For a Quick Reference

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

I love this time to remember our ancestors or deceased loved ones.

I have copies of some of my ancestors'  journals, and their words often strengthen me. I love reading about their struggles and triumphs. There is such a powerful strength of character conveyed in each page, and the heroic sacrifices and faith encourage me to be a better person.

I love reading their stories and feeling connected to the family that came centuries before me. It adds so much to my identity; in how I view myself.

I hope you enjoy this weekend as you contemplate your own loved ones.

Click the link below for a timely message about loving deceased family members:
Until We Meet Again

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Delight in the Sabbath

A very dear friend of mine asked me to post our family list of Sunday activities that we do. Perhaps you may benefit as well.

As we try to keep this special day holy, it's sometimes easy for the children to get bored if you only present a list of "Don'ts" such as: don't watch TV, don't go to parks, don't shop, don't play computer games, etc. My children didn't look forward to Sundays, so we had a family council a long time ago and drew up a list of approved Sabbath activities that they can look through when they can't think of ways to spend their time. I think it's so important to have our family look forward to this day, rather than dread it and see it as something to be 'endured'. The Lord sanctioned the Sabbath as a blessing and a strength to us, and I want to delight in His holy day.

Our all-time favorite activity is to play a game we made up, it's called the Gospel Game. Anyone can play this, regardless of your personal religious views. It's perfectly applicable to any set of scriptures (such as the Qu'ran, Talmud, etc).

First we set the stage by creating the game board. We place 10 wash cloths on the floor of our living room. They are set up to create a path of 'stepping stones' across the room. The playing pieces for the game are the children.

The first child will stand at one end of the path of washcloths and I sit at the other end. I will ask them questions about the scriptures or teachings of modern prophets, and if they answer correctly they may step forward onto the next wash cloth. I try to make the questions appropriate for the child, so Sarah will be asked much more difficult questions than Daniel. I try to ask about the scripture stories we've been learning that week. I will also use the Gospel Art Kit and show them pictures of Bible stories, and I'll ask them to tell me what the names of the people are or retell the story that is being portrayed.

After answering 10 questions correctly, they are at the end of the path and they get to pick a jelly bean from the bowl in my lap. I love this activity because it's completely free to create and can be played with merely a few wash cloths (or any other items that can be used to create the path on the floor- sometimes we've used hot-pads from the kitchen, or pieces of paper.) This game can be tailored to the needs of any family. The children love playing this game and each child usually takes a turn going through the path several times.

Sarah's favorite activity is called Sunday Stations. She sets up different activities around the house that people can cycle through. She may set up art supplies on the kitchen table for drawing and painting. She usually has a reading station with the Friend magazines next to the couch, and several blankets and stuffed animals to cuddle with while she reads. She'll tuck the boys both into the couch and read to them aloud while they hug toys. Another station may be singing time, with hand instruments to play in beat to the music. Another station may be at the piano. She'll play Primary songs and have me try to guess what song it is. There are also games we like to play that have Book of Mormon characters printed on the cards, so we can play Go Fish, Memory, Old Maid, and Crazy Eight with those decks.

Nathan likes to cook with the children, and they all look forward to that a lot. They REALLY get excited to spend time with Dad in the kitchen. Last week Nathan instructed Matthew how to make macaroni and cheese all by himself, and Matt was so proud about learning this new skill. They also like to cook desserts together, like cream puffs or cake, or make loaves of bread.

We love to read educational books together, but our very favorite reading activity is to gather in the library room with blankets while Nathan reads a classic book or poetry aloud. The children relished reading the original Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh books. Some other favorites are The Little house on the Prairie, Mr. Poppers Penguins, and A Midsummer's Night Dream (although it did take some explaining to translate Shakespeare into modern English for them).

We play family games together after dinner. I prefer games that aren't highly competitive. There is more of a spirit of collaboration than competition in our games. I try to emphasize that it doesn't matter who wins since it's merely a game. The main point of the activity is to have fun as a family, regardless who the winner is. I try to train the children to wish each other luck before every game, and after every game they shake hands and say 'Good Game!'. Some of our favorite games include Rummikub, Uno, Blokus, Carcassonne, Mancala, and checkers.

I try to make a dessert every Sunday, since we don't often have desserts during the week. When I don't have time or energy to make a 'real' dessert, we do "Sundaes on Sunday". We set up a sundae bar with ice cream and all the toppings then we let the children choose what toppings they'd like. (Editor's update: we have now changed our Sundaes on Sunday tradition. Children are rewarded with ice cream for their behavior in church. They get one scoop for being reverent in Sacrament Meeting and one scoop for participating well in Sunday School. They also get to choose one topping for each song they sang with the congregation during Sacrament meeting. This system works very well for us! Our kids usually sing every song and are eager to participate reverently in their classes.)

