"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. ~Genesis 2: 8, 9, 15

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Line Upon Line

I am a homeschool failure.


... according to the world's definition.

I forget to have lessons more often than not, I can't seem to keep to a schedule, and my house flip-flops between being tolerably tidy and explosively messy. My children fight and run away from me when I say its lesson time (but amazingly want to do their lessons as soon as I say its bedtime). I struggle, really struggle, with convincing my children that I really want to eat meals as a family. Anxiety and Depression are real demons in my head--
sound familiar?

Yup. That's life.

I had a baby at the beginning of August and try as I might, I soon realized that homeschooling this year was going to be different. Because the LORD doesn't divide the year into semesters and terms. He teaches us line upon line, precept upon precept. Here a little, and there a little.

So here's our homeschool schedule thus far:

Weeks 1-3: Everybody eats, sleeps, and poops. We read stories on the couch. Laundry is done as needed. My husband takes 60% of the toys and shoves them into the storage under the stairs.
Weeks 4-6: We add the chore of dishes. (I am so grateful for the friend who brought over a month's worth of disposable dishes! Best gift for a mom with many small children.) We continue to read stories on the couch. We occasionally (like once a week or less) do playdates with other homeschooling friends.
Month 2 (October): After baby's growth spurt, we add in the online preschool (Waterford UPSTART)- mostly songs and ABC finding activities. We also begin MysteryDoug questions for our weekly science time.
Month 3 (November): After praying diligently, we buy my son's math program. The one I bought last year sits unused on the shelf- I get no pleasure out of it. But this new program is appealing to me and my children, so we actually make progress in the lessons. I also begin tidying the house.
Month 4 (December): It's 9 days before Christmas and not a decoration is in sight (unless you count the chocolate advent calendars their grandmother gave them at the baby blessing). We opened up the storage under the stairs to begin sorting their toys and it was like Christmas immediately hit the house. Maybe we'll try this homeschooling thing again in January.

My message is from Luke chapter 2:
"And the child grew, and waxed strong in Spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him." I can testify that the grace of God was upon His mother too.

His Work

The LORD has been speaking to me lately about how to build my home.

Especially now that my son is turning 8 in a few weeks. I mourn for the lost time- the years I was too sick with depression and anxiety to get out of my own head. But I see that the LORD has already handled that- for when my son was tiny, the first lost one he rescued was me.

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-work-of-christmas-begins-judy-dodds.html - I love this painting version of the quote above. I just can't figure out how to show it.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Daily Bread

Genesis 3:19

19 In the asweat of thy face shalt thou eat bbread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for cdust thou art, and unto ddust shalt thou return.
I'm just not hungry... 
and then my blood sugar crashes...
I need the word of God every day... especially the days when it doesn't taste good.

Image result for meal

Tale of Two Trees

Yesterday I was playing in the backyard with the children. As they played ring around the rosies around a young tree, the root ball shook and swayed. I thought of the stability of the little tree that I grew up playing around- it never shook at the roots, no matter how much we pulled or tugged on the branches- and felt to share this story with the children around me.

When I was in second grade, we moved. It was scary for me, with all those new people in their designer clothes and fancy hairstyles, but I learned to grow where I was planted. The class was just finishing up a unit about plants and had planted honey locust tree seeds. I selected a seedling from the extras my teacher had started and took it home in a little plastic cup.

