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 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 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. 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 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 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. 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. 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!

November 12, 2016

Motherhood parables: Parable of the Peanut

I was sitting outside eating peanuts (with shells) with my son yesterday. He was trying to crack them. I asked him where the seam of the peanut was and he seemed confused. so I pointed to his pants and showed him where the seam was. I asked if it would be easier to pull apart his pants in the middle of the fabric or where the seam was--where two pieces attach together. He said at the seam. So I said it was the same with the peanut.

I then went on to explain that where things are divided, that is where potential weakness lay.

I then remembered plastic cups that we can hang on our fridge. They are plastic cups, but the part that hangs is a circle--the bottom half of which is plastic, the top half of which is some type of rubber compound. The rubber on all four of our cups have broken off from a plastic,  so that now we cannot hang these cups. All of them broke in the same spot… The same weakness (which happened to be the seam where plastic met the rubber.)

Three examples: a true principle.

This is a characteristic/principle of the number two. Two can mean opposite, differences… But it can also mean connection and partnership. Think of a marriage relationship between a husband and a woman. Both are opposite and different, yet there is potential for both partnership and division.

Weakness, is not inherently bad. It helps to be aware of the principle of number two being that within partnership there is also a potential weakness for division.

I've always loved the scripture ether 12:27, which states that God gives us weaknesses and if we have faith he will make them strong for us.

Do not condemn yourself because of weaknesses. Rather seek heavenly fathers hope and truth that he gives to humble and willing seekers. He will turn weaknesses into strengths. But that can only happen if we are first aware of our weaknesses and have faith to face order that we might find greater partnership, and thus greater wholeness.

September 29, 2016

Motherhood parables: observing the leaf

 How many of us say we are not artists?
 How many feel they grew up without artistic experience opportunities?

 My daughter came to me  with a leaf that was heart-shaped. "Look mom a heart-shaped leaf!"
 Then my son asked what type of plant  it was.  It was some type of a tree but I couldn't tell  which, all I knew was that we have aspen trees in the front and side yard. So I said maybe it's an aspen and told them to go get a leaf from our aspen tree so we could compare.

 Upon comparison we realized the shapes were somewhat similar, but one was a heart and the other somewhat heart shaped but not completely. We also noticed the same green and yellow colors in the leave, yet the veins of one leaf  were dark, while light on the other; and the parts that were yellow on one leaf were reversed on the other. We also noticed the textures of the leaves were completely different: one felt more like paper bordering on plastic, while the other one felt very soft (more like cloth). Then there was the outline of the leaf which matched each other...slightly rounded yet tiny jaggidies.  (Definitely not the technical terms. ). 😜 Were they different stages of the same tree or different leaves altogether? Observations which led to interesting new questions.

 So where my going with all this?

 As I sat pondering upon these two seemingly different leaves, I wondered about the art of observation. 

This is something I've been thinking a lot about the last two years as I've explored my more artistic side and try to get more in touch with  observing things around me.

 I'm sharing this because I feel if one knows the elements of art one knows the elements of observation; and to improve upon one is to improve upon the other. So if you do not feel like an artist ask yourself this question: how good am I at observing my world? Do I slow down and take time to be fully aware of the world around me?

 Sometimes life can go really fast or get really busy that we don't take time to stop and ponder and ask questions. Or sometimes we don't know what questions to ask. I think this was my problem growing up – – I just didn't know what questions to ask.

 I grew up in Alaska, surrounded by nature. And I love being in nature, but I never felt like I could fully appreciate nature… Like I could absorb it and it could become a part of me. It was always something I enjoy being out in, but couldn't feel completely satisfied that I was taking it all in as much as I wished. I needed both the right questions to ask and also time in nature with those questions. Curiosity is a powerful thing especially when empowered and equipped with the right questions or focus.

 So enough of my rambling… And back to art or the art of observation.

There are basic art elements and terms that all artists get familiar with in order to observe and create art. I never remember learning these terms specifically, though bits of them are familiar and basic enough to  all of us to understand.   The key is simplifying all these lists of art elements people throw at you into one simple breakdown  that is easy to remember and makes sense to your average person.  So here's my simple breakdown of the six or so basic art elements...summarized/grouped as just a few:

  • line, shape, form:  though typically separated as three elements, I see these as one element to be aware of, and the transformations of such . Simply put a line can transform into an outline or shape, which can then transform into a form which is The three-dimensional shape. So when you are observing something....
  1. First look for its lines what lines do you see?
  2. Then what  takes shape and outlines?
  3. Then how did the shapes and lines create a three-dimensional form? 
  • Light, color (hue), quality (value--along black and white scale--& intensity--brightness) :   Light is black and white, but light is broken down into color (aka hues), then the quality of the color can be analyzed. So when you look at something ask the following types of questions: 
  1. Where is the light?  From what source?
  2. What color appears from this light?
  3. What is the quality of the color:  is it pure or has its value been tainted by black (shades) or white (tints)?  What is its intensity: bright or dull (does it reflect or absorb light)?
  • Texture:  the physical feeling of an object. how does  an object physically  feel or appear to feel?   is it flat or bumpy? Small or large? Dainty or chunky? Soft or hard? 
  • Space:  The physical area or location of the object and it's relation to its surroundings

