Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Let Your Light so Shine

(This was written by Mike)

While studying for my Master’s Degree, I took a class on the prompt effects of nuclear weapons.  One of those effects is an electromagnetic pulse.  This is a rapid and powerful change in the electromagnetic field.  While by itself it is completely undetectable to the human body—it can neither be seen nor felt, it can have devastating effects on electronic devices.  The changing electric field causes electrons to move in conductors, which can cause a current in electronic devices that will burnout the chips.  Electronic devices can be protected from the effects of an EMP through a process known as shielding.  An electromagnetic field cannot penetrate a continuous, conductive container.  These containers are known as Faraday cages.  By placing devices within a Faraday cage, they will be safe from the effects of the pulse.  Besides destroying electronics, an EMP has another interesting property—it can make fluorescent light bulbs glow.  While a nuclear weapon creates a very drastic change in the electromagnetic field, other devices can cause smaller changes that will still cause a light bulb to glow.  The more intense the change in the field, the brighter the bulb will glow.  Imagine how fun to see a light bulb just sitting on the table start to glow without being connected to anything.  Not long ago, scientists would have denied that such a thing was possible.  Electricity, if they even knew what it was, had to pass through wires, they might have said.  Today, the truth is common knowledge among those with experience in such things.

It can be instructive to consider that people have something like an internal light bulb and the spirit is like an EMP.  When we are in the presence of the spirit, something within us resonates, much like the bulb in the presences of an EMP.  Like the scientists of earlier times, some people claim that because they can’t see or feel the spirit—because to them it is “unobservable”— it must not be there.  These people sometimes keep their own “detector”, their internal light bulb, locked tightly in a Faraday cage.  In this way, even when they are in the presence of the spirit, they are unable to detect it.

The scriptures repeatedly talk of light and truth, and refer to Christ as the light and the Redeemer of the world.  Thinking in terms of light bulbs and electric fields helps me to understand what these scriptures mean.  They also give a new meaning Christ’s injunction:  Let your light so shine.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Anxious

I'm pretty much a basket case lately.    

I have not really ever been good with changes.  I have always been good at being anxious.  As a kid I was a little ball of anxiety.  As an adult, I manage it better.  Lately though, I haven't been managing it as well as I'd like.  

My dreams are crazy tales of tiny, itty-bitty turtles climbing under my skin and having to sing a solo without any recollection of the words for a big concert.  Frantic searching for the song ensues until I wake myself up and reassure myself that it was a dream.  A stupid, anxiety-inducing dream.  That is it.  You know it's bad when your dreams start throwing you into fits of anxiety.  

My stomach has been churning and my mind has been clogged.  It all makes me irritable and unable to focus on what is really important.  

I'm not a total mess, though I'm not sure my managing techniques are really that awesome.  Last night in frustration I sought out the ice cream.  I scooped myself a generous scoop and then heard a little voice in my head say, "That will make you unhappy if you eat it."  I replied to the voice in my head, "I don't care."  Except I did and so I put the ice cream back.  (I have been working hard at listening to that voice in my head and trying to find other ways to soothe myself) 

This introduction may give you cause to think things in my life are pretty horrible.  They are not.  They are good.  The kids are good.  Mike is good.  Tennessee is good.  

I'm just stressed.  

I have a new calling (second counselor in the RS).  I have never been a counselor in the RS so it's a new experience for me.  I am over compassionate service and the activities.  Also, we have a new business.  Our business is called Lilac Harvest which has nothing to do with harvesting Lilacs.  We are making wooden silhouettes, mostly of people, but we also decided to make temples and are considering other things as well like gift tags, ornaments, holiday decorations, etc.  I made some silhouettes of my family with my scroll saw.  We had a bunch of people encourage us to sell them but it took me quite awhile to make one and I just couldn't see myself spending that much time to make them to sell.  When some friends from our ward who own a few businesses encouraged us to make some, Mike started thinking about it seriously.  We decided to give it a try and bought a machine that would allow us to make them much quicker.  Then we had some other friends express interest in joining with us and helping with the business side of things so Mike and I could focus on the production side and suddenly we had a real business.  It seems pretty bizarre to me when I think about it.  What really seems crazy to me is that to make this work I have to learn a few programs and learn how to run this huge machine.  I am not a technological person so it's been frustrating to me on a number of occasions.  I am slowing learning them.  

