Monday, August 29, 2011

Imagine the rubber band ball possibilities . . .

I just stumbled on a company with a seriously cool product: pallet-sized rubber bands.  As one who once worked in a shipping department for a library services company, and who regularly earned the dizzies and mild motion sickness from scurrying around and around and around pallets holding a shrink wrap roller, I think these mondo rubber bands are Da Bomb. ;o)  Not only do they cut down on employee sick time, but if you've ever had to throw away a pallet-load-worth of shrinkwrap, you know just how much plastic they'll keep out of the landfill.

Now, to just get Ikea to use them, eh?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another free trial: VocabularySpellingCity.

I've been contacted by Time4Learning with another free trial offer.  The requisite canned disclosure follows.  This spelling system has an annual fee comparable to one month's fee with the full T4L program, usable for up to five children, so I might actually be able to afford to use it.  Stay tuned for an actual review in a while. :o)


Disclosure: 
 
I've been given a premium membership to VocabularySpellingCity.com for a candid, personal, online review. 
 
VocabularySpellingCity.com helps students study word lists using 25 different learning activities such as Crossword Puzzle,HangMan, and Handwriting Worksheets.  Parents can create their own spelling lists, find published lists already available on the site, or use any of dozens of  free teaching resources such as sound-alike words, and contractions.  Be sure to come back in three weeks to read about my experience.

There might be more free memberships available for bloggers.  If you're interested, find out how you can review VocabularySpellingCity.com.
 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lest you misunderstand

Here is an excellent exposition on our perspective on "natural affections"; a.k.a. human intimacy, by Parley P. Pratt, one of the early leaders of my church.

"Man [and woman], know thyself, -study thine own nature, -learn thy powers of body, -thy capacity of mind. Learn thine origin, thy purpose and thy destiny. Study the true source of thine every happiness, and the happiness of all beings with which thou art associated. Learn to act in unison with thy true character, nature and attributes; and thus improve and cultivate the resources within and around thee. This will render you truly happy, and be an acceptable service to your God. And being faithful over a few things, you may hope to be made ruler over many things. 

Some persons have supposed that our natural affections were the results of a fallen and corrupt nature, and that they are "carnal, sensual, and devilish," and therefore ought to be resisted, subdued, or overcome and so many evils which prevent our perfection, or progress in the spiritual life. In short, that they should be greatly subdued in this world, and in the world to come entirely done away. And even our intelligence also.

So far from this being the case, our natural affections are planted in us by the Spirit of God, for a wise purpose; and they are the very mainsprings of life and happiness- they are the cement of all virtuous and heavenly society-they are the essence of charity, or love; and therefore never fail, but endure forever...

What then is sinful? I answer, our unnatural passions and affections, or in other words the abuse, the perversion, the unlawful indulgence of that which is otherwise good. Sodom was not destroyed for their natural affections, but for the want of it. They had perverted all their affections, and had to give place to that which was unnatural, and contrary to nature. Thus they had lost those holy and pure principles of virtue and love which was calculated to preserve and exalt.

Know then, O man, (and woman) that aided and directed by the light of heaven the sources of thy happiness are within and around thee. Instead of seeking unto God for a mysterious change to be wrought, or for your affections and attributes to be taken away and subdued, seek unto him for aid and wisdom to govern, direct and cultivate them in a manner which will tend to your happiness and exaltation, both in this world and in that which is to come. Yeah, pray to him that every affection, attribute, power and energy of your body and mind may be cultivated, increased, enlarged, perfected and exercised for his glory and for the glory and happiness of yourself, and of all those whose good fortune it may be to be associated with you."

Amen!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tell me if this doesn't strike you as funny . . .

So I'm looking around at Amazon at vacuums, and as I'm examining the "more views" of one in particular, to try to see how it's put together, I see this gem:




Who on earth vacuums like that???
(From here.)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Experimenting with Obedience

Sounds funny, doesn’t it? We regularly speak of people experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and talk of children experimenting with disobedience or lying to soften the harsh edges of actually doing them. But why don’t we talk about experimenting with obedience?

