December 4, 2015

Christmas Celebrations: History of Santa--Saint Nick

Though there is much commercialism in Christmas, this doesn't have to be a battle of Santa vs. Christ. There is room enough for both. Let's find out...

So, Who is Santa?
Why does he get so much attention during a season in which we celebrate Christ?

Nicholas (later called Saint Nick) was born around 3AD around Greece and Turkey. He was a good man that dedicated his life to serving God and helping others. There are many stories about his life and what he did and you can read more viable sources than me, but it boils down to a few points:
 - he delivered bags of gold at night, unbeknownst, to a poor man house who needed money for his daughters' wedding dowry.
- he was said to protect children and help restore them to their families and wholeness (kidnaped, hurt, etc.)
- and more stories...for which he became a saint by the Catholic Church (and interestingly enough he was at the council of Nicea)
- Source:

So...knowing this, Santa is based on a historical example of CHRISTLIKE service. Santa is a type or symbol for Christ. If we teach our kids this, then both help reinforce the principles of service and giving. Christmas doesn't have to be only about toys and wants. We can create more meaning as we present information and traditions with purpose and good discussion--as we bridge the Santa-Christ-divide.

So...where to from here?
We celebrate St. Nick the first week of December. I normally do this by telling a simple story of St. Nick secretly delivering bags of gold. And we put out holiday slippers with a tangerine, whole nuts, german candies and a simple wood toy. It's nice because my kids can wear their slippers all month and remember st. Nicks service...their socks become a symbol. How much more meaningful is having a tradition and story behind they "stuff" kids get! Also, we put the whole nuts on the table and that is what we eat all month for snacks during the day. This is so fun for kids...easy way to pass the time, they don't just scarf down food, but slow down and have more conversation, and they try new nuts not usually in our home. The tangerine reminds them of the gold. And a simple toys because st. Nick gave. Typically in some European countries, kids put strW or carrots in their slippers before and then st. Nick trades it for the goodies. I like this because I try to teach my kids the reciprocal nature of giving and that we should always give back to those who gave to any form.

There are other things you can do, but go explore and find out what you'd like to try, that works for your family. And I suggest you just do those things you think would be fun and meaningful...otherwise things are more work than joy. And celebrations should be all fun and bring unity to all involved!
Then Christmas can more simple and focused on Christ because Santa has already had his focus. 

So...just to cap it off. December sixth is the official St. Nick's Day. It is the day he died. Fitting, right? If we celebrate a good man who showed us an example of trying to be CHRISTLIKE on the day he died, then we look forward the rest of the month to the life and birth of Christ. Death is but a new beginning this season!

Enjoy new beginnings!
Let's say "no" to the commercialism of Christmas and create meaningful events and traditions to more fully find joy, unity and peace this December--as we journey towards Christ and seek to give him true gifts this season.

September 21, 2015

Weaving leaves from the garden

We did some weaving today using the long leaves from our daylilies. 
Image result for daylilies
Ethan thought it was so cool that we used it for our little lunch/snack.

July 23, 2015

Christ-centered Meditation

Anyone think meditation is totally foreign and weird and wonder why we need it? Well, there is a good book that explains how many people value and participate in meditation already, without realizing it is meditation. Here's the book and my notes and thoughts...

CHRIST_CENTERED MEDITATION, by Pam BlackwellI love in this book that she talks about what meditation is...

  • Seeing God's Hand in all things: awareness of truth and goodness--of God
  • Being Present: fully aware ourselves, those around us and our surroundings and situations
  • Paying Attention/Focus: paying attention to the little things and having a love and respect for them
  • Observation: using our senses to the fullest and noticing the sound of a bird or bee
  • Gratitude: the result of seeing and acknowledging of God's miracles in everyday things
  • Stillness: seeing greatness in small and simple things
  • Scripture Study: coming unto Christ and his truths
  • Being "with" a person: fully being/talking with the person you are with
  • Purposeful: knowing the purpose and meaning behind things you do or stuff you have. living more deliberately and having priorities aligned.
And then there's what meditation is not...
  • Ignoring/Checked-out: tuning out to things or people
  • Irresponsibility: not being responsible for the effects of your actions
  • Ignorance: lack of noticing God's little miracles
  • Ingratitude: lack of appreciation and acknowledgement of God's hand
  • Rushing/panic: frantic accomplishments of tasks just to get things done, without enjoying the journey or noticing details

This graphic from the book isn't the greatest quality, but it compares the "levels" and chakras to physical structure of the temple and courts. Super interesting.

here is a graphic I made to represent part of her graphic, but compared to our physical body

The book suggests a 30-Day Meditation to Come Closer to Christ. (The is a book called "Becoming His" by Emily Freeman which kind of does her version of this) But I love the idea of just setting the intention to Come Unto Him and setting our own goal and timeframe. I think you can accomplish the same thing. But her "meditations" include a question, thought to ponder and a scripture. 

In a scripture study class in College we were told to get a journal and start each study session with a question and prayer and even song if we liked. And I did that every day of the semester and it was amazing how often times I would find either a direct answer, or at least further direction in my ponderings. Questions are powerful when accompanied by sincere desire to come closer to Him and His truths.

