Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Am

I was listening to the talk at church last Sunday, and I was juggling kids and thinking and something struck me about God. I can describe myself in so many ways and whenever I am asked to do so I have to decide which description fits. I am a homeschooling mother, I am eight months pregnant, I am a scout leader, I am a student, I am a writer, I am a crochettest, I am an Educational Specialist with a Charter School, I am tired ... You get the picture. This list can get so long that on introducing myself I often feel I do an inadequate job. For instance, if I say I'm the mother to soon to be six, then the conversation will go one way and I have been told that I can not possibly understand how it is to work, because with that many kids I, of course, stay home. So the next time I don't introduce myself that way, instead I say something else about myself. This response gets misunderstood also and soon when I am asked to tell about myself all I want to say is "I am me." So if I am so many things, what about God, how many things is He? He has many titles and takes much work to understand Him, His nature, His attributes, His desires, His accomplishments. So the thought occurs to me the best description for God is The Great I Am. And this makes so much sense.


I didn't get many good pictures from Christmas this year, but here are a few.

The little ones saw Santa at the gym. Seth was so eager to see Santa-not a speck of nervousness with that one.
Decorating the tree. Yes, it is winter but still nearly impossible to keep shirts on my boys.
Logan hands a breakable ornament up to his cousin.
Christmas Eve and the children are waiting to put on the Christmas play. The adults read from the scriptures and intersperse songs, while the kids sing and act it out.
This is what one reluctant actor thought of being a shepherd.
After more singing...look who comes in with presents for the children. Kevin did an awesome job.

Here we are Christmas morning.

The Nutcracker

We took the older children to see the Nutcracker about a week before Christmas. My children are familiar with the music and the story, but had never seen a ballet before. In this version they added an extra dance and used a piece by Strauss, it was funny to see the looks of appall on my children's (and my husband's) faces. "That is not even Tchaikovsky!" The first half of the ballet was where the story was told and was very good. There were some really neat effects with the screens and props. Brennen, who sat next to me, really enjoyed it. The second half of the ballet is where Clara and the Nutcracker go back to his land and see the Sugar Plum Fairy, who entertains them with many dances by those in her kingdom. These dances went on for about forty minutes, and Brennen kept trying to add some type of action back into the story. He could be heard making comments such as, "And next the Rat King comes back to life and throws a bomb at the dancers," "Wouldn't it be funny if all of the dancers crashed into each other and they all fell down?"

After the ballet, some of the dancers came out on to the main stairs and we were able to ask them questions. They dance seven hours a day six days a week to prepare for performances! They also have a team of physical therapists, chiropractors and masseuses. Aubrey asked them if they had any injuries during this year, and they described several. It was a pretty fun experience, even the older boys enjoyed themselves.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Formal Party Ingredient

Oliver and Rachel DeMille offer as one ingredient to raising and educating a future leader that they should either go to or watch their parents go to a black-tie event at least once a year. I don’t know about you, but my sphere of influence does not exactly include the black-tie event crowd.

This last weekend, however, I did have an opportunity to attend a formal holiday party for my husband’s work. We arrived at his impressive home and were greeted warmly by the host. This was a party for the management departments of two of his energy consulting businesses and staff from an emerging third business, so there were numerous people, none of which I knew and less than a third my husband knew. The crowd was as diverse as one can imagine, a young couple in dreadlocks and kakhis with information about homebirths, a Russian scientist complete with thick round silver glasses and bowtie with a charming wife from Greece and stories from around the globe, a Puerto Rican University professor who teaches educational method and wrote a Spanish guide with her husband and daughter, a smiling mingler with a vague job description, but one got the impression had something to do with making everyone feel happy, a woman with nose rings and rings various other places, whose children had only ever attended Waldorf schools, those dressed in suits and formal gowns and those dressed in collared shirts, or blouses.

As we stepped into the large entry hall, several pieces of fine art could be seen. A large print of an Egyptian god in silver, stood next to a Grecian statue. In the dining room hung a still life of a fruit bowl on one wall with abstract and surreal paintings on the other. Family portraits hung in another room, along with a picture of the host with President Bush.

Quickly, the relevance of training our children in more formal manners was brought to my mind as I questioned the proper responses when introduced to a couple, or when I was not introduced and a conversation between my husband and a coworker immediately began, while his wife stood next to him and I stood with my husband. In my real estate training I picked up the need for a firm handshake, and yet so many people had those dead-fish ones, hmm. And what is to be done with the glass when one is finished drinking? What about the shrimp tail when one has just eaten a shrimp and is engaged in conversation? Is it appropriate for the wife of one couple to sit next to the husband of the other couple when both couples are seated on the same couch? This situation arose twice. When we sat near a younger couple they didn’t flinch, but there was an obvious awkwardness when this arrangement came up with an older more formal couple. The thought came to me that I could have used a few more formal parties as a child, but I was certainly glad for the formal parties I had attended at my Great Grandmother’s on Christmas Eves growing up.

As we ventured into one room and watched the string quartet play, I was at least gratified that I knew almost every classical piece (thanks to “Beethoven’s Wig”) and could name each of the instruments.

One thing I did notice, though, is that for all of Hollywood’s depictions of parties with women in revealing clothing, the one lady that wore an extremely revealing top was the one that was the hardest to talk to and not just for me. Our husbands had much in common and spoke at length, and though, I stood next to her I could not bring myself to look at her, much less ask her about herself. Perhaps, this is a lack of social polish on my part, and yet, I noticed that no one else seemed to talk to her either and many tried to avoid looking in her direction.

As the evening progressed I recognized the pattern straight out of the entertainment section in “The Joy of Cooking.” Cocktails and drinks, followed by hors’d oeuvres, then dinner, in this case an intriguing Persian buffet, as the host was Iranian and loves to share his food. This was followed by a later dessert and coffee table. I had always wondered how one party could hold so many different sections of food, I think the key is to have a very long party, and serve the dinner very late, so people are very hungry.

I’m not sure this would be considered a black-tie event, yet like so many things after I have experienced something similar I see the point for the DeMilles’ ingredient for educating future leaders, mostly because I see the wants in my own education in this area. My husband and I decided that next year we would bring the older children and let them experience it for themselves.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Another Try at Working With Wool

We painted, drew, glued and colored Christmas pictures today and then we broke out the wool. Last week we had tried making people. We tried again this week using pipecleaners for the base and needle felting where needed. It went much better.

I made this one.

Aubrey set up a home in preparation for her cousin to come over and play with her. I made the smaller two dolls for her and she planned how she would give the little girl doll to her cousin, which she excitedly did as soon as Savannah walked in the door.
Brennen loves the felt and wool. He busily worked on a project he had started yesterday. He is sewing on felt pieces cut in the shapes of the stable, manger, and sun. Yesterday, he sewed on five little pockets that he can put things in. He put his little wool doll and several pipecleaner people in these pockets when he was done. It was very cute, even if it was a little monochromatic.
Brennen also made a wool picture today as I worked on mine.
Here's my first wool picture, before ironing,
and after--I am seeing the need for different background colors, but I like how it turned out. After this I had to stop the kids and insist on moving on to other activities, but I have a request for another day to make more people, to try felting people, and to make a baby Jesus for a cloth manger that we have that is waiting for the Christ child.

Getting the Tree

We don't sleigh ride in California, we are still out hay riding at tree cutting time.

No pictures of the actual cutting of the tree as I was taking a couple little ones to the potty=).


We got to go to Utah to visit cousins. Five of my siblings and nineteen of their children were there. It was a lot of fun to see everyone and let the kids get to know their cousins better. The pictures are really bad and we did not get nearly enough of them, but here are a few.
We had to search for snow, but we eventually found it in a canyon. Logan knew immediately to make snow angels. Kevin and the older kids had a snowball fight, until the little ones got too cold.
Aubrey, Emma and Caitlyn carefully walking over the ice on our short hike.

Sethie loved sliding on the ice.
Here is half of the under six set,
here is a few of the other half.
This is my nephew, which I got to meet for the first time. Where did that hair come from?

We also got to take the kids to Temple square, and we did a lot of visiting. We stayed at different houses and so got to visit different people on the different nights. We loved seeing everyone and are counting down until next summer when everyone comes out here for a reunion=).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Great Knowledge

I have a child with a mission. He knows he is destined for great things and he has started early to let the rest of us know...he is two. As we were driving around the other day, he said, "Mom, I want great knowledge. I want GREAT KNOWLEDGE!" I asked him what type of great knowledge he wanted, and told him I would do my best to get him the resources needed, but he just looked at me and said, "I want great knowledge." This morning he woke up, came in my room and said, "I want great knowledge." He took my hand and said, "Come on, I show you." Alright, I thought I can always use another path, an easier one, to great knowledge and here my two-year-old seemed to know of one. So I smiled and took his little hand in mine and he smiled up at me and says very softly, "great knowledge." He leads me through the hall and dining room and into the garage and then stands in front of the refrigerator. I ask, "Is great knowledge in here?" "Open it," he says. I do and his face beams and he giggles as he points... to the eggnog. "Great knowledge," he says. So there you go folks, if you want great knowledge, drink eggnog.

The Gaps in My Education-Math

Like most people I have gaps in my education, and like most people I can’t hit them all at once. But I am feeling the need to hit some of my gaps hard. One of these areas is math. Formally, I made it through trigonometry. I also took a math class in my teacher prep program. This was one of the few classes that I found relevant and interesting. The text book went through many math concepts and showed how to teach them in a project based way. We were assigned to read about half of this book, but it is the one book that I read the whole thing anyway. I did my internship for this class at a Montessori school and learned about some wonderful new ideas to teach math. I got to teach a lesson on fractions at this school where as I told a story we cut green circles into different sections and then in the end we had enough pieces to make a Christmas tree. When I student-taught in a traditional classroom, I got to teach math from the approved California textbook in the traditional, introduce concept on projector, kids copy you, kids try it and you correct them and then they do it on their own, now move on, lots of concepts covered (I daren’t say learned), but no depth. I don’t particularly like the last way, but it is easier for teachers who aren’t with students long or who don’t own the knowledge themselves.

Frankly, I want to own it. So here I go. I’m ready to fill a gap. I now need a plan. I want a historical overview of the discovery of math principles, I want an overview of how it is taught the Montessori way, and the Waldorf way. Let’s see I need a video of an excited teacher talking about these concepts, I wonder what Great Courses has-I love everything I’ve watched or listened to from them (we just listened to the history of World War II on our trip to Utah). I need to tackle Euclid. I have touched on Plato’s thoughts in other subjects in earlier studies, and I look forward to going into more depth on his geometry thoughts. I have “Flatland,” and “Mathematics: Is God Silent?” so I will probably hit those too.

When I nursed my first baby I read every one of Jane Austen’s novels. When I nurse this one I hope to get math a little more. As Blanchard and Johnson of “One Minute Manager,” point out I’m in the phase of high energy and low direction. Perhaps, I can find a mentor before the low energy phase hits…. Mentoring, there is another gap, and the importance of handwork to the development of the whole individual, and color theory, and sewing, and knitting, and the amendments, aaahhh lots of gaps- I think I’ll hit math next.