Pioneer Day

One of the things I have most appreciated about our move to homeschooling is how it has helped me maximize on opportunities for learning. Pioneer Day seemed like one of those opportunities. I have always loved family history, I have fond memories of Sunday afternoons spent with my Dad in his downstairs office, bent over his huge 3’x3′ family group sheet. I remember the first time I saw the name Kjersten printed in his neat script and exclaimed- “Hey! That’s like my name!” I’ve felt an important link to my Danish and Swedish ancestral lines ever since. And I’ve wanted to share that passion with my boys, but have often failed to interest them.

So, today, we dedicated the whole day to Pioneering. The goal was to spend all day outside, which we largely achieved, excepting for nap time. We “hunted” ‘fished” (Wow! were the boys thrilled that their mother was allowing them to go around shooting things! Even helping them aim their bow and arrows at “rabbits.”) We washed laundry by hand and hung it to dry. (I hope I’ll never forget Anders’ enthusiasm when he checked the clothes line in the afternoon and found his shorts dry!) We ate a meager lunch of “What we could forage along the trail (as well as from our fridge), carrots, celery, and peppers with bread and butter and a small cup of pistachios. It was an odd, simple meal, but the boys didn’t complain, they loved getting to peel the carrots and cut them themselves, and loved eating plateless, on a picnic blanket- tearing off hunks of bread and smothering it liberally with butter- despite my reminder “Anders, I know you’re excited because we haven’t had butter in such a long time, but if we eat all the butter today we won’t have any tomorrow! This was a lucky trade we made to get this butter in the first place!” Scotland in particular got into the acting. He solemnly proclaimed “We’re just grateful to have something to eat.”  He kept saying things like “At that time boys my age shot guns,” or “rode horses” etc. We fetched all our water from the “stream”- hose, and gathered buckets of water for washing from the “lake”- plastic swimming pool. After lunch we headed out for the nearest trading post- Safeway to see if we could trade some goods for some cream, milk and eggs. At first Scotland recoiled- “But that’s so far, and that’s a very steep hill.” I took him by the shoulders and with the same serious “pioneer” voice I had been using all morning I said, “Scotland, you are my oldest son. I need your help. We must go to this trading post to get cream for butter.” He went off to get ready and returned with resolve, shortly later telling Anders, “Pioneers don’t complain!” We made our trek to Safeway and back with much joviality and interest. (I love walking or biking places we usually drive because we all notice new things, and it makes our neighborhood seem all the more interesting.) After nap time, the boys made their own whipped cream- by shaking cream in pint jars. (Chia even got in on the action in a baby food jar!) Then while they busied themselves with various imaginative scenarios- mostly centered around displaying physical prowess. I cooked dinner- mashed potatoes and steak (cooked outside on the grill.) We ate our third meal outside, and finished it off with vanilla cream scones topped with whipped cream and fresh blueberries- plated and served by Scotland. We then spent the evening as the pioneers would have enjoying music (Tom’s guitar), dancing, and playing outside. It was a lovely, and something we ought to repeat more often. The boys are now sleeping soundly in the tent, as I reminisce on a most successful day.

A few lessons that stand out are the realization that my boys thrive on more physical learning- washing clothes while telling stores of my ancestors, walking to the store as we talked about trade posts and how people traded goods. They were also so thrilled to be given more responsibility. Scotland prepared much of lunch. When I suggested that he prepare the dessert- he was delighted and performed his task beautifully. Too often I stifle their development and joy by not sharing the load of household responsibilities.

Once again, I was reminded of the deep learning that goes along with reenactment. It’s the part of unit studies that I think is so powerful. Anders immediately made the connection between our Japanese unit study and our current study of pioneers. I haven’t seen a more effective way to spark interest and self directed learning than by completely flooding the environment with one subject.

I’m often overwhelmed by these sorts of studies. They seem like they’ll take too much work. But beyond a bit of brainstorming, and to be fair a bunch of reading up on my pioneer ancestor’s stories last night, I did little prep for this unit. It wasn’t visually beautiful the way some of the homeschool feeds are on Instagram, I used what I had around, and added things as we went along. But, if anything, that added to the effectiveness because the kids felt like they could contribute as well- It was Anders ideas to go hunting, and Scotland wanted to forage for berries. They liked helping to define the rules for “Pioneer Day,” and delighted in the otherness of the day. It was one day out of our norm- and yes I dedicated the entire day to the cause, but I’m so glad I did, because I can tell by the warmth in my heart that this is a day that will long linger in our memories.

Family Picture- 2017

I finally got my act together and coordinated family pictures. They are our first official family pictures ever. (Oops!) Tom went to my family’s reunion for the first time in five years, and knowing my photographer brother, Devin would be thereI was determined to make it happen. (Last time Devin was in town I planned to do some, and Tom was only home on evening early enough to have light, and it poured that day! Needless to say our attempts at setting up a studio in the garage were unsuccessful.) I was so thrilled with the results! Thanks Devin for taking time out of your vacation to shoot these for us! (The pictures from the previous post with these outfits were part of this shoot.)