Folks brush away trying something good when they’re not sure what to do . . . which, logically speaking, is foolish. When you look at the lives of truly happy people---people whose eyes shine with light and love and the joy of life---their lives all conform to principles of honesty, generosity, hard work, integrity and love. It sounds so strange to say, “Nah, I’ve heard goodness just ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’ll stick with the stuff proven to wreck lives instead of taking a chance on the stuff that makes them.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Le Chore Chart, Incarnation One

So, we've struggled with chores/jobs/children helping around the house for, ummm . . . . . forever.  Finally, I made it a matter of prayer, and some interesting things began to happen.  First, I realized I had been trying to do too much, too fast, with chores.  I couldn't keep up with it, and it was a huge hassle to get the kids to do what they were asked to do every day.

So, I sat down and thought about the household tasks that seemed to swallow my whole day.

Uber easy, that one.

KITCHEN STUFF!

The days that I have done the meal prep, table stuff, cleanup and floors, I've left the kitchen only for bathroom breaks and bedtime.  (Okay, maybe I had a couple of short blogging breaks, but honestly, I felt  imprisoned.)

So, I came up with a list of five jobs.  Which matched up perfectly with the five children we have who are old enough to help meaningfully.  Witness:


Here's how I made the lovely and astonishingly effective chart above:

  1. Grab some 1" x 4" craft magnets from the craft stash.
  2. Choose ten scrapbook papers I liked looking at.
  3. Remove the backing from the adhesive side of the magnets, and place them on the back of the scrapbook paper.
  4. Cut along the edges of the magnet that weren't along an edge of the paper.
  5. Write children's names on half of the magnets (I let them choose their favorite papers for their names . . . in the future, I'm just going to do it my way, since this is decor in my house, and I have to look at it all the time. ;o)
  6. Write the five household jobs on the other scrapbook paper-covered magnets.
  7. Embellish as the whim moves you.
  8. Stick them on a magnet-friendly surface.
  9. Rotate jobs as you see fit.
Here, the "chart" is on top of an as-yet-unused magnet sheet on the fridge.  It helped to set the chart apart from the clutter other things on the fridge.  (The fridge has since been cleared, cleaned & shined . . . the clear simplicity of an empty fridge front is a lovely thing.)  I've since moved it to a magnetic plaque on the wall.  I'll post a pic sometime . . . but if I stop to do it now, this post isn't gonna happen. lol  Suffice it to say my magnet plaque says "Family" in large lettering, with "Live * Laugh * Love" in smaller lettering over the top of it.  {Cue Monte Python's French Soldier voice} It's verrry nice-uh.

Here's why I think these chores seem to be working:

Some tasks are done more than once a day, but they're short, so it's not a big deal.  Rinsing & loading dishes, and sweeping & spot mopping happen after every meal, as does clearing the table.  For now, the Bear's permanent job is clearing & wiping the table, with help.  The other four jobs drop down one slot each day, with Lil'MissL's job going up to Mr C's slot.  This week has been art camp, which has thrown a wrench in the rhythm of things around here, but the kids have still been pretty happy to do what's next to their name.  Ah, the magic of the written word . . . . especially when it records tasks!

I'm about to add to this some; there are a couple of jobs that each child is supposed to do each day no matter what (make their beds, brush their teeth, that kind of thing), and I'm thinking those are going to go on different magnets below the rotating chart, with cute pictures so even the less-stellar readers can check their progress for the day.  Or, maybe I'll use that magnet sheet to make an actual spreadsheet-style chart so the kids can put fun magnets in their row of the chart as they finish each task.  Hmmmmm . . . 

Hope this helps!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What’s Infinity, Anyway?


