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!

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 them...in 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 skills....so 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 pages...so 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.
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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



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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)














April 22, 2016

Celebrate Earth Day: Simple Ideas

Every Year on Earth Day we make it a point to do something to remember and appreciate how awesome the Earth is. Here are some simple (and more complex) ways to remember Earth.

Get a Plant

  • Get a free tree or plant from a local nursery (normally the trees they give away will grow huge, so you will eventually have to replant. But If you get one each year...eventually you could ideally always have a Christmas tree to cut. right? :p)
  • Plant a seed for a simple flower. Some have those fun grow boxes with glass on one side so you can watch it grow.
  • Buy an herb.  (like basil for homemade pesto or aloe for sunburns, etc.)
  • Start a garden. Just have a little or large plot and buy a few starts if you don't want to plant your own seeds.
Get Outside

  • Go for a walk. That's easy.
  • Enjoy a bike ride close or to a park for a full morning event.
  • Find a local hike or local bird preserve or pond to walk along
  • Go visit a farm or similar venue
Do Nature Art
  • Collect nature and make random nature art on paper or as stamps or rubbings (or try to make fairies out of it on paper using leaves and such)
  • tie sticks together to make a square loom and weave long grasses/leaves through it. IT can be a tidy and nice one or just random chunks of nature
  • Or find a branch and do some yarn weaving
  • use a circular saw and cut through some branches. Drill a hole and thread them on some yarn...wood beads work too. Bigger slices are great for a basic wood fairy house.
  • collect some brown paper bags and color on them things you like about earth, or nice quotes for reminders to others. Drop them back off to the store for them to use to give groceries. (Grocery stores are normally more than happy to give you some if they will get them back and make customers happy. Write names and double check art appropriateness if you do in a large group. I'd suggest 5+ age group)
  • coloring pages about animals, earth, gardens, etc. (or do a nature journal entry)
Story Time Ideas
  • read Earth Tales (Barefoot Books has a good one)
  • Stories of famous animals
  • REad animal Fables--Aesop
  • Read and sing about farms or gardens
  • some popular kids books: The Lorax (Dr. Seuss), Hungry Caterpillar (Carle), 
  • Music: Carnival of the Animals or PEter and the Wolf songs/story
Movie Ideas
  • Dr. Seuss's "The Lorax"
  • Earth, by National Geographic (or other animal or earth or science videos; youtube or netflix)
  • Ferngully....haha
  • Disney Movies: LionKing, Jungle Book, Pocahontas, Tarzan, etc.


Other Bigger Event Ideas/Workshops: (some are just simple ideas opened up to a larger audience)
  • A Beautiful You - Talking about Natural Hygiene and homemade products
  • Suburban Homesteading - bees and chickens 101, squarefoot gardening or small scale permaculture, Food Storage 101
  • School Day - Do an Earth Tale story and yoga animals to go along. Discussion and brown paper bag art project for grocery stores
  • Community Clean-up Day - perfect for a neighborhood cleanup effort to pick up trash and keep the area clean

March 23, 2016

Motherhood Parables: The Surprise Cookie Rescue

So I'm sure many are familiar with the pre-dinner breakdowns. When everyone is tired and hungry from the long day and mom doesn't want anyone touching the food or sneaking the snacks in the pantry because dinner is only 20 minutes away! And you feel you head is stretched five ways between the boiling pot of rice and the baby toddling into all sorts of trouble and the older kids saying their going to die of starvation!

In crises like these I sometimes feel that only a husband home early from work can magically restore the peace (and my sanity).

And yet there is hope! Surprise!

Yesterday I saw a facebook notification that the neighbor kids on the corner had a little cookie stand outside their house to raise money for some nice charitable cause---heart association or something. Anyway...happy to support a good cause and to have an excuse to get the "crazies" out of the house (yes...all of us) and go for a walk, we ventured out.

Dinner was practically done and we just needed to wait five more minutes. But I turned off the stove and thought the vegetables would finish steam cooking just fine without heat. And I shouted (with all that pent up frustration from minutes before), "Time for a surprise!"

Well if that didn't get attention...! It did. I told my kids it was time to get on our shoes and go find a surprise at the corner. They anticipation and excitement was explosive. Ethan's running to get his shoes...giggling from the joy of a surprise. I'm feeling an intense pre-breath-of-fresh-air-coming feeling. Nellies just happy beacuse ethans happy and her little head is imagining candy and princess and dancing and whatever. And baby likes shoes...so she's happy to put them on and be with everyone.

Everyone is happy.
And we finally get to the corner and yay, the kids say "cookies!" and we eat. I talk to a neighbor. And breathe. And the walk does us all a little good. We hold hands. We are happy.

Wow. By the time we got home I told my husband, now home...I need more surprises in my life! I was rescued by surprise cookies.

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And so it is. Sometimes I need rescuing from my tense moments where I feel I have no pressure valve or guage beyond my own limits and control. And when I don't feel in control, it sure would be nice to have someone hit a big red button and yell "surprise" and change the mood.

So, I'm making a big red button. IT will be in our great room. And I will push the surprise button and yell "surprise" anmd I will change my negative, tense mood and situation to something to celebrate. Yes...that means being blind to what the surprise is. That button will be my invitiation to be spontaneous and make something up off-the-cuff.

I think I will enjoy the mind break and live more creatively and joyfully. We will find something to celebrate.

p.s. March 26 is "Make Up Your Own Holiday" Day. So go ahead and try it saturday, whether or not you feel sane. It'll be good practice.

And breathe...life should be fun.

The End.

The Power of Not Knowing

Can we get too smart?
Is there power in not knowing?