A lengthy update on our children

It’s been a while since I just wrote an update on what the kids are up to. I’ll start with Chiara, as per her birth order, she’s often most likely to be left out.

Chiara- 15.5 months:

In the last week Chiara’s communication skills have exploded she’s now signing: bird, drink, bread, please, thank you, ball, diaper change, hungry, sleep, and thank you. She’s following instructions beautifully. In fact, yesterday, I was telling the boys “It’s time to go. Get your shoes and socks on then use the bathroom.” She went and got her moccasins and brought them to me, and then I found her in the bathroom standing next to the toilet in “peeing formation.” At first I didn’t understand, and went to pick her up, but she was adamant about the toilet, so I removed her pants and diaper and helped her sit on the toilet. Congratulating her on her good listening. She is getting quite a sense of humor and giggles freely. She’s especially ticklish under her chin and at the tops of her thighs. We have a nightly ritual of tickling and wrestling on the bed before I put her in the crib, she laughs and crawls away to the end of the bed and then I’ll grab her feet and pull her back, she’ll laugh and then I’ll tickle her and she’ll giggle all the more. She had gotten into a bad habit of hitting and squawking at people. So we’ve been really working on “gentle hands” and kindness and I’ve been quite shocked at how quickly and adeptly she’s changed her ways. She’ll go from a furrowed brow, harsh sound and swatting hands to a gentle smile and soft hands. She’s started dancing- spinning around in circles and raising her arms up and swaying. She loves books now, especially if they contain animals. She gets so excited when she sees any animal and points and says excitedly “Daddy!” (Dhddy) is her most used word. It means doggy, Daddy, ducky, and anything else exciting. She also says Yes, No, Shoes, Jesus, Mom, Mommy, and Daddy. She calls cows “moo.” Her favorite books are the Farmyard Tales Books.

She loves shoes and wants to put hers on as soon as she wakes up. (A trait my Father would be proud of!) She will also bring each of us our shoes when she notices we’re getting ready to leave. She often requests I put bows in her hair.

Her hair has gotten long enough to require being tied back or it hangs in her eyes, yesterday she was pushing it out of her eyes. It’s long enough to go in a pony with a little clip upfront, but I haven’t done it yet. It has a darling curl that looks both feminine and crazy.


She loves her daddy and will squeal and run up to him when he gets home.

She’s navigating the stairs and goes up and down them independently. She’s walking even running a bit now and is so thrilled with her competence and ability.

I babysat a three week old baby yesterday and she was SO interested, peeking into the ERGO every few minutes and gentle touching his head and squealing, her eyebrows lifted and her eyes bright.

She loves to make us laugh and has a silly face she’ll make at the dinner table to make everyone laugh. It involves squinting her eyes, scrunching her noses, and making an exaggerated smile her chin held high. She’ll hold it for a long time.Iit really is hilarious and we all laugh every time, even when she repeats it over and over.

She loves tiny things, and especially loves putting tiny things in bags/socks/ anything that might contain them.

She can draw quite successfully with the IKEA colored pencils, and likes to do so when her brothers are doing art. She loves taking the tops off the markers. She holds a pencil correctly.

In the last week she seems to have warmed up to strangers, but in general she plays coy or is rude. She often grumbles and turns away when people greet her and she swats at kids when they coo and get close to her. She is very expressive with her lips and will often form them into an “o” and turn her eyes down when people look at her.

She’s quick to tantrum and throws herself onto the floor over the smallest frustrations. As her communication is improving these seem to be lessening, and I’ve really been trying of late to listen and give heed to her requests. She’s clearly appreciated being more respected and listened to.

She’s discovered the raspberry patch and b-lines it for it whenever she goes outside hoping to find a tasty morsel.

She likes to walk down the steps at the front and back door- holding on to the railing so she doesn’t have to crawl down.

She loves flowers. She’ll point them out a walks or in books. Yesterday, she came in all excited to show me the two handfuls of fuchsia blooms she had picked from my pots. She was confused when I didn’t share her delight. (She’s really improved at just looking at flowers and just putting her hand gently under them instead of picking, so I was sad for the regression.)

Her relationship with the boys is complicated, she pretty apprehensive of Scotland, he tends to want to control her too much- picking her up and just being too active and loud. Though she loves to play a game where she swats him and he over-acts the injury. (Oh dear!) He, however, adores her and is always declaring how “cute” she is and how much he loves her. Chiara and Anders have these sweet interactions from time to time. I’ll find them playing and giggling together. In the last short while I’ve seen her go to the boys to comfort them when they’ve been crying- patting them on the shoulder.