While we prepared a place for it in the lawn, the seedling became subject to the influences of the household. The cup was knocked over several times, and probably wasn't watered as much as it would have liked. The suffering of the little plant was over fairly quickly as we planted it outside, just off the center of the lawn, where it would grow to shade the house from the harsh summer sun. We had dug a ring in the lawn, and embedded bricks and a little siding around it to help prevent the grass from overwhelming the tiny tree. We planted nasturtiums to shade and protect the little plant from insects and, hopefully, the lawn mower. The place prepared, we took the seedling from its cup and planted it in the soil, exposed to the elements and seasons, but protected from much that would harm it.
The seedling grew, happily sheltered in its little bed surrounded by the protective nasturtiums, and produced a nice crown of leaves. Then the dog ate the top of the tree. I remember being really mad at the dog for eating my tree, but the tree drew from the strength of its roots and the few remaining leaves and continued to thrive. The interesting thing is that after the dog ate the top, the stem grew back as three separate but equal trunks, splitting close to the ground at first, but rising higher as the tree grew. I think this gives the tree a grace and beauty that single-trunked trees do not have.
As the tree outgrew its bed of nasturtiums, a new enemy appeared: the cats. The cats loved to use the tree's soft bark to sharpen their claws, so we put up a chicken wire fence around the soft trunk. We also hung heavy weights from the branches to spread the three trunks so that they didn't grow into each other. The tree continued to grow wide and tall.
This is a tale or two trees - and so I introduce the second tree. Shortly after planting our tree, our neighbors also planted a honey locust tree. They bought theirs from the nursery already half-grown, its roots wrapped in a little ball of sacking, the trunk tall and straight, and the crown a bushy mass of leaves about 4 feet up the stem. They planted it with care, creating a small flowerbed around the base and edging it with concrete blocks. The trunk was wrapped and taut lines were set around the tree to hold it straight until its roots grew strong enough to hold the tree upright. The tree grew.
Both trees grew tall enough to shade the houses and dropped their long thin seedpods. Both fulfilled their purpose in life.
It has now been almost 18 years since that first little tree was planted, but looking at the two trees, a person immediately notices a difference. While both trees are certainly healthy, the tree that was grown from a seedling is much, much taller - broader of limb and home to quite a few birds in the spring. It shades the house and the yard while still allowing that beautiful golden green sunshine through. It has a majesty and presence that the other tree lacks.

As we go through life, we often wonder if the Master Gardener is paying attention to us. When our little pots fall over, he rights us. He prepares a place for us to live where we will be protected from the worst of the storms - but He still puts us out in the weather. He will plant nasturtiums around us, to drive away the evil forces and shade us from the harsh sun. He will surround us with a protective barrier against the encroaching weeds. We may wonder if we can survive the prunings, and our tender bark is often marred and scratched. He puts up a barrier though, that will give us time to heal and develop a strong thick bark that need not flinch under the assaults. At times we may wish that we were a nursery tree- protected from everything for the first few years, encouraged to grow as tall as we can, but think too, that the Lord knows what we can become, and will provide all that is necessary for us to become the majestic beings he knows we can become. Our roots must dive deep to thrive in this antagonistic world. Are we content with being pampered, or do we really want to reach and grow to our full potential? In all growth, it is the trials that we overcome that become the essence of our strength, so when those sore trials come upon you- think of what the Gardener has done to protect you and let the trial bring you strength as you reach your roots down to find His living water.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Age of Accountability

We are responsible for our own learning. 

What does it mean to be responsible?
And, more importantly, what is the relationship between responsibility and accountability?

The word responsible comes from the French word "respondere" which means to pledge again, or renew a relationship with another. late 16th century (in the sense ‘answering to, corresponding’): from obsolete French, from Latin respons- ‘answered, offered in return,’ from the verb respondere (see respond).

The word "accountable" means to be answerable for your actions regarding a specific stewardship that you are both capable of accomplishing and given the authority to accomplish it by the person who gave you the task. Accountable suggests imminence of retribution for unfulfilled trust or violated obligation. The parable of the talents and many other parables taught by Jesus Christ teach the principle of being held accountable for specific stewardships and the consequences reaped.

Accountability is built in stages according to the abilities and attitude of the learner. Children are
innocent who have not yet become accountable.

Stages of Accountability

0. Ignorance
This stage of responsibility is the complete lack of any knowledge concerning the laws and principles involved. This is the stage of the infant. They live in the present, with no concept of connection between action and consequence. "They did suppose that whatsoever they did was right." (Alma 18:4-6)

1. First Observe 
This stage of responsibility is marked by a growing awareness of the possibility of a law. Following divine laws leads to the blessings.
Gravity is one such eternal law. And although it frustrates parents greatly, the act of continuously dropping things off the high chair is really a testing ground for this level of awareness. This is the stage of drop it on the floor a billion times to ensure gravity is fully in place. In the realm of chores, this is the noticing that mom does something besides attend to my needs all the time. It also includes watching the mother while she works. A wise mother will do chores in front of her children, occasionally explaining the purpose of her actions: For example a caretaker could say while she is scrubbing the table: "I wash the table after dinner to clean up all the sticky spots and spills so that we can do our homework at the table and not get the paper messy. I like the look of a clean table. It invites me to do things like make cookies or get out the paints." For this purpose, I recommend that new parents use the child's naptime for their own rest, or to do those tasks that are reading-heavy (like paying bills) or are done on the computer. "Be active when the child is active, and rest when the child is resting but that's a post for another day.
At this stage, a child is accountable only for paying attention- or watching the task to be learned. You can test their knowledge by asking them questions or inviting them to move to the next stage.
"And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us." (Deuteronomy 6:25), see also Alma 31:9-11