Taking time to more fully love and be with each other is a great "family meditation." She talks about two types of meditation: passive (stillness and letting thoughts go) and active (creating with your imagination). Here are some ideas for those two areas:
  • Passive--Breath counting together (we do this count to 8 before yoga sometimes)
  • Passive--Walking Meditation (think about your step as you lift foot, then as you move foot, then as you place foot, then as you press down. Break the process down and take sllllooooow steps around the yard together. Talk about what you noticed. This can be adapted to any process or nature observation)
  • Active--Visualization Exercise (imagine how you will feel when you see Christ)
  • Active--Family Circle (invite Christ into the family circle and imagine energy through your hands as you join them together)
  • Active--I Am poem

I thought of a few ways to boost what I'm already doing with my family to be more still/purposeful...
  • Lunch: sitting and eating with my kids, asking them to use their senses to more fully be aware of what they are eating (colors, shapes, textures, sizes, smells, tastes, etc.)
  • Nature time: asking them to observe the shapes, light/shadows, distance of things. Drawing once a week has helped me!
  • Family Dinner: We sometimes use a candle to help it be peaceful. WE also play the "ungame" (?'s in a jar) to get to know each other better). And we have map placemats (that I hope to put family history fan chart/pedigree photo charts on--thanks Sally!) that we use to discuss things about the world and where we've lived or travelled or about things we are learning in homeschool. 
  • Sunday Gratitude Prayers: we only say things we are grateful for and make it a "popcorn" style prayer, so we all take turns acting as voice. This helps us be more aware of our week and to celebrate God's hand in our family's life.
  • FHE: We are trying to decide what is really important to us and plan in things we really want and need for Family Home evening. One focus we are doing this year if Family History, so there will be a regular Family History Moment/focus (at least once a month) where we share a story of an ancestor and have an object that goes with it to help kids remember. I will keep them in my special Temple Box that sits on the shelf.
  • Family Journal: Emily and Tiffany mention family journaling. I think it would be great to write one line in a family journal each night as we gather. Then we will have a record and build a journalling habit of reflection, gratitude and record-keeping.
  • What do you already do as a family that you can just add greater meaning and purpose to? (That could be your meditaion--way of creating greater awareness, intention and stillness)
She has an awesome Mandala (fancy word for a visual used for meditation in Tibetan Buddhism of a square within the circle). Hers looks like the temple. I love it!

July 19, 2015

A Day Set-Apart: Sunday Box

We love Sunday's. So peaceful and slow. We don't have to go anywhere or do anything in particular. 
What makes it so special? Well, we have a few things we do...

A Sunday Box
Saturday night we try to remember to get out our Sunday Box. This is a box that we put special Sunday activities in for the kids. Since some are more destructive than others we have now graduated to both a Sunday Box and a Sunday Shelf only the older kids can reach. We actually have lots of Sunday things, but I rotate through them so they only have a few options in the box at a time. They get so happy to reacquaint themselves with their toys as I keep things changing.
In the box is Noah's ark type animal toys and simple homemade Popsicle stick puzzles they made using church magazine pictures or family photos. There are also a few churchy board books, seek and finds and a coloring book or two.

On the shelf are the older books, some church magazines and scissors to make collages, and a few puzzles and games.

Then there is an adult Sunday Shelf. I keep on it Church books that I want to read, along with my journal or family history journals, and other appropriate things. Other helpful items would be Patriarchal Blessing, Preqch My Gospel Manual and scriptures, etc.

Classics Hour
We have church early, so we have the whole afternoon and evening. This means time to kill. This has been great, because we have been able to do a "classics hour" or family read-aloud time. This is done every Sunday 6-7pm in our Great Room. Kids sit with mama on the floor and Dad reads our classic book. It is currently Charlotte's Web. The kids don't need pictures and we learn to be more still and together. Love it. (Last year we finished church at four, so instead we had it in the morning from 9:30-10am and just listened to Music and the Spoken Word together on the radio. It was nice and quiet and forced me to slow down before church.

Gratitude Prayer
Every Sunday evening we close together as a family in prayer, but this prayer is different. We only say things we are thankful for. And, we do it popcorn style. The kids love it. To make it go more reverently we always have Dad start it and it goes in order of age normally two or three rounds. Then Dad closes it too. It's nice to remember that prayers are to help us acknowledge God and .his goodness in his life, and not always just to ask for things we need. And the feeling of unity is great.

Family Nature Walk
We are better at this in the afternoons when it is sunny. Just a little half hour walk sometime before or after dinner, since we normally eat an early dinner when we have early church. It's so nice to get together outside. And we typically run into neighbors, since we like to just stay in our neighborhood. We just switch the routes/destinations.

Saturday Night Prep
Well, sometimes our weekends sure get busy, but when I remember to prep Saturday night for Sunday, it makes the morning great. I love knowing what outfit I'll wear the next day because it sure makes my job easier. And I just saw the Church article about someone's mom always having their polished shoes sitting on a windowsill to air out, and how great a reminder that was to her son. 
So now I'd like to keep our church shoes (even if I don't get the outfits out) in a line by the front door Saturday night. (It has been helpful having them in the closet with their Sunday outfits, away from their other shoes, so they keep them nice and clean).
And of course Saturday night bath time is what I see to remember most from growing up. Seriously...even if I didn't bath during the while week as a dirty little kid, I do remember cleaning up Saturday. I can always picture my mom curled up on the couch doing her nails Saturday evenings before bed, in her night gown.

Quiet Time
We do quiet time every day from 12-2, but on Sundays I use it do either practice music, do something from my Sunday shelf or spend some time doing family history or write a letter (I'm not really good at the last one, but it is one of my options). 

I don't always do all of these. And even when I do, they aren't always free of interruptions, but just having thought through them and having a plan sure helps me be prepared enough to pull on them and use them when I can. These ideas have brought greater peace of mind and unity to my family. And helped me grow and find enjoyment i many areas I wouldn't have explored (or my kids wouldn't have), had I not thought through these options.

Does one sound fun for you to try? Pick one and try it for next Sunday.