She still a Momma’s girl and loves to be held, comforted and nursed. I had about weened her, but then she got sick and I started nursing her during the night. She got to the point where she wanted to be nursed, but only if she was lying down next to me- not sitting up! Now that her illness has passed she’s not nursing anymore, but still asks for it when she’s tired and I can’t put her down (like at church.)

She knows she only gets her passy during her nap time, and when she wakes up I’ll say “Leave your passy in your crib,” and she’ll take it out and drop it down. Today she went into her room got her favorite blankie with the silk sashing and her passy and brought it out. I asked “Are you ready for a nap?“ She nodded. “I’ll put you down as soon as I finish reading this book to the boys.” She alternated between lying down on one of the decorative pillows and sitting on my lap, until I had finished reading. She then happily went to bed, cooing and giggling as I tucked her in, and pretended to have her kitty and Hopsy (her stuffed bunny) kiss her and hug her.

Anders 3.5 years-


Anders is such a fascinating kid. He is both the most gentle and the most wild. He is the most helpful and the most defiant. He has a real desire to please and do things right, but when he is pushed beyond his limits he goes into what we have recently called “beast mode.” Anders it he boy says things like “Wow! This is my favorite food Mom!” Even when he’s not sure he’s going to like it. He’s the boy that always says please and thank you. And is generally upbeat, grateful, and appreciative. “Thanks for making this, Mom!” But he gets pushed around and manipulated a lot by Scotland and his response is generally to yell, “Stop it Scotland! I don’t like that!” He’s always been a loud boy, and he’s all the louder when he’s upset or frustrated.

Anders knows the rules, and keeps them in the forefront for all of us. He’ll often remind Scotland- which he hates. “Stop acting like an adult!” One afternoon he said as we were driving home late after a full day. “What are we going to do when we get home? Go to bed! Are we going to fuss? No! Are we going to fight? No! Are we going to brush our teeth? Yes!” He yelled this out to the whole van of siblings and cousins.

Anders is a writer. He has memorized the order of letters in his name and can write his name beautifully now, with all letters capitalized but small. He has great dexterity and is detail oriented and diligent with his handwriting book, and workbooks in general. He learned how to play Hot Cross Buns on the piano this week, well I guess just the first half, but being able to play his fingers independently has been a big deal for him. He enjoys doing “his studies” he knows his numbers up to 10, and can count up to 12 before he gets mixed up in the teens. He knows the alphabet and what many of the letters say. He knows the days of the week, and the months of the year. We are doing a combination of “How to teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons” and “The Ordinary Parents guide to teaching reading.” He loves to play “Go to the Dump” with us. He matches cards and Scotter and I work on addition facts. He draws well and has drawn some very intricate and detailed train scenes.

Anders is jovial and has a chuckle that could rival Santa Claus. It’s loud, boisterous, and uninhibited. He’s very mature for his age, and being as tall as the average 4 year old is usually assumed to be older than he is. He is verbal, and can carry on a great conversation.

He loves Star Wars. Tom has been reading the boys a comic book version and it is Anders’ favorite thing. Some of his favorite books this year were “The Gruffalo,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “The Napping House,” and the “Farmyard Tales” series. He loves to listen to them in repetition, because he memorizes them and then loves to “read” them back to you. I’m constantly amazed at how well he remembers exact phrases on each page.

Anders has a keen visual memory and sense of orientation. He is always looking around when we drive and will often shout out, “That’s Baskin Robbins! We biked there!” or “I know this place, we bought wood there.” etc. After not having been in Utah for 3 months we were driving down a road and he said, “Hey, this is where we picked up garbage!” (And sure enough, he had joined Sabina’s family to do service there.)

Anders loves to bike. He got a strider for his 2nd birthday which he had mastered by the end of the summer. We were slow to move him on to the pedal bike. But last month we removed his training wheel and let him get used to balancing on his bigger bike, and yesterday we put the pedals back on. He’s great with the balancing and pedaling, he just needs to figure out how to get started without falling over. It’s been so fun to be able to joy along by them as they bike.

Anders LOVES trains. And while his interest in playing with them everyday has waned he still lights up overtime he sees one and says “I Love trains!” He also loves anything with a hitch. I really made a point of supporting his interest in trains, and I feel like I haven’t been as aware of what his new interests are.

He’s sweet to glom on to others’ interests. When I pointed out a bird singing on a branch and drew his attention to how it lifted it’s head and puffed out his breast, he marveled and later shared our find with his Dad over dinner. He’s very supportive of Scotland, and I fear gives in too often to his whims and desires. He’s often unwilling to suffer Scotland’s tantrums or berating for his own interests.

Anders admires Scotland so much, and will often defend him even when he was the victim. He loves sleeping in Scotland’s room, though for a while Scotland was scared to sleep in his room so he always slept in Anders’ room. He thrills when Scotland will treat him as an equal partner and they can have the most fun together. I love hearing their clever conversations and how they bounce of ideas to create a vibrant and complex playscape.