2. Walk Beside Me (An invitation to Serve & Remember)
This stage is the stage of imitation. Any attempt to perform the task will be rewarded. As children grow in their abilities, the effort required to successfully complete the task will diminish. Maria Montessori and many other childhood educators call this the "hand over hand" stage. Others call it "scaffolding" a task. This is where the real nitty-gritty training happens- it the most time-intensive and energy-intestive part of training, and thus, where most people just give up. I've learned though, as a mother and a teacher, that the effort and time it takes to progress through this stage of learning is a blessing- for this is also the stage that includes the most "misbehavior". Most "misbehavior" is a child's way of communicating, "This is too hard for me to do by myself! I'll do something else instead." If you give your attention to them and praise their every attempt as you guide and refine their skills, they have no reason to misbehave (and for a toddler, they will love to be in your presence "helping you" instead of drawing on the walls in the hallway). Remember the attention span of children is variable, so learn how to redirect their attention or give alternate tasks that they can do independently "I still need to finish folding the laundry, would you like to watch and help me, or do you want to show me how you play with (name a toy) while I finish?" "I'm still making dinner. Would you like to play with the playdoh while I finish making dinner?" If  possible, keep them in the same room as you while you work, or move your work to where they are.
At this stage, a child is accountable for the effort they put into attempting the task, regardless of whether they actually accomplish the task. Thank them for their effort, and if it really matters to you or is a matter of necessity (like finishing chopping the potatoes for dinner) revert to stage one while you complete the task.
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)  See also Deuteronomy 6:7

3. Keep (I can choose for myself- consequences have more effect)
After children gain confidence in performing tasks alongside mom, there will come a time to test the trust waters. This is the time when the child is given a short task that they have been able to do successfully with you many, many times. You stand back and watch, offering encouragement and answering all of their questions. Often, you will break the task into smaller pieces, giving them one step at a time. This is the novice stage.

This is the age of making mistakes.
Mistakes are often made because either
a) our skill and ability have not yet been perfected (watch a child try to carry a heavy water bucket without spilling or Nailed it Pinterest fails or Kids doing chores)
b) we got confused about the purpose of our task (but I did clean it up Mom! The floor is clean! I put all the stuff into the closet and closed the door! What do you mean the goal was to put things back in their proper places? )
c) we are distracted by something or someone else. (Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.)

Humor is the key to surviving and thriving through this stage. In my house, we've learned to pray for how we can turn a mistake into a miracle. Sometimes we can fix it, sometimes we just laugh and let the failed attempt go.
"Mistakes help me learn and grow." - Suzanne Tucker, Generation Mindful (She has the greatest resources for navigating through this emotionally volatile stage- both as parents and as children- go check it out!)
"Come what may, and Love it." - Elder Joseph B Wirthlin, 2008
The words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do, 2 Ne. 32:3.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, Ps. 119:105.
"But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." - 2 Timothy 3:14-16

4. Covenant
 This stage is arriving at full accountability for the results of their choices.
This stage is further broken down into levels of competence: novice, apprentice and journeyman.
This is when your test as the teacher comes, because this is when you shift the responsibility to them. You must be brave enough to allow them to fail. Stephen R. Covey illustrates this level beautifully in a story he calls "Clean and Green". As we gain experience, we become more competent. A good goal for this stage is to value "effectiveness" over "efficiency." A novice will take more time to complete the same task as a journeyman would. Their work will not be as "good" or perfected, but if they have done the task to the best of their abilities and learned how to improve their next attempt, they have been successful. Keep in mind that after major changes and upheavals, the level of competence will reset to a previous stage. (This is why many children regress after mom brings home a new baby, or the family moves, or they start school). Tasks that children have mastered will remain, but skills that were still in progress will be lost for a time.
At this stage, a child is accountable for their choice to be responsible and for reporting to you the effects of their attempts. They are not yet accountable for the perfect completion of the task, only for reporting their attempts, both successful and messy.
Repentance (look for more posts on this)
Return and Receive, M. Russell Ballard
"Be ye therefore perfected" Matthew 5
"Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?" Luke 6

5. Master
In a master's hands, the task looks easy, almost effortless. The movements are perfectly refined and efficient. All energy that is poured into the task is retained in the finished product.
The real task of a master is to pass their learning on to others. And that is where the beginning of patience comes in- for it is harder to teach someone when they cannot see your struggle.
"You cannot teach anything but what you yourself know and are."
The Master's Touch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTsjZ_DKtp8
Teaching in the Savior's Way: https://www.lds.org/callings/teachers?lang=eng



Pleasure and Pain.

