June 14, 2018

Motherhood Parables: Darkness & Light

I was chatting with my son last night, actually; and he was saying he couldn’t sleep because he felt yucky inside. Well, this the the "yucky" that is more sad, scared, and emotionally-based than your average sour stomach. So we started talking about what he was scared of: the dark? something he'd heard or read or talked about with someone? etc.

As we discussed, I stopped and asked him a simple question:
What makes darkness go away?

His answer was simple: Light

And I went on to explain that we can try to run away from darkness and ignore it--hide from it; but does that make it go away? NO.

I mentioned that when I get scared I first try to close my eyes to ignore the darkness, but frequently I need to also say a prayer to ask for the feeling to go away. Then I also try to sing a nice primary song or something that invites a calm, happy, peaceful feeling in my heart. By actively putting into my head and heart good, I am better able to dispel darkness.

We can try all we want to wish things away, but life takes effort.
It takes FAITH---which is action based in hope.
HOPE--the positive anticipation that good results await.

I then explained that why the scriptures are so great. They are "light and truth." God is light and his truth bring light to our hearts and minds--our souls. As we fill our cups at his feet and read his word, listen to uplifting music and spend time in his beautiful creations--filled with his love, power and glory--we better find Him and his truth. That truth and love strengthens us. It lets his power and peace fill our hearts and overflow through grace. His grace is what strengthens us and dispels the darkness.

In college I came across a fantastically puzzling verse that took me awhile pondering to figure out.

2 Nephi 10:25

  • Book of Mormon
Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine.

Praise him through grace? But isn't grace what He offers us? How can we praise God with something that isn't ours to give? I can't give him grace? What does that even mean?!

ButI came to realize, during that difficult semester of my life that as we trust in him and turn those "yucky" feelings and that darkness over to him, he can help us feel His grace, and peace, and power. It's that process--of using/utilising--his atonement that allows us to say "tahnk you" to him. It's a thank you not merely muttered in a rote prayer, or spoken quickly without thought. It's is the faith-filled action of true repentance and a change of heart that literally ooze a tangible "thank you!"

I tell my children all the time not just to say "sorry" to siblings when they haven't been nice, but to "show them you're sorry." And that frequently  follows with a hug, or them taking time to retrieve a blanket--something they know matters and is loved--to give to the wounded sibling. :)

When we show our love for the Lord by actively--faithfully--applying his atonement to not only get rid of sin and poor choices, but also fears and worries; then will we feel his grace. His power will fill us more deeply and richly with light, life and meaning. The light will dispel any darkness--in our minds, hearts, soul!

After discussing that, I was able to share a few of my favorite scriptures and the stories behind why they were my favorite, and how they added light to my heart and minds at times I needed it most.

May you always seek the light and dispel any darkness that comes your way. Remember this powerful promise:

2 Timothy 1:7

  • New Testament
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 

Here are some great scriptures about light and truth

D&C 93:39

  • Doctrine and Covenants
And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers. 

D&C 93:42

  • Doctrine and Covenants
You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your affliction. 

D&C 93:36

  • Doctrine and Covenants
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth

D&C 93:37

  • Doctrine and Covenants
Light and truth forsake that evil one. 

D&C 93:40

  • Doctrine and Covenants
But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth

Motherhood Parables: Orientation and Limitations

The other day my husband came home and was telling me about a culture/group of people that don't use the words "left and right." For example, they would say things like "my north leg hurts," or "put your east hand in the air"...depending on how you were standing during that conversation (which could prove rough in a phone conversation!). Nevertheless, the result of this so-called "limitation" was that their culture, as a whole, was extremely well-oriented.

Now, I don't know about you, but I've seen a lot of people who don't know their east from their west...not even when looking at a compass! I don't feel that is a focus for most people. But I remember my very first time being exposed to the notion of N-E-S-W ("never eat shredded wheat"). It was actually at school, in second grade. I was in Alaska and we were surrounded by mountains in our beautiful valley I grew up in. My teacher explain which way was north. And from that day on, whenever I thought about which direction I was, I remembered sitting in that classroom and I would place myself in my town, relative to the direction of where I was sitting in my classroom and which mountain I was facing--and it always helped me find north.

Later, when I got to college in a completely new state, I found myself again surrounded by mountains, but only on one side--East. So for four years I could easily orient myself whereever I was, not only in that town, but for an hours drive both north or south of that town also (since the mountains spread across half of the state).

Orientation has since been something that is a part of me. Something that grounds me in my understanding of my environment. I didn't necessarily know this then, but reflecting back, I can see that is was something I valued for some reason.

Fast forward to 2012--my first child was two.I remember thinking yet again about orientation. I wanted my child to know his numbers and letters and left and right, but also his orientation. I made to sure to focus on the sun and that it rises in the east and sets in the west; and when high up in the sky right above his head it was probably time for lunch. He knew this fact of nature. And from that time on I started questioning why we didn't pay more attention to the sun and the natural rhythm of things (God's clock, persay). Why was the moon no longer the standard for a "moon-th" (month)--as in times of old.

Here's the poem I made up to teach my son orientation
Let's point East, where the dawn does start (extend arm and point to the East)
the sun comes out to play 

At noon, the sun stands overhead. (raise arm to straight up)
the warmest part of day. 

