Saturday, February 23, 2013

How to Get Kids to Pay Attention

Sorry, I don't have the answer for this one.

I am supplicating your help.

A few days ago I got an email from a woman who had just started doing one of my Mom's MTC lessons with her boys ( 8, 5, and 3). She wrote:

... I got ready to do honesty this week and started today because my oldest son was staying the night at his cousin's house and I thought things would go better with just the two younger ones. So, it went ok, but I realized that I am just not a very good teacher! It's not one of my talents and the kids barely tolerated me reading the two scriptures and listening to the song. They absolutely refused to listen to a scripture story.  I really want this to work! I  feel like this is what I'm supposed to be doing,  but help! 

How do you make it "fun" for the kids instead of making them feel like you are subjecting them to some torturous lecture? If my two youngest aren't going to enjoy the material in the way I tried to present it, my oldest son, who has ADHD, is never going to go for it. Do you have any tips for presenting the material? I wish I could come see how you present the lesson to your kids, but since I can't any tips would be appreciated for someone who struggles to be an interesting teacher. Thanks for any help you can give me!

As I read her email I felt lots of sympathy and kinship with her, because despite how organized and orderly the lessons appear on my blog they very rarely turn out picture perfect. In fact, it has been a really big struggle for me to get my kids to pay attention and to maintain some semblance of family love during our "school" time. I especially find it really hard to keep Asher, my busy five-year-old interested for long. Rose doesn't seem to have trouble, but getting my little boy to focus can be hard!

Not my boy, but could be.

Here was my best attempt to respond to her question:

Some days my lessons with my kids go really well and other days they fall apart and are disasters! I have found that what has helped my kids more than anything is routine and consistency. For the first month we did lessons my kids struggled, but I just kept going and I had the same order and routine every day. Chores, pledge of allegiance, song, scripture story or story book , and activity (or no activity if things were too wild). After awhile they got comfortable with the routine and it got easier, but it was a struggle at first.

As far as being an interesting teacher. I think what has helped me the most is to let go of the "teacher" mode and just be a mom. I don't have to assume the role or persona of a teacher. I just need to be their mom,  to love them, and have fun. They don't have to sit quiet and reverently like they do at church, I don't expect that. I just expect that we are going to have fun and learn together, and hopefully feel the spirit.

Awhile ago I read a book called "Godly Play" by Jerome Berryman and basically his idea is that the true aim of religion is to get us to a point where Christ is our "friend"  and not just an authority figure in out lives. Christ calls himself a friend several times throughout the scriptures when the person he is talking to has reached the point where they truly are friends (see D&C 84:77). Berryman's argument is that when children "play" with religious ideas and are free to explore them in a play-like situation they learn to make Christ a friend, an integral part of their life rather than someone to be feared or overwhelmed by.  So that has been my overarching approach, to make spiritual learning fun and play centered rather than lecture or listening centered. But like I said, it doesn't always turn out great at our house either ;)

Don't be too hard on yourself. The key is just to be consistent and to experiment with what works with your kids. The more you pray to know what to do for your kids the more the lord will guide you!

I also have found that it makes a HUGE difference how prepared I am. If I haven't done my own scripture study, or prayed or mediated then things usually fall apart. Yet when I have prepared a lesson the night before AND have taken care of my own spiritual needs... things go much better. The days I am not prepared usually are the days that fall apart, mostly because I am cranky and impatient.

That was all the suggestions I had for her and I found myself wishing I had more to give her. I feel sort of like a hypocrite giving suggestions about getting kids to pay attention, because that is something I struggle with too. 

I would love to hear from other parents what tricks they have found to keep their children engaged as they teach them, during scripture study, virtue lessons, homeschool, tying their shoes, or whatever. Any help would be appreciated. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Five Things for Friday, 53rd Edition


I just about cut the end of my finger off the other day.

