Friday, February 28, 2014

Tansitional Characters for Family First Friday #9.

Welcome home Richard!!!  Slim's best friend returned home from his mission in Bolivia on Wednesday!  We have enjoyed having him here with us for a few days before he goes to see his family!  (They moved right before he left for his mission, but Richard's records remained here.)  I included Richard in this email because he is a transitional character too!!!  We dearly love him!!

Now, onto the topic at hand.

I grew up in a home where my father was unkind.  Nothing was ever good enough and there was zero praise for a job well done, but plenty of criticism especially if things went poorly.  It was not only aimed at me.  I usually did fairly well, but my siblings struggled much more than I did.

In my father's defense, I cannot remember my grandfather (my dad's father) ever saying very much.  We visited them regularly, but I am sure my father and grandfather did not have a very healthy relationship either.  Being that my father continued to visit him, I would imagine their relationship was better than the relationship my grandfather had with his father.  I asked my dad about the relationship between my grandfather and great-grandfather one day.  He could only remember that my grandfather wanted to be as far away from him as possible.

A negative father/son relationship seems to have been passed down through the generations.  My father has continued the trend.  Hi relationships with his sons are not the greatest, either.  Alcoholism is another negative trait that has been passed down that line from generation to generation.  Although my father is not an alcoholic, his brother drinks plenty, his sister married an alcoholic, and my father has a lot of alcoholic behaviors, probably learned from watching his father.

There were some good things handed down through the generations too.  We all love gardening.  My grandfather always had an amazing garden.  My father's was not amazing but worked fine.  Mine is great if I live in Utah, but pathetic here in Northern California.  I'm not too excited about growing kale.  The zucchini molds and you can only eat so much lettuce.

Positive and negative traits are passed down through the generations.  In the family science literature, a transitional character is one who has changed the patterns of past generations and created new ones that move into the future generations.  For example, a person who comes from a generational history of abuse and then is able to learn new ways to manage themselves and chooses not to abuse their children or spouse would be considered a transitional character.  The actual definition is:  one who changes the course of lineage by filtering the destructiveness out of his own lineage so that the generation downstream will have a supportive foundation upon which to build productive lives.

I first learned about transitional characters in the fall of 1992.  I had just given birth to Spanky in July.  Our first assignment was to make a genogram.  Basically, it is a family tree, however, it emphasizes relationships and behaviors.  You lay out everyone, beginning with yourself, circles for women, squares for men, and draw in the relationships and identify behaviors (positive and negative) passed down through the generations.
This isn't anyone I know, just an example.
On one side of my family was alcoholism and emotional abuse.  On the other side, child sexual abuse.  I knew I was a transitional character, or could be, by not allowing these destructive behaviors to be passed on to my children.  I broke the cycle, just as Richard will break the negative cycles of behavior in his family.

Here is an example of a specific turning point before I went to college.

I came from a yelling family.  We yelled a lot and were yelled at a lot.  One day (I was about 14) my brother and I were arguing (yelling) at each other.  As I was yelling I remember thinking, "What is the point of all of this?  Yelling is not making any difference.  It isn't going to change his opinion or mine.  We aren't getting anywhere.  My voice hurts, my face is red, and I am mad.  I do not like myself when I am yelling.  I am not going to do this anymore."  And I quit, just like that.

We may not be able to change things as easily.  But as we recognize things that we want to change and behaviors that we do not want to pass down through the generations, and we make effort not to, the Lord will help us make those positive changes in our families.  He doesn't want them passed down any more than we do.  In fact, He will not only help us break negative cycles, but will also help us to institute positive ones.  Family Home Evening, family scripture study, and family prayer were not cycles that were present in my family of origin (the one I grew up in).  My parents tried them once in a while, but nothing that ever stuck.  We have instituted them in our family and they are here to stay.  Those little things help us to have a happier family.  The spiritual influence of those choices makes a difference in our daily attitudes and how we treat each other.  Our relationships are happier and healthier.  I think my children will do an even better job than Drew and I have done.

I'll close with this parting comment.  Elder Nelson came to one of our stake conferences years ago.  He was helping us to understand the importance of family scripture study and he said these words, "Family scripture study in our home was not always a howling success.  Sometimes there was more howling than success...."  (paraphrasing now) but our children have done a better job than we did as they have built on our foundation.  And our grandchildren are doing an even better job.

As we make efforts to institute positive changes into our families and eliminate negative ones, we pave the way for successive generations to do better than we did and have more stable and happier families!  You can do it too!

Congratulations again Richard!!!  You will be an amazing transitional character!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Congratulations Sport!!!

We found out late last night that Sport has been admitted to BYU!!!!  Yea!!!  Provo and Idaho!  Hooray!  We are so very excited for him!  He is so very excited for him!  Last night he was sitting at the computer and I told him it was probably time to shut down facebook.  A few minutes later I heard him hooping and hollering, both hands high in the air, "Yea!!! Whoohoo!  I'm in!  I am leaving for college in a few months!"

Those are sweet parenting moments!  Yea for all your hard work and effort Sport!  It has paid off!  Congratulations!  We love you and are so very happy for you!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Good today, not Better or Best.

OK Some things just have to be documented with or without photos.

Remember this talk by Elder Oaks??  Well, apparently today I am working only on 'good' things.  This morning, I called my very dear friend to find out how her talk in sacrament meeting went yesterday.  I talked to her for a little more than an hour.  When we started the kiddos were still sleeping.  (It is their last day of President's week vacation.  The big boys were at school and Drew at work, so I let them sleep in.)  I had made muffins for breakfast, so those were ready and I just kept talking.

