Thursday, September 11, 2014

Give Me a New Name

I took Julia with me tonight to get my hair cut. As we were driving in the car, she was talking to me. Then she said, "Mom, I don't like my name."

I replied, "You don't like you name?"

"Yes, I don't like my name."

"What name do you want instead of Julia?"

"I want to be called Elisabeth," she said.

Well, alrighty then. I guess I really screwed that up.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Don't Compare

Today I was the host for the weekly playgroup. At the end I was able to talk to one of the mom's for a minute. I had a profound revelation while I was talking to her.

My friend is in the Primary presidency for our ward. The Primary Program is coming up soon and the presidency is very concerned about whether the kids are ready or not when it comes to the music. We just got a new Primary chorister and it is a hard calling for her. She is struggling. I have been the Primary chorister many times and it comes very easy to me. I enjoy teaching kids, I love music, and I have had many opportunities to 'perfect' my music pedagogy skills. But she has not. This is her first time.

They want to have a meeting to see what we can do to get ready for the program. I am the pianist and don't really think I need to go. Plus, I would hate to cause the chorister any anxiety by anything I would say that she might misconstrue as a criticism. She is not me and definitely brings her own skill set to this calling. I would hate to intimidate her as I know I have a big personality and a lot of opinions. Haha! I just don't want her to compare herself to me. I really think she is doing a great job so far and seems to be getting more comfortable each week. It just really would not be fair for her to compare herself to me in this capacity. I know I have a natural gift for this and years and years of experience.

In the same way, the chorister is an amazing woman. It can almost be intimidating if I look at myself compared to her. Every time I have gone to her house, it is immaculate and she is so well put together. Her kids are a joy and she seems so organized. I, on the other hand, am not so organized, and nine times out of ten, my house is a disaster zone. My kids are a bit unruly and I have somewhat of a temper. In other words, just like she might be intimidated with my chorister skills, I could say with ease that I am intimidated a tiny bit by her homemaking skills.

However, just like I have had years of practice and a natural gift for teaching, I learned that my chorister friend gets a lot of help from her mother. According to my friend, her mother has potty-trained all of her kids. Her mother is there a lot to do stuff with the family and lend a hand. I, on the other hand, don't ever get that kind of support. I am on my own and my husband is out of town every single week.

I realized even more how foolish it is to compare myself to others. I have been blessed with a lot of strengths, but I definitely have weaknesses to keep me humble.  The dear chorister would definitely say the same thing about her strengths and weaknesses.

In the end, we are all just people doing the best we can with the skills and resources that are available to us. Don't compare yourself to others. You don't have the same skills and resources that they do, no matter what it looks like from the outside peering in.

What I do know is that I am very grateful that the chorister and the other women who live around me are in my life. I have learned a lot while living here and in other places. Instead of it being a competition, I know I can rely on these women to be a resource and inspiration to me. I think it is natural to compare, but with some perspective it definitely helps me stay grounded and secure in who I am and what I can do.

Bury the Weapons

I had an "A-ha" moments today that I need to write down. I don't ever want to forget it because I know that the Holy Ghost was teaching me today and I was really listening.

This morning I shared a Gospel Art Kit picture with my little ones for our scripture study.

These are the Anti-Nephi-Lehi people. They were true converts to the everlasting gospel, who had once been a murderous, blood-thirsty people. But once they took upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ and were washed in His blood, they refused to take up weapons anymore, no matter what.

"Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our bethren." -Alma 24:12

They literally dug a deep hole in the Earth, and buried all of their weapons. They would not fight again. It sounds so easy, but it was not. These Lamanites had a deep desire to do the will of God and be in complete harmony with the Spirit. They feared that if they fought again, they would never be forgiven. But there were other Lamanites in the land that were not converted and were still blood-thirsty murderers. These Lamanites were angry with the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and vowed to kill them.

The natural instinct would be a desire to defend oneself and take up arms, but the Anti-Nephi-Lehies would not. They went out into a field to meet the Lamanites, knelt on the ground a prayed mightily. For they knew..."if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved." And the Lamanites fell upon them and struck them down, slaying 1,005 of them.

It was so awful. I can just picture it and it makes me cry. But out of something so awful, a mighty miracle happened. The attackers experienced a mighty change of heart and put down their weapons. Hence, the dead went to celestial glory and even more Lamanites were converted and brought to the truth, even more than a thousand! "Thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people." -Alma 24: 27

I recently got into a fight with a family member. The swords were flying and I am not proud of myself. This scripture story has definitely chastened me. How can I change my relationships with people in my life who are a challenge to me? Easy. Put down my weapons. Bury them deep in the ground.

Jesus put it another way when He taught that we must turn the other cheek. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies took this teaching very seriously and trusted God utterly and completely. And look what happened? Miracles.

I know I have to do the same thing. I need to bury my 'weapons' deep in the ground and never get them out again. When I stop fighting and defending myself, there will be peace. And only the peace the surpasseth all understanding. Yes, I know that I will probably get 'injured'. It may hurt a bit for a while, but I know that if I put down my weapons, miracles will happen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sports and Stuff

Two weeks ago the sports season officially opened up for our family. But before I went to any games, I headed down to Pleasant Grove to see Echo and Amie F. and go for a hike with them. Echo lives in Pleasant Grove, but Amie was visiting from Georgia to go to Education Week at BYU. We were all in the same ward together for many years in Henderson. It was amazing to be able to catch up with them. It was like we had never been separated. And I guess we had a lot to talk about, because we ended up walking 8 miles!!

I just hope one day I can grow up and be like these two. They are inspirational.

I then raced back to Draper to catch the end of Harry's first soccer game. It was pretty much adorable. He smiled the whole time while he was running around. I wouldn't expect anything less from this guy. He is posing with his buddy Sawyer after the game. And the best part of the game was the treats. Harry was looking forward to the treats. I don't think he was disappointed.

When the game ended, we had just enough time to get to Woods Cross to watch Raef play an official scrimmage. The boys looked great and I think they are ready for the season. Their first game was this last Saturday and they did not disappoint. They won 33-0 versus Copper Hills. Raef had a stand-out game. He made some key tackles, swatted down the ball on a pass play, and held his position on offense. The coach from the other team even called him out at the end of the game to commend him on a job well done.

And as always, Rinar wore his silly hat that Raef just loves. The Copper Hills game was in West Jordan and Rinar had to run 21 miles for his training that day. I suggested he run to the game, since it started at 9:00. He did, and ended up running 24 miles because he took a wrong turn. That sucks for him, but he didn't seem to mind too much. If it was me, I would have been really pissed off. Good thing it wasn't me!

And like I have mentioned before, my little kids are in full swing with school. Just thought I would include a few pictures.

Julia had her first soccer game last Monday. They are called the Cotton Candies. Hmmm, wonder where they came up with that name? She is on an all girls team and loves it and loves her pink uniform. We really scored in that department. Julia did great and I think she might have some skill when it comes to sports. She did well. But it was hilarious to watch how many of the girls would come to the sidelines upset and fling themselves to the ground in a fit of hysterics. Oh yeah, girls really are different from boys.

And then there is this little darling who is on the cusp of walking. Look at that little tush. She is just the cutest thing ever.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Report on School

The twins have completed one full week of public education. So far, it has lived up to my expectations of being a major disappointment.

The school spent six entire days reviewing rules, policies, procedures, rules, and more rules. In terms of a percentage, I would gather to say this ate up more than 80% of the time for those six days. I actually talked to the principal about it. No, I am not, at all. I asked him why and he told me that it is a really large school (1500 students) and the rules take time to teach and implement. I am just going to let this fact speak for itself, but it would be an understatement to say that I am more than a little bit ticked off.

And it did not take a week for Zach to get called a name by a punk in one of his classes. Let's just say, he came home this week and asked me what the word F-A-G meant. That's right. This is the wonderful socialization my kids have missed out on for the first seven years of their schooling lives.

Last week the Deseret News had a front page story titled "Back to (Home) School". I eagerly read it and then rolled my eyes a lot. First of all, it is the same tired story the media runs repeatedly. Same facts, same format, just insert a new family into the mix. It is another example of the drive-by media at its best. They have a formula they have already created in their socially-constructed newsroom and then they just fill in the blanks, kind of like Mad-Libs, but dumber and not as funny.

And of course to be a well-balanced, impartial story they include the nay-sayers. This time it was the president of the Utah teacher's union.

Professional educators counter that truly effective teaching is difficult. Utah Education Association President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh even described the profession as being "rocket science."
"Those who feel that they are able to do this job without any training, I think don’t have a big picture or a complete understanding of the complexity of teaching," she said. "There is definitely a science to teaching and there is an art to teaching, and you really can’t have one without the other and be a good teacher."
She said the role of parents, in any form of education, cannot be understated and that any good teacher recognizes that parents know their child's needs better than anyone.
But she added that teachers are trained to look at student learning from pedagogical and developmental viewpoints, which goes beyond simply presenting children with information about a subject.
There is also a benefit to having an objective teacher involved in the education of a child, Gallagher-Fishbaugh said. In her own experience, she believed her children "walked on water" but was often surprised by the insight she gained from parent teacher conferences.
"It was something that I, as a parent, couldn’t see through the fog of my love and my adoration for my angelic child," she said.
This statement is insulting on so many levels.

First of all, teaching is like rocket science?!? Really? She's joking, right? Do you remember all of those "rocket scientist" teachers that taught you when you were in school?  I can't seem to recall any.  I can list a ton of my teachers who were barely average at best. There were a few absolute gems, of course. But to equate teaching to this level of sophistication is beyond hubris, it is down right silly. Yes, she recognizes that parental input is important but then in almost the same breath completely disregards it.

Truly effective teaching is NOT difficult. Ridiculous! Absurd!! When I take the time, sit down with my child in a learning environment, crack open a book, read it, discuss it, research more, do a project, etc, etc, learning prospers and it is amazing. And I have the benefit of doing it one-on-one. I don't have to manage 35 children. And the resources are googol on Google. There is no ending to where we can go with it.

And yes, I think I have a perfect grasp of the big picture. And I have the luxury of not wasting six, count it...1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 entire days going over rules. Wouldn't you say that is really missing the BIG picture?

I also understand the complexity of it, as I understand that teaching the facts, presenting accurate information and making sure it is mastered is grasping the 'complexity' of what education is all about. I remember taking an education class in college and being absolutely appalled at the expert 'training' future teachers were receiving. The most absurd moment came when the professor asked what was more important to teach, facts or self-esteem. The most disturbing part was that a lot of these future teachers said self-esteem. How do you teach that, exactly? It seems to me in my untrained, non-rocket scientist mind that self-esteem is a product of hard work, accomplishment, knowledge, and actions. It is not something you attain in and of itself. Kids know when they are not fabulous and know when you are lying to them. Just like you can't feel love for someone just by existing. Love takes work and is a consequence of that work.

Hence, in my simple, backwoods, ignorant way I actually open up books and delve into subjects with my kids and engage their minds in new, unexplored areas.  In the end, I know that the big picture is to teach my kids HOW to think and not what to think. I believe it is exactly the opposite in the public schools.

And news flash, lady. I have met a whole lot of homeschool moms, and I can bet my exposure to different homeschoolers outweighs hers by about a killion. I have never, not once, thought my kids walked on water and I can certainly attest to the fact the majority, minus a few, were the same. We would sit for hours talking about what to do with this problem or that, trying to think of a new way to reach out and engage our children in dynamic learning. This is truth!  This is Realville. Because, and only because, we are on the front-lines of education day after day after day, we know intimately what is going on and where are kids are at physically, mentally, and emotionally. We don't come from a place where we send our kids off 35 hours a week and never see them and have not a clue what is going on. I think that is where a parent can get delusional about how fabulous their kid is. I know my kids are fabulous, absolutely, but they are very flawed, just like every other human being that walks the earth.

And this gets me to my next point that really annoys me. Why is that homeschoolers are held to this ridiculous standard when it comes to socialization?  Why do we even talk about this, like, ever?  Why don't we just turn the finger around and point it at the public schools for a minute? It is as if for some reason society has held this public institution up as the gold standard for a place of perfect socialization training. Seriously? You mean to tell me you never met any weird, awkward, strange, outcast type person who came out of high school? I seem to remember at my high school there being tables and tables of them in the lunchroom. In addition, there were tables and tables of mean, clickish, snobby kids as well. And tables and tables of drug-addicts and bimbos. You were not liked unless you wore the right shoes, had the right haircut, and stylish, over-priced clothes, or owned the latest electronic gadget. You were made fun of if you enjoyed answering the teachers questions in class, ala Hermoine Granger, or did extra to excel and reach your fullest potential or had a desire to actually learn 'information' at school. Has it really changed since I was there? Or maybe, has gotten even worse?

The successfully socialized student ends up like everyone else. Sounds pretty boring to me!

On the flip side, when my kids went to the playground with a horribly matched outfit they put together themselves, dirty face, and ratty, bed head hair, there was a smiling, genuine face there to greet them. There was no name-calling, and if it did happen rarely, punishment was swift and severe. My kids were able to see other kids for the glorious, wonderful, unique individuals that they were. My kids are comfortable speaking to adults and younger kids alike. Are there awkward homeschoolers who live up to the stereotype? Of course, but compared to what comes out of public schools...are you kidding me?

With all of this said, here I am with my twins in public school. Like I mentioned before, I am only human and putting them is school is for me and not them. I need a break to regroup and get my little kids on the homeschooling path.

Eli is now reading on a second-grade level, his math skills are stupendous, his comprehension is top-notch. However, handwriting is more difficult for him and he is going to have to work on improving it. Harry is doing well also, but he does have a hard time pronouncing his R's, L's, and C's clearly. I have thought about speech therapy but I don't want to be hasty. Julia is great with handwriting and drawing but math is going to be a struggle for her. I will just have to take it slowly to make sure she masters each step before she moves on.

See, they are all fabulous, but they certainly do not walk on water.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Public School

Yes, my twins are now in public school, 7th grade to be exact.

It was not a decision I came to lightly. It has been building for a while. This past school year was rather difficult. We had just moved from Reno, I was pregnant and gave birth at the end of September. Then I found myself being stretched thin by the demands of six children of such varying ages. It was not easy. Somehow, I managed to make it through fairly unscathed with Raef and Zach still progressing in their studies. They did a homeschool charter school, which did give them more accountability, especially when it came to science.

However, as the school year progressed I found that I could not be my best for everyone. And in order for this to be successful, Raef and Zach had to do more work independently, which was feasible for both of them. Yet I found myself constantly at war with them, trying to keep them on track. And when I would stick my head into the room to make sure they were working, they rarely ever were. They were always monkeying around. Grrrr....

Something had to give. When I informed them both that I was seriously contemplating putting them in public school, the reaction was polar opposite. Raef was relieved and Zach was fearful. I allayed his fears by pointing out that it was a temporary arrangement and not a life sentence. I needed a break from them to regroup and focus on Eli, Harry, and Julia. I felt it was essential to get the little ones going on a school schedule and create a 'school' mentality for them. With Zach, I assured him that he could always come back home after I got the break I needed.

I took Zach to tour the school in March and we poked our heads around to see this beautiful, state-of-the-art facility that was in its inaugural year. The building was very impressive. Zach seemed to warm to the idea. Raef also did the tour with Rinar, so they could both see what it would be like.

After much prayer and fasting, I felt it would be the right thing for our family. And frankly, in the whole scheme of things, 7th grade does not matter. Last Tuesday was the open house for the school. There were a ton of people there. Wowzers! The school seemed alright. There are some definite pluses to sending them, but the negatives are equally present. For right now, I think I can deal with the negatives. At least I hope I can.

The kids woke up insanely early on Wednesday. They were very anxious to get to school on time. They packed their lunches, took their book bags, and hit the road at about 6:55am. They are fortunate to be able to ride their bikes to school. It is really close. And when they got home, they both seemed positive about it.

The second was not as positive for one of them. Any guesses?  Yep, Zach informed me that he did not want to do this whole public school thing anymore.  Nothing dramatic happened. He is okay. He is just a homeschooler at heart, I think. I told him that he absolutely was staying in school until Christmas, barring any unforeseen disasters. About an hour after our conversation, Zach wanted to know what day Christmas was on. Hmmm...

Raef, on the other hand, absolutely loves it. And he even gets a bit defensive defending his school. I have not been happy with the fact that they have gone for three days and not done a darn thing, besides rules explanations, getting-to-know-you games and paperwork. It is ridiculous. All this wasted time when they could be learning something. But Raef did not want to hear me complain about it.  Sheesh. I have a feeling homeschooling is in the rear view mirror for him. As long as he continues to be a nice person and he progresses academically, I am okay with that. But mostly, as long as he is a nice person. That is the most important thing of all.

This week should start the academics. I hope they do well.  Zach is going to struggle with being organized, but we will work on it together and I think he will learn quickly.

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Senior Moment

Oh boy, this week I experienced my first major senior moment. I needed to purchase some groceries and spent the time looking at the ads, price-matching, and clipping some coupons. I was going to the store with a plan! I pulled into the parking lot, grabbed my stuff, and then headed into the my neighborhood Walmart. I actually did not take too long, probably only 30 to 40 minutes or so. For me, that is pretty darn good.

When I went back to my car, I grabbed for my keys and they were not in pants. Then I rummaged around in my purse. Nope, not there either. Hmmm, where did I put the darn keys?  It then occurred to me that the keys might still be in the car. I was not worried about this because I can just punch a code into the door to open it if it is locked. But when I tried to open the door, it was fine. The door was open and not locked. However, the radio was on!

And so was the car!

Oh my gosh. I left my car running the entire time I was in the store. Hence, I was grateful that there was a car in the parking lot when I was done shopping.

And then I was grateful that I used coupons to pay for the gas I used for my idling car while I was shopping.

You see, it all balances out in the end, right?
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