The other thing weighing on my mind is the homeschooling decision, which really isn't as set in stone as my last post led you to believe.  I go back and forth every day, multiple times a day.  There is just so much I like about the public school system and so much I dislike.  Also, I feel like there is so much to me that I would have to sacrifice if I home school and I'm not sure I am selfless enough to give those things up.  When I look into the future and think of what I want for my kids there are many ways that I see homeschooling being the solution to helping us achieve those things.  But then there are other goals I have for them that the public school system provides much better than I feel I can (at least not without a lot of effort on my part).  Anyway, taking my kids out in the middle of a school year worries me.  There are a lot of reasons I look forward to homeschooling and a lot I dread.  Mike keeps saying I just have to decide what I want more and that is the problem--I am having a hard time deciding that.  

Adding to our stress is basketball season.  The boys wanted to play this year.  They have never played.  We never even owned a basketball until recently.  They are on different teams with practices on different days, at different schools, at different times. Try-outs were hard for me to watch.  Isaac did fine but he is in a younger age group and naturally athletic.  He wasn't the best, he wasn't the worst.  He didn't really stand out to me either way.  Will's try-outs were bad though.  There were about 60 kids and Will was easily the worst of the kids.  He cried, I cried.  He said, "I knew I was bad but I didn't know I was that bad" and "I knew I was doing bad but when the coach came and patted me on the back and said 'good job' I knew everyone else knew I was doing bad."  On the drive home he said, "Mom, I am committed to getting better.  I am going to practice an hour every day."  So far, he's been pretty good at doing that too.  The other day it was 27 degrees outside and we were outside in coats, hats, and gloves, dribbling the ball, practicing lay-ups and rebounding.  He has made drastic improvements already and I am really proud of his hard work.  His coach is not friendly but he is not unkind and he said while Will is a few years behind, he has potential and he is proud of Will's hard work so far.  

Anyway, all of this is happening while Mike is finishing up the semester.  He leaves after we get the kids to school and comes home after 7 every night but Friday.  Piper tags along with me in the day and then I shuttle kids to scouts and basketball after school, all my kids in tow.  We do Family Home Evening and dinner without Mike but he gets home usually when we are reading scriptures and kids are brushing their teeth for bed.  It's not the worst schedule but it's not an easy one either.  

Mainly, I just wonder how I am going to manage all of it.  My calling is a busy calling.  This business is requiring a lot of my time and homeschooling is a huge lifestyle change for our family.  It's all a lot of change for me in a matter of a few months (not including living in a completely new state and new home).  So, it's a lot for me.  I'm thankful we are all healthy and I'm so blessed with a wonderfully supportive husband who encourages me and when he is home, he is fully invested in the happenings in our home.  He helps me research homeschooling curricula, teaches us all piano on Sundays, goes directly from school to Will's basketball practices so I don't have to stay with all the kids, he helps empty the dishwasher and puts Piper to bed half of the time.  Mostly, he just tells me that I can do all these things and that I can do them well.  I'm grateful for that.  

I think this is just an important time for me of stretching and growing.  I am not a patient person.  I don't handle stress well.  I shy away from hard things.  I don't usually feel the need to excel in something--I'm fine just being mediocre.  Maybe this is my chance to really learn how to manage stressful things better.  Maybe I will look back on this time and say, "Whoa, I did all of that" and maybe, hopefully, I will see myself being somewhat successful at some of it.  

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Homeschool










My friend invited us to come to Ijams Nature Center with her and her kids today.  I'm glad we went.  Last time we were there it was our first day in Knoxville and it was so hot and humid.  This time the weather was perfect.  The kids had today off for inservice (I think it was really because today was voting day).