Feeling like I needed to get off the phone, I did so, only to jump onto the computer, check my blog and read my missionary emails.  Because of our schedule, I knew I wanted to have lunch about 11:30.  The afternoon plans are crazy but the morning was laid back.  I have adopted a couple of missionaries from here whose parents no longer live here.  We have one coming home on Wednesday, so I was checking the details of his arrival.  One missionary was worried about appendicitis, so I was checking his status.  And one had broken her glasses and was asking for assistance to help with those things.  No  big deal.  In the process, I got sucked into cleaning out my email inbox (big problem, black hole).

I realized I needed to go to the bathroom, so I left the computer.  After exiting the bathroom, I noticed that the boys, who were suppose to be cleaning their bedroom, had found the batteries to the gaming console and were beginning to play 'Mappy' and 'Pac-man' (the only gaming I allow in the home).  I called them on it and told them to put it away until their room was clean.  It was then I noticed the wet spot on the floor and the baby walking funny.  'Sun, did you change the baby's diaper like I asked?'

'Uh, no.'

'OK, do that now.  I will get him some clean pants.  And who put all of this smootie pop all over the floor?' (frozen chunks of smoothie spread out in front of the TV).

'That was the baby.'
'It was me, Mom,' said Spike.

I started to clean that up with baby wipes and again sent the boys off to clean their room. 

After Sun changed Spike's diaper, I asked her how far she was on her homework.  She hadn't yet started this morning.  I gave her the look.  She hid.

Then I walked into the kitchen to see the billowing smoke of the scalding pot of boiling grain on the stove-top.  "What??!!  Who left this on??"  Grabbed the pot, turned off the stove, turned on the faucet and filled the pot with water.  And noticed it was 11 O'clock.  So much for lunch at 11:30.

All of this was done while only FOUR of my nine were home and for the most part we were all in the same room, only with my back to them while I was on the computer.

Needless to say, the boys are now cleaning.  The baby has been changed.  I threw in a load of laundry.  Sun is working on homework. Nothing is burning the house down and now I have to tackle lunch and paying attention to my people.

So here I sit at the computer documenting the chaos.  Onto the better and best parts of the day!!!

Happy Monday to you and yours!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why I love Motherhood.

From my earliest recollections, all I ever wanted to be was a mother.  I am not sure what it was that drew me that direction.  (To be honest, I am pretty sure it was a pre-existent desire.)  I longed for the opportunity to help others, to love them, and to serve them.  Being the oldest of six children, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what mothering was all about and what it would require of me.  I was wrong on both fronts.

I did go in with my eyes open.  I knew about taking care of babies.  I participated in the cooking and the cleaning in the house I grew up in.  I babysat, a lot, both for my family and for others.

As I matured, I learned about myself, things I liked and didn't like.  I spent a lot of time playing basketball and playing my trumpet, probably 15 hours a week for bball and 10 hours for music.  Those things were sacred to me.  When I married, I could still do those things, just not quite as often.  But when I became a mother, that was a different story.

I had to let go of the things I loved in order to choose to love the people I created.  I still miss those things.  I was really, really good at both of them, and I loved them, they were a part of me.  But I had to make space to be more. 

Right before I married, I had just decided that I had enough confidence in my ability to play that I wanted to try out for BYU's womens' basketball team.  I decided to take a basketball class to bone up on my skills before try outs.  Playing basketball messed with my menstrual cycle.  When I started the class, the issues came back.  I prayed and prayed and prayed to have things settle down so I could play.  The response was a simple one.  "You can play basketball or you can have babies, but you cannot do both."  What?!  That cannot possibly be right!  I want both!  I prayed for the Lord to let me have both.  "PLEASE!!!"  I begged.  The answer was always the same, "you can play or have babies, but not both".

What?  You didn't hear about Carin the famous basketball player for BYU??!!  Oh!  Well, obviously I chose babies.  Duh!

Being a mother has required more of me than basketball ever could, or even being a famous musician.  Motherhood has required my very heart and soul.  It is 24/7, 365 days a year, without a break, so far for 23 years running, on call all nights, no weekends, no holidays.  Occasionally I have a small respite when I have spent a week at girls' camp (but then I am mother to 8-12 young women who are not my own) and I think I have gotten away for one weekend without kids.

What motherhood has cost me in time and energy and money can probably not accurately be quantified.  But what it has given me in growth and satisfaction cannot be measured.

I am kinder, more patient, more considerate, and more knowledgeable about everything from bugs and diapers, to Calculus, and people.  I am much more compassionate.  I recognize distress sooner and can soothe it more completely and faster.  My heart has changed.  I am becoming a new person.  Each child challenges me in a different way.  I am becoming more like Christ.

That is only happening because I am allowing my calling as mother to permeate my heart.  I am embracing the process of my transformation.

I wrote this to a friend:

"I love my job!!  I love being a mother!  I love teaching and training children and teenagers and seeing the light go on in their eyes when they finally get it!  And I love the challenge of trying to help each one ‘get it’ because they are all so very different in their learning styles and their understanding of how the world around them works.  (And I especially enjoy the ones who don’t want to be loved and have an attitude…..I find the challenge exuberating to see if I can break their shell and find their heart, even though at times they are exhausting.!)

"So those are some of the reasons why we (I) am different than some you know, but extremely happy in my role and chosen profession.  The pay isn’t so great on the checkbook, but the benefits just cannot be matched."

The ability to shape souls cannot be duplicated.  The tenderness and love required changes based on circumstances and the people involved.  Always in the forefront of my mind is the understanding that each child has agency and each has unique gifts and abilities given to them by God, who knows what they are and knows how He wants them used, and why they are significant.  Motherhood is like unwrapping new gifts with no comprehension of what is inside.  As the child grows, the gifts unfold.  It is beautiful and each one is different.  And that is why I love it!

