“‘Give,’ Said the Little Stream” and chores

“‘Give,’ Said the Little Stream” is one of my favorite primary songs. In the back of my mind I have this thought that my mom doesn’t like it, but I don’t remember why. Regardless, I love the simple way that it teaches important principles, in particular the idea that you should make your surroundings better.

I’ve been thinking about it because it connects to a conversation I had with Bonnie a few days ago about chores. Philosophically I’m having some issues with chores the way I usually see them implemented. Frequently people give their child a responsibility which they have to take care of at a specified time (i.e. clean the kitchen on Saturdays).

Here’s my issue: I worry that it might encourage a sense that once you’ve done your chores then you’re done with helping out around the house. Or more broadly, once you take care of yourself then your job is done. I can remember lots of times as a kid when one sibling or another was still working on their Saturday job while the others were already done. There was never any inclination (at least on my part) to help that person out with their job. I’m admittedly not the most compassionate person, but even my siblings who are nicer than me (all of them) didn’t usually help that I can remember.

I’d rather that my kids develop a habit of always helping out with everything. If there are dirty dishes, then we all do them, since we’re all part of the family and we all try to contribute. When we’re cleaning the house, I rather that we all just clean until it’s done. Like in the song, I think the kids should adopt an attitude of “wherever I go the grass grows greener still.”

On the other hand, I also want them to learn to take care of their own responsibilities and not be a burden on others. I think traditional chores actually do a decent job of giving kids a sense of responsibility and a sense of taking care of a job. The two ideas compete with each other a little bit. Is it better to teach a kid about their independence or their interdependence? I’m leaning toward the latter, but most people I know seem to (most likely unconsciously) choose the former.

Bonnie suggested that instead of specific responsibilities we just have everyone work for a certain amount of time. I think that’s moving in the right direction, but I worry that it just substitutes one problem for another. Instead of feeling “done” when you finish your room, you’ll just feel “done” when the timer runs out.

Clearly I don’t have any right answers, but I’m really interested in developing this habit in my kids (and myself to be honest–I could probably walk into the house and step over a dead body and not notice or think twice if I didn’t put it there). How do you teach someone to just be aware of their surroundings and to act to improve them without being asked? That habit has a much broader application than just simple chores, and I’d really love for my kids to learn it. Any suggestions, O wise internet people?

Fine then, I guess I won’t be mad anymore

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The other day I was super annoyed at someone. Actually, I was beyond that. I was furious with them. My rage burned with the heat of a thousand suns. I was mentally plotting ways to shun them and cut them out of my life.

Sunday morning rolls around and I quickly threw in something in my prayers about helping me forgive this person. Ask and ye shall receive, right? The last song in Sacrament meeting rolls around, and it was one of the few that I can’t immediately hum the tune: “Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses.”

If you’re like me, you’re sitting there thinking, “I’ve seen the title of that before.” I was expecting something like “Oh Say, What is Truth?” with a sort of huzzah for the Restoration theme. Not so. Here is the first verse to this obscure hymn:

Truth reflects upon our senses;
Gospel light reveals to some.
If there still should be offenses,
Woe to them by whom they come!
Judge not, that ye be not judged,
Was the counsel Jesus gave;
Measure given, large or grudged,
Just the same you must receive.

I sort of missed the first verse while I was distracted by kids, but I caught the last few lines and skimmed the rest, while singing verse two:

Jesus said, “Be meek and lowly,”
For ’tis high to be a judge;
If I would be pure and holy,
I must love without a grudge.
It requires a constant labor
All his precepts to obey.
If I truly love my neighbor,
I am in the narrow way.

And, since I’m dense and tend to resist relatively clear messages from Deity, there are three more verses:

Once I said unto another,
“In thine eye there is a mote;
If thou art a friend, a brother,
Hold, and let me pull it out.”
But I could not see it fairly,
For my sight was very dim.
When I came to search more clearly,
In mine eye there was a beam.

If I love my brother dearer,
And his mote I would erase,
Then the light should shine the clearer,
For the eye’s a tender place.
Others I have oft reproved
For an object like a mote;
Now I wish this beam removed;
Oh, that tears would wash it out!

Charity and love are healing;
These will give the clearest sight;
When I saw my brother’s failing,
I was not exactly right.
Now I’ll take no further trouble;
Jesus’ love is all my theme;
Little motes are but a bubble
When I think upon the beam.

The moral here is that you shouldn’t pray for things you don’t want.* Also for you ward music directors there, pick a weird hymn once in a while. Sometimes if we haven’t heard it a million times then we’ll be more likely to listen to the words.
*Technically I did want to forgive this person, just not right away.