The sun keeps marching to the west (lower arm slowly to the West and then down)
the evening dusk brings night.

And now the moon and stars appear (raise both arms like a big moon circle emerging)
to guide and bring new light.


Thinking about all this brings me back to my time in college where I started feeling like not wearing a watch anymore. And I stopped using an alarm clock. I don't know why, but I just felt like it. And since then I have yet to use an alarm clock, unless I have to be to an airport by 4 in the morning or something completely out of my normal routine. I guess I've better found my body's natural rhythm and I pay more attention to my body's clock. It may sound silly, but like that culture the the "limitation," I've found greater empowerment to orient myself better to my natural rhythm. I consistently wake up in the same general timeframe (it's a range of 1-2 hours...depending on the season).

I've also noticed that my body, mood, and habits also change from season to season in a normal, natural way. In winter, I really do want more soups, heavier foods like potatoes and meat, and more quiet inside time to reflect and hibernate from social situations. And in summer I thrive at parks and social activities, and never want to wear black. I eat more salads and less meat. And hence our menu and clothes closets reflect these changes. It's natural.

And so what? Why does this matter?

Well, take our grocery store for instance: It has whatever we want, whenever we want! And does this help us eat according to our body's needs? Does it take into account what is in season or not?

Let's take a step to the side and think about winter. When are we most likely to get a cold? DEcember/January (like clock-work at our house). And when do oranges, filled with vitamin C with fights cold symptoms, grow and become ready to harvest? Decemeber/January! And what vitamins are pine trees know for (evergreens that stays "healthy"/aline during the winter when deciduous trees don't)? Vitamin C! (yes, you could steep pine needles in hot water and get a dose of vitamin C water to combat your cold. Or rose buds, which are also around at that time! Nature is beautifully orchestrated.

And yet, the average human dosn't know most of this stuff...except maybe the oranges. But why eat oranges when you can have orange flavored tang. Close enough, right? No! (but I rant...)

Back to the point of this long, getting to be too long I'm sure, parable....

The is power in "limitations." And quite frankly, we live in a time and society that is drowning in too much information. Too many choices. Complete overwhelm! Kids don't know what to do with themselves. They don't know what to believe. They are spiritually utterly disoriented. And if we don't give them "limitations" with purpose, then we may just hinder their ability to navigate their own future. They need a compass.

Ask yourself what limitations you need for yourself and your family.

Start by asking what do we really want for our kids?
What can you cut out? What can you add more emphasis on?
You don't have to stop using a watch or alarm clock persay...but maybe evaluate how you use your phone? What media you can eliminate, or how you could use it more purposely to add value, instead of distract.

There are many directions you could take from this one simple question, and this parable. So...I say, "good luck in your journey." May you find your true north and find joy in positive limitations that bring you closer to your ultimate destination!

March 9, 2018

Natual Vision Improvement

So, I actually never wanted LASIK until just last year, when I got the strong urge to get it. BUt...I wasn't able to at that time because I was nursing. So I made a commitment to look into it as soon as my baby was weened. So I did.

After getting through the process, the day before the exam was my second appointment and they led me through the two waiting rooms and visits with three different people. I got checked by one of the eye Doctors who would perform the surgery...and he had glasses! I was a little baffled, so I asked. He said he had LASIK done twice and loves it! But that once you pass the age of 40 farsightedness catches up to EVERYONE, and you need to get surgery done again most likely. What?!?!

I was confused. I'd never heard of that--the general assumption that everyone's eye sight goes bad after 40. Well, I wasn't buying it. Strike one! Then I got to the end of the appointment 2 1/2 hours later (and after waiting two different times) and was told to pay for everything. The lady ran me through the papers, which mentioned having see the video explaining the process. What?!?! No one had shown me any video! I told her I hasdn't been shown a video, and she told me to finish the paperwork and then we could watch it. So I told her "no thank you," and that I'd like to see the video BEFORE I signed my life (and wallet) away. Strike two!

Then I watched the video and it was mostly what I was aware of, but there were other things in it that felt a little like when I met with the Doctor. And I just didn't feel settled about things. So...I cancelled my surgery (which was actually PRK, not LASIK. PRK is similar, but they don't cut a flap). And that night I went home and did lots of research. And now...strike three! I have a very different view about eyesight and eye doctors.

First, let me say that eye surgery may be very helpful for those who need it! Some people have had life-changing experiences because they can now focus on the people and things they need to without the hassle of glasses and contacts. That's a miracle and super helpful for many!

And I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but where eyesight is about -3 diopters or better, I think a natural eye improvement course is definitely worth consindering--if you are patient and disciplined in doing the exercises and things required to improve. (As with any exercise routine to strengthen muscles and get "fit.")

So what is this eye improvement mumbo-jumbo? 
Well, it started with an Eye Doctor Names Mr. William Bates, from the early 19th century. He believed that vision can improve by strengthening your eye muscles. He wrote a book called "Perfect Eyesight Without Glasses (free online version).
Image result for eye muscles
Basically each eye has two muscles  opposite each other on the sides, two opposite each other on the top and bottom, and two oblique muscles that wrap around the eye. So as you do exercises to strengthen those muscles you can naturally improve your eye sight. (think about it...our eye sight changes as our eye shape changes.)

