giving = happiness

Dec 4, 2012 by

Oh, how I love December! I love how the whole world (at least it seems to me to be the whole wide world) unites in giving and loving and smiling and serving. I love the music and joy and food and generosity and miracles that I see every December.

I am a big believer in the equation of giving = happiness and I want my children to become committed givers as well. Doesn’t this Light ‘Em Up idea look fun?

This morning during our reading time, I snuggled in bed with Fisher and Annes and read The Quiltmaker’s Gift. It is one of my very favorite books and has been ever since it was published back in 2000. I remember reading it to Blythe over and over and over. She loved it so, so much. One of her favorite things to do as a four to six year old was to be just like the quiltmaker and giving her treasured items to all of our neighbors. I remember her walking over to our elderly friends and giving them her special rocks, dolls, drawings, flowers, necklaces, and more.

This morning when we read it again, I loved discussing how all the King’s stuff didn’t make him happy and our stuff doesn’t and WON’T make us happy either. We talked about all the secret things we want to do this month to spread joy to others. Tomorrow we will be reading the prequel, The Quiltmaker’s Journey and learn all about how the quiltmaker left her life of comfort to become some of God’s hands on earth.

That is what I want our family to be…God’s hands. I know from much personal experience how much of a difference service makes. When I was in bed this spring for weeks on end, Kat arranged for meals to be brought in to my home. Day after day, week after week, women came into my home and fed my family delicious warm food while I laid in bed in my pajamas crying from the pain of this labral tear. Many, many times people have brought groceries or given us money for tires, violins, dentist appointments, and oh, so much more. There is so much love in this world and I have been blessed immensely because of other people being God’s hands in my life.

I love our Save The World projects. I love to create events that bring people together to make a difference in the lives of others. Right now, I have a few projects up my sleeve and am filled with joy at how excited my children are to spend this month giving. One of our projects is putting on a Christmas play at the Senior Citizen’s Center. Another is Operation Pay For The Hole for my dear friend, Jessica. A lot of amazing people have donated to Jessica. If you want to contribute AND get some lovely things for yourself or to give as gifts, we have an awesome auction and affiliate program going on right now over at Balancing Everything. One of the affiliate programs gives you several years worth of music/composer instruction for your family for $19.95. I ordered it and it is awesome sauce! Another program is Richard’s energy work. You can book a session with him and he will donate 50% of the fee to Jessica. Win-win!

What fun ideas do you have in your plans to model that giving = happiness? I would love to hear how you inculcate this truth into your family culture.

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living in a tree

Oct 15, 2012 by

Saturday we went out for our anniversary. Blythe needed to attend the Symphony for her Music Theory class and so we took advantage of the trip into town to have a date. We thought we would have just enough time for a leisurely dinner, but the Symphony went extra long, so we went to the bookstore to walk around. Looking at books is one of our favorite things to do.

Richard saw a copy of My Side Of The Mountain and asked if I had ever read it to Fisher. I realized that I hadn’t and that he was just the right age for it. So, this afternoon I found one of our copies and started reading it with him. Sam Gribley has already worked his way right into Fisher’s heart and he can’t wait until we read tomorrow to find out how Sam ended up living in a tree far away from civilization. Fisher, with his love of nature, is quite a bit like Sam and this book is going to be such a treat for us to read together. I just hope Fisher sticks around and doesn’t decide to leave us for life in a tree!

What are your favorite read-alouds with your children?

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fiar: down down the mountain

Sep 19, 2012 by

What a sweet story! Hette and Hank want some shoes, some special shoes that go creaky-squeaky-creaky-squeaky, but Papa and Mama say there is not one single cent to buy shoes. They don’t give up though and ask Grandma who tells them to plant and grow turnips and then sell them down the mountain in the village.

The two children work hard all summer and grow the biggest turnips anyone has ever seen. At harvest time they make the long journey to the village. Along the way they run into people who are hungry and need some of their turnips. They end up giving all of them away except for one giant turnip. Now they can’t buy their special shoes! Hette and Hank are determined and find another way.