New Years Resolution: Post More

Niagara Falls

This is a picture. Notice my beard and how awesome it is. I’m taking a class at BYU next semester. I’m going to miss looking like a man…

Several people have mentioned that I have been slacking in my blogging, so I’ll work on picking it up a bit this coming year. Hopefully that doesn’t mean a flood of posts in January and February with a gradual silence after that, but I make no guarantees.

Utah is really, really, ridiculously good looking

So I’ve picked up a couple of pictures from recent activities, and seriously, Utah is just a gorgeous place. The first one is from a hike that I went on with my dad a week or two ago. It was a little less than three miles in, so not super long or anything, but you are rewarded with some beautiful vistas. There are drinking fountains along the way, so you know it’s a serious hike…

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The view climbing up rock canyon. Sorry for the weird lighting. You take what you can get when you’re hiking.

The other picture is one that I took at my nephew’s soccer game. You can see him just behind the kid with the red shirt. More importantly, look at the mountains. This was the view on a soccer field in a public park where elementary school kids play. The sun was starting to  go down and it turned the mountains this bright gold color. Even after growing up here, I’m still amazed that you have these amazing views just right outside.

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I don’t think there are too many places in the world where you can play soccer with a view like that.

Homeschooling Fail

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This is a picture from a trip to the aquarium that we took with my parents. My expression is stupid, it’s a little blurry, but L has an awesome expression on her face. Also, you’re welcome for the free publicity Stonehaven Dental.

Failure might be too strong of a word, but it’s at least a setback. A few weeks ago I mentioned how much I was enjoying reading lessons with L. It was going really well, but then she hit a wall with some of the concepts and decided that she didn’t want to do reading lessons anymore. I’m interpreting that as “let’s take a break from this for a while” rather than “let’s never do this again.”

I think there are some things I can learn from this bump in the road:

  • I can’t push too hard with L. She gets frustrated and tense, and just shuts down if she feels pressured.
  • Nobody is going to learn anything they don’t want to learn. We had several days where the lessons were just frustrating for both of us, and I don’t think anything sank in for her.
  • There has to be some motivating principle besides just carrot/stick (any suggestions on what that should be are welcome). She focuses way too much on the punishment/reward and not on the lessons. If she’s just doing it for reward (m&m’s in this case) then she doesn’t pay attention. If she’s worried about a punishment she stresses out and doesn’t perform well.

So we’re taking a little break from the reading lessons and just doing more reading of simple books (i.e. Dr. Seuss Books). It appears that the homeschooling will not be as easy as it first seemed, but I’m still feeling really good about it. This is actually a great example of why I’m excited about it. In traditional school, you’re basically locked into a subject until the unit or class is done. I know a ton of people who currently have or have had terrible anxiety about school. They get behind and don’t get the time to catch up because the class has already moved on.

With homeschooling, we can go fast if the kids want to go fast, slow if they want or need to go slow, and we can even take a break and come back to concepts that they missed the first time around. It reminds me of learning chemistry. The first time I took it (in high school), I was basically lost the whole time. The second time I took it (freshman year before my mission), I was still totally lost. But the third time I took it (after my mission) something clicked and it became one of my favorite subjects. I think the ability to account for that development process is one of homeschooling’s greatest strengths.

Thankful Thursday 8 – Song of Myself

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Picture from wikipedia. ‘Cause that’s where I find everything.

I was reading Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” today. When I studied Whitman a little bit in high school and undergrad I remember not liking him. I don’t have any good reasons for that (at least not any that I remember), but a distaste for his work has stuck with me. Regardless, I was looking for a quote that I remembered, (which might appear in another post if I get it edited to my liking) and I found that it was from this poem.

The work isn’t something that I’d give to a kid, since it gets a little erotic in places, but I found the piece incredibly moving.

His meditation on grass in section six (I put the text at the bottom of this post) was particularly striking, perhaps because mortality is something I think about a lot these days. I love all the meanings he ascribes to something so simple: a remembrance of the creator, a symbol of the basic equality of all people, or the words of the dead communicating with us.

The whole tone of the poem is so hopeful. It embraces the potential and the nobility of humanity, and I’m always a sucker for stuff like that. It’s worth taking some time to read it. I found the whole thing online here.

Today I’m grateful that I could steal a few moments to think and reflect about my life, and I’m grateful for Whitman’s inspired and inspiring words.