A good way to check your eye muscles and see which are your weakest is to hold your thumb just away from your face and move it in a large circle, following it with your eye, without moving your head, so see/feel when your eyes feel sore. Mine were most sore as I looked up/up-diagonally. Mine were not too sore looking down or sideways. So I knew that my upper muscles and obliques needed the most help.

So to strengthen all your eye muscles, do a little eye yoga: stare at your thumb held out in front of you and breath in and out slowly as you go up and down, three times. Then do it sideways three times. Then do it on the diagonals each three times. (don't do it so long your eyes strain too much)
You could also do some eye tracing: use your eyes to trace sideways figure 8's (infinity sign). (You can pretend your nose is a paint brush.) This will use all those eye muscles.

Once you are done exercising you should do some eye relaxation. Your muscles need to rest. Like any good workout, have a cool down. Just rub hand together to get warm and then place your hands over your eyes so it's pitch black. Total darkness, plus warmth, allow your eyes a comfortable setting in which to fully relax. You could also do sunning, which allows the warmth of the dawn or dusk sunlight to warm your eyes in a gentle and safe way.

There's also the Long-Swing, which you basically stare at a wall to your left, while body faces forward, and then turn your head and stare at the wall on your right, still standing forward. You go back and forth, like you head is a swings from right to left, left to right. You do this for a minute or two, then you put your thumb up and and keep doing it for another minute or two. Then you close your eyes and do it a third time. (followed by palming) This allows your eyes to relax and not try to stare and focus at one static thing for so long.

In fact, another helpful activity similar in effects is "Magic Eye" pictures. Although it may take time to get it down, if you don't know how to do it. (My husband is awesome at it, but I had to work at it. But I can tell it's helped me by practicing a little everyon few nights---I keep a book by my bed, which my kids come and enjoy with me too.)

Massage is also excellent! Just take your thumb and pointer finger and put it under your eyebrow and push along the bone above and below the eye. you can also do some tapping along the that bone in a sideways figure-8 pattern while taking deep breaths (and I like to says some affirmations about seeing clearly and loving my eyes--which is funny because I normally don't love saying affirmations because it feel silly to me. But I do love my eyes...so why not?) :)

I knew this basic stuff three years ago and had a really great experience with it when I tried it for a week. But then life happened and I forgot all about this stuff. So after this near-LASIK experience I did lots of YouTube "natural eye improvement" video searches and read some articles and websites and books.I also joined some facebook groups for natural vision. This guy has a lot of helpful tutorial videos on some of the exercises I shared. So if you are confused about any, look them up.

It was interesting to me to learn that our vision fluctuates. It is actually not as static as we think; and that is why at the beginning of the day we usually see better than after a long day staring at screens. You can test this by taping up an eye chart in your bathroom, and every morning, afternoon, and evening staring at it from the same distance. You will see different lines differently. This is a great way to check your eyesight daily, but also with improvement over time. (My eye chart is about 10 ft away...because that's at what distance I could read the top letter. So do what works for you.)
Image result for eye chart
Since starting my eye exercises two months ago, I've noticed my eyesight fluctuate a lot during the day, and I'm aware of my eye muscles better. I notice eye strain better than before, or atleast understand better what it is and how to counteract it. And as with any pain-awareness...now I can use that signal as a chance to change some behaviors.

There's a few helpful habits that will reduce eye strain.
1. 20-20-20 Rule: If staring at a screen for 20 minutes, stop and take a short break (twith your eyes trace something atleast 20 feet away). Then you can return to your screen staring, should you choose. But also, try to make sure computer screens are atleast 20 inches away from your face if you can.
2. Active Vision: Always hold your books or hand-held devices far enough away that you can read the words, but they just start to get a little blurry. This is helpful because it allows your eye muscles to keep to actively working, instead of getting lazy. (sidenote/plea: please don't let your children sit with their nose practically touching the media screen! This litterally is ruining their eyes!
3. Media Light: Short wavelength blue light produced by low intensity displays such as smartphones and televisions has been identified as being damaging to human eye cells (rods and cones which receive light). The light is more damaging in low-light scenarios, so smart phones are starting to have better night-setting features to make up for this. But it may be a good idea to not read or watch things on your phone at night time...bad for the eyes (quite literally).
4. Reduce your dependence on Glasses: You should literally get reduced-perscription glasses. Zenni.com is the only place I know that you can enter your perscription. Both my eyes were -3 diopters, so I just go -2 for both. And my eyes are so much happier. I knew the -3 diopters were too strong for my eyes--which is why I would frequently pull them off. I always hated how eye doctors give you super strong perscriptions and now you have to test them every year. Hated it! And now I'm loving my reduced glasses. I can still see so much, but I don't need to see fine details far away the whole day. So not wearing them allows my eye muscles to actively be engaged all day (instead feeling like they are getting weaker--like being in cast). So try limiting how much you wear your glasses. (there are other alternative methods that allow you to wear glasses or contacts, if you'd rather take a different approach; but I'm not doing that method so I can't tell you details about that). 

Image result for eye rods and cones

And lastly...