I love the gumption of these two kids and how they are willing to work hard for their dreams. The illustrations are top notch and make the story come alive. I love that my children are learning how much they have and what it has been like living in other time periods and in other places. Such a wonderful story of family life, courage, and hard work!

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fiar: the glorious flight

Aug 28, 2012 by

fiar: the glorious flight

We are having a wonderful school week so far. I think my kids are so ready for some order in their lives (and more importantly, for me to be fully present with them) that they are eating up our learning time. We started our Five In A Row read-aloud yesterday and thought The Glorious Flight has been on my shelf for years this is the first time I have read the famous story of Louis Bleirot who flew across the English Channel in 1909.

I am in love with this book.

1. It is so French. The sentence structure screams France (and while I don’t love France, I love books that exude a culture so thoroughly you can feel it).

2. Louis had gumption and determination and courage. My children need to be surrounded by examples of people doing hard things and not giving up the first, second, or gazillionth time.

3. Louis’ dream to fly became a family project.

Yesterday we read it and loved seeing Louis succeed at the cliffs of Dover. Today we read it again and found the English Channel on the map and talked about how Louis and his family could have given up when his first plane couldn’t fly at all or his fourth that moved around in circles on the pond or his sixth that got snagged on a rock. He could have given up after he finally got a plane in the air, but after just a few minutes would come crashing down, often injuring him.

But he didn’t. He persevered. He stayed true to his dream. He kept working and thinking and experimenting and DARING to do something no one had ever done.

Courage…we all need more of it.

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wise heart

Jul 19, 2012 by

I am in the middle of the Great Sewing Room Rearrangement Project. I can’t even begin to describe how much work this job is entailing. Perhaps when it is all completed I will take the time to detail it all out for you. Trust me, you will think I am a hero.

Anyway, as part of this job, I am throwing away a lot of stuff. I found this quote today on a crumpled up piece of paper and fell in love with it all over again (probably because last night when I emerged from the sewing room and found the kitchen a complete and utter disaster I lost my cool and was nothing like the woman in this quote, I was more like a raging lunatic. I have been filled with regret all day and want to imprint these words on my heart and live them. Really live them. Treat my children as the divine beings they are…ahhh, will I ever master it?

It is the sisters and wives and mothers, you know, Caddie, who keep the world sweet and beautiful. What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their own way! A woman’s task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness. It’s a big task too, Caddie – harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers. It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things. They have them just as much as men who build bridges and carve roads through wilderness. A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s. But no man could ever do it so well. I don’t want you to be a silly, affected person with fine clothes and manners who folks sometimes call a lady. No, that is not what I want for you, my little girl. I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind.

(Father speaking to Caddie in Caddie Woodlawn…one of my favorite books.)

And now I can throw the crumpled up paper away!

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a walk!

Jun 26, 2012 by

We went on a walk last night!

A walk. A real-life family walk around the lake with Fisher and Annes racing the whole way, Keziah chasing everyone around with Sadie on the leash, Blythe walking while reading her latest book, and Richard and I holding hands and talking and laughing and enjoying watching our children and their crazy antics.

Oh my.

Is this heaven?

My hip hurt the whole time and since it was my first walk since that fateful day in February I was evaluating every twinge to self-diagnose what the heck is going on in there, but I made it around the whole 1.1 mile loop!

Then we came home and read our scriptures and our summer read-aloud, The Summer of The Monkeys, and then I collapsed into bed. I am pretty sore this morning, but it was worth it to see my children having so much fun…and to hold my sweetie’s hand. Someday I will be able to walk without pain. Someday these days of lying in bed will be a memory. Someday my body will work well again.

p.s. Summer of The Monkeys is a fabulous read-aloud. Not only are each of the children enthralled with it, but so is Richard. He chuckles at all the crazy adjectives and funny Ozark phrases and I think he has decided he wants to be just like the grandpa in the book when he has entered that phase of his life. I think he is enjoying it even more than the kids! If you are looking for a new read-aloud for your family, pick it up – I think you will love it!

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the gift of giving life winner!