On a scale of 1-10 rate your pain.
What if I'm not in pain? What if I'm just being tickled and am laughing so hard I can't talk? What if my body is doing amazing things that don't really translate into words very well, but take a lot of energy? What if I'm not so much in pain as just sore because I finished a new workout and my muscles are cleaning themselves up? What if I'm so full of grief that my body starts reacting physically?

Pain doesn't tell the full story.

We have many different receptors in our skin designed to tell us different things about the world around us.

  • Thermoreceptors tell us when something is hot or cold. 
  • Mechanoreceptors tell us about pressure or movement. These feel the wind, a hug, or the pitter-patter of raindrops on our skin. 
  • Nociceptors tell us to be careful. They send two messages: Threat detected! or Sensory overload! 

We also have similar receptors throughout our entire body. The challenge and task for all of us, is to learn to correctly interpret these signals so that we can work WITH our body. To help us with this, in our brains, we have a section completely devoted to the processing of all of the input we get from the rest of our body- the hypothalamus.
It takes the messages streaming in from the rest of the body and works very hard to keep your body functioning as best as it can under the circumstances. It triggers the release of hormones to stabilize the internal systems and neurological signals to trigger various reflex movements. Working in conjunction with the pineal gland, it sets your metabolic clock. It coordinates the work and maintenance/cleaning schedules for your body. When you have one of those 20% days, when you just don't have the energy to think or do like you want- maybe it's because the other 80% of your energy is being spent inside your body cleaning and repairing your various systems.
"Sometimes the signs we associate with sickness are actually the signs that we are healing." -Crash Course Anatomy and Physiology https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7orwMgTQ5I I like to refer to these "pains" as relief sensations. Like a clogged drain, the release of junk that has been harming your system will often be quite disgusting and unpleasant.

Back to the point: The messages are being sent by your body to your brain. How these messages are interpreted is the question of our day. In order to tame something, you must first name it. All sensations are not pain- pain is a signal that continuing a current course of action or inaction will result in damage.

Here is an example:
I went to the dentist yesterday for a cleaning and to check on some of my teeth. I have a very ticklish mouth and will often spend the entire cleaning squirming and giggling. When I was very little, my squirming was interpreted by others as pain, but in reality, it was just an overwhelming sensation. My parents soon learned that it wasn't pain I was feeling, because I would be excited to return to the dentist. I liked the tickle- even if at times it was overwhelming. Today, hygenists teach children that the polisher tickles and fear of the dentist has almost become extinct among children.

Another example:
During childbirth, a mother's body goes through some incredibly intense sensations. Pressure, temperature, rippling muscle movements... all done to an extent that it often overwhelms our perception. I did find it very interesting though- that in all three of my experiences, I could easily distinguish between the overwhelming sensations of birth and the pain that came when something was not right. My hips refused to unlock during my first birth- and so my child shut down labor after 12 hours. There was a sense that something was not right, that he was stuck. All during the induction a week later, the sense of wrongness lingered. Needless to say, his birth was an extremely traumatic emergency c-section. With his sister, only one hip disengaged- and then I felt PAIN as my poor daughter spent a grueling two hours stuck in the birth canal. Even the epidural couldn't numb that pain. With my third, after finally having managed to unlock both SI joints (the chiropractors were shocked at the amount of force it took), I only felt pain when they broke my waters and the weight of the baby pinched my uterus on my spinal vertebrae. In each case- PAIN was the sensation that something was not right and needed correction.

The best advice I ever received was this: "If it hurts, you're doing something wrong." This adage applies to everything about our bodies. If it hurts, change what you are doing. If it hurts and you spend all day in bed, try getting up and exercising. If it hurts when you eat a certain food, try cutting it out of your diet or try eating it at a different time of day. Listen to your hypothalamus, and help it do it's job of keeping you healthy, happy, and full of life.