Anders used to always jump up and dance the minute the closing credit song would play after a movie. With his chubby cheeks dimpled with his smile and his eyes playful he’d spin and jive. It was my favorite part of family movie night. For some reason he’s stopped, and I had to lead the dancing last time, but after a while both boys were active participants.

Anders’ dearest friend is Hazel.

I’m trying to decide what I should do for him this fall. I did joy school with Anders when he was three, and I keep feeling like Anders needs a few more things that are just his. But the thought of adding something as structured as a coop preschool also sounds overwhelming. So I might just schedule a weekly playdate for kids his age, so he can have an opportunity to get together with his own group of buddies. He’s academically far advanced because of all our “studies” this year, so I’m not worried about that.

My main worry for Anders is that we take advantage of his contentment to often. That because he’s willing to jus smile and say OK we don’t give him his proper due. It’s the quinessential middle child situation, he always gets the hand-me-downs. His brother is often making fun of him, or ridiculing him, and he just grins and bears it much of the time.

Scotland: 6.5 years:


Scotland is a school aged child now. He is no longer a “little kid” and the transition has been rough for me. He is much more emotional now. His anger can flare up over the smallest things and he often lashes out with hurtful phrases “I don’t want to be your son any more.” “You’re the worst Mom ever.” “I HATE you!” Or with physicality- slamming doors, hitting, screaming. . . The worst of course is when he takes it out on Anders. He has brought a new level of anger out of me, which I am constantly embarrassed by. I must sadly say I scream at him from time to time, I too often debase myself to insults, threats, shaming. I’m working on it. Such behavior disgusts me, and yet too often it rears its ugly head and I find myself acting out of control again. It’s caused for a much more strained relationship between us at times. I expect certain behavior from him, and when he acts out especially in ways that hurt others it really bothers me.

That being said, he is also a delightful child who loves to explore, experiment, be funny, have fun, party, play with friends, read, learn, play music, and be outside. He jam sessions on the piano several times a day. He’ll get up and improvise- extending songs he already knows or making them up from scratch often making up lyrics to go along with them. This makes me SO happy. All I want for my children is for them to love music, and to utilize it to bring joy into their and others’ lives.

His reading has exploded this year and he’s know reading small chapter books in a few days. His favorites of late are the Magic Tree House series and the A-Z mysteries series. He still loves his audiobooks, and has listened to “The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place.” “James and the Giant Peach.” “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” “Harry Potter” just to name a few. I love how he pulls facts from these books to connect and understand the world around him.

He’s loving his gymnastics class and I’ve been impressed by his willingness to push himself. He likes that the class is challenging while also free. He seems to enjoy the boyish banter amongst the boys and is often chatting and competing with his other classmates.

Edmonds Heights has been a great experience for him. He made many great friends, and his teacher called him an absolute gem. He never once complained, and always came home with much to share.

He likes the freedom homeschool offers. And I really feel it is most likely the best spot for him, despite how challenging it can be for me. He thrives on short lessons with plenty of exploratory time afterwards- which has taken some adjustment from me, since I always want to cram more in. Instead of leaving them “Wanting more.”

He has a beautiful voice, and a great ear. He loves to pick out the melodies of songs he’s heard from movies on the piano.

He loves to be outside, and it makes my heart sing when I see him kneeling beside the flower garden deep in some imaginary realm. He still loves to pick wild flowers, is always the first to harvest the garden, and is continually planting some new seed.

Homeschooling: A year in review

Smiley scotsFirst grade here I come!

Anders last day of school

on to pre-school!

Chiara with Pitcher

Working on breaking those teeth- hence the juicy chin! 

Magic School Bus Class 1
Scotland’s Magic School Bus Class showing off the insects they made.

presenting bugs

Scotland’s Magic school bus teacher, Erin Zackey, dresses up like Ms. Frizz- wearing clothing that coordinates with what they’re studying that week! She’s amazing!

Pict with ms Trish

Scotland’s Storybook Stem teacher, Ms. Trish. He loved all the building challenges in this class. 