Jun 16, 2012 by

Random.com gave me #11, which is the comment by Theresa. Congratulations! Theresa, I just emailed you and will get your book in the mail as soon as I hear from you.

For everyone else I have a coupon for 10% off The Gift of Giving Life. Click here and then after you add the book to your cart use coupon code GWFWXR3F. This coupon is only good until tomorrow, Father’s Day 2012, so order now!

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the gift of giving life

Jun 13, 2012 by

I am lying here in bed feeling my ovary working hard to ovulate and while my initial and most common reaction is to cry out in pain and writhe around in misery, today I am trying something different. Today I am trying to send a message of gratitude to my ovaries. I am grateful they (at least the right one since it is the only one that ovulates) are able to ripen an egg and release it every month in the hopes of forming a new baby.

Why the change in my attitude today?

I have been reading a glorious book, The Gift of Giving Life, that is hot off the presses. My friend, Robyn Allgood, is one of the authors and asked me to take part in a Virtual Book Tour that is running from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day and I am one of the last stops. The other tour stops have been food for my soul and I bet they will be for yours as well.

This book is a compilation of essays, birth stories, and articles about the divine nature of pregnancy and childbirth by women who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am SO in love with this book. I wish I had written it! In an amazing feat of literary genius, the authors have created a lovely blend of childbirth information, personal stories, and scriptural insights, all with the nurturing tone of a warm blanket and a cup of hot chocolate. One of the many wonderful aspects of this offering is that there is a wide variety of perspectives on both the spiritual and physical elements of birth. This is not a one-size fits all approach. Rather, it is a ‘step into my heart and let me share some of my deepest thoughts regarding my experiences as a woman’ type of book. There are stories about conception, labor, breastfeeding, adoption, miscarriage, abuse, service, abandonment, faith, courage, submission, and most of all, love. Each time I read a new essay, I am left with a feeling of love…love for the woman who shared herself through her writing, love for my Heavenly Parents, love for myself as a mother, and love for womanhood. It is a daily gift I give to myself…one story a day to soothe my soul, awaken my mind, and expand my heart (though I usually can’t stop with just one!).

When I was reading Felice Austin’s essay, “The Decision to Have Your Baby”, and Meghan Rayne-Matthews’ essay, “Healing Through Motherhood”, I was taken back to my unexpected first pregnancy and the difficult decision we made to keep our baby. I had been told by two surgeons that my abdominal wall and pelvic ligaments would not survive a pregnancy and that we needed to adopt. When we became pregnant with Blythe, we were scared of the very real possibility that I may die. After endless amounts of research in between the round-the-clock nausea, multiple priesthood blessings, temple trips, and many prayers, we decided to trust the Lord and the feeling of peace we were given. We decided to allow the pregnancy to continue and accept the consequences, whatever they might be. Thankfully, the surgeons were wrong and my abdominal wall held up just fine (my pelvic ligaments are another story!) and now we have been blessed to give birth to four babies.

When I read “Waiting for Ashleigh” my heart was overcome with love for my unborn babies, the ten we have miscarried and the others who we are waiting for. The father in this story hears and sees his daughter, Ashleigh, several times, including once when he was about to break-up with his future wife. When they do marry, they think Ashleigh will be their first child born, but she isn’t. A little boy arrives instead. Each time they become pregnant they think it is her, but it isn’t. Three little boys and one little girl later, they are thrilled to finally be pregnant with the girl they have waited so long for. And then they miscarry. Matthew, the author, beautifully writes of pain, faith, and hope as they realize that once again they are waiting for Ashleigh.

I have recently embarked on a family history project that is changing my entire being and while reading “The Family Tree of Knowledge” by Felice Austin my heart was opened to my ancestors even more deeply. She writes, “When I was a few months into my pregnancy and feeling pretty alone, I came across this quote by Harriet Lerner:

We are never the first in our family to wrestle with a problem, although it may feel that way…learning how other family members have handled their problems similar to our own down through the generations, is one of the most effective routes to lowering reactivity and heightening self-clarity.

