  Except for grapes.
I'm thinking I need to make room for a list of fruit we have that I assume will be snacked on, but then isn't, so I no longer throw out delicious grapes I get at amazing prices.
It's still in progress, but I'm already seeing improvement in my attitude towards cooking and buying food and the family likes knowing what to expect for dinner.
I wanted to add this awesome except from a Relief Society newsletter from 1875 I read here (you have to scroll down a ways so I'm adding it here as a block quote to save you time because I love you).  Though nearly 150 years old, I find it quite apropos for our society today and something to which I want to give more thought.  Hopefully minus the self-inflicted guilt trip; forget not to be patient with myself :), right? 

Is wastefulness a sin? If so, how very guilty in this respect are Americans as a people. Living has been so easy in nearly all portions of this country, food so plentiful and so readily obtained, that little or no care has been manifested by the great mass of people as to how or whence it came.
People are lavish of fuel, lights, material for clothing, and indeed, whatever Is employed in keeping house, throwing away in preparation nearly as much as is made use of, and using twice as much as is needed of almost everything.
Servants and children follow in the footsteps of their masters and parents, and learn to waste and destroy enough to support largo communities in good style if what is thrown away could be judiciously put to use. Miserly covetousness is worse than despicable, but to save and make some use of every last article, even the smallest bit of rag that may be ground up and made into paper, is in no wise mean, but would be honorable in the wives and daughters of millionaires as well as of mechanics or laborers.
The great Creator has placed around His children the numberless varieties of beauty and use to cheer and gladden their lives, but not that they should become idle and indifferent over them by being abundantly blessed with the good things of the earth.
In the midst of luxury, we should seek to cultivate simple habits which are the greatest producers of genuine happiness, longevity and usefulness. Children should be taught to be less self-indulgent and more industrious than many are, and women should at least superintend their own households and see that nothing is left to go to waste which might be beneficial to some one of our Father’s creatures, if not to themselves.
No bread tastes so sweet as that which is fairly earned ,and no poverty can be so stinging and mortifying as that which comes of carelessness and extravagance. Live prudently and within your means is an excellent rule to hold to.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

End of Another Week

I'm ditching Facebook. It's a time-suck for me, and if Elder don't-remember-his-name-from-the-Seventy is right and I have to give a strict accounting of my time, I don't want to get to the pearly gates and say, "I spent 400 hours of my life checking facebook statuses without contributing to anybody's lives."

This week I fell asleep in the car and got in an accident. It was minor, thankfully. We were both stopped at a red light, and I dozed off and my foot slipped off the pedal. I bumped his car and woke up. Thankfully he was really gracious and isn't contacting insurance or filing a police report, I just gave him enough money to get his bumper fixed.

PSA: DON'T DRIVE WHILE DROWSY. It wasn't late, either. It was noon. To all you young moms, get enough sleep! Take naps! And if you're drowsy, don't kid yourself. Pull over and do jumping jacks, or get a soda, or something.

Other things this week; I take things too seriously and do not do enough fun things with my husband. Yesterday I went to the gym with him and it was such a blast! We enjoyed spending time together out of the house without the kids. Obviously this isn't something we can do very frequently with young kids who need us, but whenever we can manage it we need to do it more!

And now? The farmer's market. And cleaning my ridiculously filthy house. Holy cow, how does it get SO NASTY SO FAST?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How did that happen?

A week since my last post, already? I had such high hopes for this blog!

Turns out, I hate uploading or finding photos. And my priorities right now are not this blog, but rather my husband, kids, and own education. Who knew it meant blogging would go by the wayside so soon!

But I had a few things to share.

FIRST: New method of behavior modification
We wrote a set of family rules during FHE, and the kids actually came up with them. Every time the kids break a rule, they have to "turn a card". They go from "Super" to "OK" to "lose a bedtime story" to "lose toys and books in bed" to "no computer time", etc. Every morning when they wake up, if yesterday's card was super or OK they put a pompom ball in an empty apple juice jug. When it's full, we take them bowling! So far, the excitement has not worn off. We'll see how motivating bowling proves to be.

SECOND: Making my priorities show
I made the decision to read my scriptures and general conference talks instead of blogs. I still have my feed reader with 10 or so dedicated reads, which I check a couple times a week. I also made the decision to stop watching shows on the computer during the day, something I did a lot of in the old apartment when we still had two computers. Now we're down to one it's harder to do.
And it makes me happier! The scriptures and prayer are bringing a light into my life with which I not well-acquainted. It's lovely, really. Some days are harder than others, and I don't always keep with it, but when I do my family is happier and I am happier and it's easier to work hard instead of laze about.


Thursday, September 15, 2011


I know what I need to do. I'm tired and don't want to do it.

I know the dishes need to be washed, but I want to write an e-mail.

I know the bathrooms need to be cleaned, but I want to play UNO.

I know that dinner needs to be cooked, and I'd prefer it be from scratch and healthy, but frozen pizza (cheaper than takeout) is easy.

How do you get the motivation to do what needs to be done? I'm a mother who knows, but do I know enough? It's not motivating me to do everything. I know I can't be perfect, but I don't know what's acceptable . . .

Today was a depressive day. I just wanted to wear yoga pants, eat cookies, and sleep. Or read a book, since I have young children who need supervision. But I refrained! I did the dishes! I took Guy to preschool! I went to the library and Trader Joe's and Ace Hardware with kidlets in tow! And it helped.

I once heard this advice, "It's okay to feel depressed. It's not okay to 'do' depressed." Meaning, you have to shower, get dressed, and tend to normal life, even if you want to cry the whole time. And it helped.

This post was brought to you by "up-one-day-down-the-next-where-she-stops-nobody-knows" Emily.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Linky link time!

Fruit snacks made from zucchini and kool-aid packets. I kid you not. All you need is a dehydrator, or a sunny spot, I imagine.

If your kids are really young (I mean REALLY young) an interesting read on no-nonsense parenting regarding picky eaters.

Baked chocolate doughnuts. Can't wait to try this recipe!

7 Ways to Fight Slavery at the Grocery Store

Enriching Your Marriage, James E. Faust

Marriage and Divorce, David B. Haight

And in unfortunate news, Josh's Virginia dad left for Kabul for a two-year civilian post this past Sunday night. His mother left for a business trip on Thursday morning. Thursday night, the basement flooded with 18" of muddy water that literally broke the door frame as it forced its way into the house. They've lost all of the furniture that was in the basement (two people are living there at present) and a fair number of other items as well. Josh's dad's been working for over a year on making an apartment down there, and all the cabinetry, baseboards, and doors are ruined. Luckily he was smart and the drywall is still dry and there's no carpet to be removed.