A memory from childhood, as I talked with an older girl I knew when we were at a swim meet together, standing in front of a vending machine with change from her mom for us to share a drink:
Her: “Let’s guess numbers to see who gets to choose the soda.”
Me: “Okay.”
Her: “You can go first.”
Me: Okay . . . mmmm . . . “500”
Her: “Infinity.”
It took her a minute or two to convince me that infinity was bigger than any number I could think of, and therefore she won the right to pick the soda.  And so I entered into the knowledge of the infinite. ;o)
I’ve had cause to think about the nature of the infinite, as “Infinite Atonement” comes up regularly in Sunday School and spiritual discussion.  I’ve heard lovely, wonderful sisters in the Relief Society weep as they speak of all of the pain in our loving Savior’s Atonement that they, personally, have been responsible for . . . feeling a great deal of shame and responsibility for increasing the burden He had to bear.  Once quite a while back, when someone I loved dearly shared that same feeling during a lesson she gave in Relief Society, the unsettled, not-quite-right feeling I had always had when I heard something like that distilled into a clear concept with a nudge from the Spirit.
Raising my hand, and wanting more than anything to help ease her heartache, I began speaking, not really sure which words would come out.  It was something like this:
“Rhonda,” I began, “the atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite.  It covers everything, everywhere, for everyone.  We don’t, and can’t, understand infinity . . . it’s so far beyond what our limited minds can grasp.  But when you divide infinity, you’re still have infinity.  When you add or subtract any number to infinity, infinity remains.  I don’t believe it’s possible to divide up the atonement into slices, like a pie, saying ‘This is my piece, and this is yours; I’m responsible for this bit, and here’s yours.’  Infinite and complete, nothing we do will add to or take away from what He suffered so willingly for us.  The atonement covers all of us, but was performed for each and every one of us as if we were the only one for which it was done.  Jesus would have willingly suffered exactly the same if you, or I, were the only one who needed it.”


What a wondrous, glorious, loving truth to know . . . that not only does the Atonement of Jesus Christ confer power upon the Savior of the world to forgive sins and judge mankind, but best of all it stands, both infinite and complete, above our actions, unchanged and unchangable.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Doing It All

There are very few women who actually "do it all".   And they're like my stake president's wife, who are blessed with an unending fountain of energy somewhere inside of them.  I've heard some of her journal entries (read aloud by her husband, lol, he's so proud of her) . . . and she honestly gets done in one day what takes me a week.  I love her dearly . . . she's such a great example of cheerful, enthusiastic obedience, someone who keeps her covenants with joy and rejoicing.

I've struggled so much with exactly the kinds of things that so many of us do. Here are the guiding principles of my life . . . the things that keep me sane when life feels like El Capitan and the Leaning Tower of Piza married, and their first child took up residence next door.

+   
   
Can you relate?

Yeah.  Thought so.

First:

We compare our WORST to others' BEST.


We see other moms at play dates, church, the grocery store, the park, meetings, lunches, when we're invited to Sunday dinner, etc.  These are social venues . . . not accurate reflections of what their homes look like at any given moment.  I remember the first time I saw a woman from church for the first time on a weekday . . . no makeup, hair not hanging in lovely red shiningness, curled to perfection at the end of each tress.  She was still beautiful in her cleaning clothes and ponytail; but I'll always remember the (obvious) realization I had: Sunday Best is just that . . . not everyone looks like that all week. lol  Ditto for "social best".

Second:

If it's hard to find time for the basics of your stewardship (meals, naptimes, basic cleaning, etc), then it's time to sit down and seriously re-prioritize.

Work WILL expand to fill all available time . . . so set limits, especially on computer stuff. A timer works best for me. (One that KEEPS going off. lol)  Household chores pretty obviously reach the point of being "done" or stay in "not done" . . . but the computer is infinitely deep, and there's always another email, another tweet, another blog post to make, another purchase or topic to research.  I LOVE having unlimited access to information (I'm a complete geek, I know), but I have to constantly remind myself that I MUST remember to keep computer time to strict bounds, and LIVE the rest of my time.