Karen Larsen Photography
I also found this poem I wrote about motherhood.  I thought I would include it.

Motherhood is...

…nothing in the eyes of the world, but everything in the eyes of your child.

…a long night with a teething babe or a sick child.

…tear stained cheeks as you plead for strength and wisdom to help troubled youth.

…an exploding heart the first time you see in your child the courage and determination to stand for moral truth.

…the empty ache of unfulfilled hopes, dreams and sometimes lives.

…all of your heart and soul, if you do it right.

…a toddler’s bouquet of your favorite flowers plucked straight from the front yard’s flower bed.

…finding yourself in the nurturing of children.

…the shaping of another human soul through your love, example, and diligence.

…the desire and will to be more than you think you can for the benefit of your children.

…hope and determination to make the world a better place through the life of a child.

…seen in a preschooler with her baby doll.

…anticipated by young brides.

…cherished by grandmothers.

…stem-less dandelion bouquets.

…noodle craft Christmas tree ornaments.

…exhausting and exhilarating all in the same sentence.

…hours and hours and hours of counseling siblings, modeling behavior, and working out problems.

…midnight sewing projects.

…secret sneaks of cookie dough together.

…doctor and dentist visits.

…crayon love notes written in your favorite book or journal.

…puddle stomping and muddy footprints across the floor.

…snow angels and hot-chocolate.

…finding lost socks, library books, uniforms, and shoes.

…promising ice-cream just to get one family photo where everyone will smile.

…expected holiday traditions passed down through the generations.

…sorting through out-grown wardrobes three times in one year.

…saving your children from scary monsters under the bed by setting monster traps with carrots and paper sacks.  Monsters LOVE carrots.  You knew that right?

…learning the latest hairstyles available with curling irons, rubber bands, and bobby pins.

…years of athletic events, dance recitals, and music performances from your very favorite celebrities.

…a sand-ring in the bathtub after a day at the beach.

…using fine china and a formal table-setting for no special occasion with party guests ages 3-17.

…wondering what your grandchildren will look like.

…watching your children do what you have done to sacrifice for the next generation and loving them all the more.

…time and energy---all that you have and all that you can get.

…a gift that costs more than you thought was possible, but gives you more than two hearts can hold.

…faith, hope, and charity.

…the very essence and nobility of women.

…mine for the taking and mine to share.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Your Olympic Medal Story--Family First Friday #8

I have loved watching the Olympics over the last few days.  Watching the athletes put their practice, endurance, and skills on the line for everyone to see in competition with others who have trained just as hard is amazing and heartbreaking to observe.  What really touches my heart, of course, are the stories behind the performances.  For instance, I loved hearing how Noelle Pikus-Pace had retired, stopped competing, began her life after her sport and then with her family decided that maybe she had one more Olympic appearance in her.  Sometime before retirement, she was hit by a four man bob-sled, broke her leg and had to recuperate, rebuild, and retrain.  In the interim between retirement and her return, she had a baby and a miscarriage.  When she finished this year, she came away as the silver medalist and was so excited she climbed off of the track and into the stands to hug her family and celebrate her victory, all the while repeating, "We did it!  We did it!"

I particularly like women's figure skating.  Last night I watched Adelina Sotnikova skate for Russia's first gold medal in women's figure skating and beat out the reigning gold medalist from 2010 Yuna Kim of Korea.  Their skating was beautiful.  Each competitor had their own story.  One skater had lost her mother in the last several years (Mao Asada of Japan, placed 6th) and was skating for her.  The bronze medalist, Carolina Kostner from Italy had disastrous performances in two previous Olympics.  Her mother told her to enjoy her skating and show the people why she loved it.  All the commentators could say was how much different her skating was this year compared to any other performances, and she walked away with Italy's first medal in women's figure skating.

As I watched these amazing athletes perform for the world, it hit me.  We all have medal stories.  We may not be world-class athletes.  We may be completely unknown and anonymous.  Maybe no one knows our medal story.  But if you think about it long and hard enough, I bet  you have one.  You should think about putting it on paper so your posterity can read them and gain faith and strength from your example.

Mine would go something like this:
Carin was born the oldest of six children.  Her parents were sealed in the temple just months before she was born.  As the family grew and stress increased, so did marital dissatisfaction.  By the time Carin was 14 the family did not attend church very often.  Finally at 18, her parents divorced leaving her and her siblings (ages 16, 14, 13, 10, and 9) wondering what that meant for their lives, who they were, and how their parents felt about them.

Carin was able to leave the situation and attend Brigham Young University for a year and a half before she married her sweetheart, Drew.  Carin and Drew determined they never wanted divorce to be a part of their lives.  They agreed never to mention the 'D' word as a means to solve their problems.  Over the next seven years and four children, she finally finished her degree in Family Sciences.  During that course of time, her oldest son perforated his bowel at a month old, almost died on the operating table, and had a colostomy for 2 and 1/2 years.  His medical issues required 4 major abdominal surgeries and 7 minor  reconstructive surgeries.  Two weeks after the birth of their second child, they found a heart murmur which, thankfully, did not require surgery but did include many doctor visits and a year's worth of medication.  During these years, she was only able to take 6 credit hours a semester, taking off a semester each time she delivered her sons, #3 and #4.
After 8 years in Provo, UT Carin and her family were finally able to begin to make ends meet financially.  It was at this point, they were asked to leave.  They knew their destination was northern California but knew no one there and didn't have any connections.  They looked for a job for two years before finally finding one.  Unfortunately it paid only 1/2 of what they had been making in Utah.  Knowing that we are counseled to be financially independent, and also knowing that their destination was the Lord's desire, Carin and her Drew prayed with faith to be able to make the move.  She cut a deal with the Lord.  She would go, if He would guarantee that she would not have to enter the workforce to make their finances meet.  She was unwilling to go if the children would be placed in daycare.  After 10 years in Provo, they made the move, while 20 weeks pregnant with their fifth son.