I have briefly mentioned in a previous post that we were thinking of homeschooling.  As of now, the plan is to pull the kids out of school in January.  I am even nervous typing that.  Up until now we have been so pleased with the education our children have been receiving.  We have liked the majority of their teachers and schools.  People told us not to move to Huber Heights, OH mainly because of the school ratings.  It was rated a 6.  We moved there anyway and Will went to school and we loved our little, old school.  His teacher Mrs. Eagan loved him and made his introduction to school a wonderful one.  The administration was helpful, happy, and kind.  We felt happy that we didn't buy into the whole "don't buy a house in that district" nonsense.  Then we were told the same thing about the area we chose to live in Colorado.  The "good district" was district 20.  We ignored that too and Will went to Freedom Elementary where we disliked his teacher but he had a great experience there.  They moved him to the gifted program even though they didn't typically make that available until second grade.  They had great programs for the kids (sports, science clubs, music) and I felt like he was in a good place.  Freedom was a pretty high rated school even though that district wasn't the one everyone said we ought to be in.  Isaac didn't go to Freedom.  Laila had just passed away and Isaac was starting kindergarten.  We had also just moved and Isaac has a tendency to get pretty anxious and after praying about it I just didn't feel like sending him to all day kindergarten was the right choice for him.  I felt like it would be too many changes all at once and I wanted to ease him into school.  I called all the charter schools in the city (at least it felt that way) because they were offering half day kindergarten.  Everyone was full except for one.  By a miracle he got one of the last open slots.  His teacher was the best teacher I could imagine for him.  (Eli also had Mrs. Bartges) I really liked the school and the environment and there were more LDS kids at that school as well.  I decided that after that year I'd move Will over to the charter school as well and then that would allow Eli a spot to also attend half day (I am not a fan of full day just as a side note.  Personal opinion but I'm happy my boys could all do half day).  Our experience at that school was a wonderful one for all the kids.  The teachers were great, they had wonderful friends, and the curriculum was advanced and pushed the boys to work hard.  I was really sad that we had to move and leave that school behind.

We looked for a house in a different area here in Knoxville where the schools were rated higher.  I rolled my eyes at my friend who proclaimed she would only buy a house in an area where the schools were excellent.  My experience told me that you could really have a great experience even if  your house wasn't in the "top rated district."  That isn't to say it wasn't part of our decision.  We crossed off many houses and areas because the schools near them weren't what we felt comfortable with.  But we also weighted other things as well and prayed about where we should be.  We put an offer on a house that was in one of those areas where everyone said we should live.  That fell through and we found ourselves looking in an area in East Tennessee (where everyone said we shouldn't move).  I feel confident in saying that we are in the home and ward and area that the Lord wanted us to be.  I feel like my feelings and impressions led us to this house.  The school is only rated a 6 and I was nervous about the rating but remembered our experience in Ohio and how good our experience was.  I also felt that if this was the area the Lord led us then it would work out fine.

So, that is my long introduction about our decision to homeschool.

We went to register the kids and I felt uncomfortable but we had just come from a new school and we were moving and it's hard to go from something you know and love to something you don't know.  So I figured that was why I felt the way I did.  I tried to have an open mind.  The walls had cute little murals painted on them and the office staff seemed helpful and kind.

There were things that seemed odd to me, like the people in our ward that said a lot of the kids just needed "extra love" and the fact that everyone in the school received free lunch and breakfast regardless of how much money they made.  Also, they made us sign some paper saying we weren't cotton pickers...

We went to the school and met the boy's teachers.  Both Eli and Isaac seemed to have really nice teachers.  Will's teacher seems stiff and unfriendly but I just figured we would give it time and she would warm up.  She hardly even said two words to Will when he came into the classroom.  The boys started telling me things right away once school started like, "We aren't allowed to touch the wall when we are waiting in carpool line" and "the safety patrol says we can't eat candy and then they eat candy in front of us."  One time I was in the class volunteering and the teacher made two kids pull cards for talking.  I was sitting behind them and they were talking quietly enough that I couldn't hear what they were saying.  The little girl came up to me a few minutes later and said, "I had to pull a card for talking."  Then she showed me a clump of hair in her hands and said, "My hair was stuck and I was trying to tell him to move his desk so I could get my hair out."  The teacher never asked or wanted to know anything about why they were talking.  It was just, "You are breaking the rules and so you are in trouble."  Once Will got sent to study hall because his planner wasn't signed even though he was sick the day it was supposed to be signed.  He tried explaining and his teacher said she didn't care.

His teacher also sent him to study hall for talking in the hallway at bathroom break even after three other people (the hall monitor and bathroom monitor included) all said he wasn't talking.  She said, "I have my own reasons."  She has said that they can't bring water bottles anymore because she is "sick of sending kids to the bathrooms" and just this past week has said they can't bring snacks either because she doesn't want to clean up after them.  They don't go to lunch until almost 1 and don't even get a single recess until after they have lunch.  It is a long day with few breaks and no food.  I sent Will to school with a snack anyway and told him if she has a problem she can contact me.  The kids convinced her to let them have snack still but take minutes away from their recess if they leave wrappers out.  At parent teacher conferences Will's teacher didn't even ask me to sit.  She just stood and shoved his report card in my hand and said, "You already know Will is brilliant so there isn't really anything else to discuss."

I could go on and on.  Essentially, I feel like I'm sending my kids to boot camp every day.  It is not a loving, friendly environment.  Many people have asked why I don't just go talk to the administration and that is because I have talked to numerous people that live here in Knoxville who all say that the administration is not willing to work with parents to change things.

