Is It Any Wonder?

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Why decorate ornaments when I can decorate me?

Do you ever have visions of how you think a certain aspect of your life will turn out and then get to that point and think….what happened?

It can be a two-sided coin really…or…are there any three-sided coins;)? Sometimes I look around and think, “I could not have planned it better, this is “perfect”.”

Then there are other times that I think, “Oh dear, this definitely isn’t what I wanted, can and should I change it?”

And every once in a while I have times when I think, “This really is best, but it’s not what I planned or even could have imagined.”

The last thought is what I’ve had with Christmas over the last few years. My husband and I decided a few years back that the going here and there, and doing this and that, which had been our custom at Christmas, was really taking away from the peace we felt we should be feeling at this time of the year. We vowed to focus more on our own nuclear family and keeping things low-key and Christ-centered.

We noticed an immediate change in the spiritual environment in our family. Things were indeed happier and more peaceful. Actually it felt just how we thought it should….but….why did I always have a bit of a melancholy feeling during some days of the Christmas season?

I finally decided that it was a my psyche “mourning” the visions I had created and the traditions I had left aside in order to find the best way for us.

So strange huh? Even though you know something is “best” or “right” for your family and yourself, sometimes you still yearn for “what might have been”, even though you know the fantasy you created in your imagination is next to impossible? And probably not even healthy.

Well, this year I found that my melancholy temptation, that I usually can just push aside, was being more persistent. I blamed it on pregnancy, lack of sleep, a travelling hubby, some stress over finances and changes that need to be made in our homeschooling, trying logically to explain it away and move on so I could enjoy the season and more than that make it a happy season for my family.

I would wake up and get myself motivated for a few hours but it seemed that I was running out of the ability to fake it. The last few days it was taking nearly every ounce of energy I had to get out of bed and keep the act going.

Finally this morning I really didn’t think I could do it. During my morning prayers I pleaded with the Lord, “Please, please, please, I have to do this. I know my life is not bad and I know there are people out there that are much, much worse off to worry about, but I have to have your help. I need to make this day special for my kids. If I can’t be happy I need you to help me fake it so they can be happy. This day is not about me, please, please help me.”

The Lord never lets me down. It was a bit of a bumpy take-off to the day but I finally just said, “I can’t, you have to support me through this.” And a little miracle happened. I let go. He took over. And it was a good day. I became happy. At first it was an act, and then it was real.

After I put the kids to bed I was pondering on what happened….what was the turning point? What happened?

I finally concluded that the Lord opened my eyes so that I could really see, more than anything see my kids. Children are so wonderfully happy with simplicity and reciprocate such an overflow of love with the smallest acts of love shown to them.

On our way home from watching a movie and delivering some Christmas treats my 9 yr old son said, “ Mom, doesn’t it seem like it feels happier on Christmas?” When I asked him why he felt that way he said simply, “It’s probably because it’s Jesus’ birthday.” It was then that is hit me. Is it any wonder?

Is it any wonder that Christ was sent as a baby to the earth? Is it any wonder that we call babies “bundles of joy”? Is it any wonder that no one can resist the laughter of a small child? Is it any wonder that though the textual references in the bible are few in regards to Jesus’ childhood we do know,

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. [Luke 2:40]

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” [Luke 2:51–52]

Today is was confirmed to me once again that our children are not only our responsibility, but also our teachers. They are wise beyond their years, they understand what is truly important and know truth when they hear and see it. Is it then, any wonder that the greatest gift to mankind came in the form of a child?

John 3: 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

For this wonderful gift I will be eternally grateful. Even more amazing that we can not only be eternally saved but like I was reminded of today, we can be saved…day by day.

Merry Christmas!

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LIFE CLEANSE: OUTLINE

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“Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” Stephen R. Covey

So do you remember a while back, well it would have been at the beginning of the year when I posted we were going on a beach trip and then I was coming back to start my 2014 LIFE CLEANSE?

Did you see my post right after about our crazy stressful trip that, although full of mercy and learning, left me a bit frazzled?

Here’s the deal, I was originally planning a 90-DAY LIFE CLEANSE. Yep, whole thing start to finish from January through March.

