Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Hike of Life

A couple weeks ago we took the kids on a hike through an incredible slot canyon in southern Utah. We started early loaded down with water, snacks, and lots of energy. The path wandered over and through a lot of water, and we maneuvered around rocks, tree roots, and rivers as we went. I couldn't help thinking how much hiking is like life.

Out in nature you can see how plants and animals adapt to survive in their environments. (People are like that, too, of course.)
Aren't those tree roots amazing?
Sometimes the path is rocky and you stumble and totally soak yourself in the stream. You can choose to be grumpy. Or you can choose to be grateful the water cooled you off a bit.
At times little people (and their adults) start to wonder how much longer this path is going to last. At times it's good to have a chance to remind ourselves that we can do hard things.

At times in hikes and in life people feel tired. And everyone feels better when offered a little bit of encouragement. "Don't worry, you're almost there." "You'll be fine. Just keep going." "You're doing a great job!" (Doesn't life better when we talk to each other that way?)
Sometimes in life and on hikes you just need a hand to hold, someone to help you keep trucking along.
Eventually we stopped and found a nice spot for lunch, and we tried to share some of this wisdom with our kids. Maybe they understood some of it that day. Maybe some of it they will discover as they go through life.

Life can be rocky, but we can do hard things. Help someone along. Let someone help you along. The path feels nicer for everyone that way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wonderful Worms

The kids had just returned from their ritual routine of running to the end of the street to wave goodbye to Cameron as he drove past. On their way back they encountered some friends heading off to school. One of those friends gave Abby a little present.

Abby came running in the door and plopped a nice handful of worms right on the kitchen counter in front of me.

"Look, Mom! I got some worms!" Glee and enthusiasm radiated everywhere.

I had an immediate choice to make. I could

A) Feel complimented that my daughter knows I am interested enough in her life that she feels comfortable dropping a bunch of worms on my kitchen counter.

B) Wonder how I have somehow failed to teach my daughter better habits of cleanliness. Worms on my kitchen counter? Really?

C) Try to maintain a measure of calm while I ask her to please remove the worms from my kitchen counter.

I chose all three.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Parable of the Braces

Last summer Jake started sporting a much more decorated, much more expensive smile. He got braces.
I never had braces and neither did Cameron, so in the weeks leading up to Jake's new look I quizzed lots of people and read up about what sorts of foods would make him comfortable when his mouth was sore, what kinds of food he couldn't eat, etc. And I worried just a tad about how he would respond to this new experience.

I really didn't need to worry. Jake was a trooper for the few days after he got his braces when his mouth was sore. We kept him filled up with smoothies and popsicles, and he was a good-natured little man.

Still, as the weeks passed his new gear gave him grief in small ways. He couldn't always eat the foods he wanted to in social settings. If he forgot he won a free trip back to the orthodontist to have a bracket reattached. And the time (and effort) it took to brush his teeth morning and night skyrocketed.

I think small bits of adversity can help us grow to become wiser, kinder, and more compassionate individuals, so I viewed a lot of his hardships as blessings in disguise. But one night, as he was again talking about discomfort and what he couldn't eat, I found myself wishing that I had needed braces as a child so I could understand his experiences and better know how to help him.

Frankly, as much as I want to know how to perfectly understand and help each of my children with each of their individual concerns, I am one mortal person, and I can't. But there is One who knows us. He has felt everything we feel and knows what we need. He understands us.

"Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows..." ~Isaiah 53:4

"And he will take upon Him their infirmities that His bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that He may know according to the flesh how to succor His people according to their infirmities." ~Alma 7:12

Oh, the times we all have in life when we desperately need the One who understands and can succor us. How I rejoice in his love and grace.
                                         Christ in red and white robes, knocking on a plain wooden door with a small window showing warm light inside.

As we celebrate another glorious Easter weekend, I praise God for a Savior who knows me, my children, and each one of us. He knows what He need and He stands ready to help.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Why God Gave Us Families

It was a Tuesday morning, the kids had finished their morning school work, and I was hurriedly trying to fold a load of laundry before lunch. Suddenly I heard a little voice from the stairs behind me say, "Watch me!" I turned to see Emma on the stairs.
Emma has recently been working to perfect her stair-climbing skills. In this instance, she wanted an audience to applaud her. An audience is just what she got. Abby heard her, turned, and started cheering and calling others to join.

Emma beamed as she walked down the stairs. Abby and Grace encouraged her to turn around and do it again, and she did. Everyone cheered and clapped, and Emma just lapped up all that attention.
It was a joyful moment for all of us, and I couldn't help thinking that is part of why God gave us families. Families can be a built-in cheering section. They support, encourage, and urge us on. They lift us up and love us when we're down.