Northern California would prove to be a fertile ground for growth.  The years were lean and hard.  Carin and Drew learned first hand how to handle persecution both from within and without of the church.  Though they were surrounded by people, sometimes with friends, they learned how to gain strength from one another and to rely on their faith and their family:  husband, wife, and children.   They continue to reside in Northern California where they have added four sons and one daughter to their family.

After 24 years of marriage, Carin and Drew have six children remaining at home.  Three of their nine have served or are serving missions.  Three are in college.  Three have degrees with a fourth graduating this coming May.  The others have plans for colleges and missions.  We will watch closely as their post Olympic story unfolds.
Dec 2012, Spanky serving his mission in Orlando, FL

Success?  Well, there is still a lot of story to write and time to unfold.  But I do believe there is success in our effort.  We have overcome many, many obstacles, set-backs, disappointments, and heart-ache (all of which have not been shared).  I am sure we will experience many, many more.

I know if you take a long and real look at your life and what you have accomplished, you will see your own Olympic medal story, because that is why we are here, to learn to have our own 'Happily Ever After.'  And here is the best part, if you don't like your story or think it isn't inspiring or motivating, you can work to change it----today.  You can change the direction you are headed and make a fresh start and create your own happy ending.  What are you waiting for??  Go write it down!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Not a holiday?

President's Day is a holiday here in the United States.  In February, we celebrate the birthdays of two of our very amazing presidents, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.  Because they are close together, some school districts give us an entire week off of school (at least here in CA).  In other states, you may have two to four days off. 
Abraham Linoln courtesy of The New York Times

Yesterday was the first day of our president's week holiday and everyone was home from work and school.  Though it was a holiday for them, they all had extra things they wanted my help with, which made it not a holiday for me, except that I was surrounded by my sweet family.  I just thought I would run through the day with you.
George Washington (

In the morning, 7 a.m., the four boys who remain at home went to put out flags in our community to celebrate the holiday.  About 7:15, I realized they were all gone and that meant the baby was left down stairs by himself.  I went down stairs knowing he can now open the front door and escape out of the house.  Luckily, the boys had been responsible and left out a door that he cannot open, leaving the lock that he cannot open on the front door.  And, as sweet big brothers would do, they put in his favorite movie.  He was in front of the TV when I got down the stairs.

After breakfast and internet catch-up (blog, email, cnn), I sat down with Sun and we planned out all of her homework for the week.  (We have struggled to keep her up to date with her classes.  She has kind of had vacation days throughout the year and now has to play catch up while everyone else is on break.  Poor girl.  Hard lessons, hopefully learned!)  I just let her know that if she wanted to have any privileges this week, she has to complete the assignments on her list first.  (It worked amazingly yesterday!  Today may be a different story.)  That took us until 11:30.

Then we fixed a quick lunch and made bread for dinner.  Drew had promised the little boys some time at the church playing basketball, so at 12:30, we spent 20 minutes there.  We dropped Sun off at piano and then made some photo copies and faxed some paperwork for health insurance for the older boys, and took Sport driving.  He finally received his permit (license to learn to drive).  [The fees before 17.5 years old are astronomical and ridiculous!]  We drove with him for an hour.

We arrived home at 2:30.  Drew dropped us off and headed to the office where he had some work that needed to be caught up.  From there, Speedy wanted me to sit down with him and discuss his options for a college major and to help him plan the classes he would need to take to accomplish that.  Which would be fine, if he had any idea of what he would like to do.  He still isn't sure.  But that's OK, the boy is only 14!  He has some time.  That took two hours.  By then it was time to cook dinner, and of course, we had one basketball practice.

Family Home Evening has been moved to tonight.

As much as I love playing and watching basketball, I am counting the down the days until we are finished with the crazy schedule!

My plan for my holiday??  Do the laundry.  But that didn't happen either.  Guess I'll move that today as well!  What do you do on your holidays?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Other Prodigal Son

As a mother of boys, this Mormon Message really touched my heart.  I cannot tell you how many times we have struggled with similar issues in our home.......jealousy of another sibling.  It definitely has gotten better as we have aged, but as this video shows, it isn't always the case.

Yea for Elder Holland for putting things in perspective!
OK, I also had to include this one:
I have loved this story for a long time!  I just didn't remember that it belonged to Elder Holland.  But I love the visual that Heavenly Father allowed them to go down the wrong road a short distance, so they would know without a doubt that the longer road they were on was the right one. 

When I heard the story, it was told that the right road was much longer and they traveled for several hours in the dark and if they hadn't taken the shorter road in the daylight but instead immediately started on the longer road, they may have second guessed themselves and doubled back, not knowing which road was right.  Then they would have been lost in the canyon's freezing temperatures overnight.  However, knowing that the shorter road was the wrong road, they had peace and a sure knowledge the road they were traveling was the right one, regardless of the time it took to travel it.

Love Elder Holland!  He has always been one of my favorites........possibly because he was the president of BYU when I first attended!!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Family First Friday #7--Kindness and Charity

Last night we went to Shorty's basketball game.  It was against a team in one of our outlying areas.  The game was held in the skating rink.  The floor was blue and hard.  As Drew and I watched the teams warm up, I knew it was going to be a slaughter house.  Their team was half the size of ours, in number of players and in their height and body build.  I thought, "This isn't going to be any fun to watch."
Just picture the ceilings higher and the floor blue concrete with bball hoops!