She continues with “I thought, ‘Yeah, right. Who does this happen to? No one else in my family has been abandoned three months into a planned pregnancy.’ I kept reading…”

If we do not know about our own family history, we are more likely to repeat past patterns or mindlessly rebel against them, without much clarity about who we really are, how we are similar to and different from other family members, and how we might proceed in our life.

She explains that she researched her line and found a great-grandmother on her mother’s side who had been abandoned by her husband while pregnant with their fourth child and a third great-grandmother on her father’s side who had been a slave and had somehow escaped slavery and raised her white master’s child all alone, in freedom. These two stories gave Felice strength to continue in her own struggles and powerful connections to bolster her up when loneliness tried to tear her down.

My mother’s family tree is rich with stories of courage, sacrifice, and faith. They have filled me with great reservoirs of determination to do what is right, to serve well, and to love passionately. I am right in the midst of discovering my father’s family tree. Lerner’s quote flipped a switch in my heart and encouraged me to go deeper, to search for their stories, and to learn from them. Through various experiences in my life I have learned I am strongly connected emotionally to my ancestors and I carry their energy patterns with me. I have an opportunity to learn from them, heal the mistakes of the past, and create a better future for my posterity. The Spirit of Elijah is real, incredibly real, and is drawing my heart to my family members before, with, and after me. This book has played a pivotal role in that heart-opening process.

One last thing this book has done for me is it has reminded me I am not alone in my walk as a daughter of God, nor as a birthing mother striving to make conscious, God-led choices for my family. I am not crazy or misled for feeling the spirits of my unborn children. Sometimes, if I am spending too much time in surface relationships, I can forget there are women who care deeply about procreation, about their divine roles as women, and about the gift that birth can be to each of us as we grow in to the beings God created us to be. The Gift of Giving Life is a gentle, yet powerful testimony to the sisterhood of women and the strength we can be to one another as we fulfill our personal missions as daughters, sisters, mothers, and friends.

Other favorite essays: “We Are Each Eve”, “The Spirit of Elijah”, “Puah and Shiphrah: Delivering the Deliver”, “Two Veils”, “Blood, Breastmilk, and Living Water”, “Finding My Motherly Intuition”, and “Healing From Sexual Abuse”, “Unity With Our Sisters”, and “Sixteen Pregnancies”.

Doesn’t it sound marvelous? Trust me…it is. I wish I had a frillion copies to give to every woman I know. I don’t have a frillion, but I do have one copy to gift to one lucky reader. Please post a comment and you will be entered into the pool of hopeful winners. A winner will be selected bright and early Saturday morning. If you don’t win or you want to buy a frillion copies for all the women in your life, I have a coupon for 10% off The Gift of Giving Life. Click here and then after you add the book to your cart use coupon code GWFWXR3F. This coupon is only good until Father’s Day 2012…so you only have a few days to take advantage of it.

Visit The Gift of Giving Life site to sign up for their newsletter and to receive a free Meditation MP3 as well as tips to help increase spirituality in your pregnancy and birth.

If you would like to read more of my birth experiences (I think they are pretty amazing stories!), here are our birth stories and here is our journey through miscarriage.

I hope you have enjoyed this stop on the Virtual Book Tour. Be sure to check out Segullah’s post on Sunday. I for one can’t wait to read it!

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fiar: katy and the big snow

Apr 24, 2012 by

fiar: katy and the big snow

I love this book. Today Fisher, Annes, and I curled up in my bed and read Katy and the Big Snow for the gazillionth time. We found all sorts of things on the map and Annesley cheered Katy on as she worked herself through the Geopolis snow drifts. Virginia Lee Burton created stories my children beg for over and over again and I love her for it. I would kiss her if I was anywhere near her. I remember reading The Little House to Blythe and highlighting all the sight words to help her learn to read them. I remember the first time I read Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel to Fisher and how his little boy mind latched right onto the idea of a big machine doing a big job and how he wanted to do big jobs too.

Reading to my children is one of my very favorite things to do. Infusing them with a love of literature, beautiful illustrations, and characters that speak to their hearts is a privilege I take seriously. I strive to surround them with books that will build their little souls into people who stand true, fight hard, and serve well. What are your favorite books to grow your children into their best selves?

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