Liz Wiseman gave a great speech at BYU recently and talking about the power of not knowing.
Here is her speech, and my notes from it...




How do you lead? Are you a multiplier or a diminisher? Many leaders think they are great leaders, because they are good people with good intentions. But surprisingly many good leaders are blind in certain areas, especially by their knowledge, and the way they lead may actually diminish people in order to get a specific outcome of focus. So a good leader is aware of their strengths and weaknesses and pays attention to their intentions as well as the response of those they lead.

She sited the example of Magic Johnson, whose real name was Irving. He took a shot every time he had a ball, when he was younger. And he won great things for his team. But his success and talent was solo and based in ego and actually diminished others in that they didn't receive opportunities or get a chance to feel greater contribution and self-growth. So he made the choice to help every member of the team contribute. He helped build confidence in others...and got the nickname "magic" because he created an atmosphere that helped raise the level of happiness and excellence for the team.

So here is the chart distinguishing the difference between diminishers and multipliers...







Rookie Smarts...
She explains that those who are rookies at something actually can outperform others in innovation work because they ask better questions and don't assume to know everything. They also better gather and connect pieces others are aware of, due to passion for the challenge. So often we are at the best, when we know the very least.

When we step out of a place of knowing into a place of not knowing...we actually can better see God's hand and see light and personal direction more clearly. It is scary, but so invigorating at the same time. The fire of faith can burn more brightly. Faith is power. And it takes faith to step into the unknown and abandon old habits, practices, plateaus, etc. We don't see clearly until we unite our knowledge and our faith. The state of not knowing can be a path to better know God. We are so often at our best when we don't know because we better rely on God's knowledge to lead and guide us to our optimal happiness and satisfaction in life.

4 Ways to Live Powerfully in the Realm of Not Knowing
1. Ask Intelligent Questions. Start operating from a place of inquiry, rather than a place you feel you know everything about. Ask questions to drive recall of what others know...rather than making command and stifling knowledge-growth. Tell less, ask more.
2. Admit What You Don't Know. Holding back is a path of fear and also covers potential opportunities for growth, individually or as a team.
3. Throw Away Your Notes. If we really know something we won't need to have the notes. It's important to have fresh thinking, once you've gotten to a depth of knowledge in something.
4. Learn to See Genius in Others The top of the intelligence hierarchy is not the one with genius, but the one who is a genius-maker of others and helps others feel great and intelligent. Genius makers are the best learners and also perpetual rookies. And its the know-how they build, not the know-how they bring.

It's in seeking, not knowing, that we really find truth and discover God's true glory and intelligence. Seek wisdom  and intelligence--not knowledge in and of itself.

So what do you know?
Could you be in a plateau that is holding you back from reaching your potential?

And what is an area that you feel drawn to, but that you feel like a rookie in?
And is there an opportunity to take a challenge and more clearly see youth path and find God more deeply in your life and heart?

March 22, 2016

Motherhood Parables: The Highchair Stare

So I was feeding my little 16 month old last night and trying to figure out what in the heck she wanted.

You know those times you hear unintelligible noises coming from the corner of the kitchen and you think, "what? I'm sorry...Are you trying to ask for more food?" (while I'm cleaning the dishes and vaguely aware of your existence) :P

Sometimes it can get kind of annoying to figure out those cues from baby. But other times is so cute and can be viewed as a powerful, bonding experience.

So this time (thank goodness it was a good day and my patience-levels hadn't reached "burnout" yet), I enjoyed the chance to just slow down and stare at her. And she stared back---though she was not staring at me, but at one of the two things in my hand.

I had picked up water in one hand and a banana in the other.
She briefly glanced at the water, and then at the banana--at which she continued to stare.
I knew she wanted the banana.

How did I know? Well, that's what she was intently focused on. So...I gave her the banana. And a smile crossed her face. Obviously satisfied with both the object she received, and the acknowledgement on my part of her request--the smile of satisfaction from knowing she was heard and understood.

---
Ahh...to feel heard and understood--valued. And to really feel the deep satisfaction of receiving something you truly want or need.

I'm not talking about getting a birthday present from someone that means nothing and that you probably send to the thrift store. I'm talking about a more lasting satisfaction of a deeper yearning and need. The need to feel you are expressing the depth of what your heart feels and aches for (whether or not you fully are aware of that yourself). The need to feel you are of worth and your life is amazing, despite the temporary messy house and chaos that happens daily.

---
Wow...I could go on and on, but I think this is where this parable stops for today. But, to summarize two points:

  • Paying attention to where our focus is (or isn't) is a great clue to what we truly need or want. We may quickly glance from one thing to the next, but it is where our constant focus keeps pulling us back to that is a clue to where our attention really lies (for better or worse). And if for worse, we can change and dig deeper to find a greater, deeper need and desire.
  • Receiving what we truly, righteously desire is so soul-satisfying that it's satisfaction has a tremendous power to change both giver and receiver immensely (even immediately). And that power's sustaining effect can help us better deal with temporary chaos and open the door to new perspectives on our situations that allow greater relationships and awareness for things that really matter.
And really it all boils back to the atonement and our Divine NAture. We are divine being of great potential that gets hidden or bombarded in this life. We have it. Some know it, but others don't. As we seek to be our truest self and understand that divine potential, God opens doors and shows us who we are and how we can best be of use to our fellowman to fulfill their deep needs. And the end result is that our deepest need too are filled and we shine bright and are infused with Joy that lasts beyond the daily "vales of sorrow" we encounter in this life.


-------------- Two great C.S. Lewis Quotes---------------

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Weight of Glory