The last time we had played this team, Shorty was sick so we didn't go to the game.  I guess we beat them 48 - 4.  I was worried.

When it came time for the game to start, our coach put in all of the second string players.  "That's great!" I thought!  They played for a quarter and a half and the score was 18 - 2.  Then he put in our first string players.  We wondered what the heck they were doing.  Then we noticed that none of the boys were shooting unless they were behind the three point line.  What are they doing?  After a few minutes of play, the coach pulled them all out and put the second sting back in.
 We weren't the first ones to think of it...see the scoreboard?

One of the boys came to talk to his dad who happened to be standing behind us.  (You know, standing on the wall of the skating rink??  We were sitting on a bench in front of the wall.)  "The coach told us that we couldn't drive at all.  We could only shoot three's.  He won't let us do anything else!" he reported.  Interesting.

I have to tell you though, the highlight of the game came in the third quarter.  They had a player on their team who probably had not made a basket all season.  He was just a tiny little guy with coke bottle glasses.  He didn't play defense or even seem to have any cognition about what was going on around him.  As the ball came down the floor (their team as offense), his teammates gathered around him and told him where to stand.  Our boys all kind of stood in place with their hands up.  They passed their teammate the ball and encouraged him to shoot.  The ball ricocheted off the back board not even approaching the basket.  Our team got the ball and took it down to the other end and shot three's.  When their team came back to their basket, the scene repeated itself.  The only difference was when Shorty rebounded the ball and instead of passing it to the outlet, he handed it back to their player and encouraged him to shoot the ball again.  I almost cried. 

I was so proud of my son.  Here we were in a competitive arena and he had a great coach who understood what was important that day.  Shorty understood enough to know what was happening and to do the right thing to encourage the growth of someone he didn't even know.  It just renewed my faith in the good people of the earth knowing when and how to do the right thing, to take a competitive agenda and turn it into morality, and then to teach that to the children.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Meet your neighbor!

Yesterday I was driving the home from dropping the children off at school.  As I hit the stop light close to my house in the busy morning traffic, I noticed a large, white van blocking traffic.  The driver was out of his vehicle trying to push it around the corner of the intersection.  Obviously, the car was not cooperating.  He was blocking three lanes of traffic.

"There's no way he is going to be able to do that," I thought, especially knowing the direction he was headed has a steep, immediate incline.  Just as a I thought that, an old Volkswagen van two cars ahead of me swerved into the parking lot on the corner.  "I bet he is going to help him."  pause, pause "I'm going to help too," and I pulled my car into the same parking lot.  After all, I was just heading home.  I didn't have anywhere I needed to be.

Now, I realize that I am not a young, spring chicken, in fact, I'm an old lady of almost 44 and have given birth to nine children and gained 60 pounds from my youth.  However, I have always been a strong and sturdy built woman.  I don't have the same strength I did when I was younger, but several times over my lifetime I helped people with something physical only for them to remark, "Oh my.  You're a lot stronger than you look."  So I wasn't too worried that there were only going to be two of us pushing the van.  After all, many hands make light work, and two people pushing is better than only one, even if one of them is an overweight older woman.

It probably took the three of us (driver included) about 20 minutes just to move the van out of traffic.  Remember, the van now has no power steering either, and the driver was at least 20 years older than me.  Even though he was a larger man, turning that wheel was like trying to move a boulder, because he kind of was.  In the process of moving the van, the first responder had the van's hood close on his hand, removing a part of the skin.  As we pushed from the front to allow gravity to give us a little more space to turn to the curb, the open hood shut right onto the side of his hand.  He didn't bleed, but shaved off a layer of skin.

We finally got the van to the side of the road, set the emergency break, and turned the hazards on.  I offered the Volkswagen man some neosporin I happen to have in my purse (remember I am a mother of is kind of a standard necessity).  He was impressed that I was so prepared.  I did not however, have a bandaid.  I usually have one of those too.  He said not to worry about it.  He just lived over there and motioned up the street.

As we were getting to our vehicles, it hit me!  "Hey, are you my Volkswagen loving neighbor?"

Confused, he turned around.  "Every time I walk by your house (the one with three Volkswagens) I think to myself, 'Wow, they must really love Volkswagens.'"

"I'm doing pretty well," he said.  "I've only got this one now," motioning to his van.

"Oh, well I just live up the street this way.  I'm Carin, by the way."

"Nice to meet you!  I"m John."

I have been meeting a lot of my neighbors recently.  My little Smilely is playing on a basketball team that includes another family from the neighborhood who we didn't know.  It has been so nice to get to know our neighbors.  They are some pretty amazing people!

Next time you see that someone might need help, take a moment to offer your services, even if they will be declined.  You might just meet one of your neighbors, like me!

(Sorry, no photos, the baby is crying and I have to get breakfast ready for the clan :-)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Orange Medicine

Sunday evening Smiley told me that he had a headache and wanted some ibuprofen.  No problem.  I got him some.  Then Spike told me that he needed 'orange medicine', because we buy the liquid kind for the little guys.  I couldn't think of why Spike would need it, except that Smiley was getting some.  So I told him that he didn't need it.

All day on Monday, Spike didn't really eat.  By the end of the day, he had eaten 8 Ritz crackers, 1 banana, and 1 avocado, and several glasses of water or coconut milk.  He kept telling me he was hungry, but then he wouldn't eat.  (He usually only does that when he is teething, but I thought all of his teeth were in.)