Today marks the last official day of our first year of homeschooling. I’ve felt  emotional all day, in that can’t-quite-place-it, sort of way. This year has been truly life changing, at least I hope so. I am a different person, mother, and teacher now, than I was nine months ago. This year has been ripe with self examination and goal setting. I’ve had to grapple with my weaknesses as a mother and face them fully. I’ve questioned my priorities weekly, and found peace and delight in a lifestyle quite other than I was living last year. My respect and confidence in motherhood has grown, and I rarely struggle with feelings of fulfillment as a mother anymore. As I’ve devoted this year to the education and raising of my children, I have let go of many things- my house is generally less clean, organized, and decorated- but we use it more. I’ve been less social, and yet oddly, I haven’t felt lonely because I’ve felt more oneness and companionship with my children. I’ve been more upset, frustrated, and angry at times, because I feel more passionate and determined. I guess, I feel like, this year, we have made more progress towards living the ‘dream’ I had for my family, than I’ve made before. In the past I’ve struggled to really engage with my kids for longer than short periods. I’d sit down and ask them questions about their LEGO creation for ten or fifteen minutes, or play a few minutes of cars but then I’d be off, cleaning here, cooking there. I’d look back on the day and be the most proud of those moments- when I truly connected, and often truly enjoyed my children. I wanted to have more of those moments in my day. Yet, until, I put the pressure of schooling my children on the table, and placed that as my new priority, it was too easy to let other things rise to the forefront. Before my children, too often, felt like the obstacle, now they feel like the objective. And it’s really taken the drastic experiment, of putting most everything else on hold, to help me realize my dream of more togetherness. I love learning with my kids. I love making music with them. I love reading to them. I love seeing their eyes light up as they relay their new found knowledge. I love hearing my kids read to me. I love doing art with my kids. I love exploring the world together. Now I completely understand that not everyone might love these things. Homeschooling is certainly not for everyone. It might not be for me in a few years. Who knows. But all I can say is it has been a huge blessing to our family this year. Scotland loves to learn. He requests “hard” math problems. He takes a pile of books with him every night to bed. He asks deep questions, and requests further understanding. He’s delighted to learn about history, society, and different cultures. He jams on the piano daily, sings often, and can dive into the most imaginative world in minutes. Anders has been gifted with an invaluable “pre-preschool” environment. He loves writing, requests reading, piano, and math lessons and can discuss our read-a-louds in detail and depth. He and Scotland have formed a powerful brotherhood. Do they fight? Yes. But, how they play! Their duets on the piano, each of them belting out lyrics that build on the others, their duels and “shows.” The way they belly laugh together. They now cry if they aren’t allowed to sleep in the same room (for being too chatty too late into the night.) While typically Scotland leads and teaches, and Anders praises and follows, in the last few months (with much scaffolding) they have started to play with more equality. Yesterday, morning I heard Scotland cheering on Anders after having helped him learn how to climb a tree the day before: “Anders! Woohoo! You made it into the tree by yourself. Wow. That’s really impressive for a kid your age!” They’ve learned to compromise more and find “win-win” situations.

best brothers
Best Brothers!

kids

Anders and Chiara taking a break from LEGOS to find the letters of the alphabet with their friend, Eli. 

pict with Doreen

Anders “class” at Edmonds Heights was Lego Lab, all the bins you see behind him are full of Legos, all sorted by type. Doreen is the facilitator and Anders and Chiara adore her. He would often say “I’ll go ask Do-een!” when he couldn’t figure out how to build something. While he mostly enjoyed the one on one Mom time, he also loved making friends with Sam, Sadie, Corban, Eli, Abbie, and Elias. 

The hardest part of homeschooling has been figuring out how to work with Scotland when he gets defiant. We had some really rough patches this year. Times when Tom would suggest that perhaps we should send him to public school. Those periods have been the most revealing- and thereby transforming. Fortunately, my determination to make things work was more powerful than my frustration. I spent countless hours researching, experimenting, and praying for alternative methods of working with Scotland. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about who he is, what he needs, and how he is motivated. I’ve worked hard to overcome personal habits, tendencies, and weaknesses that have prevented me from giving him and myself the respect we deserve. Our communication has improved, and our relationship has reached new heights of mutual delight. Now, if this sounds like I’ve checked off the box of “Defiant Scotland” I’m giving the wrong impression. This is a daily struggle for us. But I have hope that the more we learn to work together now, the more equipped we both will be to continue to work together when the issues are larger and more important in the future. Most importantly, I know it’s possible; and I know how delightful it is when we come together in mutual love and respect.

Boys in the Tree

This week, Scotland taught Anders how to climb this tree.

Cute Kids

Chiara saying “Hurray for summer!” 

Chiara with car

Chiara, enjoying passing a car back and forth with a friend in the school’s breezeway.

In years past I often felt peace in my motherhood, but also felt like I wasn’t “living up to my potential.” I haven’t felt that since I started homeschooling. I feel the opposite. I have this vision for what I want our homeschool to look and function like, and if anything, it feels unsurmountable.

This post is a bit bizarre because the text focuses on our schooling experiences at home, while the pictures mostly highlight their experiences at school. We are part of a public “resource school” for homeschooling families. There Scotland took two classes (each 2x a week) to supplement our home studies. As well as a PE class through the YMCA. For me it was the perfect balance. He got the classroom experience, had teachers other than me, made great friends, and was exposed to new ideas and people without having to send him off for eight hours a day! 