I'm reading an awesome book that is helping me to take back my life: Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living. Tsh handles home management in a truly focused and powerful way . . . beginning with clearly defining the purpose of your own life and the life of your family, and progressing from there. She defines simple living as living holistically with your life's purpose. You know, doing only things that further your journey towards your goal.  (Downtime is vital, and is still downtime, but it's important to be intentional even there.)  I was drawn to Tsh's book because a chaotic headless-chicken dance is NOT what my life is supposed to look like. You? ;o)

One of my favorite quotes:

We were all put here to do something . . . not everything.

Third:

Cleanup stays manageable when there's not much to make a mess with. 

To stay sane, here's what I do:

All eating happens at the table. Period. I still find food stashed here and there, but the kids KNOW they're being naughty if they eat anywhere else, so it cuts down on the food messes drastically. I also did nearly all of the solid food feeding of little ones until they were old enough to manage a spoon with reasonable success on their own. They got to eat non-messy stuff alone, like cheerios, etc.  Mess making was disciplined like other misbehavior*.  You have to be present during the meal, which sometimes feels like a sacrifice, but I've noticed that when I've tried to have my children eat on their own, it quickly turns into an anything-goes animal house at the table . . . no matter their age.  When I feel too pressured to sit at the table and eat with my children, I'm letting the world/others' expectations/my own overachieving get the best of me.

(*Discipline: Honest, educative consequences for undesirable behavior.  Discipline is not anger, yelling, or tricking a child into doing something you want.)

Available toys are kept to a minimum. Keep things stored and rotate them (you can do this with containers in a child's closet; we use the garage, as we're woefully short on closets in this house).  Right now we have the Legos, My Little Ponies, a few Chevron & matchbox cars, and a small box of infant toys out -- and that's with six children around. Cleanup is less than 15 minutes, even if I have to do it alone.

My favorite toy-picking-up principle is from a friend. She told me she realized that if her son was old enough to put shaped toys into a toy sorter, "he's definitely old enough to put toys in a big box". Too true, eh? ;o)

Fourth:

I need to take care of my own needs, first.

For a lot of my marriage and motherhood, I assumed that the sacrifices required of mothers included the things that most people in generations past just considered taking good care of themselves.  I felt selfish taking care of my physical, emotional, and spiritual health . . . but now I understand that not only shortchanges me, but my entire family.


Sleep is The Big Rock. That means I go to sleep before 10pm . . . even if Vern would rather stay up. ;o) He's on board with this, though, and supports me like the good man he is.

If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  I get to shower every morning, read my scriptures (usually a Conference talk in the am, the Book of Mormon or Bible in the evening, often with Vern), and have personal and companionship prayer before braving the day outside my bedroom door. (Exercise will fit in there eventually, but it's an afternoon/naptime thing now.)

Honestly, if I'm not going to bed when I should, nothing (and I mean NUH-THING) else works.  I'm just not up to it.  When I sleep when and as much as my body needs, I'm suddenly myself again.  Magic, I tell you.  Sheer magic.

Lastly:


Lest you think I'm also one of those "get it all done" moms, let me assure you:

  • my desk is a disaster (albeit a small one, as I'm using a children's play table right now, lol); 
  • the kitchen is trying to mutiny;
  • there's laundry lurking everywhere and in some places launching an overt attack; 
  • the bathroom sinks need scrubbing (and boy howdy, do they ever; soap scum, vile is thy name); 
  • dust bunnies hide under every baseboard heater and piece of furniture in the house; 
  • every time I pick the baby up off of the floor, he's got a hairball in one hand that has liberated itself from Lil'MissL's under-brushed head; 
  • I'm not going to talk about the yard;
  • or ill-begotten garden beds; 
  • or my bedroom . . . the mattress still on the floor after 18 months, one nightstand still has the old drawer pulls, and Vern's newly-moved office looks raw and awkward. 'Nough said.