His 18-year-old brother is doing remarkably well considering the strain, but it makes me think of all the people who suffer from the extremes of weather.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Revamping FHE

My son turns 8 in a year!  8!  Accountability, covenants with Heavenly Father, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Parenting just got a lot more serious for me.  Up until now, Family Home Evening has been mostly about time together and having fun.  We'll get ice cream, play a game, and read a scripture and pray.  But I was recently talking to a friend who has a daughter the same age as mine and we talked about how weird it was that they'll be baptized in a year and the full weight of that sunk in to us.  I just don't want him to be baptized because "everyone else is" or because it's expected of him.  I have told him it's his choice and I stand by that.  And I also believe it needs to be an informed choice.
I think the best place for this teaching is Family Home Evening, but I've been a little lost on where to start.  We've often used the Gospel Art Kit for FHE lessons, but that just didn't seem like enough for me with this.  So after my friend blogged about this, someone commented and suggested using Preach My Gospel.  I love the idea so much I wanted to tell you about it.  I seems like such a perfect way to teach him what he needs to know before making this important decision. 
Parneting is so scary sometimes.  One year after baptism he'll turn 9, halfway through his childhood.  Have I taught him enough?  Does he know the important things, that he can trust me, that he can trust God?  I worry that he doesn't think so with the ways I've lost my temper and I really need to fix that.  I suppose that's for another post though....

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Perverting Modesty"

I read this blog post today, and it's stirred some feelings in me that I'm not sure I understand quite as yet. What does it mean to be modest? What does the Lord require of us when he asks modesty?

Definitions of modesty:
1.having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one's merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions.
2. free from ostentation or showy extravagance: a modest house.
3. having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent: a modest neckline on a dress.
4. limited or moderate in amount, extent, etc.: a modest increase in salary.

I can tell you one thing. I am very judgmental when it comes to how others dress; I have a hard time seeing past the outward appearance when I meet people. I also know that there are wonderfully virtuous young women I know whose shoulders are covered but who dress very ostentatiously and in an overly alluring fashion.

How can I better practice modesty myself?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Official Day of Homeschooling

(I think I avoid writing about homeschooling because I'm the only one doing it yet and I'm not sure exactly who my audience is.  So I suppose my audience will be Madame Coin :) )

Tomorrow is the official first day of school and I have a little bit of insomnia (of course).  I was thinking about what if we decided last minute to go back to the local public school.  I know his teacher and I think he'd be okay in there.  Maybe a bit stressed again.  Oh my gosh, I forgot about the stress!!!  He's such a sensitive kid and sometimes I just waqnt to feed him to the wolves hoping it will toughen him up, but I know it wont.  And I also know that's why God sent him to me.

Anyway, so I was thinking about it and I felt sad and a little sick.  No matter how much I want to have more free time to sew and do yard work, I know that this is something I need to do this year.  I don't know if we'll go longer or not; one year at a time.

I'm very excited though.  And it's helping ME.  I'm more disciplined and more available to my kids.  I've had to get more organized and stick to the routine and I can see it's helping me.  I'm mostly happy with the K12 curriculum and know that I will do a better job teaching with someone to be accountable to.  It's good to know that about myself.  I like designing a syllabus and schedule, but the lesson planning was doing me in this summer.

I still have no idea what I'm going to do with the girls....

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sad, neglected blog

We had such high hopes when we started! But as often happens, life gets in the way.

While pondering the compatibility of big goals and real life, I came to a surprising conclusion.

Do what you really want to do. Do what you must do. Leave the rest for someone else.

It might be a tiny bit heretical. I have a big goal in front of me, a master's degree in Library and Information Science. I have another big goal, and that's raising my family to love God, to love each other, and to love learning. I think genealogy, quilting, card-making, scrapbooking, decorating on a budget, thrift-store shopping, reading novels, and cooking gourmet meals from scratch are all fun things. I don't have the time for all of these.

I can get a master's degree if I want to, and I can do it while keeping all of my kids at home the majority of the days. I can show them my love of the Lord and my love for them and my love for learning, leading by example. I can even keep my family fed, in clean clothes, and in a mostly clutter-free home.

I am inspired by my goals, as they are far from mediocre and not easily attainable. The thought of the end, here in the beginning, pushes me to work harder and smarter and to love my kids more. This is not true of crafting, much as I love handicrafts. The other pursuits I mentioned aren't for me. I can and will leave them to somebody else.

What are your goals? Are they big, audacious, a bit crazy for "someone in your position"? Why not? I can tell you right now, God has big plans for you if you'll accept them. There are no small parts, as the adage goes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

AWESOME small space tip

Most of the women who read this blog live in relatively small spaces.

We're in our largest space ever, at just over 1000 square feet, but I still manage to make it feel cluttered. And we have hardly any furniture!

I learned this amazing tip that explains why spaces that may contain a lot of furniture feel uncluttered, while my house with one or two chairs feels like it's covered in trash. HORIZONTAL SPACES!

How many of your horizontal spaces are cluttered right now with papers, keys, what-not, etc., miscellaneous objects? Mine are AWFUL, since I don't yet have a designated space for a lot of things. Last night I cleared off the bar above my kitchen sink, and ta-da! The kitchen looked so much cleaner.

Try it, you'll love it! Clear off the counter, shelf, tabletop, whatever. Make space for living by taming the stuff on your bed, chair, floor. Find places to put things, or throw them away. (I'm currently digitizing a lot of records so I can recycle the paper and not have to store it)

This tip brought to you courtesy of Small Notebook.

Friday, July 15, 2011

General Conference Book Club

I have such a firm testimony of the importance of General Conference. My goal every year is to read through the entirety of the Conference Ensigns (or Liahonas, when I read it in French). I always take notes in the margins and love discussing the principles that are revealed to me through study.

I found this General Conference Book Club on the website Diapers and Divinity and thought it might interest some of you. Every Sunday a new talk is discussed, open for comments from anyone who feels led to participate.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Simple Things

I really enjoyed this post from a contributor at Pioneer Woman Homeschooling. It's all about the simple things that do more than their share of contributing to an enriching homeschool experience.

My own suggestion? Meaningful work for the children to contribute to the household. Have you noticed how kids want to help all the time? Find a way to teach them and put them to work! That's one of my big goals for this coming year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On Emma Smith

I've felt led to ponder Doctrine & Covenants 25 many times in recent months, and I've always wanted to know more about Emma Smith.

I found this post a new perspective for me; so often I hear women disparaging Emma and her lack of dedication to the church and to Joseph after his martyrdom.

Blessings to you all. I'll let you know when I'm in my new place and no longer have to steal moments on other's computers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Word of Wisdom Diet

Madame Coin sent me this link a while back and it's been popping in and out of my mind since then.  Lately, it has been on my mind A LOT.  Norovirus (stomach flu) has been circulating and over the course of 4 weeks there has been someone sick in my family.  Recently it was my turn and it got me thinking more about what I put into my body and how it affects it.  I've also been struggling with my mental health and I've thought about the word of wisdom. 
 These pictures have nothing to do with anything.  They're just cute.