On the first Sunday of each month, the children really look forward to doing PPI's with Nathan. (That would be a Personal Priesthood Interview) They beg him to do PPI's often. They each have a turn to go speak privately with Nathan. They first pray together, then they talk about thier week, concerns they may have about the family, what they are learning that week, and set goals. After the interview they get a small piece of chocolate or other candy.

We sometimes take nature walks to enjoy Gods beautiful creations. There are lots of greenbelts around, so we pick one and drive to it. It's surprising how secluded the green belts in Austin feel....often we can't see or hear anything to indicate we're anywhere near civilization. I love it. I used to go on drives into the mountains on Sundays when I was little. I loved the feelings in my heart when I'm away from the noise and bustle of the city and surrounded by trees. I love listening to the birds in the trees and the buzz of insects.

We always call grandparents or other relatives on Sunday. Nathan and I love chatting with our siblings and parents, especially since we haven't seen most of them for a couple of years. I would feel so isolated from my extended family if it weren't for our weekly chats. I love hearing of their adventures, concerns, trials, and triumphs. I don't feel like we're a thousand miles away, and it always lifts my spirits to share in life's delights with my favorite people.

Developing talents is encouraged, so we sometimes practice music or create art of various forms: painting, drawing, embroidery, sewing, etc.

We also do a ZIP meeting. (Zion ImProvement) We meet for a family council where we discuss any family concerns and set family goals. It could be goals on family struggles we'd like to overcome, or new talents we'd like to explore, or something we'd like to learn about or go see. I have a family binder with our goals. There is a page for each person so they can choose their individual goals to work on. We can review how the previous week went and decide what changes would be good to improve things. We also can talk about the schedule for the upcoming week and talk about the needs each person has so we can address them.

We REALLY love playing the Compliment Game. For this game we pick a family member (for example, Daniel) then everyone has a turn to say something they admire about Daniel. After we all share compliments with Daniel, we move to the next person and everyone expresses particular things they like about that person. We do this until each member of the family has a turn. We try to be specific in our comments. Instead of just saying,  "She's nice" we focus on details such as, "I like how she played with me and read me a story, that was nice." Often we do this around the dinner table. It provides such great conversation! It's uplifting for everyone and brings such a sweet spirit into the meal. Sometimes the children prefer to play this on the floor. We sit in a circle, and one person has a ball. They pick a family member to compliment. After expressing the kind words, they roll the ball to the person they picked. The new person compliments a new person of their choice and rolls the ball to them. This continues until everyone has received the ball several times. It's surprising how much they love this game! It's so simple, and it's so great for building family unity and love.

Nathan loves making music as a family on Sundays (well, he does this everyday). He'll play the guitar or piano and we'll sing hymns together. Sometimes he'll accompany Sarah on the piano. The boys like leading the music with large wooden spoons to wave in the air. It's really fun to sing together. Earlier this year we hosted regular music nights in our home. We'd invite other members of the congregation to come sing twice each month and we'd serve refreshments. It was so nice to have our home be a gathering place for such wonderful people. I loved having them in my home.

We will often read the Illustrated Scriptures together with the children. After each chapter they can choose to answer three trivia questions about the story.When they pass off 3 correct answers they can choose a jelly bean. I adapted this idea from Jewish history. In my studies a few years ago I read that teachers would give children honey on their tongue to savor while they listened to the words of the Talmud. It trained them to associate the scriptures with a physical delight until they were old enough to enjoy scriptures for the intrinsic rewards.

A new goal for the summer is to introduce a new Sabbath activity. As part of the home school curriculum, each person will have an individual writing journal and we will all be writing in them during the week, whether it is a fictitious story, journal entry, poetry, etc. On Sunday evenings we will make popcorn (or some other snack) to enjoy while we take turns sharing something from our weekly writings. This way the children will have more exposure to public speaking and sharing their creations, and we can all encourage each other's efforts.  I'm really looking forward to this activity!

Sometimes we just have a quiet day and everyone cuddles together for a refreshing nap. Our choice of activities usually is dependent on the parental energy level. If it was an exhausting day at church (like teaching a rambunctious class of very active children), we opt for quiet activities like reading or painting or cuddling for a nap.

See more ways to honor the Sabbath with kids here.

I hope these ideas help you enjoy this special day each week with your family! 

What works in your family? Please share your ideas in the comments below!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A New Collection for you to explore

I've had several friends ask me to set up links on here for some of my favorite resources for teaching our children.

Check out the list of link on my side bar.