Are you teaching your children the difference between pain (something is wrong) and sensation (something is happening inside my body)?
Start a conversation with your hypothalamus - ask it what you can do to support your body's healing today. Pay attention to the sensations you feel when you act- are you feeling pain or relief as you move?

Friday, November 30, 2018

Mistakes & Miracles

Image result for spilled milk


Do you ever get paralyzed because you are afraid to make a mistake?
Do you run and hide when you make a mistake? Or blame it on someone else? Pretend it never happened? Convince yourself that you meant to do it anyways?
That's fear talking.

Over the past year, I have learned three very important principles relating to miracles and mistakes.

Because of our Savior Jesus Christ, It's okay to make mistakes... try to fix them, and learn from them too!
One morning, I sat at breakfast with my children, pondering how I would get them to stay at the table long enough to actually fill their bellies. Appetite regulation (the balance between eating too much or eating too little) is one of the first things to disappear when there is a lot of stress in the house. The invitation came into my mind to turn on Daniel Tiger and discuss it with the children. Daniel Tiger has helped me speak with my children about the emotional challenges of growing up, but today's episode was for me.
It's okay to make mistakes... try to fix them, and learn from it too! 
We learned the song and practiced singing it every time someone made a mistake. It changed the atmosphere in our home from "I don't want to" to "I'll try." We discussed the importance of our Savior, who helps us clean up the mistakes and learn from them. Sometimes  Often, my children make a mess too big for them to clean up by themselves, so we practiced asking for help cleaning up mistakes. Parenting seems to be making mistake after mistake while you try to do the near impossible task of encouraging your children to grow into happy, healthy, productive, respectful, compassionate adults. I learned to ask the Savior to help me clean up the mistakes I make as a parent, just as I taught my children to ask for help cleaning up their messes.

"Your honest mistake is someone else's miracle."
Around this same time, I was struggling with making the Sabbath Day a delight for me and the children. As a young stay-at-home mom, my workload is no different on Sunday than any other day of the week except for the fact that we attend church instead of another errand. My children were squirming, the quiet activities we brought for them no longer holding their attention, and worship services were becoming a chore. In counseling with my husband, we determined that the success of our Sunday needed measured differently. On Saturday night, we told each other one small thing that would make Sunday feel like Sunday to us and made those wishes our priorities. One Sunday, my wish was to be able to hear the prayers spoken over the sacrament. When the time came, my daughter was noisily squirming in my lap and I was unable to hear the words. I felt so disappointed- the one little thing I'd asked- 45 seconds of quiet from my children - had not happened. And then suddenly, I realized that the young priest had made a mistake and needed to say the prayer again. His mistake, leaving out one word of the ordinance prayer, was my miracle! A voice came into my mind, speaking clearly the words: A mistake is someone else's miracle. Please tell that young man how his mistake helped you. After the meeting I sent a note to the young man via his mother letting him know how his mistake was my miracle.

Making mistakes into miracles is a choice. 
I was making pancakes with my children one morning. They were measuring, scooping, and stirring very well. My youngest daughter (not yet two years old) was mixing the dry goods, my 4 year old was beating the eggs, oil, and milk together. My 6 yr old son was observing. I went to get the cinnamon. My youngest saw me in the spice cupboard. She looked around, found the garlic salt someone had left on the counter the night before, and heartily shook some into the bowl.
I froze. I had a choice to make.
My daughter had made a mistake. Her intentions were good, but her actions ... It was so tempting to yell and scream at her for the waste. But I didn't. Instead I hummed Daniel Tiger's song to myself and said to my children, "Uh oh! I don't want to eat garlic pancakes. How can we fix it?" My 4 year old suggested throwing it away and starting over. My 6 year old suggested trying to skim out the garlic powder. Neither way felt like a miracle. So I asked them, "How can we turn this mistake into a miracle?" As we pondered, I realized that I knew from my 20 years of baking experience that the ingredients (and the proportions) in the bowl were almost identical to my recipe for biscuits. Garlic pancakes sound disgusting, but cheesy garlic biscuits are something else entirely. BINGO! Miracle found. I added a little extra baking powder to the bowl and set it aside. I got out a new bowl and we mixed up another batch of dry pancake ingredients, with cinnamon this time. After breakfast, we shredded cheese and cut the butter into the first bowl, making a set of lovely garlic biscuits for lunch.

I invite you to practice these three fear-defeating principles into your life this week. Please share with me your experiences, and any experiences you read about in the scriptures that apply.

Further reading: