Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Heart Full of Love

This morning I was snuggling Roo and she wanted me to sing to her. She kept asking for more songs about Jesus. At one point I sang this simple little song:

Jesus said "love everyone"
Treat them kindly too
When your heart is filled with love
Others will love you

Roo looked at me with her big eyes and said very sincerely, "My heart is filled with love."

We know, Roo. That's why you have a huge fan club in four states. Everywhere we go people fall totally in love with this child and that's exactly why.

Bean's First Pinewood Derby

You may have figured out by now that Bean is an intensely competitive person. Ever since he joined Cub Scouts he has been dying to be in a derby of some kind. Usually they do pinewood derbies in the winter but our Utah pack wasn't going to do one until fall. I felt bad for Bean because that would mean he would have been a scout for over a year without getting to do anything.

Being Bean's wolf den leader, I started pushing for something sooner. I was trying to arrange a raingutter regatta (where they make little wooden sailboats) when another pack called us up and asked if we wanted to do a combined pinewood derby with them. Some of the other leaders hesitated, but I pushed a little and got everyone to agree. I was so excited for Bean's first pinewood derby and the Badger was excited to help him make his car.

Well, then the Badger got this new job and left town. Suddenly I was the one in charge of making sure this car got put together. I was terrified I would cut my hand off if I even tried to cut that little block of wood. For awhile I didn't know what we were going to do. Then the Badger's brother gallantly stepped forward and said he could cut the shape of the car for us. I don't know what I would have done without him!

I handled the sanding and painting pretty well and Bean was able to help a lot. Then came the time to put on the wheels. Now, we had had a lecture at one of our den meetings from a pinewood derby expert about how to do all kinds of things to the wheels to make the car go much much faster. But that was all beyond me. Besides, at the point the derby was in a half an hour. I just stuck the wheels on as best I could and when I got there someone had some graphite that I put on for lubricant.

And we were off to the races!


Unfortunately, Bean's car came in dead last every single time except one, when it came in second to last.


I felt bad, but at the same time I felt like we were lucky that Bean had even gotten there with a car capable of racing at all, what with all the chaos in our lives. And Bean's minor feelings of disappointment were much assuaged by the presentation of a lovely gold trophy with his name on it (the three winners got medals and all participants got trophies.)

I told Bean later that night that now he can tell his grandkids--in a gravely grandpa voice-- something like, "My first pinewood derby I lost every single race. But the next year...." I think he's doing fine.

Fish, on the other hand, is so incredibly envious of Bean's trophy he can hardly see straight. Never mind that Fish actually won most of his races and got a custom-made car holder with his name on it and a cool patch at HIS derby. Trophies have been a sore spot for Fish for a long time because Bean got one for soccer when we lived in Oregon in 2007 and Fish was still too young to play. Fish has coveted that trophy for three years. Though he has since participated in many sports, the organization we were with gave medals, not trophies.

However, when I went to pick up the trophies for the derby at the trophy store I discovered that you can get a custom-engraved trophy for five bucks or so. I'm going to buy the boys each a trophy for something sometime soon. Then Fish can start a long and fruitful trophy collection.
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Interesting Bubbles

We have this friend who brings us farm eggs (yes, another friend who brings us farm eggs!) and this time as we were washing them we noticed the bubbles had lined themselves up in a very geometrical fashion. I'd never seen anything like it before and I thought it was cool, so I took a picture. It's a little hard to see, but the best examples are on the left side, toward the bottom.

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You're a Little Young for Makeup, Rabbit...

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

First Performance

Saturday's children's choir concert was the first time my boys have been in a choir performance other than at church. They got to wear tux shirts and bow ties, which they found rather embarrassing. When I saw them in their performance outfits though, I fell so in love!

Here they are sitting down waiting for the concert to start:


And here they are standing up about to perform-- I think this is a particularly good picture of my Fish!