I compiled a collection of links that encompass a wide variety of subject matter and target ages from preschool (learning letters and phonics at Starfall) ranging to adults (learning etymology by playing games at Etymylogic, or learning new vocabulary in a fun way at FreeRice).

I put up my children's favorite places to play online when they are allowed on the computer (Check out Bridge's one of Matt's very favorites! It mimics physics as you try to construct a bridge for a vehicle to pass over) and The Friend (They really love this site, especially the puzzle games with accompanying instrumental music.)

Some of the listed links connect to massively large collections of games and activities, so some of them may cater to a wide range of abilities and interests all in one site.  Take a bit of time to explore them and find the activities that will benefit your child most.

There are lots of logic games or specific subject-based games (like the BBC kids can accompany an archeolgist on an Anglo-Saxon dig as you unearth artifacts and try to piece them together and guess their origin. It teaches you about each object and the student learns different aspects of Anglo-Saxon life with each dig. There are activities for several historic periods and places: Rome, Greece, WW2, Victorian England, etc. Very neat!)

For homeschooling moms in particular, my favorite site is the Latter-Day homeschooling one. It is designed as a catch-all for all things regarding home schooling. There are so m any lesson ideas that are applicable to any family, whether they home school or not. There's great advice categorized by age and topic, so it's easy to search the archives for pertinent information. 

I have been often amazed at the quality of educational websites we've found. There are a lot of free resources out there for families, it's just a trick trying to find them all.

I loved this aspect of homeschooling: all the mothers would share great recommendations for books/videos/websites with each other. There's such a wealth of knowledge to be gained from mothers who are anxiously engaged in building up their children to aspire to great things. These are not women who see time as something merely to be filled. Time is an opportunity. What do you choose to do with that time? Are you going to grow and learn something new, or just search out the next form of entertainment to help you pass the time?  It's so invigorating to associate with women who are passionate about learning. I love it!
I will add links over time as I remember to put them up, or as I discover new ones.

Please let me know of any great online resources that could be added to my list.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

THE neatest website for kids (and adults)

I stumbled across this in my searches for summer educational fun.
It's blog called Kids Who Think.

It's SO neat! I can't wait to begin! 

It is designed with challenges to help kids Think outside the box. (Click on that link to check it out)

 I read some of the challenges, and they are right up Matthew's lane.

Here are a couple samples from the challenges:

CAR MECHANIC--Choose 4 items from your pantry, 2 from your refrigerator and and 2 from your yard. You may use either tape, paperclips, or pencils as well. You may use other tools for construction but not in the solution.
 Your challenge: make a vehicle.

PAPER AIRPLANES--The challenge -- using 4 pieces of paper, tape, and tongs but NOT your hands build the biggest paper airplane you can. Then, fly it!

COLLABORATIVE DRAWING-- you must have at least two people to complete this challenge:
 The challenge is to draw a picture using only perpendicular lines. The rules: you may not speak to each other before or during the challenge about the challenge and you may only draw one line at a time. The next person can only draw a connecting perpedicular line. You have 24 hours to complete this challenge.

CUPS AND COINS-- Here's the challenge: build the tallest tower possible100 cups/coins -- the number must add up to 100 but you can allocate any way you wish. One more rule: cups may only touch coins, they may not touch each other. Since there is a good chance of collapse, we recommend that you use paper cups and quarters. 

CANTILEVERS-- Using the following materials --build the longest cantilever you can.
One roll of scotch tape
One hundred straws

Doesn't it sound so FUN?! Each week they post a new challenge. Families can send in pictures or videos of their creations, so you can see what other people have used for solutions.

 This sounds like a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon with the kids. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dear Mr. Kingsley

Dear Mister Kingsley,

I admire you so very much. Thank you for the powerful yet quiet example you are to me on so many occasions. I appreciate the moments when you point out the humor of my often stressful situations. I love your laugh, and how contagious it is. I can never hear your laugh without finding my own lips twitch into a smile. Thank you so much for pointing out the beauty that surrounds me each day, whether it's the sunrise, the birds singing in the trees, colorful flowers, or our own children laughing.
  You make my life beautiful. 

Thank you for telling me I'm beautiful. It means so much to me that you profess to prefer me in comfortable clothing, without makeup on, and without styled hair. I appreciate the fact that you love my own natural beauty, not cosmetics. I appreciate your enthusiasm and even welcoming anticipation of my quickly spreading grey hair. Your love and frequent sincere compliments every moment of each day has created within me a wonderful confidence. I no longer care what the world defines as its passing trend of beauty. I know am a beautiful creation and that you will always love me deeply.