 

31

I turn 31 today. I didn’t get a chance to wax sentimental last year when I entered my third decade, (something about having a baby or something) so I’ll do so now. The decade of my twenties was pretty magical. I spent the first half pursuing my dreams of advanced degrees, travel, and marriage. I spent the second half fully absorbed in my career as mother. And now I’m in my 30s. I can’t say it feels weird. I feel 30. For much of my 20s, even after I was a mother, I didn’t feel like a woman. Now I do. I’m not sure what changed, I’m sure some of it is that I feel the weight of life more now. I’m less carefree, more reserved. Motherhood has humbled me and laid bare many of the naive assumptions I’ve made in the past about life and child-rearing. Tom’s residency has been intense for both of us, and too often we’ve given up our own interests and passions for convenience sake. Looking ahead is interesting. What will my 30s hold? What are my goals?  Who do I want to be when this decade comes to a close?

Today, in church I was pondering upon a realization I’d had earlier that I’ve been less pushy about Chiara walking. I remember being much more eager with Scotland and Anders. I kept thinking Come on, you ought to be able to walk by the time you’re one! I’d practice with them, and create situations where they’d have to walk between me and the couch for example. But now, I feel at content with the knowledge that Chiara will walk when she’s ready. It’s clear she’s working hard at it, she’s interested, she begs me to walk with her, I have faith that soon she’ll walk. Today, I was touched by the thought that Heavenly Father probably feels similarly about me. He has faith that one day, soon (in eternal terms) I’ll demonstrate the traits of godliness that I so dearly desire. He sees my effort, He acknowledges my growth and He’s not worried by my slips or falls. This came as a great comfort to me, because much of my big projects for this upcoming decade are in regards to my character and spirit. Full-time mothering has exposed a certain number of serious weaknesses in my character, weaknesses that I’m determined to overcome. I want to be more charitable- when others make it hard, I want to be more respectful- when others don’t seem to deserve it, I want to be more in tune and willing to hear and follow the promptings of the spirit. I want to be better at asking questions and sticking with them until I find answers. I want to engage more, appreciate more, and let negative things fall off my back easier.

In some ways, it’s hard to look back at that girl who was ten years ago, because there are parts of her I really want back. What I need to do, however, is not pine for the past, but rather determine in the now to merge the decidedly happy me of my twenties, with the more experienced and slightly more life-worn woman of my 30s into co-existence.

And so, this year, I determine to think deeper, love more, listen longer, feel fuller, and be more forgiving of myself and others when I do none of those things!

 

 

RS Unity Talk

The key note address for our RS night of unity and sisterhood. 

I have a very expansive view of the power of Relief society.  I believe that when Relief Society groups function as God intended them to, it has power to advance, progress and uplift not only its members, but their families, their ward and stake,  community, nation and world. It is an eternal organization with eternal aims. Our RS general presidency recently modified the wording of the written purpose of RS. Tonight we are going to be focusing on one section, specifically the wording “Work in Unity”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has told us: “No one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. … He loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all. … He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other.” 9

Christ said “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.”

Paul taught: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? And if they were all one member, where were the body? “ 1 Corinth 12

We are all needed in God’s great kingdom, and we all need to be different! There is no stamp for a Mormon woman! Tonight we are gathering to learn about one another, to support one another, and to open up to one another. The adversary encourages us to discount the positions of others, to criticize, make fun or just plain ignore the ideas, lifestyles, and opinions different from our own.

Joseph Smith, however, described himself as a “disturber” of the adversary’s kingdom. He said, “It seems as though the adversary was aware … that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom.” 16

We want, in fact we need to be a group of women who are disturbers of current trends and ways of thinking. We need to buck the trend of being divisive, confrontational, judgmental, critical. And instead we need to rise up as a group of sisters who listen, find common ground, and seek understanding and show respect when little common ground is found.

We each have infinite worth, not because of what we do, how we look, what we own, but because of who we are. We are daughters of God and He has infinite love for us, simply because we are His. Tonight when the thought starts to creep into your mind “Oh, she does X, I could never do X. I wish I was more like X. I’m not as good as X. . .” Stop those thoughts and replace them with “I have infinite worth. She has infinite worth. I am enough. She is enough. The Lord loves me so much he died for me, he died for us. The Lord loves me for who I am, and for who she is and through him we can be anything we want to be.”

In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

Moving

Tom and I have been talking about moving a lot these last few months. With applications and interviews for fellowship positions occurring, we’ve been forced to face the future. We love so many things about living in Seattle, but different training opportunities for Tom and a lower cost of living are forcing us to look else where. The thought of relocating is always followed by a mixed bag of emotions for me. I love novelty, and the thought of exploring a new city/area excites me. There are things about Seattle that I wish were different (namely the lack of sunshine for much of the year.) So the thought of living some place sunnier thrills me. But when I move past the niceties of those changes, and face the other realities I’m brought to tears by all I will miss when we move from here: dear friends, a wonderful  church family, and frequent visits to and from my parents and younger sisters. Then there is the home we’ve built here- the slide and fort out back, the raspberry plot that is finally producing abundantly, my perennial beds that are finally filling out, an organized home where everything has its place. All theses things take years to establish and the thought of starting again. . .

Already thoughts of what to take and what to leave have kept me up at night. Do we just sell it all and start afresh? We’d save thousands in moving expenses. But then, would we find ourselves in a new place, with a whole host of things to acquire? Or do we bring along the things we’ve come to enjoy, making the transition less severe? The minimalist side of me gets giddy with the thought of lightning our load considerably, but the practical side knows that much of the things we have, we use, and re-acquiring them would be burdensome.

Then I’ll stay up late looking at housing options in the places we’re considering, which throws open a whole new list of questions. How big of a house do we really need? Do our kids really need their own bedrooms? What length of commute is ideal? How much should we spend on a house? Would we be okay living in a townhouse without a yard? Do we have it in us to renovate another house? Maybe we’d love living in a track neighborhood with a neighborhood pool and playground. Or maybe I want to homestead.  I’ll try to explore each option in my head, predicting ramifications, and puzzling over how each choice would effect our family.

Whenever it gets too daunting, I’ll project myself 30 years. Life will be  more interesting to look back on if we mix it up every several years. Experiencing a new part of the country, with a different culture, and different demands will change us, and shape us in new ways. We’ll be able to relate and connect with a larger group of people. We’ll have a wider range of experiences. We’ll be more complex and hopefully interesting. We’ll widen our sphere of influence.

At these moments of decision and change, I’m ever more grateful for the gift of the spirit that blesses us with peace.

 

A full heart

The previous post was written over a month ago. I just published it. That’s how things seem to work around here. I rarely get to finish what I’m working on, and not because I’m absent minded but rather because more important things step in. Writing this, I realize, I’m really proud of how well I step aside from projects to help people. For years a favorite quote from a favorite man was posted by my computer:

“Never let a problem to be solved, become more important than a person to be loved.” – Thomas S. Monson

I’m a focused finisher by nature. I like to start early, end early and think through all the details. These tendencies are often a thorn in the flesh as a mother. Interruptions are continual, and change is the only constant. It’s is why so many Mom’s say they are “loosing their minds.” I never lost my keys before I had kids. But now it’s becoming an all too common occurrence. I’m forever lugging too many bags, holding a toddler by the hand, and balancing a baby on my hip all while trying to finger keys. Too often setting them down for convenience, only to forget where that “convenient place” was. I’ve found them twice in the carseat with Chiara- after looking for 10 minutes.

That aside, tonight my heart is very full. And I have some mothering moments I want to record.

When we decided to put Chiara in the guest room, I was concerned that the room couldn’t fit a chair to nurse in. I guess I’ll just sit on the bed, I’d thought. Looking back it couldn’t have been a better decision. I never nursed lying down with the boys. So, I didn’t realize the luxury I was providing myself by having a queen sized bed in the nursery. It’s become one of my favorite parts of the day, lying there, cozily with my daughter in the morning, her breath on my chest. I run my hands through her thin silky hair, or we play with each others fingers. She’ll break to chat and smile and then continue with grateful contentment. Nursing is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Doing it lying down removes any sense of duty or chore. It’s a time of powerful bonding.  Sometimes Anders will join us, cozying in under Chiara’s “soft blanket”- the quilt I made her with the minky backing. He’ll rub my arm and whisper sweetly in my ear “I love you so much, Mom.”

The woman of focus and finish that I was six years ago could have never imagined the joy of these morning rituals. So while I mourn that girl who rose early to run three miles every morning before studying her scripture for an hour, I’m pleased to be a mother who savors her children.

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I’m trying some new approaches with homeschool this month. In December, Scotter and I were both pretty burned out. There were several rough weeks, and the suggestion to send Scotter to public school in January was discussed. As Tom and I considered the problems I realized I was stripping Scotter of much of the things I kept him home for- more exploration, more free play, more outdoor time. So I’m trying to restart with more playfulness. Last semester, I skipped a lot of the supplemental activities in our reading book, for example- feeling they would take too much time. This week, we had a blast playing the version of pictionary suggested. Instead of getting up-in-arms when Scotter wanted to change the game, I went with it- which resulted in a more writing, reading, and drawing from him (which is the goal!) We had a blast making a book about parties- he dictated a story, drew coloring pages, and proudly added it to our bookshelf “So anyone can pick it to read!” I happily allowed him to pick some 30 early reader books from the library. He began pouring through them as soon as we got to the van.

I’ve approached my new role as “primary educator” like I would a new job. I’ve poured over books, blogs, and podcasts seeking advice and ideas.  It’s had it’s rough patches, but I must say I have been thrilled with how much I have learned these past few months. I feel more confident and fulfilled. Thanks to homeschooling, my boys request “Story of the World” (A world history text we have on audiobook) as soon as we get in the van. Scotland finds ways to teach Anders. Just yesterday he was giving him a tutorial on how to draw people- which Anders quickly followed.  Anders is enthusiastic about “reading” to me and working hard to learn his letters. He’ll often jumpstart our review of famous paintings or start singing the days of the week during breakfast. The boys like to compete over who will finish first the verse of scripture we’re memorizing that month. Most importantly, the boys have bonded in deep and beautiful ways, and their adoration for Chiara only grows.