"Doing it all" means doing everything that's truly important to you . . . and no more. It's crazy hard work, and you can do it. It takes focus (which our society runs a little short on, hmmm?), consciously eliminating everything that sucks the life out of us by eroding our time. It has many names: Intentional Living, Simple Living, living the Seven Habits, etc. But it works. I'm seeing that for myself . . . and I've only just started.

So hang in there . . . go read some of Tsh's book preview, and see what you can do to live in accordance to the actual reason you feel you're here.  It's a breath of clean evening air after a long, muggy day . . . and the best treat you can give yourself as a homemaker.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

So Close . . .

So Vern and I were talking, last week, in our room, when we hear MissE calling out "HJ's crawling!  Mom, come look . . . HJ's crawling!!!"

So, we come down the hallway and into the bonus room, to see him actually making real efforts . . . the look of amazement on his face more from his movements than from the toy enticing him forward.

And, thanks to modern technology, you too can see it!  (Aren't you glad, Mom? ;o)



More crawling videos to come.  He's much more mobile now, and shredding some unidentified magazine as we speak . . . gotta run!

Audio is "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree" by InsideOut, from their Primary Colors album.  The kids love that disc. ;o)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Grades Kill Learning

Yep.  They really do . . . in school-aged children.  Man.  And here it has been thought a good thing for more than a century . . .

Friday, August 5, 2011

Let's not be small.

Recently, a room in a Pottery Barn catalog imitated Janell's son Max's bedroom, (from Isabella & Max Rooms); a design she created and executed herself.  Reactions ranged all over the map in the comments (is anyone surprised? lol), from super-positive back-patting to flaming denunciations of Pottery Barn's ethics.  Here's my take.

The concept of ownership of ideas and design and songs and written works is, imho, a source of conflict, grasping greed, and negativity.  Granted, it's supposed to protect from those things, too . . . copyright began as a one-man shop's protection against big publishing houses who could reprint his work willy-nilly and claim it as their own.  That's a great reason, right?  Right.

But.

It has gone far, far beyond its original intent.  We're all inspired by something, by someone . . . an amazing interior designer (whose name I have long since forgotten) wrote something I'll never forget:

"You're only as good as what you've seen."

Now, some may quibble with that . . . others will agree wholeheartedly.  But it does point up the fact that humans benefit tremendously from one another.  I say, if someone gets an idea from me that allows them to support their family, run with it.  The world is big enough, and the market wide enough, that there is plenty of room for the both of us.  Even if it's a mega-corp.  I'd rather compete in the realm of customer service, product quality, and innovation than feed at a wholly-owned trough of monopoly and stagnation.

It always saddens me to see people react vitriolically to these kinds of things . . . that does nothing to make the world a better place.  I call it high flattery that PB knocked-off Max's room.  And it has done nobody any harm in the process (well, unless they had a fit over it, I guess ;o).  On the contrary, it has brought a ton of traffic to Janell's blog . . . which is what all bloggers want, right?

Publicity is publicity is publicity . . . even negative stuff loses its sting after a while, and most people only remember the name, not the negative.

And as for "design theft" (a name summoned up multiple times in the comments) . . . Heaven Save Us.  Can you IMAGINE the bullying that would happen to small-timers (hello, bloggers) if big companies started claiming design theft when one of us blogged about how we made a cool PB-inspired mirror, or built a piece of furniture that looked like theirs?  (Hello Ana-White.com, which helps support their family, filled with free plans to build knock-off furniture!)  Design theft laws would probably begin like copyright did, where copying was only illegal if you did it for profit . . . but we all know where copyright law has gone ("You may not breathe on my cd/mp4 file without permission").

Congrats, Janell, for the huge pat on the back from PB. :o)  And let's keep design free, so we can all build on one another's work, and be free to craft at home as we will!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lately Overheard

Lil'MissL:

Mom, I was just hanging upside down over the edge of the couch, and I was a professional at what I was doing, and my head was hanging upside down . . .