That is just the first reason we started discussing homeschool.  The second is actually because of Isaac.  The first week of school he started coming home telling us things that kids in his class were saying.  In less than four months he has learned what Gay means, the F-word, Jack***, the S-word, and many other crude words and terms.  Because of the conversations going on we set Will and Isaac down and gave them "the sex talk" which was good since Isaac came home a week later and said, "Nick says a girl wants to have a baby with him and his friend said she has an appointment in Nick's bed at 2 PM."  It makes my ears bleed.  It's so filthy and inappropriate and I'm an adult!  Poor Isaac.  He has had to see kids make obscene gestures, listened to kids look up bad words in the dictionary, etc.  It's been pretty bad.  We told Isaac that he needed to have courage to tell his friends he couldn't participate in those types of discussions.  He was nervous.  We all prayed for him at night as a family and then asked him when his lunch was and promised him that at 11:30 both his dad and I would say a prayer for him that he would have courage and know what to say.  At 11:30 Mike and I prayed separately for Isaac and Isaac did tell his friends he couldn't be their friends if they continued to talk that way.  They told him that they would stop and did for a few days but they continue to talk filth.  We have talked to Isaac's teacher and she is aware of the problem and has reported that she has overheard Isaac on a few occasions telling his friends to stop talking that way.

I honestly just feel that every day we are sending our kids to school where they are being bombarded by influences that are not good.  I want them to be happy and love school.  I want them to have teachers that they trust and that can bring the best out of my children.  I want them to have friends that encourage them to be good.  In less than four months I have seen my kids changing.  Will isn't nearly as happy to go to school.  Isaac is hearing things that he is trying hard to keep out of his mind.  (Eli is just happy Eli with a great teacher and good little friends that are still too young to know much filth yet).  Anyway, those are the two major reasons we are going to pull our kids out.  Oh, and the fact that they are all three pretty bored and far ahead of the other kids in most areas because the charter school pushed them to be farther along in reading and Math.

I have been really nervous about this decision.  I have prayed about it and gone to the temple and while I haven't felt an overwhelming "Do this" I also do not feel comfortable with the school situation.  I feel like we need to change things and the private schools here are very expensive--too expensive for us.  So, this is the current plan.  It makes my life extra busy with our new business and my new calling as second counselor in the Relief Society Presidency.  I feel like if this is what the Lord wants from us then he will help me figure out how to balance it all.  I may be going crazy in a few months.  For now, we are checking out curriculum and making the bonus room a classroom and moving forward as though it is the right decision and if it isn't then we will scrap it and keep them in school.  It's a big change and a scary one for me.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Halloween

Halloween is over.  I really enjoy Halloween so it's sort of sad that it's over for another year.  I always talk about how I don't like the creepy decorations and this year was no different but thankfully for the boys, our neighbors do not have the same feelings about Halloween decorations.  They love the creepy (or "ceepy" as Piper calls them) and gruesome decorations and their entire yard is covered.  They put up these tarps to hide half of the decorations on their porch and then that morning unveil it.  They have music and lights and a fog machine.  Every day the entire month of October we would see them outside adding something new to their yard.  They spent hours outside and would place something and then the next day come out and move it somewhere else.  The boys (and Piper) would come home from school and sit outside by the curb and just watch them put out something else creepy.  So, I guess the boys got their wish this year.  I just tried to ignore it all and let the kids enjoy it.  

 This year was supposed to be a nice, mild Halloween but the day was cold and got colder as the day went on.  By 5 it was already starting to rain and it was so early for trick-or-treating but we wanted the kids to get to go before it started to pour.  They lasted about an hour, hour and a half and then we came home and had homemade chili.  The younger boys stayed home and helped Mike hand out candy while Will and his friend when out again to two more streets.  By then it was pouring rain and I was freezing so we made them stop.  The boys all went over to their friend's house and watched a movie and ate some of their candy.  The rain eventually turned to snow, though none of it stuck except in the mountains.

(Some random pictures that got inserted in the wrong spot:)
 It's pretty awesome that almost all of the pictures I post on here are taken just minutes/miles from my house.  My backyard has a forest behind it and this church is on the other side of the forest.
 The two younger boys were not very interested in carving pumpkins this year but Will really wanted to.  He chose a design and then he and I (with the help of Piper) scooped seeds and carved the pumpkin.  The other two boys went to their friend's house so it was a nice opportunity for me to spend some one on one time with Will.