Well, here it is April and I’m just now getting to the next Phase!

At first I was kind of getting down on myself, which was definitely not helping the process, and then I thought to myself, “Come on Meg! Who put a time limit on this thing anyway?! You did! Nobody else is imposing these time restrictions! You silly thing, just keep working on improving, stop with the crazy/impossible expectations!”

So, here I am. I went back to the original 2014 LIFE CLEANSE title to relieve my personal anxiety on the subject. Plans are more motivating to me when they have a title;) Also, I’ve taken a more “Move on when you’re ready” approach to reaching the next phase.

Each Phase of my plan has a Section that I can work on exclusively or in connection with the other two sections. Also, each section tries to focus on a different aspect of my being (ie: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, etc.)

Here’s my ORIGINAL plan:

Phase 1: Renew, Revitalize, Reflect

Renew: This is meant to be a more Spiritual and Emotional Section of Improvement. Spiritually I want to Repent and Forgive (mostly myself), moving forward, as if I was starting life anew. Emotionally I want to leave Discouragement and Self-doubt behind and move forward with Hope and Courage.

Revitalize: This is a more Physical Section of Improvement. For myself, I know I need to focus more on self-care, especially rest. Sleep, breaks, and focusing more on where I’m “letting myself go” physically. It’s impossible to fill everyone’s bucket from my empty one. Also, in my surroundings, to make myself more efficient and productive I’m organizing, downsizing, and deep cleaning my home. This “spring-cleaning” is always very refreshing for me.

Reflect: This is a Mental, although touching on the Emotional and Spiritual Improvement Sections as well. This will of course require Heavenly help, my knees will get a workout With this Section I want to focus on three main questions: What do I really need to change in my life ? What is/are the root(s) of what is holding me back from this change? What changes can I make that will make change in my family?

Phase 2: Study, Strengthen, Synthesize

Study: A mostly Spiritual Section, a need to focus more on the quality of my study rather than quantity. I’ve been going through the motions lately and don’t feel the invigoration of learning and inspiration as strongly as I once did. I mostly want to focus on my study of Scripture, being “IN” my prayers and not just habitual monologues, and the topics that I have pondered on during my time of Reflection in Phase 1.

Strengthen: In this Physical focused Section I was to hone my routines/habits. Making sure I “Put first things first” (Stephen Covey), namely my study and self-care. Also, taking a literal interpretation of the section, I want to focus more on changing my exercise routine to include more strength training. I’m finding I can do my daily Mommy tasks when my body is in better condition.

Synthesize: This will be mostly a Mental Section. I want to focus on how I can use the emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of my being to work together more efficiently and productively. I believe this will mean paying more attention to timing, and highs and lows of the day/week/etc. For this section I will focus more on receiving guidance through prayer, and daily planning, using a long-term vision. Also I plan to write the things I’m discovering about myself so that I can forecast what, when, and how to do tasks/activities.

Phase 3: Clarify, Cleanse, Create

Clarify: This will be a Mental and probably Emotional Section. At this point in the process I am hoping I can define what really are the roots of my personal vices. The idea being, to kill the problem from the source.

Cleanse: A Physical Section that will focus mostly on food cleansing. Omitting some foods and adding others to cleanse my body of toxins and hopefully find a good food balance that will lessen the “build-up” in the future.

Create: Another Mental, Spiritual and Emotional Section mix. Now that I have found the roots, I want to create a “game-plan” of how I can use my virtues to eliminate the vices. This will probably be an ongoing process but I’m thinking that the earlier Phases will help me get rid of distraction and focus on the things that will empower me to make real change.

Another thing I noticed after I started working was that the Phases kind of overlap. Right now I’m still working on Revitalize from Phase 1, and I’m learning that Renew is something that needs to happen more regularly…. but I’ve moved on to all three Phases in Phase 2, albeit slowly;).

I’m hoping this makes sense. Sometimes my ideas only make sense to me;)
I’ll be posting and hopefully vlogging some of what I’ve been learning in this process of Cleansing my life. My main goal is to find the main roots of change in my life that need to be made. I realize that some may take a life-time to change but I think that the identifying and concentrating on specifics will help me progress more successfully.