Mental Vision
It's easy to do physical exercise and think that's it. Life is phycial and that's where we focus a lot of time and energy. But, great athletes know that envisioning the win, the victory, the goal is as important to success as if the physcial daily exercise. It's said that 80% of our vision we can control, but 20% is subconcious...so why not work on visualizing. Do some meditation/thinking in your mind. Mental creation is work. Just because it isn't physical, doesn't mean it isn't hard. IT takes practice, but the more you can work on your imagination and actually visualizing things in your mind, the more that works on the subconcious 20%! Cool huh? It's not all in your head...but some of it is. (Like that author who wrote the books...Change your brain, change your life. He's got a point!)

And a Side note:
Flashes of clarity
As you work on improving your vision you may get flashes of clarity. This is where you may look at a word and see it super clearly for a second or even a half-second, and then it gets blurry again. I've experienced this recently, at the end of my second month doing all these things regularly. Basically when I started I could only read the top letter of the chart from 10 ft away. But now I'm reading the seoncd or third row. But, with a flash of clarity I read some of row 5! It was awesome! I was so excited I had to share with my husband. (I don't think this means my eyesight is improved right this instant, but its a step along the long path and gives me hope that my eyes are getting stronger--even if it takes a few years. (Just like taking time to do a 60-second wall handstand each day will slowly over time help your arms be stronger and give hope that you may do/hold a real handstand for longer than one second.)  :)

February 7, 2018

Bento Box Lunches

We're loving our bento boxes! They make it so easy to think "what veggie today? What fruit today? What grain today?" ...etc. I don't like making lunches much, but this makes me love it! It really is fun for me, because I like variety, and I hate shopping...so I always have stuff on hand. Not to mention that I love the idea of not creating tons of trash by using a reusable container (and water bottle).

And it helps that I have three different types. Because all are great, but have different purposes.
ECOlunchbox Three-in-One Stainless Steel Food Container Set
One for paul that stacks and typically has a salad in the bottom and hummus and veggies on top, or nuts and fruit or cracker mix on top...something snacky. (the top compartment has a removable little container where we put the hummus. It's fine for a thick dip like that).
LunchBots Bento Cinco Large Stainless Steel Food Container - Five Section Design Holds a Well-Balanced Variety of Foods - Eco-Friendly Bento Lunch Box - Dishwasher Safe and BPA-Free - All StainlessLunchBots Trio II Stainless Steel Food Container - Three Section Design Perfect for Healthy Snacks, Sides, or Finger Foods On the Go - Eco-Friendly, Dishwasher Safe and BPA-Free - All Stainless
Ethan has a large and small one to choose from, depending on if he takes a an apple and granola bar on the side or something (then I'd fill a small bento box with the rest of stuff). If I put olives or pickles in this I just wrap them in a napkin or papertowel to absorb the excess moisture, so it doesn't seep into the other compartments. (no one likes pickle-flavored berries) =P
MIRA Set of 3 Stainless Steel lunch box and food storage containers, Multi Color
None of these do well with wet items, so we have a set of small leak-proff containers we use for dressings or yogurts, etc.

build-your-own ants on a log

salami pesto sandwich bites

egg salad sandwich

build-your-own pesto open-face

salt and vinegar chips

pb jam rollups and homemade marshmallows

chef salad

pb honey rollups

pickle and cheese ham rollup with pita chips and hummus

sweetpotato/root veggie chips, salami and babybel cheese

pesto, spinach leaf and tomato open-face bites and veggies straws

pecans and dates (Doritos for a special treat)

chicken and pesto bites, pirate booty, snap peas

pasta lugano (peppers, ham, sausage, mozarella), olives

pickle and cheese chicken rollup and honey mustard pretzels

Here is a breakdown of the lunches we've enjoyed this year....
I just try to have a lot of these on hand in my food pantry or freezer and pull out different things each week to keep variety

- pb jam rollups (or pb honey)
- pesto, tomato open-face
- meat and cheese with cucumber and tomato
- homemade pizza lunchable (crustless bread rolled flat, premade tomato sauce I freeze in cubes and add one to a sauce container in the morning to thaw during day, and toppings--don't forget the knife to spread the sauce)
- egg salad

Sandwich alternatives
- stackers (cut up apples, pickles, cheese, ham, cucumbers, etc. and use a toothpick)
- parfait (yogurt, granola and a fruit)
- cottage cheese and a fruit (or BBQ chips)
- pickle and cheese roll-up (breadless--in a slice of canadian bacon or sandwich meat instead)
- Chicken salad (like tuna salad, with pickles and dill and sunflower seeds, on lettuce, not bread)
- Apple rounds with peanut butter and raisins

Cracker Stuff
- pita chips with hummus
- pretzels with hummus (or cheese)
- mustard pretzels
- veggies traws
- pirate booty (or "Natural" cheetos)

- cucumbers
- carrots
- pickles
- canned olives
- edemame (organic soy beans)
- canned green beans
- frozen peas
- celery (with cheese slices or build "ants on a log" style)

- pineapple
- mandarins
- tangarines
- blueberries (other berries)
- grapes
- apple slices
- dried fruit: raisins, apricots, figs, etc.