I was opening a can of beans for lunch and the can opener didn't make a clean cut all the way around the can. I grabbed a fork and was trying to pry the lid back when my finger slipped and I sliced it. At first I wasn't too worried. Then I took one look at it and realize how deep I cut it and  almost passed out. I am so grateful my friend was there because if she hadn't taken care of me I am pretty sure I would have passed out and bled to death on the kitchen floor while my children watched in horror. As it was, she got me to lay down and bandaged up my finger in several layers of paper towels. She asked if I wanted to go get stitches for it, but that idea made me feel queasy all over again. Jon has always taken care of cuts in our family with super glue (it works!) and so I just kept telling her that I just needed super glue. Luckily my mother-in-law came over, took one look at the situation, and told me in her oh-so-sweet-but-very-convincing tone of voice that she thought I should go get stitches, and she would load my kids up right away.

My bandaged up finger, Jon says it looks like a finger puppet
To make a long story short I managed NOT to pass out at the doctor's office (which was a feat) and I got four stitches in my finger. Can I just say that I am SO grateful that there are people in this world who have nerves of steel and can handle (and even enjoy) stitching people up. That sounds like my idea of Hell, but I am so grateful for the people who do it. Really, you are wonderful.

 My finger now looks like something from Frankenstein, and it hurts, but in about two weeks I should be able to get the stitches out.

 I don't think I am going to open another can for the rest of my life, honestly. After this... only electric can openers for me!


So, can I tell you one of my best pass out stories?

Unfortunately I have quite a few to choose from.

When I was 14 I signed up to take a lifeguard training course at a community pool in a small Idaho town. The course was taught by the local fire chief, who also taught EMT (emergency medical training) classes as well. The course went great until our final exam. I passed the written exam, the water skills, and the CPR part of the class easily, but the first aid exam was a different story. The instructor figured that to give us a proper exam in first aid he needed to test how well we would respond in different situations. He put together a slide show with slides of people in various stages of injury. The idea was that we would go around the room and each person would get a slide and then they would have to explain what they would do to treat the injury. The pictures  started off simple-- broken arms, blisters, cuts on the feet-- but got increasingly worse. By the time it got to me the slides were of things like bullet exit wounds, a head that had been run over by a car,  and the legs of someone who had jumped out of a building and shattered everything from the knees down (when would a life guard ever see things like that, honestly!?)

I have always been a pansy when it comes to anything involving pain and blood and have a good track record of passing out. So, by the time the instructor got to me I was white as a sheet and the room was spinning. I took one look at my slide, told him I didn't feel well, and slumped right out of my chair onto the floor.

When I came to I had a wet rag on my forehead and was surrounded by my classmates. I heard my instructors voice in the background saying, " Here is a classic case of fainting, see how I... What would be the next step in stabilizing this patient?" Evidently, he was making the most of this real life teaching moment. I felt mortified, and even more so when people asked me if it had been planned. I guess that most of the class thought the instructor had me pass out on purpose just to test their skills. I adamantly refuted that it had NOT been planned and that I passed out on my very own, thank you very much!

Needless to say that was the end of our first aid test, and I know that I wasn't the only one who was grateful for that!


Jon's company recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, and instead of having a big dinner or a party they sent all of the employees on "adventures." There were several different adventures to choose from but Jon and I opted for going snowmobiling through Yellowstone National Park. We went for three days with a big group of people from Jon's work and it was such a fun weekend.  I grew up going to Yellowstone (my family has a cabin about 30 minutes away) but I had never been in the winter.

I just have to say that Yellowstone in the winter is incredible.

First off there was hardly anyone there. We watched Old Faithful go off with only 15 other people. In the summer time you watch it go off with close to 5,000 people or more. We felt like we had the park to ourselves, and I loved it.

Second of all, we got to snowmobile in. Which was 100 times better than driving it in a car and having to stop every five feet for a tourist who wants to take a picture of an elk. The snowmobiles were much better. Which, just so you know, only guided snowmobile or snowcoaches (imagine a bus on skis) are allowed in the park during the winter. Which is kind of a bummer, but it also makes for a very serene and peaceful park.

The one thing I will say is that Old Faithful is much, much better to watch in the summer time. In the winter there is so much steam from the hot water hitting the air that you can't really see the geyser that well. It is still beautiful, but not as impressive as in the summer. 

Don't worry Old Faithful hasn't gone off yet in this picture, this was just its warming up stage!

So, I guess if you really want to have the full Yellowstone experience you have to go in the summer and in the winter!


Okay, cute moment.