Of course, God and His angels cheer us from the other side, but we don't always hear them. So He gave us families.
I sure love this family God gave me!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Creativity Run Amok

I revel in the opportunity homeschool provides my children to to develop and exercise creativity. Any time I am not sitting down with them actively doing schoolwork, their little brains gravitate towards delightful building and play. I love seeing their Lincoln Log constructions, Lego achievements, snow forts, and blanket forts. (OK, I'll be totally honest. Perhaps blanket forts aren't always my favorite because they usually involve large amounts of space, time and eventual clean-up...clean-up that often requires persistent parental prodding.)

I think their creativity is wonderful and I am glad they have so much time to dream, experiment, and build.
Jake sat down one day with cardboard, foam, tape, and fabric and sewed this couch for Grace's dollhouse.
Then one day Jake's creative energies got directed to paper airplanes. He searched the internet for ideas, pulled books out of our library, and tried model after model. Soon our living room was strewn with tools and hardware while he constructed a little launch pad.

By afternoon he was sailing missiles through the living room and over and down the stairs. A few of us were hit while he perfected his flight pattern, and my floor looked like this.
Creativity requires thought, work, and patience. Lots and lots of patience.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Homeschool Highlights: International Space Station

A few weeks ago we blasted off into our new astronomy unit with a week spent learning about the International Space Station and an evening spent pretending to be astronauts. It was pretty fun.

We started by reading Floating in Space and The International Space Station by Franklyn Branley. Both are short, easy reads that help kids understand some basics about being an astronaut.

Cameron stopped by an Emergency Essentials store and picked up some MREs, and we had a little astronaut evening. I told the kids their footie jammies would have to be their space suits for the evening. Then I taped their feet to the floor so they wouldn't float away while they were eating. (Admittedly my kids weren't too fond of being tied down. The tape job didn't last too long.)
We dipped our MREs in hot water and got them out one by one and let everyone try some of each.
Most of them weren't too bad. One or two of them were pretty good.
The fried rice was completely inedible.
After we had all filled up on those we pulled out some astronaut desserts, and everyone liked those, of course.
Freeze dried cheesecake and ice cream taste just as sweet as their hydrated counterparts.
Then we trooped downstairs for some astronaut exercise so all of our muscles wouldn't atrophy while we were orbiting around earth. Once again, everyone had to be strapped onto the exercise bike so they didn't take to air mid pedal.

Astronauts sleep in sleeping bags that are tied down so they don't float around. We taped some sleeping bags to the floor and let our kids enjoy a little cosmic slumber party. They loved it.
We are all set to travel around the solar system for the next few months! 3-2-1-Blast off!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Family Retreat 2016

A couple years ago we started a tradition that we all love--an annual family retreat. Once a year (we like to do it in January) we set aside a weekend for special family togetherness. We check into a hotel for a night (to make things more fun and official), hold meetings, set goals, and talk about our family values. We just finished our family retreat a couple weeks ago, and it was probably our best one yet.

After we checked into our hotel room we all sat down for our first meeting. This year in our first meeting we talked a bit about our family values, taught the kids a song we made up with each of the values, and introduced our family awards.

We will be handing out three different awards each week in family council this year--a good manners award, an exactness award, and a family value award. The good manners award is probably self explanatory--we are always looking for a way to reinforce courtesy and social grace.
The exactness award is for someone who has been meticulous in cleaning up and doing jobs and schoolwork correctly (not sloppily).
The family value award will be given to someone who has done well that week with the family value for the month. (For instance, January's value is forgiveness and repentance. If someone did a stellar job apologizing or forgiving, they would get the award.)
The award hangs over its recipient's bed for the week till we reevaluate for the next week. Our hope is that the awards will help the kids to begin to recognize themselves as having some of the attributes we are hoping to teach them.

After our first meeting we went swimming in the hotel pool and played Marco Polo.

With all that energy worked out, everyone was ready for our second meeting. I prepared a list of 25 scenarios, Cameron read each one to the kids, and they would list off family values that could help them make a good decision in each of those instances. Each time they named off an appropriate family value, we gave them a Bugle.
Which brings us to the topic of food. Corporate retreats tend to keep plenty of snack food handy, and our family retreat follows the same concept. I prepare for each meeting by packing snack bags full of different options, and everyone gets a different snack bag for each meeting. Happy mouths and occupied hands help things run more smoothly around here.

After the second meeting we went to dinner then came back for our third meeting--a little family goal-setting meeting. We went around the circle and everyone made suggestions. After a bit of banter and brainstorming we set three main goals: 1-run three 5Ks together as a family this year; 2-perform 100 acts of service outside the home; 3-be on time for family scripture study (7am) at least 100 times this year.

We ended the evening by watching Charlotte's Web together and discussing family values we found in it, such as loyalty, courage, and service. The next morning everyone enjoyed a big hotel breakfast and our retreat came to a close.

I love the opportunity our family retreat provides to focus on the things that are most important--loving and spending time with each other, setting goals, and living Christ-centered lives. Family retreats are unifying and fun and I heartily recommend them!