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.  And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass them by, as the children of Israel, and slay them not.  Amen.  D&C 89
Those are some pretty powerful promises and  yet I have ignored them for most of my life.  I think because of the emphasis placed on abstaining from coffee, tobacco, and alcohol, I've lost sight of what the Lord has told me I should eat.  Any time the word of wisdom is discussed in church, I find that most comments revolve around what we have to avoid in order to be worthy for a temple recommend.  And that's great!  Because we need to avoid those.  But sometimes I wish we could talk more about what the Lord says we should eat so we can further reap the blessings he has promised to those who do.
All grain is good for the food of man; also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground
I don't want to get into a discussion about whether or not the saints should be vegetarians.  The first part of scripture says it's not "by commandment or constraint" so that doesn't interest me.  What I keep thinking about is how little I pay attention to that last verse.  I pray for health and strength, but I expect the Lord to do it all when I eat processed junk.  Do we need to be commanded in all things?  Sometimes I wish we were, but that's not how the Lord works.  He has given us scripture and like all other scripture and words of the prophets it is for us to choose to follow them.

I want, no, I need those blessing right now.  My current medications aren't doing enough.  The new options freak me out.  Honestly.  Truth be told I'd like to be off them all together!  I know that my diet is part of the problem and my sugar addiction isn't helping.  Yeah, I may still need medication because of the diseases that run in my family.  But why not try changing my eating habits first?  If I am what I eat, then there's a lot of processed sugar in there (I overdid Christmas and it's gone downhill since) and that means cloudy thinking and unpredictable energy levels and moods.
Yup!  Sounds like me.
So I'm thinking of getting a juicer and doing once of those juice fasts (within reason-I'm still nursing).  Maybe for 2 weeks I try to stick with only produce and whole grains.  And fresh eggs from my neighbors chickens (one day I'll finish the coop and get my own....)
And because there's always something that will interfere with this, I have to start next week.  We're going to Tucanos for my husband's brithday this week and then out again for our anniversary.  That said, I can still be more aware of what I'm eating.  I don't have to try every cut of meat they bring by, right?

Monday, July 11, 2011

How Low Could You Go?

I read an article about a family downsizing from 2,500 square feet to less than 400!

It's fun to see; they homeschool at home, too! What could you go without if you were to lose more than 4/5 of your square footage?

Or perhaps it's more useful to think of what things you really need? It's a fun exercise.

My family needs:
Food storage
A computer
A few books and toys
Bedding (this doesn't have to be stationary! My boys sleep on a sleeping bag on the floor)

And I can't honestly think of much else. What about you?

Friday, July 8, 2011


I have a friend who's "agitating peacefully" for women to become holders of the Priesthood. My short analysis: women have the sacred trust of bearing children, and men have the sacred trust of holding the Priesthood, and I don't want anybody to take away from my sons the one thing that is their duty. If every woman can hold the Priesthood of her own, then why do women need men at all?

He's a good guy, though, and pointed me to this link today, an analysis of a woman advocating "celestial education". Basically members of our church should homeschool. It's a good article, even having not seen the 3 hour video being critiqued.

It reminds me that we as mothers have the sacred responsibility to see to the education of our kids; and we should not be afraid by anyone who beats us over the head with quotes from general authorities. We have a right to the Spirit as we teach our children; but he won't beat us over the head with information that we can find easily if we reach into a subject of study that many have been researching for decades. We must seek knowledge by study and by faith, and a neglect of either aspect of the process will result in an incomplete education.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On Families

I saw this link today; Josh's Virginia mom pointed it out to me.

Why family adopted a grown man.

My mother-in-law's comment on the article was as follows:

"We were foster parents to a 17 year old boy 10 years ago and he taught us that we could love a child who was not biologically ours. Since then, we adopted an entire family of three children, then 10,15 and 17. Our foster son is back in our lives and is now 27, married with 3 kids of his own. If he asked us today to adopt him, would we? Faster then it would take to say, "Yes!" Why? Because we love him that much."

Any stories of unconventional family members in your life? We really do have a say as to who we let into our lives and what we do with those relationships, whether or not we believe that to be true.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I want to know if anyone else has seen this.  There is a difference in the way my kids play pretend when they're copying a book or something they watched.  When they read a book, they follow the general storyline, but they break the rules.  They add things or change something.
But when they pretend a movie they've seen, I hear a lot of "that's not what he said" or "no they did it THIS way"  Unfortunately I also noticed that in school.
 Kids are away from home for 7 hours. They had to read the books teacher gave, which, for the more advanced readers consisted of whatever uninspiring fluff was "at their reading level" because teacher is more concerned with the kids who still aren't reading, and do their homework and by the time they had dinner, burned off some energy, and cleaned their room, it was time to go to bed.

During all of this last year, my son had stopped playing.  He still used his imagination, (I wanna build a space ship!) just not in the same way.  The way that kids do when they can see fairies and pirates.
He still went outside and ran around, but it was more burning off energy.  I hadn't noticed he had stopped until he started again.  It's wonderful to watch!
My son is reading the Narnia books right now, so yesterday he and his little sister were running about the house and outside jumping into puddles and going to different worlds and coming back to tell me what they saw.
They brought me silver apples and the white witches wand (she's a good witch now, btw, who helps animals when they get hurt).  And told me about adventures that didn't exist in CS Lewis's mind.

At one point my son asked if I could go into the wardrobe to Narnia and I said, "I can't.  I'm a grown up."  And he told me he wouldn't grow up and I wanted to read him "Peter Pan".
And it was one of those moments that we as mothers package up and store away in our minds and frequently unwrap and look at as our children grow.  I know he'll only do it a few years more and I want to treasure it.

I think preserving our children's imaginations is so important and it needs to be taken more seriously.  I get so tired of robot kids who can't think for themselves because I was one of them.  The only solution I know of is to give them more "free time" (not scheduled 15 minute recesses) and good books.  And then, as recently posted, stand back and watch.  They know how to do the rest.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Homeschool Lessons

Even if you're not a homeschooler, I loved the lesson in this blog post on Pioneer Woman Homeschools.

The author's daughter at her first piano lesson is presented with a teacher who listens more than she teaches, and directs the learner to discover. Despite the time it takes for the girl to figure it out, she perseveres. The teacher's comment to the mother was that children past first grade who aren't homeschooled usually give up and ask to be shown.

The point then is this: how do we get out of our child's way to let him or her learn and discover? Facts can be memorized and quickly forgotten, but knowledge that's taken into our hearts for examination can lead to greater discovery and understanding.

Any ideas on how to make this happen? I feel like mostly it's a matter of presenting nature and reading and math and getting out of your own way and not interfering.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ready to Move

We're getting ready to move after we get back from a few weeks visiting family in Washington, D.C.

It's a relief to know we haven't accumulated too many things of questionable value, moving across the country in our sedan with two children helped us pare down considerably last year.

Now I've got another chance to decorate and create a cozy and happy space for my family. I've a few ideas for my dream list; front-facing bookshelves, hooks in the boys' room for dress-up clothes, a bamboo mat to go under the dining room area that could be wiped down after meals.

Oh, and an electric piano. Any recommendations? The volume needs to be touch-sensitive, but other than that I'm just feeling awful that I haven't touched a piano or organ keyboard in more than eight months. Talk about hiding my talent in the earth.

So let's hear it: electric piano recommendation, dream house list, or talents you're hiding and want to develop.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Silly Women Laden With Sins

I don't know how to make this post light-hearted, so here it is. This past week I read a novel, "Outlander", that was well praised by a friend. It was a slightly-better-than trashy romance novel. Written better than most, but still ridiculous and unreal when compared with the celestial marriage that is my goal. I realized this partway through, and still wasted time reading it to the end.

Over dishes tonight I could not get this phrase out of my head, "Silly women laden with sins." If you don't recognize it, it's from 2 Timothy 3 and was written by Paul to describe the apostasy of the last days.

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, [etc.], lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: FROM SUCH TURN AWAY. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

The italicized quote speaks to my last post about parenting. How many of us are guilty of letting ourselves be led away from the truth by others who are lovers of themselves? This sounds a lot like reality television, to be truthful.

I'm not going to choose silliness over the truth of God. I hope this doesn't come off as judgmental; please know that we all have our own struggles and I'm hoping this will be a helpful post and not harmful. I love everyone who reads here as a dear friend, or a potential dear friend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Homeschooling is Hard in the Summer

I belive in schooling year round. Kids do lose a lot over summer and I don't think learning is a "School only" thing anyway.  But BOY, is it hard to get your kids to sit down and learn about the solar system when everyone else in the neighborhood is out riding bikes and playing in the sprinklers.  Even I want to take breaks and go work on the chicken coop or take the kids swimming (it's finally starting to feel like summer!)  I am really loving homeschooling, but with all the summer around us, I find myself doing less than I had hoped.
So instead of stressing about it I'm replaxing a bit.  The nice thing about schooling year round is that you have enough time to cover everything you want to and can take breaks as needed.  So here's what I decided: Math is a MUST everyday.  This week he'll finish 1st grade Singapore Math (I felt there were some gaps) and then he'll start second grade.  Most days he likes to do 2 or more lessons, but I'm going to require just one.  For spelling we go outside and write the words in sidewalk chalk or jump around while spelling them on a spelling mat I made.  I'm easing up on science and history.  He loves science and I'm just letting him pick the topic he wants to read about for now.  For history I'm trying to have him listen to me read a book or passage about whatever civilization we're on.  We're still trudgeing through Mesopotamia.  I'm starting to think 1-4 graders who aren't really into history would do better learning about local/national history.  Or maybe we missed today's Babylon book because a bike ride sounded more enticing. 
So instead we talked about how friction is what keeps us from falling off our bikes as we go around a corner. :)  I can turn anything into a science lesson, ancient history is a bit harder. I think the Sumerians invented the wheel...  that counts, right?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On Parenting Techniques

I found this quote last night on a blog I just discovered, written by an LDS Waldorf home-schooling mom.

"Don't become a technique collector... BE A DOER. Remember that there is no magic bullet for parenting save one... consistency."

I certainly have the tendency to read parenting books, collect techniques, discuss them, and then discard them as I holler at my kids to leave me alone while I read my next parenting book.

What can you do more consistently this week? This month? At this age in your children's lives?

I can more consistently wake up and spend time with my children in the morning. What are you going to do?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Courage to Be

In a conversation this week, I snapped into "silly female" mode. My husband teases me about it; I laugh a lot, am flippant and congenial, and tend to agree with anything said.

I am greatly irritated at the end of such encounters.

Why do I put on middle-school manners on occasion? There are many unique facets to my personality and to God's purpose for my life. Why do I shrink to be myself for the glory of the Lord?


Photo: Matt Lehman


God is great, and he created us for His purposes and His glory.

What can you do today to be the woman God asks you to be, to fulfill your individual purpose? I can tell you what I'm going to do.

I'll hug my children close and play with them as much as I can.
I'll read a good book, a thinking book.
I'll enjoy my family and enjoy their company!
I'll spend time encouraging a friend.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Keep Your Eyes Ahead

Every month at Pack meeting I get to give my "cubmaster's minute".  It's where I give a nice little thought and wrap up the evening with a bow.  A few months ago I told the boys that goals are like driving.  You have to keep your eyes ahead to stay straight and stop worrying about all the little lines on the road of you'll veer off.
I feel like that with my parenting.  We've been homeschooling for 2 week now (yes, that's why I haven't blogged much) and I can see how easy it is to get bogged down in little details.
"You didn't do your grassland worksheet today!!!"  Like it's really that big of a deal.  Nevermind that we went outside and looked at grass and talked about how it flowers and spreads it seeds, he didn't do the worksheet!
I'm struggling to decide how to do this.  I feel like I have to have all this work to show anyone who criticizes our choice.  "See, he did all this work, that means he's learning."  And I'm not focusing on the big picture, on showing him the incredible things he can learn about. 
We're supposed to learn about the Hittites next week.  I mean, I find the Hittites fascinating, but then, I also got a BA in world history.  I can promise you I never learned about them til college.  So why am I adding them to a second grade curriculum?  I'm not sure I want to take them off either, I'm just debating these things on here.
When I focus too much on the curriculum instead of one just letting him soak things in, it hurts the process.  I think this is a problem for teachers too.  So many worksheets to prove your kid didn't waste their time.  I've read so many homeschooling books and spent so much time planning and not enough on my knees asking the One who knows my son best what I need to be teaching him.
My husband is still nervous about this whole homeschooling adventure and wants updates, and I don't blame him.  I want to do a good job, I don't want to fail my child.
But isn't there a time and a season for everything?  I'm kindof thinking this season is for him to develop secure family relationships, not be able to name every class of vertebrates in less than 10 seconds.
I know I do this a lot day to day.  I worry too much about whether the chores were done or clothes were put away and not enough about whether the spirit was in our home that day. 
Gotta keep my eyes ahead.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Going Carless

Is it possible with kids??  Most people think we're crazy just having one car.  What about zero???
Our car had some trouble and we were worried it would cost more to fix than it was worth.  We were lucky, t was only a few hundred dollars. We were hoping to get a minivan next year and have saved about half of what we need.  We REALLY wanted to pay cash.  So one of the options we mentioned was going carless.  A minivan with low gas mileage, insurance premiums, maintenance and repairs, or I could get this instead?
Don't they make that look fun?  That's called marketing!
How about these?

yes, I already have one of these

But it's a bit of a pain pulling it uphill.  I live on a hill.
If I changed pediatricians and used Bountiful baskets more for produce (my closest store has AWFUL produce) I almost think it could work for 6 months.
I'm not optimistic enough to think we could do this in the winter.

Have you ever thought of going without a car?

Being Happy With What You Have

I read this fabulous post this morning on the subject of contentment, and it really spoke to me. The essence: sometimes it's better to dial down our desires instead of upping our spending.