I’m still trying to figure out the best way to mother an almost six year old. Scotter doesn’t engage the way he used to. He often skips our story time before naps, (a favorite time of mine to cuddle my boys). There is much less physical contact between us now, and I think that might be contributing to the emotional distance I feel from him too. Both Scotter and I like to be in charge, and lead out. That’s why we butt heads. He likes to do things his way. I like to do things my way. I feel justified because I’m the mother. I get frustrated when he won’t just listen and obey and he gets feisty when I direct his life too much. Scotter thrives on a situation where he can teach himself, and only get help if he asks for it. It can be frustrating as his teacher. I worry he isn’t learning enough. Then, the other day I started to list all the things Tom has taught himself: electricity, plumbing, coding, book making, car repair, etc. I see many similarities between the two and it gave me peace that if I provide a rich environment Scotter will do just fine. He’s inquisitive and determined when something captures his attention. The struggle is being willing to go along with his whimsy! (“Let’s build an entire city! We’ll use LEGOS, duplos, magna-tiles, blocks, the train tracks, the play mobile stuff. . . Let’s try to build a bridge from the TV to the couch!”)

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We spent a week in Utah with my family after Christmas. It was a wonderful trip, and the boys were in cousin heaven! I was grateful for the chance to spend some one on one time with many of my nieces and nephews and siblings: building snap circuits with Keiton and Rhyse, painting with Brecklyn, playing water basketball with Landen, Bryce, and Talia; reading to Coleman and Brielle; playing cars with Miles, playing in the snow with Brielle and Sam. I was surprised by how jolly and affection Anders was. He went around giving everyone hugs, would crawl up on anyone’s lap, and clearly felt completely at ease. He’s that way at home, but I guess it surprised me by how completely he accepted that all these people who he rarely sees are “family”- to be loved and cherished. I hardly saw Scotter. He was all too happy to be in a constant state of play. I could hardly drag him away to eat! Scotter said over and over that the thing he wanted most for Christmas was to be with family. (And by family he meant extended family.) I’m SO grateful to my parents and Dantzel who drove us down. Not having to drive and help my children was such a blessing, and it was a treat to get to spend more time with them.

Guard my heart

I’m a pleaser. It’s impossible to please everyone when you’re a mother. This stresses me. A week ago I had a bit of a melt down. It was all too much, I was failing right and left, I needed a break. .  . I cried and cried- gave myself a headache, stressed Tom out, and fell into a deep slumber and awoke with renewed determination to overcome. I awoke early, and spent a good hour in prayer and scripture study. I signed up for a free online parenting course, I prioritized a few things, and determined to let go of some things. Out of it all the most powerful morsel of help was the realization that I need to pray for God to “guard my heart.” I need Him to stand in the way of the emotional meltdowns or accusations of my children and confidently own my thoughtful intentional parenting. Just because my child gets mad and frustrated when I tell him we aren’t having dessert for breakfast, or screams and throws a fit because I tell him that “Yes, today, like everyday, you need to help with a chore.” My natural tendency is to get pulled into the emotion, to get defensive, and, too often frustration, turns into anger. Now each morning I proceed with the faith that God will guard my heart. I’m working on setting realistic expectations, asking respectfully, and then allowing God to protect my heart from the onslaught that so often proceeds. So far, it’s worked beautifully. The emotional melt downs are lessening, as they’re not getting the same attention- nor are they getting fed by my own immature responses. It’s one of the things I find the most challenging about motherhood- the balance of apathy and empathy. For too long I’ve thought it had to be one or the other, but I feel like I’m learning there is a melding that is most powerful. “Oh man! Brownies for breakfast sound delicious. But we strive to eat healthy as a family, so let’s wait and eat a brownie after dinner, ok?!” Instead of, “No, you can’t have a brownie!” or Ignore. And be annoyed he asked a question he knows the answer to.

More often than not I realize after an encounter how I could have imbued my response with more empathy: “It looks like you’re in the middle of some really fun LEGO play! We really need to go, or we’re going to be late. Can you leave your LEGOS just where you have them, and return to them when we get home?” Instead of “It’s time to go, come on get your shoes on quick. . .Anders, please go get your shoes.. .  Anders! We’re going to be late, I need your help! . . .  FINE! I’ll put your shoes on!”

My prayer is that eventually the thoughts and realizations I have after I mess up, will one day precede the events. A girl can hope. A girl can pray.

Quote of the day:

“This is my own baby. My baby’s three months.” -Anders to me as he comes up the stairs carrying his baby doll. (He later asked Scotter to help him carry his baby like mommy (in the ERGO) so Scotland stuffed it down his shirt.