Meat and Such....
- canadian bacon slices (or cubed ham)
- pepperoni
- salami slices
- left over chicken and turkey pieces
- thin sandwich meat slices
- canned chicken or tuna
- hard boiled eggs

Desserts (we typically do fruit, but throwing in a fun surprise now and then keeps it fun)
- dates
- gingersnap cookies
- plums
- bark thin/fruit or nut brittle
- fruit leather

- trailmix
- jerky
- nuts and a dried fruit combo (almonds and craisins)

Typical Week Menu Breakdown
Monday - Sandwich
Tuesday - Stacker
Wednesday - Parfait or cottage cheese
Thursday - Sandwich
Friday - Build-your-own Style (pizza, sandwich or ants on a log type thing)

December 31, 2016

Motherhood Parables: The Chalkboard

I have a big chalkboard in my kitchen on the wall that I use for homeschooling purposes. I wasn't sure at first what I would use it for exactly, but I know that I'm a visual person and I love having a place to show things, so I painted one up right after moving into our new house.

well, I found so many uses for it that there was no more room to write up a little scripture that we could focus on memorizing as a family.

As much as I would like to be that awesome family to memorize scripture every week, that is not the case. Although that is the ideal that I would love to shoot for, it's more like one a month. That said, I realized soon enough that I would need a separate chalkboard just for the scripture.

If I had one dedicated solely for a scripture we could ponder on/memorize – – ponderize--would be more likely to accomplish our weekly goal. So I covered a small magnetic board with chalkboard paper and use that for our ponderize board.

Anyway...I pulled the board off-the-wall this week so I could write our scripture on it and I realized that I love writing the scripture on this little chalkboard in a very visual way. It breaks the scripture down into a more simple and easy to understand visual definition. It's fun to organize it and draw in such a way that the icons, symbols, and words visually represent and speak more of the meaning of the scripture than just plain written words. It takes a little work, but the result is much more satisfying than just  scribbling something up there, or printing plain words ( which I normally would've just done ).

Here are some examples:

So… I was I was drawing this one, the fifth for the year I think… )Which is about one month. Ha ha) I realized that these words and the scripture brings beauty to our kitchen and to our family goal/activity of memorizing scripture.

And the only way I could do this, was because the boys were gone on a Saturday and I had some downtime with the girls. They were coloring at the table and I had an hour to kill. With extra time and a simple desire to bring beauty and meaning to a family activity/teaching, I could infuse beauty. (note, it did not take the full hour… Just 10 minutes or so. But then I also had time to write this post. :-)

Sometimes life can be so hectic or fast-paced or systemized or encroached on by outside expectations and events and standards that it's easy to forget (or not have time) to find or emphasize the beauty in life. When really, the things we own and the things we do can and should be infused with beauty and joy because in my eyes that is the purpose of life.

I am glad I have chalkboards, and that I bought a bunch of colored chalk, because now I have an outlet in which to beautify the home and in which I find enjoyment sitting down and creating pictures.

Sidenote: I've been starting to draw simple pictures for Nellie to color, rather than using a Coloring Book for her. And I find that I enjoy drawing them, even if I just copy a simple picture from the Internet coloring page, and that she enjoys coloring them just the same.… (If not more because we created something together). And that is beauty infusing our home even more, both from our creations we can display and our bonding time together.

December 18, 2016

Motherhood Parables: A Sunday Morning

A Sunday morning

So we woke up this morning to find that our two-year-old had a runny nose and a cough. I volunteered to stay home from church with her and the baby. Mama can always use a little extra rest and downtime. :-)

Luckily I was able to get both little ones down for a nap, or so I thought, which meant I actually got the next hour free.

During this time I could have defaulted to my usual method of passing time while feeding the baby to get him ready to put down: a game app called blendDoku (which since I like math games and puzzles, is a great puzzle based game to learn Colors and color theory, btw). It's just the way I waste time when my mind doesn't want to think on the realities of life. :-) But it's not really wasting time since I'm learning color theory as a side-effect, right?

AnyWho… I decided that my mind didn't know what to do and it just wanted to waste time; but seeing as it was Sunday and I didn't make it to church, I thought there may be a better way to spend my time and brainpower (Which I didn't really think I had at that time.)

So, I just went to my note app and decided to open a new note and to think about something family related or Christ centered. I really didn't have any desire to do anything else… So I thought a blank page might allow for some direction to find me, since I could find little direction myself. This was a great chance to get stuff out of my head… Because I could tell there was so much in it (hence my desire to escape reality through playing my game).

The result… I ended up writing some notes about what my family has been doing recently, and stumbled upon a drawing feature in the note app. So cool. I love doodling with my notes. Notes would be very boring for me if I couldn't doodle. :)

After doing this, I opened a new note and just started doodling something, and this doodle turned into something really cool that I had kind of been thinking about over the last year or two and developing. And it related to spiritual armor as talked about in  Scripture.

By the end of the doodle, I felt uplifted and that my mind had become more spiritually aligned and in tune to focus on things of the spirit and things of truth. And that's what my mind needed.

This was true refreshment which brings joy. The game was merely a staller to satisfy an immediate feeling. But given time and A desire for something better, I was able to find that bit of refreshment that only comes from God and his sources here on earth such as scripture and things of the spirit and charity and love.

I invite you to ponder on the next time you want to do something that has no meaningful purpose, and just ask yourself what your desire is. We don't have to know the answers, we just have to ask a question and allow time and space for direction and higher thoughts to intervene without other distractions getting in our way.

Now don't get me wrong, games are great. So don't go get rid of all your games or anything. Or I might just call you a fool--although some are better than others.  Haha. If I had no games in my life, I would be one boring mama. Remember, This is just a parable.

And by the way, after I had this uplifting experience I was able to take a shower and ponder on it more, in which I became aware of the parable of this situation I am. And then I also had time to write this post, which if no one else is able to enjoy, at least I am able to read and enjoy some time later in my life hopefully.

Blah blah blah…
Moral of the story: It was a good Sunday morning, but it's because I remembered it was Sunday, and the purpose of A "sabbath."

Little choices can have a big impact.

November 29, 2016

Motherhood Parables: The lullaby

As my children get older, with each new child I find myself humming more for their bedtime lullabies ( as opposed to singing).  I don't know, maybe I find after yelling so much it's quieter using no words. :-)  haha.  But no, really, I find the quiet tones and notes peaceful and calming and less noisy and distracting (to a baby who can't yet understand the words) than the words i used to sing.

One song I've always sung for my kids is "I am a child of God."

With Ethan I would sing it to him every night before he went to bed, so he knew that it was bedtime and he felt comforted.

With Nellie I was hit-and-miss.

With Leya… I only did it if I remembered which was very seldom.

And now with Asher… I'm still hit and miss, but more recently I've been trying to remember to do it each night, like long ago. However with him, as I mentioned earlier, I enjoy just humming the tune.

As Asher gets older and attends nursery, I iMagine then I'll start singing the words. And by that time (2 years) the song will be very meaningful to him because The tune alone will bring him comfort, but the newly added words will bring an added depth that carries above and beyond the familiar tune.

As I was pondering on this process, it made me think about certain experiences that I've had where it was a new experience and there was a lot of noise and fun things to smell and taste and see and hear…. Those experiences can be super fun and exciting. And yet huge experiences can overwhelm the senses and leave us without A real depth of experience.

Real rewarding experiences I've had recently are based in tradition or in simple experiences that are not too overwhelming for all the senses---those experiences in which I am able to just use one sense (like my ears to deeply listen and listen some more).

The more we are familiar with certain experiences, routines, processes, the more we are able to single out new observations. Sensory overload can be entertaining, and provide a more full experience, But there can be little depth in such an experience, unless senses are used to pull out observations. And that requires one single focus at a time.

Both types of experiences have merit, however a key is to making sure that there arent just "entertainment experiences." And especially for learning's sake...that there are slower type experiences that are more meditative and bring deep awareness from focused observation and thought.
(Sidenote: This is also a principle of the number two: Active versus passive, or outer versus inner, high energy versus low energy, Yang versus yin, etc.)

Motherhood Parables: Playing Set

I was reminded that the game called Set is simply awesome. I grew up loving that game. I love patterns and used to find it fun racing myself to see how quickly I could notice patterns. And I love that the game is super simple.

I've noticed that my son is pretty good with patterns too. And recently I pulled out our game called set and left it in the Homeschool pantry to see when he would notice it. He just found it today and asked to play it, though he was clueless as to what the game is about. So I pulled it out to play with him and my four-year-old (who just stared… and had fun refilling the blank spots from the cards we picked up ). She's too young. But as I was attempting to explain how to play to him, I realized I didn't quite know what the rules were for the game. I wasn't exactly sure what made the pattern and what didn't. I couldn't articulate it with words… But I knew visually.

I've always been a visual learner and catch on to things very quickly if I can see them, though my verbal explanation ability is normally more slowly developed. As my husband can attest to. :) in fact I actually grew up not only hating writing… But fearing it. I couldn't express myself with words for fear that I didn't grammatically know how to put it on paper. That's another whole story.

So anyway...instead of trying to explain the game to my son and teach him through words right away, i just started playing by myself with him as the observer. I would find a set and move those cards to him where he could see it. Then I would find another set and move that to him too. I kept doing this for a while until he said he thought he saw a set and try to guess.

I don't remember if he actually found a correct set or not… But I used this moment as a time to instruct and help him identify what did or didn't make a set. By the time I was done helping him understand why his sets he found did or didn't work… I was realizing again the rules/what the pattern is to what makes a set.

 I remember hearing about s good math teacher who taught high school students. His philosophy was to get the kids playing math-based games and then they would enjoy math and teach themselves in part. And he was correct. Even his struggling students started excelling in math.  Math became real to them and they could understand principles of math more intuitively through play, rather than merely his instruction.  Then they were motivated to listen and learn the verbal reasons why the principles they they'd seen through their experiences worked/how to apply them in other situations.

So...This experience playing Set with my son was fun for a few reasons: first off I realized again that experience is often a better teacher than verbal words and set lectures. Not always, but at least for me and other visual learners or tactile learners etc., this is generally the case.

Second, I was reminded that we most often learn the most as we teach other people… But generally that means when our approach employs the use of asking questions to help the learner identify for themselves patterns and principles.