I had just finished giving Abe a bath and put him in his PJs. Asher and Rose were now having a bath and I was in the kitchen making dinner. All of sudden I heard squeals coming from the bathroom and rushed into find that Abe had nosed dived into the bathtub.... diaper, PJS, and everything. The best part was that he was totally unphased by it. He just picked up a bath toy and made himself at home, and went on like being in the bathtub fully clothed was the most normal thing in the world. Asher, Rose and I laughed so hard we couldn't see straight. It was really funny.

I have a bit of it on film but there are too many naked babies (and one not naked baby) for me to post it. But I am sure you get the idea. Definitely one of Abe's funniest moments to date!


We are flying out to Iowa this week to look for a house. I am excited and terrified all at the same time. The hardest part is leaving my kids for five days. We said good by today and as I left I felt so sad. I am going to miss those kids so much!

Several years ago I remember a friend telling me how hard it was to go on vacation because she missed her kids too much. Inside I totally ridiculed her thinking, "Come on woman, you are with those kids 24/7 enjoy a break every once in a while, why don't you!" But, like always, as soon as I judge someone else I do the exact same thing. I very much understand where that friend was coming from now, because I haven't even been gone from my kids a whole day and I miss them like crazy.

Weird how they do that to you, huh?
 Have a wonderful weekend!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Vessels of the Lord

Not long ago I under took a study of the word "vessel" in the scriptures. For sometime I had been  impressed by the scripture (which is repeated four times in the standard works) which says,

"Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord." (Isa. 52:11)

"And then shall a cry go forth: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch not that which is unclean; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord." (3 Ne. 20:41)

"And go ye out from among the wicked. Save yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Even so. Amen." (D&C 38:42)

"Go ye out from Babylon. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord." (D&C 133:5)

I was intrigued by that word "vessel". I looked it up in the 1828 Websters Dictionary as saw that it was defined as:
  1. A cask or utensil for holding liquors and other things; 
  2. In anatomy any tube or canal in which blood or other humors are contained or secreted-arteries, lymphs, spermatics, etc;
  3. In physiology of plants, a canal or tube in which sap is contained;
  4. A ship.   
Basically, a vessel is anything that contains something, most often a liquid. 

As I studied the use of the word "vessel" in the scriptures I found that there are three main ways in which the word is used. The first was to refer to the vessels (bowls, cups, spoons, etc) that were used in the ancient tabernacle and in Solomon's temple, the second was to refer to  a sailing ship (Ether 2:12), and the third was to refer to the human body, specifically in the context of sexual purity.

The vessels of the tabernacle and temple were stored in the Holy Place on top of the table of shewbread (which can be translated as the "table of presence"). This table held loaves of  bread which literally stood before God, seeing as they were placed before the veil that separated the holy place from the holy of hollies, where God dwelt. The bread sat on the table all week until the Sabbath when it was eaten by the priests and replaced with new bread. The table of shewbread also had four rings on its sides in which were inserted two staves (poles). The tabernacle was portable and the poles were used by the Levites to carry the table when the children of Israel were traveling in the wilderness. The ark of the covenant, the altar of sacrifice and the altar of incense were also carried by the priests in the same fashion (see Exodus 37).

In addition the table of shewbread also contained many vessels, which were described as God's "dishes and his spoons, his bowls, and his covers to cover withal (Exod. 31:16)." That final phrase "covers to cover withal" can also be translated as "jugs used for pouring libations", a libation being a ritual pouring out of a liquid (usually oil or wine) as an offering. The vessels were made of pure gold and they were dedicated to the Lord, only to be used seen by the priest and used for His purposes. The table of shew bread in  Solomon's temple contained more than 5,400 vessels of gold and silver (Ezra 1:6-7) and the weight (and thus worth) of them was unweighable because it was so great (1 Kgs. 7:45-51).

As I studied the history of the table of shewbread I was struck by the apparent similarities it has to our modern day sacrament. Today, once a week on the Sabbath, we also offer up bread in remembrance of Christ's body and pour out water, in numerous vessels, in remembrance of His blood. Like in ancient times these emblems are still carried, or born, by those who hold the Aaronic priesthood. Though unlike in the temple of old, today all who are worthy-- not just the priests-- may eat of the offering and make sacred covenants to take the name of God upon them.