I've been thinking lately on the concept of frugality and why I care. I know I'm not perfect; don't ask me how often I've eaten at a restaurant this month or how many items go into my cart that aren't on my list! However in the search for deeper enjoyment in my life I've realized that things that cost money aren't what we make them out to be.

What things really give you pleasure in your life? I love a good book, time spent with friends playing cards and discussing current events, walking hand in hand with my husband, savoring a homemade meal, and a really good TV episode. The Lord has blessed me with financial resources to care for my family. Somehow I don't think he'd be pleased when I waste them in any manner, whether it's a frivolous purchase or food that's thrown out.

The one thing I value most in my friends is their love and support, and I'll be honest. It is far easier for me to be friends with someone who wants to talk about budgets and bargains. I don't want to drive here and there spending money on a frequent basis doing "fun" things. I don't want to talk about TV sizes and prices.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?

I'm trying to make my way through the entire Conference edition of my Liahona (I read it in French, so that I get the spiritual uplift and the language skills reinforcement).

In reading the Sunday Afternoon session this past week I came across this talk, which has some solid family advice.

"Many of us create to do lists to remind us of things we want to accomplish. But people rarely have to be lists. Why? To do’s are activities or events that can be checked off the list when done. To be, however, is never done. You can’t earn checkmarks with to be’s. I can take my wife out for a lovely evening this Friday, which is a to do. But being a good husband is not an event; it needs to be part of my nature—my character, or who I am.

Or as a parent, when can I check a child off my list as done? We are never done being good parents. And to be good parents, one of the most important things we can teach our children is how to be more like the Savior."

Some of my thoughts from reading this talk:
What are the qualities that, if understood by my kids, would correct their behavior?

Christian virtues are a gift from God, including love. They can't be acquired on our own.

Preaching is more effective than the sword; teaching is more effective than punishment.

Any thoughts to share? I'd love to hear your ideas on how to balance teaching our children to be good and correcting bad behavior.

In other news, we've started packing to move into our new place! I'm still saddened that we'll be leaving our ward, but oh so excited to be walking distance to a neighborhood playground and in a first floor apartment with real windows and sunlight!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

While we're talking about reading . . .

How would you describe yourself as a reader? Are you accomplished? Inquisitive? Efficient? Engaged? Sophomoric?

Sophomore; a Greek word for the mixture of learning and folly; we might apply it to those who are bookish but poorly read.

I picked up a copy of "How to Read a Book" today at the library.

I haven't read more than a few of the 400 pages, but I have been introduced to four new vocabulary words, and a few concepts to ponder as I am teaching my oldest son to read. Relevant as I am going back to school soon, myself!

Reading can have multiple goals; we can read for information, we can read for understanding, or we can read for entertainment. Reading as a means of learning should be considered as an effort, not a passive reception of information. If our goal in teaching our children is to have them understand, then we must teach them how to engage with us as teachers as well as with the written word.

If I have a question while reading for understanding then I must answer it myself. This means I need to learn to engage with the text on a level above decoding the symbols into words and sentences, or even beyond picking out facts.  To achieve a high level of engagement, I must move beyond analysis into "syntopical" readng; this is more or less the ability to read more than one book on a subject at a time and synthesize and evaluate a subject.

In thinking about different levels of reading, it seems this goes well with the trivium of a classical education: grammar, logic, rhetoric. They all play a part in developing your worldview.

In the end, my goal is simple. I want my children to be able to form an opinion of their own. Who needs to spit out pre-packaged sound bites at the appropriate intervals? I need thinkers! Engaged citizens who can use the intellect God has given them for the good of all around them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Good Books?

I saw a link this morning for you, Kris! After months of her son bringing home "spiritual french fries" books from school, I know she's looking for some good books for her young advanced reader to sink his teeth into.

I'm also on the lookout for good books to read out loud to my boys; I want that to be a habit for us.

What are your favorite books for kids? The kind of books that you feel are quality literature?

And please forgive my absence, we spent the last two weeks in Virginia with my husband's family and had so much fun I hardly checked my e-mail let alone wrote anything for you! I promise I'll be more active here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Home Schooling Curriculum- First Grade

I love seeing what other people do for their schools so I decided to post what we'll be doing too.
I know, my son just did first grade. But since he skipped kindergarten and I feel like he didn't learn as much as I'd like this past year (seems all they do is reading and math), we're going to do some home schooling over the summer and see if we can fill some gaps. This isn't a full curriculum, mind you. He's very strong on grammar/spelling so I'm not doing that. This will work out to be about 2 1/2 hours of schooling/day. He reads for fun daily so I don't include that. Here's what the plan is:

Writing: work on simple letters to relatives/missionaries 2x/week. Copy short sentences 3x/week and work on penmanship. abt 20 min/day

Math: Singapore Math. 40-60 min/day including xtramath.com for drilling.  I love xtramath.com, btw.  

Ancient History biographies and tales. Ask him to repeat what we read while I write it (comprehension) Make notebook pages together. 2 hrs/week

Science: animals, human body and plants. 2x/week for 60 minutes.

Religion: morning devotional is back!! Focus on major stories from the scriptures.

Music: work on staying on key. Practice scales 15 min/day. Listen to classical music during chores.

Art: learn about famous artists from library books and do own versions of some of their work.  Also free time to create whatever. Fridays-1 hour or so.

There you have it.  Come fall we're going to add spelling words and more language arts work, but I think this will be good for summer.  I'll be sure to post about what I do/ do not like.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Several months ago, I had a conversation with someone who was concerned about my need for intellectual stimulation who suggested starting a blog and posting on topics that interested me. Book reviews, parenting, world news, and politics were mentioned as options.

You will most certainly see book reviews and opinions on parenting here. I will likely even mention world news. (For example: the CDC recommends zombie-apocalypse preparation, and if you know a teenager you'll know that zombies are in right now) That sounds like a joke, but my brother-in-law is very interested in emergency preparedness, and it's all thanks to zombies.

Politics, however, presents a conundrum. I would love to discuss politics with you, but for now my desire is to keep my political views off of the internet. If you want to know how I feel about politics, ask me! I would love to share my feelings with you. They are subject to change as I learn more about this country and the people who live here.

If you'd like to get more involved in the political process, I encourage you to go local! There's no better way to make an impact than to voice your opinion about a local sign ordinance, or discussion of zoning exceptions. Look up how often your town council meets. Some cities now have the minutes published, or even videos available on town websites or on demand on local cable.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: The Well Trained Mind (from Kris)

I really liked this book!  This is the book that gave me the confidence to do my own curriculum.  That said, I only read up til 5th grade.  I figure I'll read the rest when I have a fourth grader.

This is the book to read when you need a starting point.  It is NOT a methodology, IMO.  It gives you a general idea of: what to teach, how long to spend teaching it, sources you can use to teach it, and emphasizes reading in a way similar to TJED (Thomas Jefferson Education), which is simply the classical approach: read GOOD books and read LOTS of them.  

It gives an overview of each subject in school: Spelling, Grammar, Reading & Writing; Math; History & Geography, Science; Foreign Language (emphasis on Latin-which I liked); and brief touches on computers, religion, and the arts.  I know, I know, poor PE got left out.  We're signing our son up for karate and covering it there.
  • "Spend time every day reading out loud, as much time as you can afford."  
  • I liked how they have the child narrate back to you as comprehension lessons.  I have seen how that will help them get better at writing.
  • I love their approach to oral reading, but this is probably because we've spent the last 6 months with 20 minutes/day of crap books.
  • Copywork & dictation
  • I LOVE the chapter overviews.  It gives you a skeleton to build your home school around.
  • I like their approach to math
  • I particularly like the idea of overlapping subjects, similar to unit studies.  For example, incorporate history into your grammar lessons. So you have your child read and then write about Julius Caesar, incorporate some geography and you've covered 4 subjects with one lesson.  I like that approach best!
  • They don't believe in child led education.  I do, with caveats.  They equate it to feeding your kids, saying if they eat it every time you serve it they'll learn to like it.  I say, I still hate the foods I was forced to eat.
  • If you like the idea of interest led unit studies or unschooling this book may not be for you.  I don't agree with having biology one year, chem one year, and physics one year.  Some kids might need that.  But this is one area I think child interest is the way to go.  I can see how they try to link it with history, and appreciate the idea I just disagree.
  • There's less emphasis placed on science and the arts (hmm, just like public school!) and more on reading, writing, math and history.  I might even suggest that could be because they have their own textbooks available on those subjects (except math).
  • I'm just not too thrilled with their own curriculum and it's given me a less positive view of the authors.  I recently looked at their history of the world series (my BA is in world history) and found it, um, lacking.  
Overall though I recommend the book.  Despite the things I don't like I still want to own my own copy.  There's enough good resources and info that I'd like to have it in my home.  If the obstacle for homeschooling is getting started, then this book is fantastic!! 
Check out their website for more info http://www.welltrainedmind.com/  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who's in your family?

I love the concept of family. My mother was the youngest of twelve children; she's still on good terms and in regular contact with her siblings. Despite the fact that I've only met most of my cousins, and many of them only once or twice, all of us who are members of the Payne clan know that we have connections.

Need a place to stay while in the area? Sure! So what if we're only vaguely aware we're related; we'll learn more about each other and help a family member out. It's a marvelous feeling, one of belonging.

I have been blessed in the past year to add to our family in multiple ways. Our youngest boy was born, and I gained a new set of in-laws.


We call them his "foster parents" sometimes, but people make weird assumptions. So they're just Virginia mom and Virginia dad.

My husband had mentioned in the past that when his parents moved back to the United States after living abroad that he stayed behind with a family of the same faith for quite some time. When we moved East, he mentioned that their house would only be a couple hours out of our way on our trip to our new home. He had been in regular contact with them.

I felt weird about this. Are you sure they'll want us in their house for a week? We have two noisy kids! I don't know these people! We're not even related! Turns out I had no need to fear; they were wonderful and kind to my swollen, pregnant, and tired self.

I have been given the blessing of a third mother and father in my life. Another family who care deeply about my husband, myself, and my children. More people to turn to for advice in difficult situations. A place to go when we have a long weekend to enjoy playing games, cooking together, and discussing whatever suits our fancy.

It has taught me that making investments in good relationships is something that reaps incredible rewards. We really can choose to expand the family circle, and it's a circle that can grow more loving the larger it becomes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thy Will Be Done

Nothing aggravates my anxiety like church callings.  There's only one calling that doesn't give me panic attacks and that is primary pianist.  I love primary pianist!
Right now I'm the Cubmaster in our ward.  I have no experience with cub scouts.  I've never done anything with cub scouts.  And now I'm in charge of them and it scares me to tears.  Literally.
I go to every training thing I can and come away feeling inadequate.  I feel so unsure of what Heavenly Father wants from me with this calling.  Does He want me to become what all the trainers want?  Someone who's over the top and goes all out and plans every detail.  Or does He want me to bring my own spin to things?  Casual, within budget, and fast.  I think it's the latter, but every time I go to anything scouting I come away feeling discouraged because I am NOT over the top and obsessed with scouting.  I'm just not.  
So, yeah, I'm feeling contentious with myself.  Am I supposed to be Nephi and be this great leader or can I just be Sam, righteous, but certainly not one to build a boat.  I feel like I'm in that game where you're blindfolded and trying to find your way across the room and all these different voices are telling you how to get there.  And all the noise in my head has made it impossible for me to hear that ONE voice that will tell me the answer.

My husband gave me a blessing last night and God basically said, "I didn't pick this calling for you because it was easy." And then told me to do what it takes to have the spirit in my home more to calm my nerves. 

If there's one thing I've learned from getting rid of TV, it's that we are surrounding by things that offend the spirit and we don't even realize it.  We've become so desensitized!  The noise, the crude humor, the music, the stuff, and the laziness all drive Him away.  I didn't realize how much media I rationalized until I removed myself from it.  So I need to remove myself from the rest if I am going to be able to deal with my stress, I think.  

This is the hard part.  It's easy to get rid of tv and remove yourself from that.  It's harder to remove yourself from worrying about other people's opinions of you and what they think you should be doing.  It's easy to get rid of physical clutter in your home, harder to get rid of the mental and spiritual clutter we allow into our minds.  Laziness is probably my biggest problem.  And I think that means the one I need to take care of first.  Yikes!  It's worth it though, if I can feel confident about my calling and the rest of the things in my life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

On Tackling Fear

There are tasks in my life that I avoid because I don't think I will enjoy them. Driving more than a few minutes. Making certain phone calls. Approaching a situation where I am uncertain what to do.

On car trips, I've always been the one to sit in the passenger seat and dole out snacks, read maps, and keep the driver awake. But today, I drove the 260 miles to take the children to see one of my sets of in-laws. Josh has various meetings and a conference this week, so he's joining us on Friday night.

I just thought of my trip as 9 jaunts to and from a local town that I visit once a month or so. And it cut down on the fear factor, amazingly. Who knew that a simple re-naming of the task would make it feel so much simpler?

Now I'm a smart and capable woman, but there are things that leave me feeling like I must be 10 years old for how I dread them. It doesn't mean I have to keep things the way they are; it's good to choose to sidestep your comfort zone for a while. I feel much more confident today than I have in a long time.

Even if that first bathroom stop was tricky!

So what kinds of things strike fear into your heart? And what are you going to do about it?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

K12 vs own curriculum

The decision to home school is huge! I read at least a dozen books before making the decision.* Now that I decided to do it, the next huge decision has been HOW?
How would I teach my child? What would I use? What did I expect him to learn?
I felt overwhelmed and questioned my ability to do this. So I applied for K12. If you haven't heard of K12 then you aren't on the internet much. :)  Their ads are everywhere!!  It's an online school curriculum that many online charter schools use. The bonus: you get all your curriculum (and sometimes a computer and printer) FREE and already put together. Mom (or dad) is free to just teach.
I like it because you're child takes a placement test so if they're in 2nd grade and reading at a 5th grade level and doing 3rd grade math then that's what they'll do! I also liked that it was free. Because home schooling can get expensive!!! There's also major discounted trips to local museums and the zoo so the kids can "get socialized", whatever THAT means. I'd like to undo all the "socialization" my kid got at school this year, thanks!
Anyway, I figured this was a good way to get my feet wet. To find out if I was really ready to home school. However, now that my son was accepted I'm beginning to have misgivings. That's putting it lightly. I've decided we're not going to use it at all. Because I know others are debating this system I will tell you why.
It's still public school, it's just at home. You're still expected to do 5 hours a day and from the reviews I read you'll definitely do it. It's very intensive. You also have a teacher assigned to you that you are supposed to talk to every other day. It has no overlapping of subjects. So more time is spent doing school. And if the curriculum doesn't really fit your child, tough.
So I took some time to really plan out what I wanted my child to learn and what he needed to learn) and now I feel totally confident that creating the curriculum myself is what's right for us.
And now I am SO EXCITED!!!
I can't wait to start!! We're going to begin the second week of June so I'll be blogging about how it's going, our mistakes, our successes and how I've planned the curriculum.

*I recommend: Why Gender Matters (Sax), The Well Trained Mind (Bauer), Endangered Minds (Healy) and In Defense of Childhood (Mercogliano).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Preschool Thoughts

My oldest son is 4 1/2 years old. Most, although not all, of his church friends are in preschool now or will start preschool in the fall.

schoolbus front

My boy, however, will not. I thought I'd tell you why, starting with what my ideal preschool would look like.

There would be a comfortable structure, with time every day for my son to choose their own make-believe roles. There would be time outside. There would be fairy tales. Time for creativity every day. The food would be nutritious and comforting. The teachers would love and care for their kids, making an effort to understand and connect with the kids in the classroom.

I know there are preschools that fit my parameters here in North Carolina. I also know that they are WAY out of my graduate school stipend budget.

So I'm making the best and most frugal choice for my family. We'll avoid preschool, while incorporating those aspects I value into our daily lives. We now have a morning routine for "school". We spend time outside every day. I'm checking out books of classic fairy tales from the library, learning them so that I can be a better storyteller.

And we'll make our own way, and the Lord will bless us as I recognize responsibility for this stewardship.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"And then proceed to read some more..."

I've been thinking after Em's post. Kids really are sponges.
We used to watch a lot of tv. You guys know how it is with toddlers. It's SO easy to let them keep watching. We had the PBS lineup memorized. Because for some reason if it's PBS that means it's okay for them watch for hours on end, right?

Does anyone else's kid get obsessed with whatever has been watched recently? We've watched some old Dr Who for movie nights and now my son talks about it ALL THE TIME.
Just wondering.
Anyway, I've had this going through my head all day. It's one of my favorites to quote to my kids when they want to watch movies all day :)
I also might quote it subversively when my husband mentions buying a tv....

"Mike Teavee"

(from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl)

"The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotized by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle and–
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole–
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks–
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start–oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can't–it serves him right."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reflections on Parenting

Want to know if you're doing a good job speaking kindly to your children and moderating your tone of voice?

Listen to what's coming out of those same children's mouths.

"STOP IT!" "No!" "Owwwwwwwww-uh!"

Do you hear a lot of whining? Moaning? Bickering? Complaining? General expressions of discontent? I can tell you that the phrases and tones that drive me crazy, my kids picked up from their parents, friends, and favorite movies.

And I have control over those influences! I can pay attention to what's coming out of my mouth. I can carefully screen the screens, so to speak. I can watch when friends come over and encourage kind speech.

The influence we have over children is incredibly powerful stuff. So let's hear it, tell me what your kids say that's nails on a chalkboard to you.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How My Husband Threw Out Our TV

I cannot get this post to be what I want. So I'm just going to put it out and hope the idea comes across.
How many times have you thought, "If only my husband would ________ then everything would be great. Mine has changed a lot throughout the years but it all comes down to the simple idea of "I'll be happy when...." That NEVER works.

Make it a Marriage
I remember coming across this Ensign article once when looking for marriage help on lds.org. It's about having a less active spouse. Now, this wasn't the situation I was in, but the message of the article struck me and changed my feelings toward my less than perfect husband (Can we PLEASE not talk about his less than perfect wife!). Read it; apply it to whatever annoys you about your spouse.

“If no success can compensate for failure in the home, I knew that God certainly didn’t want me to be resentful of my husband. Heavenly Father wanted our family’s success and happiness, not our breakup. That realization changed my perspective.”

Sometimes, well, usually, I make it all about me or if I'm really feeling manipulative I make it about the kids too. I forget that we're a marriage, that we're trying to help each other. When I find myself really frustrated with him it helps me to serve him. To do nice things that make his life easier. Like you guys mentioned, they get really stressed. It usually softens him up and I feel better about myself too.

I've had times in my marriage where I want to make things happen and my husband is just not on board. And there's times where I can barely get out of bed and he wants to make a temple attendance schedule. I have to remember that we aren't always on the same page. We both have highs and lows and I need to respect his the way I want him to respect mine.

“Dave is a grown man, responsible for himself,” she explains. “I’m responsible for me, for teaching my children, and for setting an example. Whether my husband is active or not, he’s been a great father to our children, a well-respected member of our community, and a completely supportive husband."

Focus on the positive! Without being manipulative, tell him how nice it was have us all quietly reading with the tv off. Tell him you noticed your son really responded to him turning off the xbox and playing a game of catch. Tell him he looks good in blue! Just don't tell him every time he wants Sports Center the baby Jesus cries!

Set The Example
My second year of marriage I took a class on consumer health. It changed me. One of the required books was Your Money or Your Life and THAT changed me.

But my husband didn't take the class. Or read the book.

He still wanted the big tv. He wanted every game system. And we had a lot of arguments. Sometimes I nagged and made him feel guilty. Sometimes I joined him and we played games together. Sometimes compromise works. Sometimes it makes you lose the effectiveness of your argument.
A few years ago I started really getting into minimalism and my husband liked the idea, but never did much about it. I kept talking about and saying, "I wish we could just get rid of the tv" and he'd get defensive.

Then I realized I wasn't really practicing what I thought we my own ideals. I still had so much craft stuff and trinkets. So I started really minimizing. Getting rid of things I loved. And I would tell my husband how it felt. How sometimes it was hard but mostly it was liberating. I made it about me and my process and not about how he should do it too.

And suddenly, one day he cleaned out his closet.

And he caught the decluttering bug and one day while looking at our living room he said the tv took up too much room and let's just get rid of it. And the tv stand. Which also meant I had to let go of the stereo. So I did. He still wants a replacement tv some day. We'll deal with at when some day comes.