Lately he has also quit taking naps, since about Christmas time, so we have been putting him to bed between 7 and 8 p.m.  Last night, I was at basketball practice with Shorty when Spike fell asleep and went to bed.  By the time I got home, only about 8:45, he was awake again and crying.  I had the thought he just might need some ibuprofen.  I fixed some up and took it to him.

I brought it into his room, while he is crying on his sister's lap in his bed.  "Do you want some orange medicine?"

"Yes."  And he took it and drank it without complaint.  Then he was ready to lay down and go to sleep.  I laid down beside him, covered him all up, put medicine of his itching feet.  He started to breath deeper.  Then he said, "Thank you giving me orange medicine."

I felt so bad.  He did need orange medicine.  "Have your teeth been hurting?"

"Yes."  So sorry little baby!!!

"I am sorry I didn't listen to you last night.  I should have given you some.  Sometimes I need to listen better."

And off he went to sleep.  Silly mother.  Sometimes you don't know it all and you should listen to your two year-old!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rain and raining

About four weeks ago, the Bishops and Stake Presidents in California received a notice from the First Presidency of the Church asking the members of the state of California to hold a special fast on the first Sunday of February for rain.
This was in December!

We have had a huge drought here in California.  I am not one of those statistics girls, so I don't know how long it has been happening.  Some people have said 'Years!'  Others have said, 'Drought?  What drought?'  But regardless of how long it has been happening, the weather pattern where we live has been just nuts.  It usually starts raining sometime in October and doesn't stop until the end of May.  Seriously.  We usually have one beautiful, sunny, warm day after Christmas and right before January.  Then July is cold and foggy and wet.  But this year, our Indian Summer has been extended through January.  We have had the most beautiful weather with sun!
and this!

Drew's co-worker watches the weather.  He is not a member of our faith and I do not know if he believes in God or not.  But he came to work one day and said, 'There is this strange high pressure zone over California and it is just keeping all that rain we normally get out over the ocean.'

Then we, all the members in California, fasted for rain the first Sunday in February.  Drew's co-worker came back to work on Monday and said, 'It's gone.  The high pressure zone just disappeared!  Gone.'  And then it started raining, and raining, and raining.  After an entire week of rain, today is the first time it has been dry enough to go for a walk outside.  Coincidence?  I think not.
Ya....this is usually what it looks like.....

After following the advice and counsel and request of the prophets, we have rain.  We still need a lot more rain, probably months and months worth.  But it is just another testament to me of the blessings of obedience.
And this.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Family First Friday #6--Salt and Light

(I started it on Friday........does that count?)

Have you ever just wondered how you motivate your children to understand that they are unique and they have a special purpose in life, that they are amazing and have been given great and marvelous gifts and yet still understand that they are a part of a larger picture where they need to be humble with the talents the Lord has blessed them with and be willing to lift others and help them see their individual and unique gifts?  I mean, where is the line?  You want your children to know they are special, that they have a unique place to fill in the world, but not be so puffed up with their own conceit that they are unwilling to help others and lift them.  Am I making any sense?

All of us have unique gifts.  It says so in the scriptures.

D and C 46: 11-12
 11 For all have not every agift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. (bold added)

 12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

 We know we have been put here with our understanding of the doctrines of the kingdom and the covenants associated with eternity to help lead and guide the rest of our Father's children to light, happiness, and peace.  The Savior said so in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5
13 ¶Ye are the asalt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
 14 Ye are the alight of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

 15 Neither do men light a acandle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

 16 Let your alight so shine before men, that they may see your good bworks, and cglorify your Father which is in heaven.
And he repeated himself when he came to visit the Nephites after his crucifixion:

3rd Nephi 12
13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the asalt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.
 14 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

 15 Behold, do men light a acandle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;

 16 Therefore let your alight so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and bglorify your Father who is in heaven.

We are meant to be leaders.  We are meant to show others the way.  We are suppose to be living so as to set the example, the standard for those around us.  Leaders are unique.  They do not look the same, sound the same, or behave the same as other people.  They are the leader because they are different.  They have vision.  They show others the way to obtain their vision and they bring them along with them.  

Leaders can be leaders for good or ill.  Our job as leaders is to help lift others and show them how to live after the manner of happiness.  The Savior compares us to salt and light.  Salt is a savoring influence that enhances flavor.  It makes things better.  Think about light.  It warms us, provides vision in darkness and a measure of heat.  It also enhances life.

A few years ago, one of my conference questions revolved around this scripture:

3rd Nephi 18
 18 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for aSatan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.

I wanted to know what it meant.  What does it mean that 'Satan desires to sift us as wheat'?  That same conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave this address (click here).  In it, he said these words:

Unfortunately, some Latter-day Saints seem to forego unselfish service to others, choosing instead to fix their priorities on the standards and values of the world. Jesus cautioned that Satan desires to sift us like wheat (see Luke 22:31; 3 Nephi 18:18), which means to make us common like all those around us. But Jesus taught that we who follow Him should be precious and unique, “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and “the light of the world,” to shine forth to all men (Matthew 5:14, 16; see also 3 Nephi 18:24).

We do not serve our Savior well if we fear man more than God. He rebuked some leaders in His restored Church for seeking the praise of the world and for having their minds on the things of the earth more than on the things of the Lord (see D&C 30:2; 58:39). Those chastisements remind us that we are called to establish the Lord’s standards, not to follow the world’s. Elder John A. Widtsoe declared, “We cannot walk as other men, or talk as other men, or do as other men, for we have a different destiny, obligation, and responsibility placed upon us, and we must fit ourselves [to it].” 6 That reality has current application to every trendy action, including immodest dress. As a wise friend observed, “You can’t be a life saver if you look like all the other swimmers on the beach.” 7

Those who are caught up in trying to save their lives by seeking the praise of the world are actually rejecting the Savior’s teaching that the only way to save our eternal life is to love one another and lose our lives in service.