Questions can be powerful both for the teacher and the learner to develop an eye for observation and of mind to wisely apply new found discoveries and knowledge.

It was fun reminding myself, or relearning, what the rules to the game are by helping my son play and asking questions so that he could allow his own eyes to be opened.

Motherhood Parables: The Holiday Bookshelf

Holiday bookshelf parable

As we were decorating for the holidays this year (after Thanksgiving was all done and  we said goodbye to that holiday), We commenced in pulling out the same boxes we always pull out: a box of nativity stuff, a box of tree decorations and other stockings and decor, and our holiday book box.

I can't exactly remember what I did with last year's books on the shelf where I put out the holiday books… But I vaguely remember just adding the holiday books to all the current stuff we had in our living room. But this year that just felt cluttered. So once I got all my holiday books out of the box and it was empty… I filled it with the books from my living room that are normally on the shelf.

There were more books that I took off the shelf then there were that I pulled out of the holiday book box. So the book box was now overflowing. I took the book box down to the basement and put it back with all the books we normally keep out all year. And then I began arranging the 10 or so Christmas books for us older folk on our shelf in the living room where it's nice and peaceful. These books are for decoration, reminders to read, and serve as a good reminder to focus on the real meaning of Christmas. And there set beside these books was a nice little Jerusalem wooden nativity from my parents.

I also put up the 10 or so children's Christmas books on another shelf that was previously occupied by other things. These aren't general Christmas books… But books that are both fun and serve as reminders of the real reason of the holiday. Some other types are thrown in just for fun, but we try to limit the frivolous books.

But What was different this year was that I had to clear the clutter that we normally have during the year in order to put up these books. And I didn't just move the clutter to another place, but I packed it away and thought "we can get by a whole month without these."

And I've come to realize that my bookshelf was a parable for where my focus was… Is for Christmas. I don't want to read and have my mind cluttered by other subjects and topics. My literal surroundings became more simple and focused...and also my mind became more so. 

Our surroundings and how we arrange ourselves literally can reflect where our focus is. As we simplify and clear literal clutter, we can better find peace because there is less distraction for our minds and hearts.

Side note:
For December We don't do any real homeschool curriculums or typical stuff in the same manner. We leave December open with some general ideas… But we focus more on an advent of sorts, where each week we focus on a different aspect of Christ or Christmas related theme.  we don't have any set assignments or outlines of what we have to do, Just fun ideas of games and songs and art type things--which begin to look more like knitting and winter type crafts or ornament making and paper snowflakes/decorating. And our stories are normally about wintertime or Christ or service.

December can be clutter free and feel more refreshing and a great time to focus on the family and doing things together with love... Not to mention Christmas carols and songs played all day every day. And this break makes the kids more excited come January to restart our homeschooling effort to once again.

Clear the clutter… Even if it's just for one month.

November 21, 2016

motherhood Parable: The Snowflake Experience--Tradition

Motherhood parable: the snowflake Tradition

Today we cut paper snowflakes to decorate our windows with. This is a yearly tradition we do every winter, as many others do as well.

As we were cutting white paper I was trying to instruct both my four-year-old and my six-year-old how to do this. For my six-year-old it was a reminder from last year. But my four-year-old… This was her first experience doing it by herself.

No there are many variations of snowflakes and how to cut them even how to fold them. Do you want a six sided snowflake? An eight sided snowflake? Etc. We start out with the eight sided because it is easiest to fold in half then in half then in half again. But for my six-year-old I was showing him a new level how to fold in thirds which would make sixes. It was a little bit more difficult, But he was ready for this next level.

For my four-year-old I had to prep her snowflake and actually help her fold half and half and half again. And I showed her how to cut a circle or square or triangle out of each side. And we stopped with that.

For my six-year-old I told him to cut a snake and one side and I showed him how you can cut something that weeds from one side through the middle and opens up huge and goes back skinny again to the side. So I was helping him see how to fill the space better. I also was helping him cut from the top edge more so that the snowflake edges would not be flat like typical hexagons or octagons.

For myself I was folding my six or eight again so that it would be more 12 or 16 sided. The complexity for mine was definitely a lot more compared to my four and six-year-old. I would include very similar Lee shaped variations on my snowflake to bring about a pattern that was very well ordered and coordinated. Because I can be anal like that sometimes. I love seeing the patterns and order in a well coordinated snowflake. :-)

But the random ones are just as great. And we could see that from my four-year-olds for sure… As well as my six-year-old.

As I thought about the snowflakes I realize that our kids learn a lot from us, but it's best to start with simplicity. Then build layer upon layer over time. This allows us to focus on teaching our children solid foundational principles that matter most...over and over again.

But what principles do you want our children to get deeply embedded into their soul more than anything else? That is a question that each of us has to ask ourselves.

I found that love is the key behind all things. And I wish I would teach more for love and with love. I fall short much in this regard… But I am trying. And this parable helps me realize once again that love is a foundational principle.

Two other principles that I have found over and over in my life are both hope and faith.
Hope is based in knowledge--it's based in truth. When we have hope it's because we have learned something that might be true or we have seen an example or caught a glimpse of something we want to receive or we want to work towards. Hope is positive. It is looking towards the future and potential. Stirs up our desire and motivations. Then our faith is that fuel and energy to act on such hope.

