Friday, March 27, 2015

Family First Friday #11 Sickness abounds.

So last week my little Spike Spike caught another cold.  Along with the breathing treatments, he had pink eye and had to have eye drops.  We kept him home from church on Sunday just because I didn't want him to catch anything else in his weakened condition.  We finally finished all of his eye drops, breathing treatments are on going.

Then Sunday, after we arrived home from church, Sun puked.  She is older and said she was feeling a little puny.  She managed to keep everything contained and just felt yucky and nasty most of the day and into the next day.  I hoped it was just food poisoning.  It wasn't.
I feel like this is how we are functioning today.  
Copyright (above) Karen Larsen Photography

Shorty puked on Tuesday night.  It wouldn't have been so bad except he did it in the middle of the night and the boys had not cleaned their room in who knows how long.  It landed (from the top bunk) all over Speedy's church pants, and both of his jackets and it hit a comforter on the bottom bunk that was hanging over the edge.  That was fairly manageable.  I put on plastic gloves and started cleaning the mess.  Shorty woke me up by calling to me up the stairs at 1 a.m.  "Mom, I puked!"  Great.  Half way through the clean-up, I was overwhelmed because the puke kept sliding off of the snow jacket onto the floor and making a bigger mess out of things that weren't dirty in the first place.  I woke up Drew and requested assistance.

What an amazing man.  No questions, no complaining, he just threw off  the covers and popped out of bed.  He helped me get things into the washing machine, settled Shorty, cleaned up the floor.  Sweet man.  Husbands, you have no idea how amazingly attractive you are in your underwear cleaning up vomit.  Seriously!  My heart and exhausted body swelled with gratitude for his willing sacrifice to assist me.

Today is Shorty's birthday.  He is better.  Speedy is puking.  Such a lovely weekend.  In two days it will hit the next victim.  I really hate the flu virus, really, really hate it.

This weekend we are suppose to be ordaining two of our boys---Shorty will be a deacon and Speedy a Priest.  Grandma and Grandpa are coming in for the occasion.  I really, really hope they don't go home with the flu!  Please pray for them and pray for Drew.  He is giving the 5th Sunday lesson this week and he has a Bishop's Youth Discussion later that night and he will ordain his boys.  The last thing he needs is to have the flu.
copyright Karen Larsen photography

Even Tammers hasn't escaped.  She doesn't have the flu, but she has some nasty cold that has swelled up her throat, and she is probably running a fever, poor girl.

Even my cat has been sick!!  For the last month he has had some kind of a nasty infection on his back.  He has finally been on antibiotics long enough that it is finally going away.  But he lost a lot of weight in the struggle.  Poor kitty.

So other than G&G visiting, we are going to have a kick back weekend (well, the kids and I are--the Bishop is going to be really, really busy--poor guy).  But we are going to watch the rest of our March Madness and enjoy birthday time and seeing people who we love.

That's the gist of it.  I hope your weekend has way less sickness than ours!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Family First Friday #10 2015--Sharing our beliefs

At our house today is the second day of March Madness!!  Mwwwaaaahahahahahahah!!  We love March Madness here at our house!  Things are in full swing!  Brackets are in, food is prepared, phone calls across the nation have been made (meaning our children in other states are participating :-), and basketball is on the television or the computer pretty much from 9a.m to 10p.m.  It is a wonderful time!

It is also time for Parent-Teacher conferences for our elementary school.  Our sixth grade teacher loves basketball as well.  Her entire class fills out brackets and they watch the games and do math and other academic things with the process.  She was explaining to her class that Shorty gets to stay home and does it all with the family.  Then she asked if I would mind if she brought over 25 more kids to watch the games with us.  It was all 'tongue in cheek' but if she thought she could get away with it, they would be here :-)  It is nice to have support in the family activities that are different from the rest of the world!!  One of our principals early on did not support our family activity.  It was quite a struggle.
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
But what I wanted to talk about today was my other parent teacher conference.  As we wound up our little interview, our fourth grade teacher expressed that teaching is getting more and more difficult for him each and every year.  In his words, the more children who come through my classroom who don't have parents like yours do, it is just so difficult.  I agreed with him wholeheartedly.  My degree is in family science, and I know first hand some of the emotional, physical, and spiritual consequences of broken families.

I decided to share with him my philosophy and beliefs about same gender marriage.  Specifically, I told him that it is really difficult for me to understand how we have all of these adults demanding 'their rights' to marry and love who they want to and saying that their choices have no consequences for others.  That is a crock.  Particularly, such adults, are completely ignoring the rights of children to have two parents of differing genders.  Now, some of you may say that once we allow those adults those 'rights' we can stop the momentum of that movement there.  Not so.  Once you legally recognize those unions as marriages, it naturally follows to then give them all the rights and privileges associated with said unions, namely, children.  But here is my big beef:  Children have the RIGHT to two parents of differing genders.  Mothers and fathers are inherently different.  Gay activists know this, which is why they have chosen to have that kind of a lifestyle.  They have made a conscious choice to sexually associate with a partner of their same gender, because they didn't want to have that relationship with the opposite gender.  But to then place a child in those 'families' or unions tramples then on the rights of the child.  We have taken a voiceless part of our society and are claiming, without their consent or input, that it doesn't matter to them.  We are violating the rights of the innocent and those who cannot stand up for themselves.  That is wrong!!  It is our job to protect those people.  It is our job to stand up for their interests and their rights.  That is what parenthood is about.  That is why PTA was established, and what they are conveniently neglecting and side stepping at the moment.  And that is what we as Americans profess to believe as we go through out the world helping to free oppressed people from tyrannical government and persecution.  Yet here we stand demanding our right to do that to our own citizens, who have no voice, simply because they are not old enough to be legally recognized to assert their opinion.  Completely wrong!  Shame on us!!  It is filth masquerading as virtue, and it is not OK with me.

Our teacher conquered.  He said that he had never thought about it from that perspective.

So here I am, telling it to you.  We have a responsibility to protect those of our citizens who, as yet, do not have the ability to stand for themselves.  It is our job.  I am willing to do that for my children and to share my opinion and beliefs with those who are like-minded.  We need people who are articulate and educated who can explain the reasons why our beliefs are important and significant to us.  As we do so, the truth of our position will resonate in the hearts of those who are seeking truth.  Those who choose to persecute us for our beliefs?  We can know they are playing for the other side, and as such, we can pay no heed to their hate speech.  Lucifer has long used intimidation as a tactic to quiet virtue.  It is time for us to rise up and be heard and counted as protecting those within our charge, the young and those who will be born.  We must stand for the future and be willing to bear the persecutions of the world.  After all, whose side are we on?
copyright: Karen Larsen photography

That is my rant for today.  We can and should be kind to all people, regardless of their lifestyle choices or political opinions and beliefs.  We demand our right to our opinion and we should protect their right to their opinion, even when we disagree with them.  But we must not cower to intimidation.  We must stand up and be counted--counted as standing on the right and moral side of the issue, even as we do so with meekness and grace.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Family First Friday #9 2015--Motivating our children.

Well, I had super plans to have this blog post up and out early this morning.  I was just about to sit down and pow it out when my dear friend called.  I talked with her for an hour, which was awesome!  And then I started my work for the day and just kind of got into the groove and cleaned out my kitchen drawers today!  Yes, I did!  I even conquered the 'gross drawer of DOOM'!!  (The one that the syrup spilled in after it overflowed boiling on the stove top.  And I was too frustrated and late to deal with it, so I left it there for six months.)  Yes, it was really gross!  And it took me about 45 minutes for that one drawer.  But guess what???!!!  IT is clean!  Then I glued the kitchen drawers that the faces are coming off of that have been driving me totally batty for about a year.  I fixed those too.  I am seriously on it today!!  (Most of it I think is due to my dear friend who helped me clean out a bunch of stuck emotions!  Thanks Diana!)

My major success of the day, however, was with one of my seminary students.  We took our new learning assessment today.  If you do not have a seminary student, or even know what one is, seminary is an early morning religion class for the high school aged teens.  This year we are studying Doctrine and Covenants and Church History.  Last year, the only requirement for getting credit for seminary was attending at least 75%.  This year, the church has chosen to "Elevate Learning" for our youth.  In order to get credit for seminary, now students still attend 75% or more, but they also have to pass 2 learning assessments in the year, read the book of study, and have a worthiness interview with their Bishop.  It is a lot more work than it was last year.  Students who want credit, really have to be willing to put in some effort.  I think the new requirements are amazing!  I think it will help all of us to grow and learn and show that we really know what the doctrines of our church are.

I learned a long time ago that if I wanted my youth (my own or those I was teaching) to achieve something, I needed to set the example of that for them.  Anything I want them to accomplish, I need to be willing to my effort on the line and do it right along with them.  So when I was called to seminary, I decided that I need to read all of the Doctrine and Covenants, like they are asked to.  I need to take the learning assessment, like they are asked to.  I need to memorize scripture mastery, just like they are asked to.  That is a lot of extra work for a mother of nine, even if four of those kiddos are out of the house.  I have been working on those goals, along with preparing my lessons to teach each day.  It is going to be a lot of work.  But I knew some of my students were at exactly the same place (the beginning) of doing those things even though I was coming in at the beginning of the 2nd semester.  I wanted them to reach and strive and be willing to try to complete the extra work in the shorter time.  What better way than to set that example for them, along with all of my other responsibilities.

Today, as we graded the assessment, we discussed the requirements for seminary credit.  With one of my students, I helped him to see that he had just passed the assessment, that he attended 75% or more, and that the worthiness interview wouldn't be much of a challenge for him.  The only thing standing in his way of receiving credit for the year would be rather or not he chose to read the book.  I broke down for him the amount of reading he would need to do each day so he could accomplish that goal.  It wasn't a lot, but it was significantly more than he had been doing.  It will take effort and time.  But for the first time since I have been teaching, he appeared open to the possibility.  I felt empowered!!  Whether he does it or not, he was open.  I reached in there and touched his heart!  That is a major success!!  And if he does read, and he does make the effort, then he wins too, because we all know the Lord will reward his efforts to be obedient and to try out the word!

We believe in agency, which is each person's ability to choose---for right or wrong.  Forcing is never part of the plan.  Sometimes that is really hard when we are worried or we know they are making the wrong choice.  Sometimes we do have to step in, like when our toddler is playing in the street.  But each and every one of us is happier and more committed to the process, if the course we are following is due to our own choice.  In gospel learning, it has to be our own choice (The Lord will force no man to heaven--or the proverb, A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still).  Gospel learning only sinks in and takes hold if it is done by choice.  The trick then, becomes how to help the other person see and desire to experiment for themselves, the merits of the gospel plan.  If they are unwilling to put forth the effort initially, or if they are not consistent in the exercise of their faith, or if they falter along the way, those seeds of faith either won't grow, or will quit growing.

One of the experiments we have been doing in seminary illustrates this.  I brought in some seriously dead houseplants.  (I was worried they were beyond saving).  But I felt the need to bring them in.
Yes, they really looked like this.

We started watering them.  Nothing much happened the first three weeks.  Then something amazing happened.  Green shoots started to appear from the dirt.
I trimmed back all of the dead stuff and kept watering them.  They are still tiny, but they are green and alive and growing.  It will still take a lot of time and effort and attention, but those plants can one day be bigger and more than they were before I killed them.

Our testimonies are like that.  They may wilt, or wither or die.  But if we choose to water those faith plants, through small and simple actions, like prayer, reading our scriptures, attending church, small, simple, steady---those faith plants will grow again.  They will return.  And with continued effort and time and care, those plants and that testimony will one day be bigger than it was on the day we stopped feeding it.

I think today, I motivated one of my students to be willing to make that effort for himself.  I certainly hope he does so.  Because I personally know the blessings that will come to him as he makes that continued effort over time.  The Lord has an amazing spiritual feast just waiting for him if he will just choose to make the effort and then to continue to do so.

Have a great weekend!!  I will ......tomorrow is Ultimate Pie day you know?? 3/14/15    3.1415.....

We will be celebrating by eating a lot of Pie :-)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Slaying our own dragons.

Has one of your friends ever said something to you about another of your friends in a very judgmental way?  Now, my friend #1, does not know my friend #2, and my friend #1 does not know I have a deep and dear friendship with friend #2.  But I do know, fairly intimately, both friends and the details of their lives.

Friend #1's comments about Friend #2 were not valid.  Her perception about what she saw was inaccurate.  What is worse is that Friend #2's behavior that day was really a step in the right direction for the 'dragons' Friend #2 has to slay in her life.  In other words, she was doing a really amazing job when Friend #1 felt the need to criticize.

I really pondered about my conversation with Friend #1.  I tend to listen really well when people are speaking to me and I think part of the reason people feel comfortable talking so openly with me about their personal lives is because I do not tend to pass judgment or disagree with them in the moment, even if I don't agree with their position at all.  A lot of times, I just let them talk even if I completely disagree with them.  So though Friend #1 was critical of Friend #2, I didn't, in the moment, stand up for Friend #2.  I wish I had.  I wish I had just enough ability to speak in the moment to say, "Oh, really?!  Are you aware of her struggles?  Of the dragons she is working on slaying in her life?  Well, I am, and you should just know that she is really doing well today.  It is good that your dragons aren't as public as hers."  I wish that I had said that.
I always know what to say later, but rarely in the moment.

I am glad my dragons are not as public as Friend #2.  They are plenty hard for me and I struggle with them daily.  Sometimes I think I have the dragon well under control and I am winning the fight.  Then I realize it is a Hydra-monster and though I cut off one head, three more grew in its place.  That may not be the reality, but it sure feels like it sometimes.

Today in Seminary we discussed how we should treat those who wrong us.  We discussed the last half of Doctrine and Covenants Section 98.  Verses 23-32 discuss how we should bear mistreatment, specifically that if we do so without retaliating, the Lord will bless us.  Verses 32-38 explain when war is justified according to the Lord, but expresses that the Lord would rather us solve our differences peacefully.  And verses 39-48 discusses how we should respond to those who ask for forgiveness and to those who do not.
Now, Friend #2 and Friend #1 will probably never again interact with one another.  They are no longer even in the same vicinity.  It would do absolutely no good for Friend #2 to hear the thoughts and feeling of Friend #1, in fact, it would do harm.  It is best for me to keep Friend #1's thoughts and feelings to myself.  But what is my responsibility to Friend #1?  Does it do any good now to say something to her?  To be honest, right now, I do not think it would.  It would have in the moment, and if either of those friends were to have some kind of a relationship in the future, then I think I should.  But right now, today, I think it would also do harm to Friend #1 to say something to her.

But what about those who have wronged me?  Or hurt me or my family?  What about those people who I do need to continue to interact with?  Well, you have heard my story about Ms. P.  (See here, and here, and here.)  For a long time, I have just avoided her, completely, to the best of my ability.  It has not been kind, but I think I was more concerned about saying something nasty and the best way for me to avoid that, was to avoid her.  In the process, her feelings about me have not been good (but mostly, because she thought I hated her first).  The truth, however, was not that I hated her, but that I couldn't be kind in the moment, so I avoided her.  I have never hated her.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to tell her so.  The Spirit told me that I needed to do that.  I didn't need to apologize for anything, because there wasn't anything that I needed to ask forgiveness for.  But I did need to let her know that I have never hated her.  I found the right opportunity, and I took it.  I hugged her.  She hugged me back and thanked me for telling her that.  I also told her to please remember that the next time I am mad.  (which wasn't unjustified, but with a greater understanding, and more charity, I don't have to be angry.)
Here is another example:  Our son, Scuff, is serving his mission in Brazil.  A few weeks ago, his mission president called him in and railed on him.  Scuff's feelings were really hurt.  The mission president had been given wrong information and what he thought had happened, didn't happen.  The mission president's response was not inappropriate for the information he thought was accurate.  But his information was inaccurate and aimed at Scuff.  It was bad enough, the mission president threatened to send him home, with only three months left on his mission.  Scuff's feelings were really hurt that one, someone said something that was untrue about him, and two, the mission president believed it.  We had a long email discussion.  It was important for Scuff to understand that if the mission president's information was accurate, then his reaction was appropriate for that information, directed at Scuff or not.  Luckily, for Scuff, the Spirit witnessed to his mission president that Scuff was telling the truth.  Isn't that amazing??  The Spirit stepped in.  Both men were reacting appropriately for their beliefs and there was a misunderstanding because the information on one end was incorrect, and the Spirit corrected the situation.

Can you think of an example of that in the scriptures?

How about Captain Moroni and Pahoran?

Captain Moroni was on the borders defending the Nephite nation.  They were low on supplies and men.  They were struggling to maintain their position.  They petitioned Pahoran, governor of the land, for more men and supplies.  Their petitions went unanswered.  Moroni got angry and wrote a nasty letter to Pahoran calling him to repentance and basically saying, "Look, if you think you can sit on your fanny while we are out here dying, I will come and destroy you myself."  If Moroni's information and thoughts and feelings about the situation were correct, then his response to the situation was appropriate.  But what was the situation?  Well, Pahoran had been run out of the governor's seat by the Kingmen.  They were experiencing a coup while Moroni was out defending the nation.  Pahoran did not get angry at Moroni's censure, rather, he gloried in the feelings of his soul.  Pahoran realized Moroni's response would be appropriate if his information was correct.  But his information was wrong, so Pahoran corrected it and they made a plan to save their country.
I LOVED this image!

I guess my point is this:  We do not always, or even usually, know what is going on in another person's head.  Their behavior, even toward us, may be completely right, and justified for the information they have or think they have.  We really need to have the Spirit with us, in our communications, and in our relationships so our judgements or thoughts about situations are accurate.  If we focus on slaying our own dragons, and not making critical comments about other people's dragons, we will be in a better position to communicate with one another in love.  We need to remember that 'contention is of the devil', such things are not of Christ's doctrine:

3rd Nephi 11: 29-30

 29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

 30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

And I will just conclude with this story of Sister Corrie ten Boom:
I can't figure out how to load the video.  But here is the link.
And here in her own words.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Family First Friday #8 2015--Dumbfounded.

So this morning for seminary, for one of our flex days, the kids opted to eat breakfast and just sit around the table and visit.  I thought that would be great!  So we did it.

While we were there, two of the guys were playing a game on their phones.  They were communicating back and forth about the game and strategy.  Being completely game illiterate, I asked them about their game and their progress.  Turns out they belong to the same 'clan' (please forgive me if it is obvious that I do not know the lingo or how these things function, because I really don't).  Then they went on to tell me that they pretty much spend all their time playing when they are not doing other things and they can do it together where ever they are, some of their clan even live outside of the area.  I guess the thing that really floored me was the fact that they went on to tell me how people make money doing it and how other people pay money to buy things in the game.  That is where my brain just went, "WHAT?!!"  People pay money, like cash, to buy virtual products to enhance their play??  To play a game??!!  WHAT?!!

I was seriously dumb founded.
Do you think these little huts are full of people playing virtual games?  Copyright Karen Larsen photography

I struggle to pay for all of the things we need to pay for here at our house, for our children, for their medical and dental care, for their music desires, for their education, so they have clothes to wear and food to eat.  I have been seriously over our budget lately because Spike had his emergency room visit and all of his allergy testing and extra medications, all of which are outside of our budget.  My kids are working their way through college because we cannot afford to help them, any.

A girlfriend who home schools her children has been teaching her children about Nigeria.  In her research, she learned that the people in Nigeria are poor enough that they cannot buy things from stores (if they even have any) so most of their toys are home made.  She decided to allow her children to feel what this might be like.  She took all of their toys away for a time as they try to immerse their learning into what it may be like to not have any toys.

I know there are people in my city who do not have enough food to eat, or clothes to wear, or ability to transport themselves from place to place, or have a warm place to sleep.  IN MY CITY!!!  Let alone all across the world.

These are just the things I am aware of.  I do not know 90% of the suffering that takes place across our globe to those people who are our brothers and sisters, and we (people I know) are spending money to buy VIRTUAL products???!!!  Things that are not real and have no tangible value??  And they are doing it of their own free will and choice??  And they are wasting their intellectual power and capacity and time in a game of virtual entertainment?

It was a complete slap in the face to me.  How have we come to this??  How has Lucifer tied up our desires and interests so completely that we are spending our time and resources for that of no worth?  For something that gains us nothing............not in mortality or eternity.

Please don't  misunderstand me.  I am all for relaxing and finding something to unwind, for wholesome recreational activities.  I love hiking, going to the beach, walking in nature and enjoying the scenery.  I am willing to spend my money to participate in some of those things.  But they are real.  Being there fills my soul and rejuvenates my spirit.  I love board games and sports and things that help me build relationships with the people around me and those I love.  I just really do not understand how these games do any of that.

Am I alone in my loathing of most things virtual?  Have you read of the people in Japan who have DIED ( 30 something year-olds) because they were so into gaming that they didn't get up off the screen to take care of their bodies?   In one story I read about, a man died, laying at his computer, slumped over for 10 hours, before anyone noticed he was dead.  I guess he would stay there for days at a time playing and sometimes sleep on the keyboard.  So when he slumped over, dead, no one thought it was any different than another time when he was asleep.  When the emergency personnel came into the gaming cafe to remove his body, the other players didn't even notice, or stop their play.  Seriously??!!

How have we become so blind?  So disconnected to others?  So into our own thing?

As parents are we aware of what our children are doing and how these games and the way they are spending their time influences their thoughts and their learning and their plans??  I have never been more grateful that my high school teens and younger children do not have cell phones or complete unrestricted access to the internet world than I am today.  I love technology.  It does amazing things and has amazing applications.  It also has many, many dangers.  There is nothing wrong with moving slow enough in the virtual world to be able to navigate it wisely.

Please seriously consider and ponder about how you and your family use the technology available to us.  If you find that you have been indulgent with yourself or your children, do not hesitate to take steps backwards, miles backward, if you need to go that far.

That is my rant.  My adult children know how I feel about video games.  We have had numerous discussions.  They do not completely agree with me.  That is fine. I am not responsible for how they choose to spend their adult time.  I do believe, however, that as they age and begin to grow their families and teach their children, I bet they lean more with me than against me.  I guess you'll just have to stay tuned to see how that all works out, being that none of them are married or have any children at this point.