C. S. Lewis explained this teaching of the Savior: “The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first—wanting to be the centre—wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake. … What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come … the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” 8

A selfish person is more interested in pleasing man—especially himself—than in pleasing God. He looks only to his own needs and desires. He walks “in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world” (D&C 1:16). Such a person becomes disconnected from the covenant promises of God (see D&C 1:15) and from the mortal friendship and assistance we all need in these tumultuous times. In contrast, if we love and serve one another as the Savior taught, we remain connected to our covenants and to our associates.

Recently, as I have understood a little more of my role in mortality, I have not been as afraid to stand out in life.  I do not need to be or wish to be the center of attention.  But I have also stopped hiding my light under a bushel, if you will.  I am out in our community, in our schools, in my neighborhood.  I do not apologize for my large and loud family.  We do not usually take all of us everywhere we go, but people know we have nine children.  They can tell in their interactions with me that there is something different in my life.  I am happy!  (Even with nine children.)

Once in a while, I even catch them watching me.  I can tell they are thinking and pondering about me.  They can't quite put their finger on what I already know.  I am different than most of those they know because of the Light of Christ that shines in my life.  It is my understanding of who I am, where I have been and where I am going.  I know who to follow and I know what choices to make.  I teach those things to my children and they are beginning to understand who they are, especially in relation to those around them.

They know for instance, that even though their role is to be the salt and to be the light, ALL of the people of the earth are children of God, are their brothers and sisters, are people who have talents and gifts within them.  They recognize they have a responsibility to encourage those people, those friends and acquaintances in the paths that will bring them the most joy and the most happiness.  Those paths are always the ones in line with the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the scriptures and by the prophets.  Even if their friends will not listen to the missionaries, or read the Book of Mormon, they can encourage them in righteous choices that will bring them closer to a place where one day they will accept the message.  Each step forward is the right way, and sometimes, just being their friend and giving them encouragement will influence them to make a better choice.

Our salt and light isn't intended to be the center.  It is intended to improve and influence, to enhance the lives of our brothers and sisters who do not necessarily know the laws of eternity, to give guidance and direction, which implies allowing them to use their agency.  Allowing agency means sometimes, maybe a lot of times depending upon the people we are working with, we will be rejected.  Rejection is not a measure indicating the message or advice or counsel is bad.  It is simply agency, and a reflection of the heart receiving the message.  If you are rejected, simply move on.  Don't push, just move on.  Look for those who are watching you and pondering.  You can see it in their eyes.  Reach out to those who are wondering why you are different, and then explain it to them.

As you pray about those around you, the Lord will help you to know who are the prepared of heart.  He knows their thoughts and their intents.  He has heard their quiet questions wondering why you are different.  He will lead you to those who want to know.  Then be willing to open your mouth and share who you are and be the salt and the light you were intended to be.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Check your sources

Have you ever had one of those looks from a kid that says, "You do not know what you are talking about," even when you did know exactly what you were talking about?  I have experienced it regularly, but received it yet again at practice the other night.

5th grade boys basketball practice.  It is far enough away from our home, that it doesn't warrant dropping our son off and then driving back to pick him up later.  I just stay and observe practice for the hour and a half.  I usually keep my mouth shut so as not to interfere with the coaches and their objectives.  Periodically, I will say something to my son about his play or techniques.

Shorty listens to me.  He learned from his older brother, 'Mom does know what she is talking about when it comes to basketball.'  Our current 9th grader would never listen to me when I gave him basketball advice.  He didn't think I knew what I was talking about either.  He shared with his brother that he 'learned that the hard way'.  My boys didn't ever see me play, and now that I am older and have so many responsibilities, I really do not play, ever, so how are they suppose to know?  Anyway, Speedy told Shorty that after a few years, he decided to try some of the things I was telling him.  Then he realized, 'Hey, I'm making almost all of the points for our team!'  Duh!

Back to practice.  I decided to go out of my way to help a young man at practice who was obviously struggling.  They were running a play, over and over and over to kind of get it in the boys' heads.  The defense knew the play so instead of playing true defense, they were overplaying to cause difficulties during the play.  This particular boy's defender was actually playing defense between his player and the side-line, instead of his player and the basket.  The path to the middle of the key was wide open!  But the young man kept pushing against his defender to get out into the wing position to catch the ball and run the play.  He was kind of missing the point.......that the ball needs to go into the hoop.  (Yes, I understand that they are practicing the play, but when your defender is going to cheat like that, you sometimes, several times, have to burn them to keep them honest on the court.  You have to use your head in practice too.)

During a break, I mentioned those thoughts to this young man.  He completely blew me off.  I could read in his face and his body language that he had no intention of following my counsel.  And he didn't.  He continued to fight and push against his defender the rest of the practice.
ya....he looked like that.

or like this.

Then this morning, I began to wonder.  Do we do that to our Heavenly Father, or the prophet, or our bishop or a well meaning friend?  Do we receive proper counsel, righteous counsel, counsel that will eternally help us and our family and then just blow it off because we do not think it will work or we discount the source it is coming from?  Probably more likely, we have received inspiration, or revelation and thought that it would not work or be beneficial so we have blown it off.  Certainly that has happened to me.

Here is a classic example:  School had just ended a week earlier.  I had the thought that we should change the kids' elementary school.  We had been attending the current elementary school since we had moved into the area.  I liked our teachers.  I do not like change, especially where children are concerned.  We were in a routine.  'That's a stupid idea,' I thought.