May 27, 2015

Book Notes: Einstein never used flashcards

This book will also help you see the world differently there are learning opportunities everywhere you look when we perceive the world as right with social and learning opportunities we will help our children grow to do more--to use flashcards with infants, to insist on Mozart for the pre-infant--is like putting a videocassette on fast-forward instead of play. To put children on fast-forward is to risk turning them off to their natural desire to learn and instead increases the risk of becoming anxious, depressed and unhappy. Childhood is about making discoveries: learning about themselves and their capabilities. These discoveries do not take place in the context of structured lessons nor do they come in boxes or own computer screens

Force-feeding academics gives children the impression that learning is a chore rather than something that derives naturally from curiosity and exploration.

The deciding factor between a person of high IQ floundering and one of modest IQ succeeding is "emotional intelligence." This includes self-control, zeal, persistence and the ability to motivate oneself. Emotional intelligence involves one's will and one's character. A central feature of the emotionally intelligent character is compassion for others, marked by the ability to read emotions and empathize;as well as using anger in the right amount, at the right time, for the reasons.

The truth is, the key predictors of healthy intellectual and emotional development are responsive, nurturing relationships between parent (or caregiver/teacher) and child.

Parents should become attuned to a child's natural learning patterns and abilities and find the teachable moments within each day that help a child build real knowledge, not just memorize isolated facts.

Three R's...
Reflect: is this experience/class/activity worth reducing my child unstructured playtime further, transporting to and from in the car, and paying for?
Resist: this means stopping yourself from joining the frenzy and allowing time to slow down. It means you just say "no thank you."
Re-center: reassure yourself you've made a good choice. The best way to re-center is to play with your children. 

Research shows that a child intellectual awakening take place during the normal adult girl interaction that occurs every day purposeful activities. Parents easily foster self-confident learners to activities that gently challenged children to reach to the edge of their developmental level but not beyond playful environment and spontaneous learning opportunities hold the keys for a happy emotionally healthy and intelligent child--and for a fulfilled parent.

Millions of years of evolution have children who love to learn on their own county. Has insured our survival humankind has eaten from the tree of knowledge and continues to seek out this delicious fruit from the first moments of life no force-feeding is necessary unless you were living in extreme isolation poverty the natural every day environments and which families and children find themselves promote strong brain development.  Children with loving parents who enjoy them and offer guidance and suggestions as they explore their alignment will be helping emotionally well-adjusted and psychologically advanced. 

Neurological crowding: this is what happens when information competes for synaptic connections in the brain. "One has to consider the possibility very ambitious early enrichment and teaching programs may lead to crowding affix into an early decrease in size and number of brain regions that are largely been specified and that may be necessary for creativity the adolescent and adult." It may be no accident that Albert Einstein was a rather average student in his early years allowing his brain to avoid early crowding effects.

1. Think outside the box. Play with your child take cues from them and notice what they're interested in those opportunities from your surroundings.
2. Change your dynamics (fast versus slow, loud versus quiet, active versus restful). Whether this is for how you play or move or what types of educational shows children watch vary the pace and movement.
3. Move from memorizing to learning in context. 
4. Plan a field trip--to your own backyard. Examine ordinary objects from a child's perspective.

Intelligence and achievement there is danger and confusing to the key to intelligence is how you learn how you adapt knowledge and how you process what is going on around you.
1. Work within your child's zone of development follow their interest don't give them too many steps and encourage them to set their own goal don't force your child to stick with a task she's frustrated with, rather motivate or work together. Demonstrate.
2. Stress effort not achievement.
3. Don't insist there is only one right way to do something
4.  Show your kids that you make mistakes and let them correct you
5. Focus on developing your child's creativity and independent thinking.

Self-discovery--inward awareness (then paralleled social learning--outward awareness)
1. Physical self: body
2. Social and emotional self: feelings 
3. Intellectual self: thoughts

The use of symbols is the main characteristic of human thought that makes us distinct from other animals.

The benefits of PLAY
1. Become an advocate for play
2. Provide the resources for stimulating play. before purchasing toys ask these three questions: 
what activities will this toy inspire?
what values will the activities teach?
what social rules with my children learn to follow?
3. join in the fun
4. Let your child take the lead
5. Encourage your child to use imagination
6. Evaluate your child structured activities: can they show their creativity and express themselves? Is it child centered?  Are they engage in pretend or social play? Is there a happy peaceful feeling or stress? What is the purpose of the activity is it primarily for fun and secondarily for learning?

Four principles for teaching children
1. The best learning is learning within reach. Reach to the edges of your own understanding and experience. 
2. Emphasizing process over product creates a love of learning.
3. Pay attention to EQ (emotional intelligence) not just IQ. Social play fosters both simultaneously.
4. Learning in context is real learning--and play is the best teacher. Play is that arena in which you get to try out everything with no real-life consequences because it's all just pretend.

Achieving balance in schedule and activities-the new 3Rs:
1. reflect: ask why? Motive and purpose for things...
2. resist: make the choice and hold your ground
3. re-center: remember your guiding principles and values

May 15, 2015

14 Consumerism Habits

I was going to write a post about a Disposable Society...but I found these interesting facts about our Society's current consumerism trends....

Did You Know...?
1. There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).
2. The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).
3. 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).
4. 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).
5. The average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily (The Telegraph).
6. 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).
7. The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).
8. The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually (Forbes).
9. The average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).
10. Some reports indicate we consume twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago (The Story of Stuff).
11. Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education (Psychology Today).
12. Shopping malls outnumber high schools. And 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime (Affluenza).
13. Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items.The research found we lose up to nine items every day—or 198,743 in a lifetime. Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the list (The Daily Mail).
14. The $8 billion home organization industry has more than doubled in size since the early 2000’s—growing at a staggering rate of 10% each year (Uppercase).