This is why the scripture " Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord" is often used to remind the men who use the priesthood to bless and administer the sacrament that they must be morally clean and worthy to handle those sacred emblems. They are, like the ancient priests of old, administering from the vessels of the Lord.

Yet the phrase "be ye clean who bear the vessels of the Lord" goes even deeper than that. There are numerous examples throughout the scriptures in which the human body is referred to a vessel, specifically in reference to remaining sexually pure. For example, in 1 Thess. 4:4 Paul admonishes the saints to be sexually pure and abstain from every fornication. Then he instructs,  "Everyone of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor." Afterward he continues by telling them that they should not have "lust of concupiscence", concupiscence coming from the root of "concubine" and meaning to have a strong sexual appetite.

Another one of the most interesting uses of the word "vessel" is in 1 Sam. 21:5 when David and his men, starving after a long flight from Saul, approach the priest Ahimelech and ask him for food. Ahimelch has no bread to give them except for the shewbread, which is only to be eaten by priests. Even so, Ahimelech tells them that he will allow them to eat it if, "the young men have kept themselves at least from women." David responds by telling him that all the men have been at least three days without being sexually intimate with women. He says, "The vessels of the young men are holy", after which the priest allows David and his men to eat the holy bread.

These examples are so interesting to me, because not only do they refer to the body a vessel, but they are specifically referring to the sexual organs as being holy vessels.  Think back to the definition of the word vessel, it is a cask, a tube, a canal for carrying something, specifically a liquid.

There are many parts of our bodies that can be considered vessels (veins, heart, lymph, etc) but there are only a few organs in both men and women that possess God-like abilities. The life giving organs in both men and women meet the definition of a "vessel". In men their vessel stores and then pours out life giving liquid while the female vessel receives, and then contains, the liquid. Furthermore, a woman's body takes this liquid and creates from it a new human life, a body that will grow and develop within her. The womb becomes the ultimate vessel, carrying the potential of continuing life.

Despite our scientific advances much of what happens within the womb, within that vessel, is still mysterious to us. This is because the womb is a sacred vessel, and even if it never bears a child, it is still a place a place where God's power dwells and the potential for new life resides. Any woman who has ever shed her blood each month has that power within her; she is a testament to the continuation of life. Alma bears testimony of this when he calls Mary, the mother of Christ, " a precious and chosen vessel" before she has even born the Christ child (Alma 7:10). The womb of every woman is a precious and chosen vessel, even if it never has the opportunity to be filled.

I recently read a summary of a talk Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave at a recent regional conference. Here is what the author related:
 "He [Elder Oaks]  first compared the vessels of the Lord to the emblems of the sacrament.  He reminded the young men in the Aaronic Priesthood that they have a special responsibility to stay clean, physically and morally, in order to handle those sacred vessels. What I heard next surprised me just a bit... What he said was that just as young men have the potential to bear the emblems of the sacrament (and later officiate in other priesthood ordinances), and therefore the vessels of the Lord, so young women have the potential to bear children – vessels which will bear the spirit children of God.  And for that reason, young men and young women are both bound by the counsel in Section 38, namely to be clean in order to bear the vessels of the Lord.
It is so beautiful to me that Elder Oaks specifically refers to administering the sacrament (which is allows to be re-born into eternal life through Christ) as being similar to bearing children (which allows us to be born into mortal life.) Both men and women have important stewardships on this earth, and while they are different, they both are working towards the same goal, "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39)

It is fascinating to me to think about the womb and the male and female sexual organs as being vessels of the Lord. This is especially meaningful for those who have made covenants in the temple because it means that our bodies are really not our own. They are promised to God and when we use our power in God's work we become His  holy vessels, places in which God pours out His power and works miracles. We literally carry God's work forward on the earth as we bear forth in our bodies His power, His priesthood, His children, His authority, His truth, His testimony.

Each and every one of us bears the vessels of the Lord.

Be ye clean.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Blessing from My Daughter

Last week I was sick.

Throw-up, lay on the couch, moan, and hope my kids didn't destroy things too much sick.

At one point my little Rose really wanted me to read her a book, but I was so sick that the thought of sitting up made my head spin. She begged and begged, but I just wasn't up to it.

Yet, not to be discouraged, she said, "Mommy, I could give you a blessing and it would make you better."

Her comment made me pause and I thought she was just teasing. But one look at the sincere and faith-filled look on her faith melted my heart and I knew she was in earnest.

I told her I would love her to give me a blessing.

She gently crept up onto couch and put her little hands on my head, and in what was the most earnest and serious voice I have ever heard her use, she poured out her blessing.

"Jesus, I need you to come right now
Make my mommy better.
We need the Holy Ghost. 
And we will be healthy and strong.
This is the end." 

I have never heard a more sincere, simple prayer in my life. I wish I could have captured the urgency, faith, and love that filled her little voice. It was so sweet.

And you know... I felt a lot better afterwards.

When I sat up I told Rose to grab a book and I would read it to her she got the biggest smile on her face. She'd had faith that Jesus could make me better, and He really did. At least well enough that I could read her Fancy Nancy and Dr. Seuss, and then fall back asleep on the couch.

I think it was a profound spiritual moment for Rose, because several times in the days following she again offered me a blessing when she saw me sick...with an added assurance that she knew Jesus could make me better.

I have been thinking a lot about Rose's blessings the last few days. In the LDS church formal blessings on the sick are administered by men who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood and who seal the blessing by the power of that priesthood.  Yet, as I have talked about in my post, Women Giving Blessings in the Early Days of the LDS Church there is a difference between a priesthood blessing and the gift to heal.

The gift to heal is one that is given to all the followers of Christ, male and female. In D&C 84: 64-68 it says,
"Therefore, as I said unto my apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who beleiveth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost. And these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name they shall do many wonderful works; In my name they shall cast out devils; In my name they shall heal the sick....
The gift to heal is also listed among the gifts of the spirit promised to the disciples of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12: 9 says,

"To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit"

Women in the early days of the LDS church often participated in healing as demonstrations of faith. Women most commonly administered by laying on of hands to their children but were sometimes called to administer to those outside of their families. Women who gave blessings never claimed priesthood authority, but always closed their blessings in the name of Jesus Christ.(If you would like to more about this please read this post.)

Rose's sweet blessing was a blessings of faith.

I realize that at some point I will need to have a conversation with Rose about the difference between the ways in which men and women administer, but I think for now that conversation can wait. At three-years-old I don't  want to squelch her fire of faith by giving her deeper doctrine than she can understand. I love it that right now she understands that through her faith she can work miracles, and that her faith in Christ is a power that she can use on behalf of others.

She is discovering how to access her spiritual gifts.

Rose's simple faith in Christ's power really made me reflect on an experience I had last year. Jon and I were on vacation with some friends and between the four of us we had seven kids under the age of six. One night as we all knelt together for family prayer, I offered the prayer. As I prayed I had the most unusual feeling come over me. I felt the distinct impression/prompting that I could  (and should) pronounce a promise and a blessing upon all those little children-- a promise that  none of those seven precious souls would be lost to the adversary's power.

The feeling was overwhelming and it scared me. I had never before pronounced a promise or a blessing upon anyone, and I wasn't sure if I was "allowed" to. So even though the prompting had come strongly, and the words to say had come in to my mind, I didn't say them. I was scared by the power that was being offered to me. Afterwards I was really sad. I felt like I had just missed an important spiritual opportunity, and I wished more than anything I had spoken those words. Later in the privacy of my room I said them, but I felt like the opportunity to speak them as a promise and a blessing had passed (though I still hope that the Lord will grant that blessing to those children despite my weakness).

That experience taught me that as a  disciple of Christ, who has made sacred covenants, I have access to spiritual power and gifts beyond myself. Through Christ I have the ability to work miracles, to heal, to cast out devils, to bless, and to prophesy. What I realized though was that I had some sort of  mental block to using that power. For too long in my life I had dwelt on what I could not do (administer priesthood ordinances) that I saw I hadn't taken the time to fully develop what I could do (perform miracles through faith). I had confused working miracles, healing, prophesying, and blessing as being synonymous with priesthood authority but they aren't.

They are gifts.

Gifts of faith, and they are available to all who follow Christ.

Even, three-year-old girls.