Next week:  'You should change the kids' elementary school.'
'That is just nuts!  What a dumb idea!'

Next week:  'You should change the kids' elementary school.'
'That is so crazy!  I had this thought last week and I thought it was stupid then.......Hey!  Wait a minute!  I have had this thought three times and each time I have thought it was stupid.  This isn't my thought....'  Then I began entertaining the idea (not in a pleasant way, much more with an attitude...)  'Where would they go anyway?!!'  Then another school popped into my head, the one, of course, where I complained that people who attended that school must be out of their minds to drive so far away.

But I began to do my research.  I called the school, met the principal, toured the school, and we made the change, which happened to be a huge blessing and benefit to our family.

The point is, we need to be able to recognize valid sources of information and then listen to them and apply their counsel.  Our Father in Heaven does not intend us to navigate this life blindly or without assistance.  In our day and age where so many voices have opinions and platforms from which they spew them, we must find the truth and the information that will bring us peace and happiness.  That information comes from a loving Heavenly Father who has set up a system whereby we can know truth, recognize it and train ourselves to act upon it.  Look to the scriptures.  Look to the prophets.  Learn how the Holy Ghost works within you.  Measure those thoughts you have against the scriptures and the prophets and the feelings you have inside about them.  Remember that all that is good comes of God....all that is wicked comes from Satan (Moroni 7:12).

Just because our basketball advice is coming from some old, fat mom, doesn't mean that it is wrong!  Check your sources kid!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Primary Success!!
 Yesterday was another crazy day in our primary.  The kids were a little wound up, but not too bad.  We finally have most of our teachers in place, which is more than half of the battle.  I found out when we were getting ready to begin opening exercises that I would be winging singing time again, and it was my month for sharing time.

Singing time wasn't too bad because last week we had a stake leadership training where I prepared a singing time presentation and then didn't end up using it, so I just used that because I happened to have it in my church bag!  Thanks for that!  I was prepared for my sharing time so that went fairly well also.

There are a few things I have noticed that have made our sharing times function better.  The first is to not really have any down time.  If you are taking time with a child, to help them look up a scripture or to get them to think about something, during that time, you will almost always lose the other children in the room.  They just don't have the patience to sit there quietly while someone else is figuring things out. 

Our sharing time yesterday had several scriptures that needed to be read and then together, the group decides whether that scripture was talking about the premortal life (before birth), mortality (Earth life), or life after death.  I wrote each scripture down on a 5x7 piece of paper, and then a quick synopsis of what the scripture said to help the children understand the point of the scripture.  Then I handed out the papers while we were doing something else and asked those with papers to look up their scripture and be prepared to read it.

I had also prepared picture representations of each of the stages in the Plan of Salvation.  I basically used this outline, but I made it large enough to be seen across the room, and used colored construction paper.

We had a quick discussion as to what each of the options looked like, for instance, in the premortal life we were spirit bodies but did not have a temporal body.  Then to get from the premortal life to Earth life, we participated in the process called birth.  We then talked about Earth life and the transition from Earth life to life after death and what happens to our bodies, spiritual and temporal.  And we discussed that our bodies and spirits will be reunited during the resurrection, never to be separated again.  (If you want a more in depth look at these doctrines and the scriptures that back them up, click here.)

As we presented these materials and discussed those ideas, a few of the children had questions.  We took the time to answer their questions.  This is where learning is really happening!!!  When the children feel comfortable enough with you to ask questions, sincere, heart-felt questions, that's what we want to encourage and respond to their questions appropriately.  One question was 'After we are resurrected, can we go back to Earth?'.  I wasn't quite sure of exactly what he was asking, so as I answered that I wasn't sure, someone behind me (the pianist) said, 'Yes we do 13th Article of Faith.'  (I think she meant the 10th Article of Faith)  OK....let's run with that.  Then I taught them that the Earth has a spirit.  The Earth has been baptized.  We are taught that the Earth will receive a Celestial glory and become the sphere whereon those who also inherit a Celestial glory will live.  So the answer to his question is yes....if he lives to become worthy to inherit the Celestial kingdom, he not only will return to the Earth, but he will live here for eternity.  But I think what he was really asking was 'After we are resurrected, can we come back to Earth to visit people.....'  I made the mistake of not clarifying his question or asking if I adequately answered it.  I should have done both of those things.

Another question was how are our physical bodies created.  To which I answered, "Well, mothers and fathers together create those physical bodies for our spirits to inherit.....and if you need more explanation than that, you'll need to talk to you parents."

I also took the opportunity to teach those children that our Father in Heaven wants us to ask questions.  He has given us prophets and those prophets have written down their interactions with Deity, they are recorded as scriptures.  So if we will read the words of the prophets and the scriptures, we can know the answers to some of our questions.  Our Father in Heaven wants us to want to know how and why things happen the way they do.  He has provided answers and He will provide each of us with our own answers if we are willing to pay the price.  That price is faith, study, and obedience.  When we are prepared to receive the answers, those answers will come, even if they don't come to us in this life time.

Our sharing time was significantly longer than it should have been, but we didn't assign a talk for this week so we had some extra time to fill.  It all worked out well.

When those we teach feel comfortable asking questions, we are having a successful class period.  It isn't so much about the topic we are teaching as it is about helping others learn to question and then show them how to find the right answers to their questions.  Pointing them in the direction of the scriptures and the prophets is key.  And especially if their age warrants, encouraging them to ask their parents is also significant.

So even though we were a little loud and unruly, people questioned, learning happened, discussion ensued, and that my friends, is success, especially in Primary!