So next time you find yourself going too fast...slow down and look at something. Ask yourself some of these questions. And if you need help, try carrying a sketchbook around and starting just noticing basic lines and shapes. Or start paying more attention to sunsets and the autumn changing leaf colors... what colors do you see? And do you notice how they change along the color rainbow/spectrum.

September 28, 2016

Seven Habits for Kids: Leader in Me Family Focus

We like the seven Habits in our family.
I first started to enjoy them as a freshman in college after taking a time management and Foundations of LEadership course. Then I tried reading Seven Habits of Highly Effective People--and boy was that dry! So instead I read Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens...and JACKPOT--we had a winner! I really got that book and understood the power of each principle. Throughout my years I've seen the timelessness of these great principles in simply understanding how to live a balanced life and to think about others. Once these simple seven habits are ingrained in you, you can't help but notice these principles all around.

I know it's the same for "the Golden Rule" and other habits, but I like that this sequence of seven habits is actually a sequence and is so universal in it's application.

Well, they have a youth Leadership emphasis on these Seven Habits that they roll-out in elementary schools throughout the world, called The Leader in Me. And I was so excited about it that I decided we'd roll it out in our family (and hopefully co-ops we are involved in too--as a slow/monthly focus).

Here are some of the elements we used, followed by the weekly focus.
Each Habit has a story/character that goes along with it. These books may be at your local library.
(there is also a game too if you really want to get into it). (The stories are short and not super amazing, but a good jump off point for parental discussion with ideas of how to talk about it too, if you'd like.)

Here's how our 8-week Family Focus worked out... 
We used our Monday evenings to spend 15 minutes each week on one habit. We picked two primary children's Songs to open and close the whole evening's activity with, that aligned with that week's habit.

We started the main lesson out by singing the Leader in Me Song and introducing the new weeks topic (review the last week's one). We did this by using a Big Family Habit Tree Poster we created together each week, by adding on the new habit each time.

This is what the official one looked like. But we drew our own and drew simple symbols of  Nephi's stories along with the habits so they could tie the two together.
Each week we chose a story about Nephi that emphasized that week's habit focus. Then we chose a simple activity or had them re-enact the story so they could more easily remember that story with that habit.
Use these bullet points as you explain the weekly/monthly habit focus, to point out the different aspects of the principle, as mentioned in this great sumamry list.
 Ex: Nephi was proactive when he made his own bow because he...a) took initiative, b) was responsible since he was a good hunter and people trusted his he made the bow, c)  chose to seek the Lord's help through prayer and didn't blame others, etc.
At the end of the lesson/activity we had them each fill in their own Leader in Me Mini-Book that they used each page for a habit that they'd write/cut-and-paste the habit/title on...with room to draw what they wanted about the Nephi story that went along that week. (there are 8 one could have the tree on it also. This diagram shows you how).
Image result for minibook

Then during the week we'd try to have books on hand that we knew emphasized those principles, like the two stories from the Seven Habits from Kids Story Book Series/Collections. Or other childrens' Books we knew that went along. These would be great bedtime books, and I've listed some below with each habit.
So here's the at-a-glance version of what we did...

Week/Habit 1: Be Proactive

  • Leader in Me Song (introduce this youtube video--words and actions--lyrics posted at bottom of this post)

  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "Just the Way I Am", or "Bored, Bored, Bored"
  • Other Books: The Little Engine that Could, A Fly Goes By, Horton Hears a Who, etc.
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: Story of the Bow and making his own, then prayer to know where to get food (so we had them make bows and act out the story)
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: Nephi's Courage (p.120), Faith (p.96)

Week/Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "When I Grow Up" or "Goob and the Bug-collecting Kit"
  • Other Books: Ant and the Grasshopper Fable, The Very Busy Spider (Eric Carle)
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: Knew he had to get to the Promise land...needed a plan to get there (followed God's plan/instructions/liahona. So we drew a map and had kids try to follow the map around the house to get to the "promise land"). 
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: I Will Follow God's Plan (p.164), I Lived in Heaven (p.4)

Week/Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "A Place for Everything" or "Pokey and the Spelling Test"
  • Other Stories: The Little Red Hen
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: We talked about Lehi's family having to leave the promise land and prioritizing what they needed, so they wouldnt take too much. A great activity would be to practice what to pack for camping or making 72-hr kits. OR doing the rocks in the jar activity (have them try to get everything in a jar, and then try again in the proper order: big rocks, medium rocks, sand, and then water--make sure you've done it first to make the quantity is right). Then point out after FHE when you have treats that you had to do the lesson first and the treat is the ultimate reward.
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: Faith (p.96), Nephi's Courage (p.120)

Week/Habit 4: Think Win-Win
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "Sammy and the Pecan Pie" or "Lily Plants a Garden
  • Other Stories: Have You Filled a Bucket?, Rainbow Fish
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: We talked about Nephi and his brothers trying to trade their treasures for the brass plates...a win-win idea (though Laban was selfish and didnt accept that alternative). Then we played hot potato with a beanbag singing "Happy Family" (I help you and you help me...). whoever it landed on by the end of the song gets to toss the beanbag into the bucket (reminding of the fill-their bucket=fill-your-bucket book's principle)
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: We're All Together Again (p259), Here We Are Together (p261), We Are a Happy Family--or Any Family song

Week/Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "Lily and the Yucky Cookies" or "Jumper and the Lost Butterfly Net"
  • Other Stories: Blind Men and the Elephant, And to Think That I Thought We'd Never Be Friends, Little Miss, Big Sis., Runaway Bunny
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: Ethan mentioned the opposite of this principle, so we went with it--Laman and Lemuel hitting Nephi with sticks, and the angel appearing. That wa a good chance to discuss bully behavior being not taking time to understand each other. So we also decided to re-enact some common happenings at our house, using stuffed animals, so we could stop and ask questions about how to stop and think about why meaness was happening to siblings sometimes.
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: Kindness Begins with Me (p145), I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus (p78)

Week/Habit 6: Synergize
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "Sophie and the Perfect Poem" or " The Big Bad Badgers"
  • Other Stories: Blind Men and the Elephant, Little Swimmy
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: We talked about Nephi on the boat and how Laman and Lemuel tied Nephi up and the storm came and they were driven back; but, if they were to all work together and trust the Lord then that wouldn't have happened and they wouldve made their way to the Promised Land sooner.  For the activity I drew a simple black and white outline picture of our family holding hands in a circle, and cut it into puzzle pieces. The I gave everyone some and told them to make their puzzle by themselves. No one could finish their puzzle until they worked together to create the final picture. Then we taped it on construction paper and colored it all together.
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: Here We Are Together (p261), We Are a Happy Family

Week/Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "Goob and His Grandpa" or "Sleepy Sophie"
  • Other Stories: Snowy Day, or personal journals?
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: We discussed Nephi taking time to ponder on the things his Father saw and delighting in the scriptures. We asked what everyone delighted in doing and did one of them--something we don't normally do together as a family. Nellie wanted to paint, so we did. OR you could write a family journal entry or put on some nice music and have everyone journal something.
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: For HEalth and Strength (p21), Smiles (p267), Fun to Do (p253), Thankful to be Me (p11), 

Week 8: Review & Celebrate!!!
  • Leader in Me Song

Leader in Me Lyrics
We are the future leaders—
   That’s what they say.
But if we wait until the future—
   We’ll be too late.
So we won’t wait until tomorrow—
   Our time is now.
And with these seven habits
   We’ll show you how:

You gotta Be Proactive.
Begin with the end in mind.
Put first things first.
Think Win-win, all the time.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Synergize with eachother—together is better.
You gotta Sharpen the saw
   So I can see, the best I can be….

There’s a Leader in me--
   There’s a Leader in Me-eee.
I can lead myself,
I can lead my friends;
I can do anything!

There’s a Leader in Me.
   There’s a Leader in Me-ee.
The seven Habits help me to see—
  There’s  Leader in me,
  A Leader in me-eeeeee.

Christlike Attribute Cards

It's great to focus on helping kids learn good values...but which ones? 

Sometimes it can seem overwhelming with the list of values: hard worker, responsible, etc. But what about being gentle and kind and others? There are tons! 

So it has been a goal of mine to gather and organize "good values" into the Christlike Attributes. Preach My Gospel, the missionary manual, lists nine main attributes. Using those definitions and content as a base, and adding gratitude and prayer as attributes also, I've created some basic cards to check how I'm doing in each area.

My next goal is to break them down into Child-friendly versions. (since these are all-inclusive and would be overwhelming to kids)
Then I hope to make value cards to go along with it. I've got a lot made, but haven't finalized exactly which values to include. So I've got a few in each attribute started, to give you a glimpse.

(If anyone wants to help me finish..I need mental brain power to aid in my thinking and to edit what I've got into something more complete and finished.  See the end for the list of values to organize into the attributes)