Loaded: A Lesson in Affliction

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As I came around the corner to the laundry room it was if her little face was saying, “Come on Mom! This laundry thing is fun-stop complaining!”

So I think I’ve mentioned before that we have a Family Night each week in which we have some gospel learning time, usually a treat, and usually some fun activity to do together. We try for Monday nights and tonight I kept thinking back to two talks I had recently read/heard that seemed to be hollering at me:)

The first was a talk that was given in our Worldwide General Conference that our church holds every 6 months, you can read the whole thing here.

The second was a short talk that we read in our devotional this morning during homeschool, you can read the whole thing here.

Both talks covered the topic of challenges or afflictions, and the necessity of having trials in our lives. I thought back with a bit of shame to the middle of last night when I found myself praying, ” Can’t you just make her sleep through the night?” as I sat up with Button, whom has suddenly become an insomniac after  over a year of being my best sleeper.

There are bigger things though, and there have been times when I think, “Can’t I have a break?” But then what would I be learning?

So over the last few years I’ve tried to change my prayers during times of trial from “Why? Can’t you make it stop?” to, “Ok, Lord. Show me what I’m supposed to be learning. And please give me the strength to pull through this better than I was.”

It’s not a perfect science, for sure, but it’s amazing what my change in attitude has done for my ability to confront challenge and also to trust and rely on the Lord.

Anyway, I created this The Power of the Load as part of our Family Night tonight, trying to explain it in a way that my kiddos would understand. Well, at least they thought the old lady doing weights and the baby reading a book were funny;)

Lovely Beginning

Image                                             Here are our “Heart Maps” thus far!

To begin this Valentine’s week we started our day with practicing a new song. Well, a new old song. It’s called “Love One Another” and is based on John 13:34-35. We learned it a couple years ago but then it occurred to me that my now almost 4 year old didn’t really have the attention span at that time to learn it so we’re doing a review. It’s beautiful and brings a wonderful spirit to start the day and lead into our devotional. An added plus is that there is a sign language tutorial (wow, that must be a REALLY old video!)  that goes along with it that we’ve been learning/reviewing as well. My kids all love music and sign language (it’s our second language we’re learning at the moment), but my daughters LOVE this! They are both VERY kinesthetic learners, especially Fiesta, whom defines the saying “she was born dancing.”

In place of journaling time this week we are also working on “Heart Maps”. I was really interested in doing this to help my Engineer especially with his writing skills (and motivation 🙂 but I knew it would be a fun thing for Fiesta and Elf would love to tell me stories about it later on. Plus I was just genuinely interested in what things they all considered important! Today I really didn’t give them many guidelines other than draw a heart and draw or write things that are important to you inside of it. We are going to expand on this as the week goes along so that they can hopefully include everything inside the heart that they hold dear.

I was reflecting tonight as well that we could also use this Heart Map to reflect on one of our Family Night lessons we had a few weeks ago in which we learned about the first commandment (Exodus 20:3). At the time of the lesson we discussed how anything can become a “god” to us and if we start to place it before our one and true God it will lead to unhappiness. I think that reflecting on this commandment WITH the Heart Map will help my kids conceptualize this connection better.

Looking forward to a week filled with focusing on Love!

Five (Top) Reasons to be Thankful

Image                                           In case you’re wondering, yes, she is wearing goggles on her head as she finishes eating 🙂 !

I love Thanksgiving! Remembering what we have to be grateful for is such a wonderful way to get ready for celebrating the Birth of our Savior. So, I would be incredibly ungrateful if I didn’t recognize my many blessings on this blessed day! As I was reflecting I just had so many things to be thankful for that I thought I would keep it to my Top Five for this post 🙂

#1 My God and My Religion:

I would not be here if it weren’t for my Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for this Plan of Happiness that they have created for us and to know that I am a Child of God. I am also incredibly grateful for my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To have the guidance, direction, and extended family that I gain from this incredible church is an immense gift.

#2 My Family

I am so grateful for the love, support and example of my extended family. My parents have taught me moral courage and that I can learn from each person I meet, for that I will be forever indebted to them. My husband continues to teach me to reach for my goals, no matter how impossible it seems. His love and patience amaze me and sustain me daily. My children have shaped me more in the past 9 years than I had been in my entire lifetime beforehand. Their unconditional love and zeal for learning and life is inspiring. It is truly amazing the great joy that comes from being a mother.

#3 My Experiences

The good, the bad, the ugly(hmm, looks like I need an “ugly” post 🙂 ….I have learned to appreciate each experience in my life. Thus far I can look back and see in each one that the Lord has led me and guided me to learn and grow in the areas I needed in order to fulfill the next step of responsibility in my life. Through the good I have learned to feel the gratitude that comes from being loved. Through the good I have learned the compassion it takes to help others learn and heal.

#4 My Friends

It is amazing how the Lord puts the right people in the right place at the right time. I can honestly say that I can count my close friends on one hand, and one of them would be my husband and my mother:) But I also have many good friends, many of whom may not even know how dearly I hold them in my heart, that have shown me love and taught me priceless lessons that have humbled me and helped me to grow.

#5 Technology

This may seem silly to some, but I really am astounded at how technology has touched me life! I would never have met my husband if we had not lived in the age where travel is so much easier. I would not have the same level of openness were it not for again, the ease of travel, and the ease and amount of information available at the click of a mouse. Were it not for the incredible technology we posess today….My children would not know there grandparents. I would never have met my in-laws. I would not have the same confidence in teaching and raising my children. I would not be able to learn and connect with so many of you! It is truly a thrill and blessing.

May this day give you time to reflect on your blessings. May you begin the Christmas Season with joy in your hearts. May you start the New Year with a humble and rejoicing heart. We have so much to be thankful for….Happy Thanksgiving!

Time4learning.com: A Review

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This year we had a bit of a curriculum “overhaul”….well maybe just a curriculum “tailoring” One of my main concerns was that we were spending SO much time in books and hands-on activities that I felt my children were lacking in computer skills. Personally, I think technology training is an absolute MUST for children in this generation. However, I’m finding that we are a bit strict in our media allowances in our home. I wanted a good balance of education, fun, and technology but I wasn’t sure I could get an “all-in-one” deal. Well, maybe I didn’t but I feel we’ve come pretty close.

Have you heard of Time4learning.com ? It is an online educational program for PreK- Grade 12. Some users are using it as their main source of curriculum, as homeschoolers. Others use it for after school practice or a supplement. We use it as a supplement, it’s been a great incentive for my kids in subjects they struggle with or don’t enjoy. In the lower grades (which we use) the curriculum cover at least Math and Language Arts (PreK) and up to Science, Social Studies and what is called Language Arts Extensions that are often Science based.

In short this is what I love:

1.) Easy to Use:

My kids can navigate this with little to no help. Everything is very clearly outlined and guided both for parent and student.

2.) Interesting and Fun:

Even I like to do the lessons! The lessons are very informative and comprehensive but I don’t think my kids realize that they are learning, it’s presented in a an interesting and fun way that keeps them engaged. They often choose Time4learning over movies!

3.) Safe:

There are no ads that my kids can accidently end up in some not-kid-friendly place in cyberspace. The content is straight-forward and not a commercial in disguise or pushing a political or religious view-point.

4.) Self-paced and self-tracking:

The kids are not pressured to move at a pace they are not comfortable with and they can move ahead up to a grade level ahead (or below) if they need to. All lessons are kept track of and parents can view how many lessons have been done and how the kids are doing on the “quizzes”.

5.)Affordable:

The price is WAY less than you would spend on all the subjects, if you were to buy the curriculum.  What we really loved was that there are many sample lessons available on the website that will let you try out the curriculum and grade level before signing up.

My only two “gripes” with the program:

1.) Some of the language arts lessons can be “manipulated”. What I mean by this is that kids can get enough clues from graphics and voice inflections that they can avoid doing all the reading.

2.) Very Common-Core/ “Traditional” learning based program. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s more of a preference and I’m not sure you could make an online program any other way. In our homeschool we try to focus more on discovery/hands-on learning and less on rote/ multiple choice/ “in-a-box” learning, this program is more of the latter type.

All in all we’ve been very pleased with Time4Learning.com and it’s fulfilled it’s purpose of fostering more technology learning and reinforcing our learning done at home.