So, that said...
Which of these above mentioned facts can you work on so you and your family aren't just another contributor to these statistics?

*These facts taken from

May 13, 2015

The Path of Pure Intent

During my homeschool journey I have come to understand that the nature of travelling this path will include a lot of unknowns, course corrections and perhaps even u-turns. I think this journey of figuring things out is as much for my learning how to teach and follow inspiration as much as it is for my kids education. Afterall, life education is really about gaining the experience we need in this life as we progress to become more Christlike--which ultimately is acting with a pure heart. Charity is everything and without it we are nothing (like empty buckets with nothing to give).

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail
 But acharity is the pure blove of Christ, and it endureth cforever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, apray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true bfollowers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall cbe like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may bedpurified even as he is pure.  (Moroni 7:46-48)

I don't know about you, but I can't afford to have my bucket empty. So, am I taking time to fill my bucket?

I love the "Have You Filled A Bucket?" Book. 
Emily mentioned this book to me awhile back and since reading it with my kids they have come to understand that we are accountable for our actions and their effects on people. Do we help fill and build others, or are we dipping from their resevoir and breaking down? 

It is important to teach our kids the effect of their actions so they can better act with pure intent to bring about positive results from their actions. 
When we act with pure desires our hearts are light, peaceful and happy. We are positive and find strength beyond our own. When we are negative or harsh in our words and our feelings I believe that we would do well to search our hearts' motivations.

Here's an example: Nellie (2 years old) keeps coming out of bed when I've asked her to stay in (she knows how to stay). Do I yell and threaten? If so, is my motive one of love and trying to understand her real needs that she may not know how to express yet? (This is a real example I face almost nightly, so I recognize I am guilty of this, but am trying to work on it.) Here are some of the things going on in my head during this trial for me:

  • it's past your bed time (time)
  • you should be dog tired (logic)
  • I want to do my own thing now after spending all day with you (selfish)
  • your brother is already asleep. Why can't you be too? (comparison)
  • please just do it. It's not hard to fall asleep (convenience)
  • husband, come deal with this child. I'm tired (exhaustion--totally understandable moms!)

I'm sure there are many more. And these are so relate-able and understandable. But I know that as a Mom I need to keep these things in my mind, but not let stress rule my heart and actions. 

If I take a minute for introspection to explore what I am thinking (and dig down to find the greatest motive of all--charity) then I can more properly place all these other thoughts and stresses. And that's exactly what all these competing thoughts are: stress. 

If our minds are cluttered with various reasons and excuses then it's harder to act from pure motives.  

Nephi reflected: “And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?” (2 Nephi 4:27).

He battles with some internal voices pressuring him to do one thing or another. But he had to take time for his thoughts and feelings, with a desire to get through them and find the purest motive/choice and then have faith to more properly place those voices and thoughts. 

I find that as I acknowledge my stresses (tiredness, my desire to do my own thing, the late time that is ticking away, etc); but, then say "I choose to try to understand my child first" and let go of the other stressors, that my heart opens more fully and time slows down (as well as my pulse, breathing and volume! haha). 

I need to do this more. This is using the atonement. Letting go of our incessant need to control everything. 

"Be Still and Know that I am God." (D&C 101:16)

We are not here to control things. We are here to learn how to live with peace in our hearts and minds--in harmony with the things by which we are surrounding (including our family, friends, schedules, etc.). As we learn to introspect each time we don't feel peace, we will better understand how to make "course adjustments" and better find our pure motives that result in peace and joyful living.

I hope I can remember this lesson: to fill buckets with goodness and kind words; and that when I don't feel that way I will acknowledge my feelings and work through them by laying them down at the Saviors feet and praying for more pure motives of love and a desire to understand (as opposed to shutting those feelings off and feeling like I'm a bad mom who yells at my kids). 

(And afterall...isn't this why Sacrament is the most important part of the week? A renewal of motive and pure desires?)

May 8, 2015

What the Heck is Awareness Yoga?

So, I've been something I call "Awareness yoga" for about a year now. It's nothing set in stone, but a way in which I come to better understand what my body needs as I stretch.

I've never really been one for going and exercising at a set time or anything. Rather, I just prefer to be busy and active and get my movement in during my day, or through dance. are a few things I've found in the last few years which have taught me the importance of exercising, but more importantly of being more aware of my body.