Here is the whole choir as seen from where I was sitting:


And here are my handsome boys with their amazing choir director after the performance:


Love those bowties!!! Who ever said dressing little boys wasn't any fun?
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He's My Brother

Yesterday the children's choir my boys have been singing in had their spring concert. It was such a bittersweet experience for me because it was so wonderful and such a good experience for them but it was their last experience with this choir because we're moving.

Being in that highly emotional state, the music that was sung really moved me and some of it's been playing in my head continuously ever since.

The older choir sang a song I'd never heard before that I just loved, so I'm posting the lyrics for you. Once a long time ago a simple picture appeared in a newspaper of a boy carrying his younger brother on his back, along with the caption, "He ain't heavy, he's m'brother." Two songwriters named Bobby Scott and Bob Russell were inspired by the picture and this was the result:

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dancing in the Rain

We had a marvelous spring rain shower today. I went to the grocery store and when I came back it was pouring buckets. I stayed in the car to wait for the rain to die down, but of course my kids got out and started dancing around the yard in the rain.

I couldn't help but think of that sort-of-cheesy quote: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." And I thought to myself, you know, that's really what we've been doing the last several months.

We've totally been dancing in the rain.

Instead of just sitting around saying "oh dear, when is this 'unemployed and living with parents' business going to be over?" we've been maximizing our time here with all the fun activities and family visits we can pack in to our schedule. Some times it's been hard, but overall I've totally LOVED this last half year.

I'm kind of sad to see it end.

But I'm very pleased to announce that my glorious Badger now has a job!

Guess where?

The prairie!

He's actually going to be back at his old company doing his old job. It will be in a different city and state, but we'll be back to tornado alley! WOO HOO!!!! (I love tornado alley!)

He's out there right now getting started. The current plan is that he'll come back for us in a couple of weeks and we'll all get moved out there before the spring thunderstorm season is over.

Yay! I will have my own house again!

Yay! All the things that I need that got buried in the storage unit will be unearthed again!

Yay! We will have a steady paycheck!

And health benefits-- I can go to the dentist again!

Yay!

But I will miss so many things about Utah. The kids' lives here were so rich-- Roo's amazing dance teacher, Fish's top-notch scout leader, the boys' homeschool choir, the kids' clean and wholesome gymnastics studio, and the huge network of homeschool support with all the activities and field trips. And then there's our family and the mountains-- it will be very hard to leave.

But I can't wait to see what wonderful things there will be back on the prairie. I can think of three already-- Blue Bell ice cream and Aldi and fireflies! And I know there will be many more!

Hooray!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Important Business

My Rabbit spent the morning trucking around the house in Grandma's purple flip flops, pushing her cart full of assorted essentials.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not Good Enough?

My sister Pineapple just sent me a link to this article in Meridian Magazine about feeling "not good enough." Please read it!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

King James

Babies sure get fussed over at the Burrow. When the Badger's sister came over Sunday evening with baby James, he was definitely the center of attention. And it's easy to see why-- babies in the Badger's family are uncommonly cute, says I (that's why I married into this family-- I wanted cute babies-- and I got them!)



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Four Cute Kids

(Bean is sitting next to me and I asked him what I should call this post and that's what he said so I'm going with it.)


We had cousins visit on Sunday evening and the kids had fun together!
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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Forum Notes: Self-Government

At the Thomas Jefferson Education forum, I attended a seminar on teaching your family self-government. It was taught by Nicholeen Peck and she is amazing. She and her husband have been on TV talking about their parenting methods and are highly sought-after speakers at seminars. They have been marvelously successful foster parents to extremely difficult teenagers as well as having four children of their own.

I highly recommend visiting her website at teachingselfgovernment.com. There's a lot of good stuff on there-- like she explains what SODAS are, which I wanted to on here but my notes aren't good enough for it to make sense. But I will tell you a few of the things she said that really resonated with me.

She defines self-government as "being able to determine the cause and effect of any given situation and possessing a knowledge of your own behaviors so you can control them." Sounds like something I need, not just my kids! It is a learned skill.