Disclaimer: As a member of Time4Learning, I have been asked to review their online education program and share my experiences. While I was compensated, this review was not written or edited by Time4Learning and my opinion is entirely my own. Write your own curriculum review or learn how to use their curriculum for homeschoolafter school study or summer learning.

An Atmosphere of Discipline

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As promised, here’s some more thoughts from my personal “unit-study” on discipline.

When it comes to discipline “training” it’s helpful to use a medical perspective. Prevention is better than medication. I think that most of us would whole-heartedly agree with that train of thought. It is SO much easier and more enjoyable to train ourselves and our families to be disciplined in the present, rather than dealing with all the numerous hosts of consequences and misbehaviors down the road.

Daunting task? Yep. Easier said than done? Absolutely. Complicated? Not really.

The thing is we’re all going to have our weaknesses and different personalities and cultures to deal with but even given all those variables, discipline training really boils down to two key concepts. Model and Method.

#1 The model:

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We HAVE to model self-discipline.This is absolutely essential in discipline training with children. They are still learning all the nuances of language for one and may not completely understand WHAT you are saying. Or maybe you’ve caught yourself like I did with myself the other day yelling at my daughter, “Stop speaking so rudely to your sister!!” Hmmm….see anything wrong with that picture?

But there is even more to self-discipline than anger control and obedience. I’ve been thinking about questions like this:

Do we buy everything we want, right when we want it?

Do we make others in our family wait on their wants to meet our own?

Do we barrage our families with every bad mood/day?

Do we complain and whine whenever we don’t want to do something or are inconvenienced?

Do we eat like there will never be food again?

Do we avoid exercise?

Do we avoid reading/ learning new things?

Do we avoid planning because we don’t want commitments or expectations?

Do we lie? Cheat? (Kids usually can’t tell the difference between a “white” lie and a “lie”)

Do we neglect our family or other important responsibilities because we are thinking of ourselves (ie: “me time”, career development, etc)?

Do we avoid budgeting because we don’t want to have the responsibility of managing our funds?

Well then….what exactly are we expecting from our children?

Now, obviously with some of these questions there are things to consider such as disability, health issues, etc. But when I honestly took a look at myself with these questions in mind I started to realize how much a disciplined home begins with me.

#2 The method:

This encompasses both Work and Patience Training.

For Work, we typically use Stewardships. Ok, I guess they are more commonly known as chores or jobs but to me those words had such a negative connotation that we use “stewardships” at our house instead.  The basic premise is that these jobs create responsibility which gives them a feeling of belonging and significance. They feel needed and wanted. Their contribution matters.

Also, when introducing the “whys” to our kids we explained that God gives us everything we have and in order to show gratitude and have further “responsibilities” we have to take care of the ones we already have.

This should be a step-by-step, little-by-little process. It requires training too! You can’t expect anybody to read your mind. Be honest and specific about what is expected and then follow through with instruction and continued “check-ups”.

Since the world is becoming less and less agricultural we may have to be creative, but find a way to make sure that everyone has something that they are responsible for and that they FEEL it is a responsibility. Work creates self-discipline because one must put off the natural man and train their mind and body to do something they many not WANT to do, but they know it is necessary and good.

This step ties right back in to modeling as well. If you’re not taking care of your responsibilities then….?

Patience Training happens naturally while training your children to work because they have to be patient to see a desired outcome. We can enhance patience in our children pretty simply: Make them wait. And often: Make them work for it. This doesn’t mean withhold needed things. We’re not creating stoics. Although we can make them wait even temporarily to eat, sleep, attention, etc.

This starts in infancy, we can soothe a child with our voice to let them know we will meet their needs but we don’t have to do it in the moment. This is especially true when the “need” is really a “want”, kids must learn from the get-go what is a need and a want and that they will have to be patient for both and generally work for a “want”.

Just like anything else, you CAN have too much of a good thing. Discipline does not mean you should become like a machine. Everything will NOT be perfect. I should make this my mantra 🙂 Sometimes, life happens. BUT, “training” in any sense of the word is an incremental process. Every morning I wake up I’m striving for a “better-than-before” kind of day!