Thank you for supporting my ever-changing interests and hobbies. Your enthusiasm for my creations far outstrips my own, and it is contagious. I love how your excitement motivates me to create something beautiful. Thank you for encouraging me to develop new talents and helping me not be too critical of myself as I learn new things.
  All that I have become in the past 8 years, I credit to you. You are the sincerest supporter, and my truest friend.

Thank you ever so much for your spiritual strength. I am so often awed with your knowledge of the scriptures or your wise insights when I seek your opinion. This is such a blessing to our home, and I thank you so very much for being a righteous example to me.

Thank you for being the shoulder I can cry on, and for not EVER being impatient with my tears of frustration or despair (even when I cry for hours). You are my emotional rock when I feel overwhelmed with the demands of motherhood or the world. When I am upset or depressed, your strong arms and consoling kiss on my forehead are my only desire. You fix everything, whether it's broken hopes or broken appliances. 

You are my only love, my soul's eternal companion.
I am so very thankful to have you by my side as we face life together.
  I do not fear anything, for I know that I can overcome anything with you by my side.
I love you more than feeble words can say. It's been a long week with you working late every night, and I can't wait to have you to myself for the weekend. 
I adore you.


Ugly Duckling

Do you ever question yourself and feel like the 'ugly duckling'?

I suspect most of us have moments where we doubt ourselves or question our abilities. 
 I stumbled across an uplifting message this morning. 
It lifted my spirits.
I hope you feel strengthened and loved as you watch it here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Charles Dickens

Last night I couldn't sleep, so I gave into an overwhelming hunger to dive into a Dickens book. He's one of my favorite authors. His works are replete with rich linguistic art and I adore the magical way he paints a picture with words. I love secluding myself with his books so much! I think of the line, "One is never lonely with a good book in his pocket". 

I scoured the bookshelves looking for a work I hadn't read recently. The only book I could find that wasn't fresh on my mind  was "A Tale of Two Cities". Fantastic, I thought. A great classic. I loaded a plate with crackers, cheeses, and sliced ham and brought a handful of old-fashioned gingersnaps with me up to my room. I always read late-night books on my bathroom floor so I don't bother Nathan with the light from the bedside lamp. So I settled on the tile with my stash of munchies and eagerly opened the book.

What a disappointment. This wasn't Dickens! This was an abridged monstrosity! How could this even be allowed to be published? Abridging a Charles Dickens book means the editor rips away all the rich descriptions to leave behind a stale plot line devoid of creativity. How was this even in my house? I remember that someone gave it to me a long time ago.  I was so disappointed that libraries aren't open 24/7. I desired to drive there right away and secure the REAL tale, even at midnight. I was left feeling even more hungry for a classic tale to enjoy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Birth of a Painting

I created this painting last week. I've always wanted to capture the process with time-lapse photography, so this time I did it!

I set up my camera on a shelf above me and had it take a picture every 15 seconds. It took 5 hours to make the painting and you can watch it happen in less than 10 minutes. 
I love it! 
It gives me a feeling of instant gratification that I don't normally feel when I'm actually creating the piece. I get so caught up in the tediousness of mixing colors or trying to clean the brushes, etc.

It's so nice for me to watch it all come together so quickly! It's immensely satisfying, and I've always loved watching other artists create paintings. There's just something so magical in watching a blank canvas come to life. I hope you enjoy it!

Let me know what you think of the video. I enjoyed making it. Would you like to see more time-lapse creations of other projects, like face paintings? I'd love to share other videos if there is any interest for it!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Nathan's Poetry

For my modest Love....

In reverence, reflecting a diffident flower
does th' artist exalt in his zeal?
Does praising perfection from hour to hour
embolden a beauty unreal?
As life-loving lilies grow softer and brighter
than canvas can hope to compare;
so words, warmly formed, make the Love of the writer
not lovelier,
 only aware.

Nathan is often wooing me with poetry. I love it. Words can be so beautiful, and I feel like a fairytale princess when he writes verses for me. It is so romantic and singularly meaningful. Penned words will never wilt like bouquets, and never be fully consumed like chocolates. I'm so thankful that I'll have these words immortally stored in books for our posterity, so they'll never doubt the deep love Nathan and I held for each other. 

My favorite part of this is when I get to use his quotes in conversation. "As a great poet once said...."


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Face painting gallery

Here are more samples of my work.

These are from a Tri-Delta prom night. It was SO fun to paint girls in formals! I didn't get many pictures of this night since it was a crazy crush of bodies without extra time for snapping a quick picture.:

Here are some from Winter Festivals:

Here are some from my home. When friends come over to play, we sometimes paint everyone for fun:

Lastly, some art on my own face: