Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mom School

This summer I wanted the kids to focus on some things that I wanted them to learn.  School is good and all, but I wanted a little more say for the summer.  So, I came up with "Mom School."  Mom School this summer included swimming lessons, music, drama, dance, school review, and culture.

Our son needed to review elapsed time and work on his spelling and handwriting.  I also had him do a bit of typing and math drill reviews.  He took hip-hop with a friend, swimming, piano, and did a drama camp.

Our daughter needed to work on reading, but also took jazz, swimming, did KinderBach at home, and drama camp.

We kept busy and I was really glad to not have to compete with regular school!

For culture, I thought I'd choose a country a week to study.  I ended up choosing a specific country/week by the type of food we were in the mood for.  We ended up only doing about 1/2 our countries, but it was a good effort.  We covered China, Thailand, England, Sweden, India, and Mexico.  Sometimes I'd make the food, sometimes we'd go out.  I almost purchased the Confessions of a Homeschooler's curriculum, but instead made a really simple worksheet for the kids to complete to learn more about the country.  Then we'd talk about it.  They didn't always do all the worksheet, but it gave us a little focus.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Where's a Mom to Get a Vacation???

You thought the title of this post was a rhetorical question, didn't you?  But, I really have an answer:  ASPEN GROVE.

Aspen Grove is a family camp run by BYU and is located up Provo Canyon in Utah.  I hadn't heard about it until 6? years ago when my cousins went; although, it is 50 years old.  It really piqued my interest when I learned they watch your children when you stay there, which means mom really CAN have a vacation!

They have all sorts of activities: badminton, basketball, miniature golf, ping pong, pool, swimming, rock climbing, ropes course, arts and crafts, watercolor, wood pen turning, lectures, family dance, family games, etc.  You can choose to participate in them or not.  You can also choose to send your kids to their babysitting/classes or not.  My husband described the experience as 50% marriage retreat, 50% family vacation.  It's the best of both worlds:  quality family time together, but couple time, too.

For those of us who haven't ever really had our little kids go to any type of day care before, Aspen is brilliant in getting them to go.  The first day, the kids merely meet their leaders.  The second day they go for 2 hours.  The third day, about 3.  The fourth day, 5 or 6; The fifth day 7!!!  Then it decreases from there until you go home.

They're also brilliant in their food services.  First off they do all the cooking and cleaning for you!  When you go to the dining hall, they usually have three buffet food lines set up to meet the crowds.  As the numbers decline they close and clean up a food line, eventually leaving just one line for the stragglers and those who want seconds.  The food is also quite good and nearly always includes fruit and vegetable options.

When we went, Aspen Grove was about half-capacity in guests because school had started so many places, so it felt like we had a lot of the place to ourselves.  The staff and guests were all superb.  We loved becoming acquainted with everyone.  We definitely want to go back.  Being a week long event, though, makes it kind of hard if you want to do any other sort of vacation during your summer break especially if you're scheduling around dad's vacation time!

 Eating at the dining hall.


Treadwall - indoor climbing 

Climbing/Ropes Course



Hiking - Stewart Falls

 Hiking - First and Second Falls/Timpanogos



Family Dance

 Aspen Grove's Board Cabin

While there, we stayed at the "Board Cabin."  Before we went, I Googled for pictures of the inside so I would have a better idea of what to expect.  I was unable to find any, so we took some while we were there, that might be useful to someone, sometime.

The beautiful walk to the Board Cabin

Living room with hide-a-bed.  Adjoining door to other side of Board Cabin on right.  Rent both sides!  However, the walls are very thin!  I felt bad for our neighbors as our baby woke up and cried at least once a night.

Loft up above.  To the right is the door to the bathroom.  You can shut it to keep out noise between the bathroom and the living room.  Additionally there's another door between the bathroom and the bedroom, so you can shut that off, too.  Notice the mini-fridge on the left.

 Four twin beds, three mats.  You could put 7 kids up here!  So in all, you could have 2 in the queen bed, plus a crib, plus 2 in the hide-a-bed, plus the 7 upstairs.  That's 11 people in just one side of the Board Cabin!  If you rent both sides, I suppose you could sleep 22 people in there!  I'm not sure if they'd let you, though!

The master bedroom has it's own exterior door, so if people are sleeping in the living room, you can sneak out the back without disturbing them.

Queen size bed, closet, mini-crib provided for baby, if needed.

Baby got a cold and was an even worse sleeper, so we pulled the queen mattress out of the bedroom and and put it on top of the hide-a-bed in the living room and slept there.  Who wants to sleep on a hide-a-bed, anyway?

There are three towel racks.  You can hang 7 towels!  Stand up shower only.

Ample hooks.

They could use a shelf in the bathroom.  Or just bring some sort of hanging bag you can hang on the towel rack.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Covenant Motherhood by Stephanie Dibb Sorensen

While on vacation I finished a book. I couldn't believe it.  I think I need to go on more vacations so I can finish more books.  The book was Covenant Motherhood by Stephanie Dibb Sorensen. Even cooler than finishing the book, I got to go to her Friday Education Week class, meet her, AND have dinner with her and a few others afterward. 

In her book, Stephanie identifies so many parallels between the roles of mothers and the roles of Christ. It's so easy to think that what we are doing as mothers is mundane and unimportant, but Stephanie makes you feel so good and useful! The titles of her chapters will give you an idea of where she goes with this: 

* Chapter 1: Motherhood Testifies of Christ 
* Chapters 2-9: Jesus Christ Creates, Teaches, Succors, Provides, Cleanses, Defends and Protects, Loves and Sacrifices, Forgives and Shares Burdens, and Saves 
* Chapters 10: Grace and the Covenant 
* Chapter 11: (My favorite) The Eternal Influence of Covenant Motherhood 

On page 4, Stephanie shares a quote by Neal A. Maxwell about God's work being one eternal round, including his "continuous redemption for His children." Yes, we're always messing up and God is always having to work with us and forgive us. I can imagine that could be tedious. I also thought of temple work, and how it can be so repetitive, yet, we don't give up on it, nor does God because it is so important. 

Speaking of the temple, on page 9, I loved this: "We know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ created a world where God's children could grow. As part of this divine and creative partnership, mothers also create a world where their children live and grow. This mother-made world consists of home and family. . . . A mother is the temple matron in her own home, doing all she can to make it a place filled with the Spirit of God. . . ." Doesn't that feel good? 

Throughout the book, I enjoyed how I related to Stephanie in regards to wondering if she's cut out for motherhood. On page 55, she states: "I also thought people chose to be moms because they loved all of that kid-related stuff, like playdates at the park and making your own baby food ann baking cookies for the PTA. Now that I'm all grown up, I realize that probably only about 1.7 percent of the population is well equipped to automatically be a great mother. The rest of us just kind of muddle through it somehow. . . ." What a great discovery. I often look at other moms thinking they wanted this chasing kids, and changing diapers, what's wrong with me? If I could only want this it would be so much easer. But, Stephanie's probably onto something --- more of us are muddling through this than we think! 

In the last chapter, which I mentioned was my favorite, Stephanie poses several questions. I'll tell you the questions, but I won't tell you the answers. 

 Q: Many women are educated, talented, and extremely capable. Isn't it a waste of their skills to spend time with children when they could make a bigger difference in the public sphere? When so many options are available, doesn't it make sense to outsource the more menial tasks of childcare so that women can do bigger things? 

 Q: No one seems to notice the work I do, which makes it feel like it doesn't matter. I wonder if there would be more rewards or recognition in other pursuits. 

 Q: Sometimes, even within the gospel, it feels like mothers with young children aren't able to accomplish all that they are supposed to do. When my children are so young and needy, how can I possibly do family history work, be a missionary, attend the temple regularly, and be an active contributor to the missions of the Church? 

 Q: I try so hard to do what's right and be a good mom, but it's so difficult to measure any success. My children don't seem to make much progress with all of the things I'm trying to teach them, and I often feel weary. Am I really making an important difference in their lives? 

Q: Some people seem to leave their mark on history in big ways, and my contribution is so small and unrecognizable. Does Heavenly Father really value what I'm doing, and does it add value to our society? 

If you are struggling with feeling value in motherhood, Covenant Motherhood will help you realize how important, beautiful, and fulfilling it actually is. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Put on display like a trophy?

Recently we went to the outdoor Logan Aquatics Center and had a great time.  We especially had fun going down the water slides.  After taking our tiny 4-year old down the twisty slide a couple times, I was shocked that she wanted to go all by herself.  She did it two times.  Thankfully, the lifeguards were prepared to catch her at the bottom!

I noticed while there that lots of females wore cute, flattering, and even modest swimsuits --- if you can call a swimsuit modest!  And, of course, there were plenty of bikinis --- the more endowed the woman, the smaller the bikini (seems).  I tried not to notice the flesh hanging out all around me.

As I waited in line for one of the water slides with my daughter, several males, and other modestly-suited females, a very attractive mother in a blue and white polka-dot bikini came up the stairs and stood a few people behind us.  She looked great: thin, smooth, hairless, rounded in all the right places.  I totally checked her out.  OK, not in a sexual way, but first in a stunned way that she'd be okay that all these people could see her in her near naked state.  I wondered if she really felt okay like that, especially with her little daughter standing right beside her.

Secondly, I looked at her like she was on display.  I looked at her like I would look at someone's Emmy Award if they showed it to me.  Why would you look away when an award winner shows you her prize?  It is on display after all --- all shiny and bright, just wanting to be looked at and admired.  I looked at her the same way I look at the punk kid with long hair and dumpy clothes who walks up to the Sacrament table to prepare the Sacrament.  Are you serious?  He thinks that is becoming of the Lord?  I looked at her like I look at a person covered with tattoos or piercings or makeup.  Don't they do those things to their bodies because they want to stand out?  They want to be different?  They want you to look?  Oh, you don't want me to look at your tattooed arm and neck?  Uh, sorry, it was kind of hard not to notice.

Are we modest when we do these things?  I don't think so.  Modesty is blending in, not drawing attention to oneself, but honoring God and glorifying him in all we do, not taking the glory ourselves.

Now of course, some women DO want to be looked at and lusted after, and I guess they have their wish when they go to the pool.  However, some are ignorant like the cute teens in their bikinis who haven't yet realized that the 40-year old men are checking them out just as much as the 17-year old guys. Do they really want that?

As I began to feel that the women in bikinis were putting themselves on display, I began to not feel so bad for looking.  I also didn't feel quite so ashamed for the men checking out the women.  Hey, if the women didn't want to be looked at, they could have chosen something different to wear.  More seriously, I really don't know what women think when they wear bikinis as I've never asked a bikini-wearer why she wears one, nor have I ever worn a bikini to know what would go through my head.

In a 1979 question to Ann Landers, both Ann and the inquisitor share my thoughts.
Dear Ann Landers: . . . I am getting a lot of flak from my college freshman daughter in regard to whether or not a girl who wears a bikini is an innocent little thing or a smart little teaser.  I don't buy the line, "Dirty thoughts are in the mind of the beholder." I am fed up with this worn-out excuse for all sorts of exhibitionism.
Isn't it about time we woke up to the fact that a girl in a bikini is sexually stimulating?  My daughter says, "Only to men with evil minds." What do you say, Ann? --- Concerned Parent
Dear C.P.: I'm with you, especially when it comes to those generously endowed dames who wear postage-stamp bottoms with spaghetti string bras.  When she bought the bikini she knew how much of her would be on display.
Too bad these over-exposed females don't know that a woman's greatest asset is a man's imagination.
I am absolutely of the opinion that men should control their thoughts, but should they really be expected not to notice or look at the rear of the woman in front of them in line a couple steps up?  Well sure, but I can't imagine it could be easy.  All I can say here is along with my other good, Christian (or any other high-/traditional-valued) sisters for modesty, can't we just give these men a break?!  Can't we do them a favor by not showing so much skin?

So what was I wearing to keep me from being put on display you may wonder.  Well, there were three reasons for how I dressed: practicality, body insecurity, and respect.

First, practicality.  My aunt and uncle lived in Australia for three years.  I was tickled when I learned that lots of people there swam in rash guards.  Fantastic!  A swim shirt would protect me from the sun, allow me not to spend so much time applying sunblock, and keep me more modest.  A win, win, win!   I bought one, and that is what I wear the majority of the time I swim outdoors.

Second, body insecurity.  I chose to wear board shorts (ok, they were Wal-Mart running shorts because I can't fit into my old board shorts, and I didn't want to fork out the money for new ones) for the sun protection, use of less sunblock, more modesty, less shaving, and my body insecurities.

Honestly, I'm really insecure about my thighs.  My shape is kind of that of an oompa-loompa and my cottage cheese, I mean fat, is stored on my thighs.  It's really not attractive.  How I wish I wasn't programmed to be so concerned about it, but I am.  I admired the younger gal at the aquatics center whose belly hung out over her bikini and wondered if she knew she looked like that.  If she did, good on her for not worrying about it.  I was jealous of the men, some also with bellies, in their knee-length swim trunks and wished my shorts were longer.  I wondered how many other people felt as self- conscious about whatever body part as I did about my thighs. I realized that even some beautiful-looking people probably felt just as insecure as I did.  I wish my main purpose in covering up was to merely be modest, but it's not.

Now, at this point since you know what I wore, you could argue that I was the one being immodest because I stood out for my more covered body.  Oh well.

Third, respect.  I believe that by being more modest I show myself, God, and others around me respect. I believe as stated in For the Strength of Youth that MY "body is God's sacred creation.  Respect is a gift from God. . . . Through [my] dress and appearance, [I] can show the Lord that [I] know how precious [my] body is.  [I] can show that [I am] a disciple of Jesus Christ."

In addition to me showing respect by my modesty, at least one recent study indicated that men more highly respect women who are modest (I need to find the reference).  They don't view them as body parts as they would view an immodest woman.  I've always valued intelligence, so it's only natural that I'd want to be valued and respected for my intellect rather than merely my looks, which would mean I ought to cover up.

In conclusion, I need to publicly apologize to the polka-dot bikini mom for gloating at her, but I also thank her for helping me better realize that I do not want to put myself on display to be looked at like a trophy, a tattoo, piercings, makeup, or whatever else we do to show off.

Somewhat related: Matt Walsh's view on porn & breastfeeding.