 He is such a good brother to Piper.
 These pictures are all out of order.  Here is Piper in her costume ready to knock on doors.
 I was a  cat, Mike cheese, and Piper a mouse.  I don't usually dress up so this was good for me.
 This weekend Isaac had a book report project to do.  He made the cutest little penguins.

 Another out of order picture:
That's it for now.  I have a lot to write about but I don't have time so I'll have to write more later.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Capturing the non-napper

Piper is getting teeth which means she isn't really napping well and she isn't sleeping too well at night either.  She has had a fever off and on but nothing too high, just enough to knock her down a couple notches on the happiness scale and make her much more prone to tantrums.  It's been lovely.  

Anyway, she loves to be outside so we have spent time outside while the weather stays nice for just a little bit longer (it is supposed to rain/snow this weekend).  Being outside brings the most smiles from her out of any other activity.  I took my chance to let her play and take photos of her.  I don't have many of her sister so I like to take pictures of Piper when ever I can.  She is such a cute girl and I'm amazed she looked at the camera because she usually just turns her head or refuses to look towards me.  I think I was able to get some cute ones of her.  She is one month away from being two years old!  I just can't believe it.  She is so grown up now and talking up a storm.  I love her to pieces.  














Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Trunk-or-Treat

I'm not sure that I'll get pictures on Halloween so I snapped a few before the ward Trunk-or-Treat tonight.  It was an awesome Trunk-or-Treat on a farm with a hay ride, fire pit, good food, and good company.  







Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cows, unicorns, Halloween things

Today has been an exhausting day.  I haven't even showered yet and it's already 10:30 at night.  It wasn't from a lack of desire to shower, I just haven't had the time!  Honestly, I don't think anyone cares too much about all the things that have needed to get done today.  I will say that Mike helped prepare the garage for the machine that should be coming in a week or two for our business.  I'm getting excited and nervous about it.  

This week Mike and I drove out to pick up some meat.  Our last order of beef was a 1/4 a cow and it took us over a year to finish.  We were actually trying hard to eat it all up before we moved.  We just don't eat a lot of red meat.  We all like it, we just don't usually eat it.  Anyway, we bought some more grass-fed, corn-finished beef.  This beef is much tastier than the grass-fed beef we bought last time.  The corn-finished part makes the beef less "beefy."  And now that I've written all that, I doubt anyone is interested in that either.  
Anyway.

The drive was so pretty.  We live in the country.  Well, in a sub-division in the country.  And we have a Target and a Walmart about ten minutes away.  But pretty much, we live in the country.  I guess you could call us a country-suburbs...we aren't quite country and aren't really suburban either.  I don't know what we are....

But the meat was all out in the country.  It was so pretty.  I'm glad I took my camera.  I had visions of living here on this hill in the country.  Only, in my perfect life I would not have to hassle with the bugs or humidity and I'd have a gas station, grocery store, and church building right down the street.

Also, we are a really strange family.  I saw this unicorn mask online when looking for Halloween decorations.  I debated for weeks about buying it.  It is so weird!  And so funny!

We have laughed all week because of it.  Mike's family showed him this bizarre youtube clip of a unicorn named Charlie and ever since then we have thought that our unicorn should be named Charlie.  Charlie has a twin, also named Charlie, who is visiting the bishop's family right now.  Charlie also has a facebook page where we post pictures of Charlie doing things with our family.  Hopefully the bishop's family will share the laughter by passing Charlie's twin, Charlie, on to another family in the ward, who will also post pictures of him doing things with them.

Here Charlie is trying on Will's costume--Banishing dark fairies since 2005!
Charlie plays basketball
and jumps on the trampoline
tries out Mike's cheese
and scares Piper.
And finally, we have been having fun doing fall activities.  Today our neighborhood had a trunk-or-treat and chili cook-off with games.  The kids had a good time.
Yesterday we went to a fun pumpkin patch with some friends!  It really was a great farm and the kids had so much fun.  We didn't go last year (and I don't think we went the year before either) so it was fun to go again.










We really enjoyed going with new friends (who all have lots of boys!).  The boys liked every part of the night and especially liked going through the maze.

These two red-heads are friends--just a few weeks apart.  They try to boss each other around and yell and scream at each other and take each other's things but they also like one another.  Hallie is more friendly than Piper...Piper just kind of looks at her and screams when she gets her things taken away.  
Like here, Hallie took Piper's sippy cup and Piper threw a fit.
I'm going to bed now.