I reflect on this a lot because if you told me 5 years ago my husband would toss the tv and put his xbox in the shed I would have laughed at you. But I really think that when I stopped nagging and was just happy doing what I thought would make our family happier he was able to understand it better.

I was lucky. My husband decided he liked it too. Eventually. Now, lest you think I believe this to be a panacea, we still have the gun issue in our home. He wants them, I don't. And we can't agree on it. If you have a situation like this (home schooling, maybe?) all I can offer is to have a very honest conversation. I decided to let my husband keep them after ours. It's really hard for me, but the peace is nice. And like I tell my kids, "sometimes it's healthy to not get your way all the time." right?

“I think of the most patient person who ever lived on this earth: the Savior. Who could have been more long-suffering than he with all of us imperfect mortals?"

Friday, May 13, 2011

You Are What You Eat

Recently I've been pondering a lot about diet. Thanks to my friend Michelle's Slim Down for Summer Challenge, I've lost a size mostly as a result of drinking more water and cutting out refined sugars. No change in how much I eat; just haven't baked any cookies in a while.

After reading this article about eczema * in babies being affected by diet, and this article ** about the potential toxicity of sugar, I'm led to wonder if I'm feeding my family as well as I could be.

I used to get my kids trader joe's cereal bars as a "treat" for behaving in the store. 17 grams of sugar per bar! I love prepared foods for making my life easier as a mom; boxed soups from Whole Foods? As much as 12 grams of sugar per serving.

I want my kids to be happy to eat whole foods; I know we all need more fruits and vegetables. So the trick is how to go about getting more of them into our bellies.

* The author's 9 month old had an outbreak of eczema after eating solid foods. She cut out dairy and grains and it went away; she reintroduced the foods after a year.

**The short version: we eat FAR too much sugar as a society. We don't think it's toxic at low levels. Lots of research suggests it's very dangerous.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Millions of Papers

Well darn if I didn't have an amazing weekend! Saturday we attended a surprise party for our good friend who just earned a PhD. My husband, this friend, and this friend's father are all accounting researchers and had fun talking shop. Our friend's sister was on my dorm floor at BYU freshman year, and seeing her was a treat. Then on Mother's day, Josh put the kids all down for naps and let me take a nap while he fixed lunch. And then let me take another nap. Heaven!

But I come to you, my friends, with a plea for help. I am inundated with paper! Magazines, recipes on sticky notes, paperwork, letters, cards, coupons, receipts, you get the idea.
My financial messNot my house, photo courtesy melted_snowball on flickr

I have a "home management" notebook, but frankly it's a mess. In the past two weeks I have lost two sets of paperwork that needed to be filled out and returned. I have two cubbies in our desk that are for my effects, and a purse that sits on the floor.

Does anyone have any good ways of managing paperwork? I am at a loss, I keep organizing it but it never sticks. It's a right mess within a day or two. I recycle lots of papers, too.

I want to hear about your system for dealing with the paper clutter that attacks our households on a daily basis.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The calming effect of Routines

Calm seas at sunset - North Brighton Beach
I'm a reader. Mostly non-fiction lately, but when I pick up a novel it's hard to stop. 400 pages in a day and no clean dishes and I still can't stop.

In August I'm starting an online graduate program in MLIS. If I don't get the basics under control, the classes will be too stressful on top of being full-time mom and wife to a PhD student.

So I'm reluctantly turning to routines. I love thinking them up; following through isn't my strength. This week Josh suggested a morning routine. His self-ascribed primary love language is other people heeding his advice, so I paid attention. All week the first hour of my day has felt worthwhile.

1. Kids get up, sit at the table while I make breakfast. They can't play because we have downstairs neighbors who like to sleep in.
2. They eat, I eat. We eat together.
3. Leo draws or plays quietly while Guy does school*.

That's it. All these things correspond to goals I have for my family. Simple, but I feel so accomplished. What's stopping you from integrating your goals and values into our daily life? Doesn't matter what it is, right now I'll just say this; routine makes kids feel safe and happy.

What can you do? Breakfast at the same time every day. Doing your bedtime tasks in the same order. Reading together every day after lunch. Lighting a candle before dinner.

So if you're feeling uninspired (should that be our code word for lazy?) remember that ROUTINE MAKES KIDS FEEL SAFE AND HAPPY. Safe and happy means calmer kids. And we all want some of those!

*He works on memorizing a scripture, and then reads his phonics readers to me and practices writing. (Letters to family, a grocery list, or simply copywork).

Monday, May 2, 2011

How to talk so husbands will listen: brainstorm session

Communication in marriage--let's put our heads together!

Note: every relationship is different. Our marriages and especially our roles as wife and mother are related, but not identical, to each other. So no hurtful assumptions, "Men always . . . " or "Husbands never . . ."

The best thing for opening communication in my marriage has been family council. Josh and I set aside Sunday evenings to have an open session. Anything can be discussed or planned. Notes are kept. Our basic outline is as follows:
Review the week and journal anything of interest
Review goals and resolutions (week, month, long-term)
Set or revise goals and resolutions
Next week's schedule
How can we help each other next week?
What can we do to help the kids learn?
Additional topics

This helps us in our goal of "being one" in marriage. It gives us a safe space to discuss more difficult issues we may be facing. If anything comes up during the week that might be a hard conversation to have, or if we're struggling to be kind to each other during a discussion, we can always table it for Sunday night by making a note in our journal.

I have one more note, and it echoes Michelle's comment on a former post. NEVER underestimate stress! Your husband may not realize he's stressed until the pressure is off; he might not be aware that stress or even simply being very busy is affecting his moods, or his ability to sleep, or his interest in you or in the children.

Wives, be kind to your husbands! Remember that there are unique burdens they shoulder, and their drives to care for their families and to do good are a gift from God.

Please chime in with your own advice in the comments.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Answers to Prayers

God gives us trials to humble us or to answer prayers.

This winter the roof of our deck collapsed. Home owners insurance covered it but we had a $500 deductible. However, since we opted to not replace it we ended up making money off it which can now go to replacing our very old roof :)

My 11 month old has been clingy and fussy since she was about 2 months old. It has been peaking the last month and I found myself feeling a lot of resentment and yes, even hatred toward her. I felt awful about it!!! So I've been praying for Heavenly Father to help me love her to have more sympathy and patience with her. This week she has developed a weird skin disease. We're not totally sure what it is yet, but they are running tests for what they think it is.
The cool part is that I am suddenly much more loving with her. I am more patient and willing to just stop and hold her when she needs it. I find myself feeling those feelings it has been so hard for me to feel for many months now.
Yeah, I think it's sad that I needed something visual to remind me she isn't just trying to annoy me, that she is actually uncomfortable and needs her mommy. I don't want her to have a disease, but I feel like a prayer has been answered and in a way I'm grateful for it.
Is that weird?