She is really big on remaining CALM. Kids like giving you a rise and pushing your buttons. She says have no rise, have no buttons. Oh man, I have to work on this!!!! She also says to avoid power struggles because they destroy relationships. I am going to get a copy of her book so I can read more on this subject because she couldn't cover enough in one hour to satisfy me!

Briefly, I am going to tell you her six principles of an effective family government:

1-- have a scheduled family activity at least once a week that everyone can be involved in and anticipate (I love this idea!)

2-- everyone in the home needs to be accepted-- home should be the safest place to make mistakes

3-- there should always be love-- if ever you don't feel love toward your child remove yourself from the situation and don't talk to them until you do feel love

4-- there needs to be trust-- the opposite of trust is force, which cannot change hearts

5-- every family needs to develop a system of family economy that works for them: consequences, privileges, etc. know in advance what your worst consequence is (this will keep you from screaming out "you're grounded for a year!" when they do something really awful.)

6-- have regular family meetings at least once a week-- not for criticism or blame but for discussing things that come up around the home

Her approach of calmness, consistency, order, firm limits decided in advance, and lots of love and fun really makes sense to me. My kids respond so much better and seem so much more secure when they know what to expect.

I got really good vibes from this woman. I highly recommend her website, articles, seminars, book, etc.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Logan Canyon

So many times we have driven through gorgeous scenery and I have not bothered to take pictures. We are much more likely to actually remember the drive when I take the trouble to snap a couple of pictures, even if it's out the car window while we're driving.

Coming down Logan Canyon yesterday it just seemed like God had created this masterpiece just for us to drive through. It was so lovely I didn't want to forget it so I pulled out my camera. Even mediocre pictures through the windshield were worth taking.




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To Grandmother's House We Go!

We just got back from a quick trip up to my parents' house. The local public schools are on spring break, but we headed north and into the mountains so there were very few signs of "spring." Lots of precip and iffy weather, but "the [Badger knew] the way to carry [our] sleigh through the white and drifted snow."

First we stopped in Cache Valley and spent a few hours with our good friends the Schmoo family. They have a new house that came with a hot tub, so we all put on our swimsuits and piled in. It felt really good in the 40-degree weather. We ended up with three adults and nine children in the hot tub, which made it seem somewhat like an octopus pit, but we all had a jolly time.

Then we raced a snowstorm up Logan Canyon to get to Bear Lake, where my parents live in a house beamed down straight from heaven.

The kids really enjoyed being with their grandparents. Here fish is wearing Grandpa's special cooking hat while helping in the kitchen:



And here my mother is enjoying a little Rabbit Time, which is always very lovely when the Rabbit is asleep:


Here's what Bear Lake looks like at the beginning of April:


That lake is always so beautiful. We're so lucky to get to visit there!
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Sunday, April 4, 2010

How We Celebrated Easter This Year

The Badger and I are always trying to figure out how to balance the sacred with the secular when it comes to celebrating Easter. We want to keep the focus on Christ, yet we also want it to be fun. Another goal is to not let them have very much sugar without them feeling deprived. This year I thought we did a good job acheiving those goals.

Starting last week on Palm Sunday, I had these long evening conversations with the kids where we talked about the things Jesus did during the last week of His life. We also talked a lot about the Passover. My original plan was to make a calendar sort of like my mom's countdown to Christmas calendar where you turn a page every day. It would start with Palm Sunday and go through Easter and each day there would be a picture and a story to read. I'll have to make that next year, but at least we looked at pictures in the Gospel Art Book and told the stories.

Friday afternoon I boiled 3 dozen eggs and the children and I dyed them together. We drew pictures on them with white crayon first.

Friday night the Badger took Bean to a Passover dinner put on by the Hebraeus Institute. They both had a wonderful time and learned a lot.

Saturday afternoon after General Conference we had our visit from the Easter Bunny. The eggs we had dyed the day before were hidden in the yard and the kids ran around like wild things until their faces were as red as the red eggs. The Burrow has such a great yard for an egg hunt. We had a blast!