Yoga Awareness Benefits

  • Correct Posture. A Healthy spine is the avenue for healthy nerves. All our our nerves run through our spine and then branch out into various parts of our body and organs. But if our spine is kinked somewhere, then the nerve in that area is pinched (which means pressure or blockage for those nerves to send the communication from you brain to that coressponding area of your body). This is why someone with neck problems could have a hard time hearing if that particualr neck kink in your spine is affecting the nerves associated with your ear. (that is one of the stories from the first days of chiropractic care). See my post on Chiropractic care for more info.
  • Muscle Flexibility & Yoga.  I look at my little kids and think... "woah! They can do all sorts of things in their God-given flexible body. What happened to me?" haha. Wouldn't it be great if we could encourage that in our kids by helping keep their muscles supple and help them be aware? I've encouraged Ethan with yoga. He's grown up doing it and it is play for him. We just create animal poses or mimic nature (like tree or flower pose). Here is a link to help you encourage your kids with yoga. The post also mentions Cosmic Kids yoga stories to watch on you-tube that totally engage my kids. I also got a great, simple ipad app for $4 called Yoga Studio, for myself. It's very simple, versatile in length and area of focus.
  • Body Awareness & Pilates. I remember a time in my life that I didn't pay attention to my hunger cues (too busy and/or stressed). This led to me losing weight. In fact, this happened to me twice in my life. Both times it was because I ignored my body's cues. I find myself trying to help my children understand their body and when they need to eat or go to the bathroom, and yet I realized that I'm not paying attention to my body as much as I'd like. So, a year after I had my second child I finally felt I could get a full night's sleep, and therefore had more energy to wake up on time. So I started waking early and exercising with this simple book of exercises for each area of the body (The Way of Stretching: Flexibility for Body and Mind, by Ann Rush). Another great thing is Pilates. They are awesome because they don't use fancy equipment and blah, blah, blah. Pilates use your own body to provide the right amount of natural resistance for your muscles. I love it! So Each week I would focus on one area of my body, until I felt I could do some basic stretches that I felt were good in that area. I'd do this along with my mindfulness routine (see later bullet point).
  • Scripture Study/Notebook. Also during those mornings I started a study journal and would read my scriptures and study, capturing my thoughts (which helped me retain and go deeper). I wish I could do this consistently, but the nature of my study shifts with each new season of my life, and that's ok...because (as with all change), it gives me new opportunities to approach things differently and glean new perspectives. Regardless of how I study, I always find that those days I can put my heart into my priority relationship (with Heavenly Father), especially first thing, are the days I am most calm, happy, and life-oriented in what matters most. I hve come to love my mindful mornings. I need them to start my day right (80% of the time--allowing 20% fudge factor. ---Oh fudge....yummm! side note.) (another side note: It was fun and insightful to do a weekly focus on spiritual armor for each area that related to the body area I was stretching.)
  • Mindful Morning & Slowing Down. I would love to jump out of bed singing songs and throwing open windows as I dance around the house with a big smile on my face. But...let's be honest, that usually isn't the case. I do like waking up to the sun, but it takes my body longer to wake up than my brain. So, I listen to that and honor the fact that my body needs a little longer. I lay down on my great room floor and relax my body while I think, without thinking. :) I first try to just think about my body and visualize the different parts of my body from feet up to head doing the relaxation technique where you flex for three seconds one part of your body, then relax, then continue up until you've gone through all the areas of your body. This gives awareness for muscles. But then I'd visualize my heart being a ball of bright warm energy, like the sun and I'd "track" it mentally travelling down through the parts of my body out through my feet and rooting down into the earth (like tree roots). Those roots I visualize as being grounded in Christlike attributes of Faith, Hope and Charity (and others, esp. depending on what I need that day). Then I continue the ball of warmth going through my hands to do good things that day and up through the body (keeping in mind God's spiritual armor mentioned in the scriptures--that I had been studying to give me greater insight to the importance of those areas physically and spiritually). And by the end of thinking through that, I feel more fully armored mentally and spiritually.
  • Letting go & Feel the Rhythm. Once I had done all this for awhile and felt familiar with different stretches and yoga postures for each area and felt like I had created my own visualizations (rather than someone else's set ones) then I could just lay and relax and totally just feel what my body wanted needed. I'd just lay down and think about what areas of my body felt needed more energy and warmth and also what stretches I could do. I just did them, without needing a set plan. And the more I do this, the more I feel it overflows into my life: the ability to just let go of set things and find freedom in exploring and trusting my God-given intuition in knowing how to spend my time mentally and physically. There is true rhythm in life, beyond that set by alarm clocks and to-do lists. By bringing in what matters most and then letting go of all the other ideas and superfluous things I greater access my own personal "Rhythm of life"--and that is a beautiful thing.
SO that is my "yoga Awareness" program in a nutshell. And it works for me. But the principles can work for you in your own way. 

May 4, 2015

Spring Cleaning: Time to Declutter

It's refreshing clearing out clutter. Spring brings new beginnings. With this thought I've been learning a bit about feng shui.

The Idea of Feng Shui (literally "wind" and "water") is to arrange things so as to maximize the energy ("chi") in your space.  Your space could be a physical location like each of the areas of your house, or it could be your schedule and how you use your time. This means minimizing clutter (physical "junk" or mental clutter or time/busy-ness) that obstructs the energy flow and motivation in your life.
Life is a continual process of de-cluttering and prioritizing, but once you make a decision to live this way it is just a matter of continually checking yourself and maintaining balance in each area.  The idea is to live in the present without a lot of things undone or to-do. If you've been "sitting" on something for a year and never got around to might be a good idea to get rid of it. Whether or not we realize it these things left undone actually can weigh on us mentally and have us living in the past, rather than moving forward.
The most familiar area for feng shui is your house, so let's tackle how to do that. First of all, don't expect this process to be easy and quick. It may be, but might not. Just allow yourself a little time in each room of your house asking questions about what you have stored there. 
Create Space--Declutter. 
Two Basic Questions: Do I use it? Do I love it?
  1. Is this item something I use regularly?
  2. If not, is it something I love?
  3. Am I keeping this out of obligation or expectation?
  4. Am I holding onto this because I think I should love it?
  5. Am I saving this just in case?
  6. Do I have multiples of the same thing?
  7. Could something else I own do the same job?
  8. Am I holding onto a broken item to fix one day?
  9. Is this item worth the time I spend cleaning/storing it?
  10. Could I use this space for something else?

Once you ask these questions about each item in a room, then put the items in one of three categories: Keep, Get rid of, or undecided. There will be a few items that are hard to categorize at this time (some for personal or emotional reasons, that you may just need to "sit" and wait on), and that's ok. You can revisit the undecided category after awhile.
I keep two boxes in my Garage: one to take to the thrist store and one above it to hold for a little while (Although many people say you shouldn't hold on to them).

Define & Improve Space
Beyond de-cluttering, there is the idea of strengthening and being an active creator of your space. This involves taking inventory of your house and energy mapping what you have vs. what you want (using the bagua). If you're interested in finding out more then google it. I won't go into specifics. But you lay the map over your house with the career place in the position of your front door. Then you draw the diagonals of your house to find the center and other correlating areas in your house with those on the map.

Image result for feng shui 101

Notice which areas in your haouse draw the most clutter. These places have stuck "energy" and need to be de-cluttered. This same bagua map can also be used in each room aligning the door with the carrer space minature form. It's amazing to see which areas in a room have clutter adn how those align with which main house areas also have clutter. Try it.

Once you have a plan and direction to move forward you can choose specific themes and colors to bring in certain "energy." Here are the colors according to the five elements and also according to emotion associated:

Or another view: pay attention to too much or too little. Some colors can adversely affect people.

May 3, 2015

15 Great Principles Shared by All Religions

I came across this list of common principles found through religions.  it was from a website dedicated to integrating truth from various religions.

  1. The Golden Rule / Law of Reciprocity – The cornerstone of religious understanding. “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” – Christianity
  2. Honor Thy Father and Mother – Knowing them is the key to knowing ourselves. The day will come when we shall wish we had known them better.
  3. Speak the Truth – “Sincerity is the way of heaven, and to think how to be sincere is the way of a man.” – Confucius
  4. It’s More Blessed to Give than to Receive – Generosity, charity and kindness will open an individual to an unbounded reservoir of riches.
  5. Heaven is Within – “Even as the scent dwells within the flower, so God within thine own heart forever abides.” – Sikhism
  6. Love Thy Neighbor / Conquer With Love / All You Need is Love – Acts of faith, prayer and deep meditation provide us with the strength that allows love for our fellow man to become an abiding part of our lives. Love is a unifying force.
  7. Blessed Are the Peacemakers – When people live in the awareness that there is a close kinship between all individuals and nations, peace is the natural result.
  8. You Reap What You Sow – This is the great mystery of human life. Aware or unaware, all are ruled by this inevitable law of nature.
  9. Man Does Not Live by Bread Alone – The blessings of life are deeper than what can be appreciated by the senses.
  10. Do No Harm – If someone tries to hurt another, it means that she is perceiving that person as something separate and foreign from herself.
  11. Forgiveness – The most beautiful thing a man can do is to forgive wrong. – Judaism
  12. Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged – This principle is an expression of the underlying truth that mankind is one great family, and that we all spring from a common source.
  13. Be Slow to Anger – Anger clouds the mind in the very moments that clarity and objectivity are needed most. “He who holds back rising anger like a rolling chariot, him I call a real driver; others only hold the reins.” – Buddha
  14. There is But One God / God is Love – Nature, Being, The Absolute. Whatever name man chooses, there is but one God. All people and all things are of one essence.
  15. Follow the Spirit of the Scriptures, Not the Words – “Study the words, no doubt, but look behind them to the thought they indicate; And having found it, throw the words away, as chaff when you have sifted out the grain.” – Hinduism

All credit to Jeffrey Moses.

April 25, 2015

The Gift of Today: Being Present

I read a blog post the other day from a mom who said she'd try to "be present" with his child each day for fifteen minutes. I like this and think it is valuable to do daily. Now, the "15 minutes" makes sense to me as a good amount of time to practice each day, but the amount of time doesn't have to be that. It is the idea of "a little each day" that seems a great place to start.

The Power of 15 (minutes).

So let's talk about this....
What does it mean to be present? 

I think of when I talk to my four year old and tell him to listen to me while I'm talking to him. I say to  listen with your whole self: eyes looking, ears open, mouth closed, body still, brain focused. So...being present to me, is real, true listening--observation and attention with all your senses and internal workings of heart and mind.

How are we doing as adults?
Are we teaching our kids to listen well, when we haven't learned to do the same?
Are we being present with them?

Granted...we have tons of things vying for our time and attention. But have we tried to prioritize our life, errands, busy-ness and tasks so we can place focus on what matters most? I know I'm constantly guilty of this. And this is why I am writing this post! Hopefully it will clarify for me more ways to focus on my kids. Because this is life! Learning and relearn to focus and simplify and do what matters most. And I can't do it alone. I need help. Do you?

I like this idea of fifteen minutes a day, but I would like to extend that thought into other areas of our life...specifically with relationships and priorities.

What are our priorities?
Or should I say "who" are our priorities? 

Knowing this can help us understand where we need to be present most.
Here's what came to mind this morning as I contemplated this concept of "fifteen minutes."

15 minutes with...

  • God I like to wake up before my kids wake up. This is the ideal. It doesn't always happen. But, when it! My day goes so much better. My brain actually can do math. My temper doesn't flare at kids not obeying before three strikes..... Not every season for me is this possible (like when I have a baby and am tired all the time, just trying to keep up. Gosh...that seems to be a whole year. hehe). But, when I have that desire and joy, and don't approach it guiltily as a dread-laden task, then my day is infused with purpose and direction. I even bought a pretty study journal that I wrote various things I wanted to study about in the front. When I'm feeling go-getter, I pick a topic i want to study and delve into the scriptures (but I haven't felt that way wince I had my baby a few months ago, so I currently am just going through a cheap copy of the BOM with colors for a specific theme I'm trying to discover.) Sometimes I'll just watch a Mormon Message or read/watch a General Conference Talk. I bought a beautiful wooden box carved with the SLC temple on it and I keep the current cheap copy in it as a reminder to take time each day.
  • Self  I love doing "awareness yoga" first thing in the morning when I wake up (either before or after my scripture reading). This is a fancy made up name for laying down and doing whatever stretches and thinking I want. Talk about stress-free and low-expectations. Who wouldn't want that kind of workout? I do this so I can wake up, become aware of all the little muscles and feelings I have inside myself, and to start warming up my brain to have thoughts about my day and the direction I may want to take. All of this is part of it, but I don't have an outline for things I have to think about or not. I just let stuff start to flow in as I become aware of body, mind and spirit. There are two other times I take with myself too (which, come to think of it may make me seem a little selfish, with this getting three times the 15 minutes. hehe): During quiet time my kids take their nap or do reading (12-2) and I get "me time" to do something fun (which generally is something nerdy and involves reading, writing or researching). At night I like to journal a few thoughts to explore my feelings and unwind them. I don't always do this, but keep my journal by my bed in case I can (and to give my poor husband a break from my incessant chatter exploding from all the stuff going on through my brain!)
  • Spouse Speaking of hubby. We like to get the kids for bed, do our own things, and then connect at 9pm as we start to unwind and get ready for bed. Monday's this is folding landry I threw on the bed. Hehe. Sunday might be our planning session to go over our week so we are on the same page. Friday or Saturday this would be a date or movie or something. In winter it may be a "tea time" to just have an infusion and bite and chat (like Captain Picard on Star Trek). Other times it may be being together, but me writing in my journal and him reading something, or reading a book together. Or a little footrub, etc. The possibilities are endless, but the time frame is a constant. (Again, this is all ideal. Life happens and kids are NOT always angels and sometimes are still talking to themselves and banging on walls with their feet because they are still hungry two hours later, when they should be asleep already! ugh. But...setting it up is the first battle and then dealing with occasional disturbances is the second. One battle at a time, I say.)
  • Child This is the most easy sometimes. We are surrounded by our kids. We have to spend time with them (even more so when homeschooling). We have daily quiet time (12-2, unless life happens at times, which is fine if it's 25%, rather than 99%). I use that time to take one-on-one time to read with Ethan from 12-12:30. This calms him down and gives me that "one" time. My husband gets it in at night for storytime, where he can actually talk to Ethan about his day too. During that time I get my one-on one time in with my 2 year old as I read to her then. And my baby gets it in while I I have learned to stop using my ipad during that time and be aware of her more fully.
  • Family Taking time to be all together as a family is great too. This is dinner time for us. Or on weekends having a longer time: a family date or outing, or a Sunday night "Classical Hour" to read a classic together, or Monday Family Home Evening to learn and play together around a religious theme.
  • Nature I sometimes can kill two birds with one stone (though that metaphor might not be the most approriate for this bullet point. Oh, pun intended). For example, if I go out in nature and commune with God, or take that time to journal or draw, for myself. Regardless, I've found that, like good ole Jason Mraz sings...getting back to Earth and putting our hands in the dirt and feet on the ground is very "grounding." Did you know that there have been studies done about the literalness of being barefoot? If you were to go for a run and then come back and take a scan of your knee, there would be red and orange thermal imaging colors around the knee. But, if you were to then go barefoot for 15 minutes after that, the thermal colors would shift from warm to cool colors, showing a decrease in the physical tension and temperature. Wow. Serious. IT's also good if you feel affected by EMF stuff (like telephone wires and electricity from cell phones and such...which really can interfere with our own body's energy). Ok, I'll stop here. But go for a walk or something. :) 

The end. For now.

Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Fables

I love tales! 
I wasn't always able to say this. I had to go through some weird tales and some questioning of certain fairy tale endings, but I am beginning to see their importance. In fact, I've been on a Tales kick for the last few months. We've been reading folk tales from all over the world: various countries, religions, etc. There is so much good in them. some are fantastical, some wise, some educational, etc. Never-ending enjoyment.

MYTH - Myths are legendary stories that ancient people created to explain the mysteries of life, death, the beginning of the world, and natural powers. They were not able to understand these mysteries, so they wove stories on the basis of their imagination. Since myths are imaginary stories, they have imaginary characters in them like dragons, monsters, fairies, giants, and gods. All these characters had magical powers and were much more powerful than human beings. Different types of myths were woven about the same thing in different parts of the world. These very myths gave rise to different religions in various parts of the world.

SAGA - The word "saga" was originally used for any story of heroic deeds of a medieval Norwegian hero. Gradually, it came to mean a long eventful narrative about a family, social group, or dynasty with several chapters, cantos or even volumes. A saga has several legends of heroes added to it. These heroes may be real or half-real and half-imaginary, but on the whole, the frame work of the main story is based on truth. An epic is a saga in poetry form, while a saga is in prose.

FABLE - A fable is a short tale which involves animals as essential characters in it and carries a moral for the readers. The animals are described to be talking to people or to one another wisely, foolishly, cunningly, and in ways human beings do. Aesop's Fables are a very good example. The lessons imparted by fables are very useful and practicable. They can impart guidance in most difficult situations and lead one out of them. Fables are a good source of wisdom, tact, and other noble means. Thus they go a long way to put one onto the road to success and well-being if their morals are translated into daily life. Fables should not be read for amusement only, but for learning to be a successful person as well.

FOLK-TALE - Folk-tales are light imaginary stories handed down orally from generation to generation. They are popular because they describe the hopes and fears of common people in a natural fanciful way. Since, human hopes and fears are the same everywhere, we can find similar folk-tales in distantly apart countries. There may be slight differences in the versions of these similar folk-tales, but their theme is almost the same. Almost every social group has its own folk-lore traditions and beliefs. A social group's folk-tales are based on these traditions and beliefs, therefore, folk-tales are very near to day-to-day life. The element of fancy and imagination gives them color and interest thus, making them very fascinating.

FAIRY-TALE - Fairy-tales are magical stories about fairies. A fairy is a tiny imaginary being with supernatural powers. Fairies are believed to be very beautiful and delicate. They help people when in a good mood, but they may harm evil people using their supernatural powers when they are angry. Fairies are believed to have wings for flying and live in their own land called, "Fairyland." This land is ruled by the fairy queen who has a large magnificent palace. Fairyland is considered to be a land of lakes, lush green meadows, bright flowers, and fruit trees. Children enjoy fairy-tales very much because of the enchantment and magical power such stories hold.

Though tales differ, I will share what I like about the tales I choose to read...

First, kids need imagination. In a world where things are increasingly confined to logic and result, it's nice to create a warm, cozy imaginative escape for our children. I cherish the ages of 0-7 for my kids to experience all the "right-brain" imaginative learning/play/experience they can get...because it all goes downhill from there. They will get logic and "real world" understanding after that, but I choose to innundate my child with nature, animals and creation.

Second, the simplicity. Kids get so bombarded in our busy world of stuff (fluff). So a simple story is great. But they are simply powerful too when they can convey a deep principle or understanding at the same time--so not just empty fluff).

Third, they generally filled with nature and animals. We have so much stuff. My kids had books about trucks and robots and all sorts of "things," but I want my children to really get a deep connection with and understanding of the basic elements of life. I feel once children can feel the beauty of a pure God-given world, then they will be ready to dive into other "stuff." It's empowering to my children to be able to know what things are made of because he's use to wood, rocks and metal; instead of thinking everything comes from a store and is made of something they can't identify. And I feel God set-up this earth with what we need to teach us, so I want to start there with my children.

Fourth, parables are the best teacher. Another great thing about animals, like in fables, is that kids can relate to the animal, without knowing they are relating, because the animal is personified with human characteristics. This is fantasy, but true emaotional and intellectual patterns we go through. The child is then bridging a false and yet real experience without the danger or threat of a direct parallel. These are metaphors and parables...the best way in which to learn.

Fifth, they are written with a pattern of discovery and problem-solving, coming full-circle in the end. Repetition is great for children (and adults). We tend to need to hear or experience something three times before it "sinks" in. Kids find security in that pattern. They also find strength and confidence in both going through ups and downs through a story and then ending out on top, so to speak. This confidence and seeing of patterns helps them develop their problem solving or keeps them on their toes in guessing what will happen next.

Sixth, most are based in a value or moral. This goes back to the simplicity. A teacher gets knowledge and facts out. A good teacher can deliver these facts well. A great teacher can teach in such a simple, yet deep way that those facts translate to true understanding in the hearer. Finding a good tale is finding a great teacher. Choosing to share that tale in a valuable way is being a great teacher.

By the our society, many children grow out of fairy tales somewhat (some faster than others), once they hit the logic stage/8 years old (which is probably why I never really "got them"...and that's the same way with Dr. Seuss for me. Never cared from him, until this recent new journey of exploration into the beautiful world of "right brain"/imaginitive learning. This world is where 0-7 year olds live and flourish. Children get to be carefree and responsibility free because they need it. They will change the world if they grow up feeling imaginative and that "the sky is the limit." Let's fuel their entrepreneurial spirit with tales--not limit them.)

Here are some Resources for to start with: (you want the traditional tales--rich with language and real meaning, not modern recreations that dumb things down.)
  • Wisdom Tales (collected from all over the world, categorized by continent or religion)
  • Earth Tales (world myths about creation and nature)
  • Tales with Tails (world tales and myths involving nature and animals, with info on various animals and lots of fun activities. Great for Earth Day stuff.)
  • Can You Guess My Name? (gives three versions (different countries) of each of a few popular tales, like "three Little Pigs" and such)
  • Tangram Tales
  • Aesops Fables
  • Fairy Tales: Hans Christian Anderson & Brother's Grimm

FAIRY TALES (by age)
Three and Four Year Olds
Any fairy tale with repetitive elements and a very simple story line
·         Sweet Porridge (Grimm 103)
·         Goldilocks and the Three Bears
·         Little Louse and Little Flea (Spindrift, Let Us Form A Ring)
·         The Giant Turnip (Russian)
·         The Mitten (Russian)
·         The Gingerbread Man
·         The Bun (cannot remember where The Bun originated for sure, I believe Russia)
·         The Johnny Cake (English)
·         The Hungry Cat (Plays for Puppets)
·         The Old Woman and Her Pig (English)
·         The Cat and the Mouse (English)
·         Little Red Hen
·         The City Mouse and The Country Mouse

Four and Five Year Olds
·         The Three Billy Goats Gruff
·         The Three Little Pigs
·         The Pancake Mill (Let Us Form A Ring)
·         Mashenka and the Bear (Russian, Spindrift)
·         The Elves (Grimm 39)

Five and Six Year Olds
·         Star Money (Grimm 153)
·         The Frog Prince (Grimm 1)
·         Mother Holle (Grimm 24)
·         Little Red Cap (Grimm 25)
·         The Bremen Town Musicians (Grimm 27)
·         The Spindle, Shuttle and the Needle (Grimm 188)
·         The Hut in the Forest (Grimm 169)
·         The Queen Bee (Grimm 62)
·         The Seven Ravens (Grimm 25) – I didn’t tell this one until first grade
·         Snow White and Rose Red (Grimm 161)
·         The Princess in the Flaming Castle (Let Us Form A Ring)
·         Twiggy (Let Us Form A Ring)
·         The Donkey (Grimm 144)
·         Lazy Jack (English)
·         Tom-Tit-Tot (English)

·         Puss in Boots, sometimes also called The Master Cat