November 29, 2016

Motherhood Parables: The lullaby

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

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

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

With Nellie I was hit-and-miss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motherhood Parables: Playing Set

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motherhood Parables: The Holiday Bookshelf

Holiday bookshelf parable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 21, 2016

motherhood Parable: The Snowflake Experience--Tradition

Motherhood parable: the snowflake Tradition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 19, 2016

Motherhood Parable: Parable of the Cold Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When seeking an answer to a question or problem in life, what do we (or our kids) look for?
A quick warm-breath solution, so we can go out and play?
Or perhaps a life-changing, but empowering experience that enables us to be more independent and stronger in our minds and abilities. post runs long, and now my kids have noticed I am missing...
Alas, I must end.

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

November 12, 2016

Motherhood parables: Parable of the Peanut

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

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

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

Three examples: a true principle.

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

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

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

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