Then I told them that the Easter Bunny had left something for them (they were wanting their baskets, but they are buried in the storage unit.) I explained that the Easter Bunny wanted them to remember that Easter was about Jesus and so he had brought each of them something to help them think about Jesus and learn more about Him. They raced in the house and found wrapped books from the LDS bookstore waiting for them, along with a small bag of candy. The candy was all from the health food store, so it was all made with unrefined sugar and natural colorings. They didn't notice that it was any different from "normal" candy and they promptly began stuffing their faces.


They were excited and happy, yet I could tell that some of their excitement and happiness came from thinking of Jesus and that was my goal. I think it was a wonderful and very successful Easter celebration.
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Easter Rabbit

The Rabbit sure enjoyed her Easter candy. I probably gave her way too much, but at least I did get the bag away from her before she ate it all.

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Easter Snow

Here's what we woke up to this morning, Easter Sunday:


Here's what the kids did about it:




Good thing we did our outside egg hunt yesterday!!!
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Friday, April 2, 2010

Good for a Laugh

As you probably know, I adore children's picture books. Every week we go to the Library and I get so excited about all the fun and colorful stories that I end up checking out as many as I can lug out of there without breaking my back (usually about 40). Then we sit on the couch and read and read and read. It's fabulous!

This week we checked out a book that all nine people in our household got a huge laugh over. It's called Twelve Terrible Things and it's by Marty Kelley. Go see if your library has it! I think you'll get a kick out of it.

Forum Notes: Boys

If you ever have the chance to hear Andrew Puweda speak, you'll be glad you did. He is from Oklahoma and he travels all over the country speaking to various educational groups. He's extremely entertaining and full of insight.

He spoke to us on the subject of "how to teach boys and other children who would rather build forts all day." You can see why I had to attend his presentation!!

The talk was pretty much divided into two halves. The first half was about medically documented gender differences. He quoted the work of Dr. Leonard Sax, who wrote a book called Why Gender Matters which I currently have out from the library at Mr. Puweda's recommendation. It's fascinating and I'm enjoying it and I would recommend it, but with a couple of big caveats. One is that Dr. Sax definitely does not share my values and therefore I do not agree with some of the things he says. The other is that it does contain some explicit material relating to certain aspects of gender interaction.

Anyway, Dr. Sax gives well-documented evidence of some extremely interesting differences between boys and girls. For one thing, it's well-established that boys do not hear as well as girls, especially softer, higher-pitched tones.

As I read this part of the book, two experiences from my life really jumped out at me. I remember when I was a kid I felt like my dad "yelled" at me a lot. Not exactly yelling, but more like just talking to me in what seemed like an overly loud and very stern voice. Now I knew my dad loved me and did a lot of wonderful things for me, but sometimes I was kind of scared of him because of his tone of voice. Dr. Sax talks about this very issue, saying that the father thinks he is speaking in a normal voice and the young daughter feels like she's being yelled at. I remember that when some of us tried to talk to Dad about it he was very surprised and insisted he wasn't doing anything wrong. Turns out we were probably both right.

One of my fondest childhood memories is laying in bed at night and having my mother sing softly to me. Since I became a mother I have been extremely passionate about doing this for my own children so they can have the same sense of security I felt when my mom did that for me. Well, for years it was an exercise in utter frustration. I'd try to sing to my boys as I was putting them to bed and they'd be bouncing all over the room, hitting each other, etc. I'd be stopping every half phrase and commanding them firmly to get back in bed and be quiet so I could sing. Then they got to the age where they started preferring to listen to story tapes at bedtime and now I just sing to my girls. They always lay there quietly while I sing and it's just how I imagined it would be. They even fall asleep while I'm singing, just like they're supposed to! Anyway, I now know that it's very likely that my boys just weren't hearing my singing well enough to relax and enjoy listening. And I can stop feeling like a failure and move on!

Vision is another area where males and females differ. Stated very simply, men have more nerves going to the part of the eye that detects direction and speed. Women have more going to the part that detects color and texture. This is a good thing to remember when you're teaching art to your young children. When given paper and crayons, boys tend to draw verbs with few colors while girls tend to draw nouns using lots of colors. This is a generalization, but it is based on the scientific fact that our eyes are wired differently. In our house I see a lot of this with Bean and Roo, but as Fish gets older he is spending more and more time on his art and putting it more "nouns" and much more detail. I see a gift for art emerging. But he still doesn't use a lot of color!

Men and women react completely oppositely to stress. For men stress causes an increase of blood flow to the cortex whereas for women there is a decrease of blood flow to the cortex. Men tend to think better under stress. Some men think best on their feet. In teaching boys, you can try making chairs optional. Some boys will do better standing at the counter doing their math.

By the way, Dr. Sax has for years been an advocate of gender segregation in public schools. He has helped many schools to segregate in this way and in every single case test scores have gone way up.

The second half of Mr. Puweda's remarks dealt with "the art and science of motivation." He spoke about four different kinds of relevancy.

First, there is intrinsic relevancy. Some things are just innately interesting for each of us. We don't really know why, we just find them fascinating.

Second, there is inspired relevancy. This is interest you catch from someone else. Johnny wants to collect stamps because Bobby does. Kids can catch a lot of this from their parents, but as homeschooling parents we were cautioned never to try to teach our kids anything we weren't excited about ourselves. If we're not into something, find a mentor who is and who would be willing to share their enthusiasm with our kids.

Third, there is contrived relevancy. These are things you really need to learn but aren't really excited about. Like the multiplication table and grammar. The trick here is to make it a game, especially if you have very competitive children!

The final relevancy is enforced relevancy. "I am going to make you learn this." This, obviously, is the least effective. Learning may occur, but it is not retained long-term.

My personal homeschool philosophy at this time is that I try to feed intrinsic relevancies as much as possible and inspire as many relevancies as I can, but I still feel that there are certain things that they need to know, period. And there are some things that it's pretty hard to get excited about, like how to correctly sweep a floor. So these ideas were extremely helpful to me. In some cases I'd been trying to force certain things and it was ending up a big frustration to both me and the children. This reminded me that I need to contrive a way to make them go along with it-- a game, a contest, a race, dollars toward a "trampoline fund," or whatever. I find that when I take the time to do this correctly it really works well. When I don't plan ahead I end up just barking at them to "just do this exercise, it's not very much work, kids in public school do ten times more than this, you should be grateful, just sit down and get it done, blah blah blah..." The entire spirit of my home deteriorates very quickly and everyone is hurt, annoyed, and frustrated. But man, you should see Bean crank out the multiplication table when I turn on his competitive switch!

He talked about how the games you put together have to be possible to win and there must be potential gains and losses. He gave an example that I absolutely loved:

Billy brings you a paragraph he wrote. You notice that there are nine words spelled incorrectly. You could give Billy the paper and say "fix the spelling errors." He probably would not be very happy about that. Or you could say something like this: "Billy, there are nine spelling errors in this paper. Find and correct all nine and I'll give you a dollar. Fix eight and you get 75 cents. Fix seven and you get 50 cents. Six and you get a quarter. Five and you get nothing. Four and you owe me a dime. Three and you owe me 25 cents. Two and you owe me 50 cents. One and you owe me 75 cents. If you don't do anything with the paper, you owe me a dollar." Of course you adapt that for however your family does rewards (I personally wouldn't use money) but I can tell you right now that if I did something like that to Bean he'd attack that paper like a maniac. He'd probably find ten spelling errors!

Finally, here are three laws of motivation:

Children like to do what they can do.
Children want to do what they think they can do.
Children hate to do and will refuse to do what they think they cannot do.

Anyone who has been around kids much can definitely relate!