If we are doing something… we are showing faith. Even if that doing something is choosing to be still and take time with our children. Or too quiet our minds and meditate. That is still action among stillness. It is the purposefulness through which we make our choices that we show our faith.

So those are three principles which like the Scripture says in the book of Mormon faith hope and charity bring us into me the fountain of all righteousness. This is true. If we are having hope and acting and hope out of love and pure motivation… We are reaching our potential and coming closer to Christ.

So… Back to the snowflakes.
I love establishing traditions, because traditions are things that are comforting, that bring great memories, and that establish deep patterns and embed richness into our lives.

Our snowflake tradition is great because it provides a similar experience over and over again, but we are able to further deepen our understanding with each renewal of the tradition.
not only can we make a paper snowflake out of white paper, but we can change the color paper, we can change the results and color the snowflakes at the end. We can use different materials like cloth and wax paper. We can change the theme of the snowflake and try to create a shape snowflake, or a triangle snowflake, or a squiggly snowflake, or even try to make pictures out of it. I saw a YouTube channel just for Star Wars shaped snowflakes. Woah! Deep experiences like this allow our children to Gain new perspectives. It teaches mastery. It shows children the process by which to think through things differently each time. It is mind opening with each renewed experience. It allows them to see strengths and weaknesses of different approaches each time. It's a deeper, more holistic experience.

"Snowflake experiences" can change the way in which our children see the world, and see themselves in the world. "Snowflake experiences" and traditions are important--they are foundational to family and to our journey of learning and living.

What are your traditions?
What does your family love doing together?
Enjoy them, and you can build and strengthen your families' foundations in many rich Ways

November 19, 2016

Motherhood Parable: Parable of the Cold Hands

I was just standing in the kitchen, enjoying my patch of sunshine that shined through my back window and warmed my toes. When I heard a faint "knock, knock" coming from my back door. I don't mean the sound of knocking...I mean the literal words! My little almost-two-this-month year old was standing at the back door, shoeless, in a shirt and pants only. She looked at me with her big beautiful eyes and smiled, while her hands hung red and limp from holding cold snow.

Ahhh..childhood. To enjoy being cold and wet--at least at first. Luckily she hadn't hit that climactic tipping point when cold and wet soon becomes more overwhelming and uncomfortable than the joys of the moment. So...I opened the door and let her into the warm kitchen, quickly looking outside at the snowy hill that butts up against our backyard and just as quickly closing the door to keep the cold out.

My little Leya held up her hands and said "cold hands." Still smiling, with the full expectation that I'd hold them in mine and blow my warm breath into our cupped hands. So cute.

So I did blow. But I didn't stop there.
I remembered what my elementary school teachers always said to us in the cold Alaska winters, when we came in from recess, shaking and cold, "If you're cold, put your hand under your armpit. It's the warmest place on your body." That always stuck with me.

So I lifted her cold little hand up to her armpit and put her other arm down tight over it.
She winced at the coldness, but then smiled.
I smiled. Then did it with her other hand as well.
She smiled again (no wincing this time), and gave a little child-like chuckle. Her big blue eyes still beaming with curiosity, innocence and light from the winter sun through our window. So cute. And yet there's more to learn from this little experience...

Hence...this is why I'm writing this post.

And even now she comes to me again with cold hands, expecting a warm-breath.
Warm breaths are so comforting and warming. The feel great. But...at what point is she ready for more?
She knew mama had the answer and gave warm breaths. And she even tried to use her own breaths, which were still cold and weak and with un-cupped hands. She still had much to learn.

But this last time she now learned the warmth of her own body and armpit. She learned another way to warm up her hands. She was empowered with knowledge. Granted...she had no initial intention of purposely putting her own hand under her armpit to warm herself because she also knew the initial coldness and uncomfort she first felt, with hesitation, when I tried to put her hand up there.

But now she was more open to putting her hand under her armpit to warm it up.
And I even went ahead and showed her how to rub her hands on pants to warm them up with friction.

Now she wasn't just a cute little helpless girl needing mama. She was still cute, but now empowered. Empowered with knowledge of how. But empowered also with experience too. Knowledge plus application.

What? There are degrees of empowerment? Come again?
A resounding yes!!!

She was also empowered with more knowledge, through alternative ways to warming herself (more perspectives), and having now various experiences (that were still similar experiences).
She was gaining depth.

What do we look for in our learning and teaching? Do we scour the buffet and taste everything, merely to leave without a favorite to delve into and find comfort in? Or do we dive deeply into one delectable dish, ignoring all the other possibilities? It's a fine balance, but one key is to find both depth and breadth.

The other key, which is why I started writing this post, is learn and teach for empowerment.

When seeking an answer to a question or problem in life, what do we (or our kids) look for?
A quick warm-breath solution, so we can go out and play?
Or perhaps a life-changing, but empowering experience that enables us to be more independent and stronger in our minds and abilities.

Again...my post runs long, and now my kids have noticed I am missing...
Alas, I must end.

Happy discovering and experiencing. May you find and give empowerment to all, especially those you truly love!