6

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;

How could I answer the child? . . . . I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child . . . . the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and from offspring taken soon out of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward . . . . and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

Sundays are Tired Days

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This was the scene when we went to call people for dinner today.

Alternate Titles:

“Why my kids are still up at 9:20″

I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant…”

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Hemingway

“The creatures are regenerating.”

 

Fun at the Museum

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This is the picture you get when you tell your kids to say “dinosaurs!”

We’ve taken our little family to a couple of museums lately. The first one was actually a backup plan. Since it was a sunny, beautiful day, we decided to go to the park. Of course, by the time we shaved the yak and were ready to get out the door it had started raining. Time for a visit to the BYU Earth Science museum.

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I was always scared to put my head in that thing as a kid. My kids take after me.

Photo Strip

Photo booths are totally fun, and totally overpriced.

There are tons of fossils in Utah. Because of that, even a small museum can have some really cool stuff. Bonnie and I have been to the museum of natural history in New York and it’s one of the only museums out East that I’ve seen with a good fossil collection. The BYU museum, on the other hand, lacks the massive budget and resources of a New York museum, but it still has some great fossils, and was the perfect size for the two kids. There are tons of things to look at and touch, so it’s really fun.

The other museum that we went to last week was the Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point. We have a family pass that lets us get into a bunch of children’s museums all over the country, so we didn’t have to pay when we went. It’s basically a huge activity center. We didn’t see the whole thing, but we spend a lot of time in a room with a bunch of science demonstrations on movement and mechanics (or something like that). It was super cool.

We also had a great time in the section with a lot of wind and water things. There’s even this huge area where kids (and adults) can build structures that can spray water, or direct the flow different ways. You don’t even have to worry about getting the floor all wet. It’s really well done that way. Anyway, we all had a great time taking a few field trips, especially since we were able to go during non-peak hours. Hooray for having cool stuff (almost) completely to ourselves!

So, does anyone else know any really fun and free museums or activities in the Orem/Provo area (or thereabouts)? We’re always looking for fun stuff that we can take the kids to.

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R is really good at smiling naturally.

Exciting Developments in Homeschooling

Picture taken by Morgan Leigh at Linda's wedding. It has nothing to do with the post, but my kids look awesome. See more of her work at http://www.morganleighphotography.net/

Picture taken by Morgan Leigh at Linda’s wedding. It has nothing to do with the post, but my kids look awesome. See more of her work at http://www.morganleighphotography.net/

Bonnie and I have been planning on homeschooling our kids for a while. We’re not sure exactly how it’s all going to look, but Bonnie has been wanting to teach L to read for a while. She found an awesome book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and we’ve started working our way through it.

We finished lesson 9 this morning, and L sounded out the words “mat” and “sat.” After getting the words right, she ran through the house screaming, “I can read! I can read! I can read two whole words!” It was a great experience for everyone. I’m sure home schooling isn’t all sunshine and roses, but if I can get more moments like that with my kids, I think it will be totally worth it.

This could easily be a Thankful Thursday post, since I missed it yesterday. It’s one in spirit at least. Anyway, I’m excited to keep going in the book with L. I’ll keep you all updated as we get further through it.

 

Bonus Cute Kid Story: I made pizza with the kids for lunch today, and as I was rolling the crust out, L said, “What are you doing?”

“I’m rolling the crust out.”

“Are you rolling it out thin like a good wife.”

“What?”

“Like a good wife, are you rolling it thin?”

“Uhhhhh…sure.”

“Okay.”

I’m still not sure if she was saying that a good wife would roll thin pizza crusts or that a good wife would be really thin…

If You Build It, They Will Come

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Here’s the front view, where you can see the slide and the rock wall.

Since I don’t have school or work right at this moment, I’m (usually) happy when I get some sort of project. Bonnie’s Mom bought a huge swing set for the kids, and I got to put it together (along with Sterling, Clark, and Christian – Steven was a slacker). The directions said that it would take 4-6 hours, but after finishing it up earlier this week, I think it may have been a typo. 46 hours would be more accurate. It’s also possible that I’m just really slow and not as handy as I’d like to think.

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Here’s the little picnic area underneath the main structure.

Sterling and I worked on it all morning and part of the afternoon Saturday. Then he wasn’t feeling well so I did it myself for a while. Then Christian and Clark helped out for a while in the evening. Even with all of that work, it didn’t get finished until I went out for a few more hours on Monday.

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Here is the back corner with the rope ladder to nowhere. Seriously, you can’t get into the top by climbing the ladder.

It was a pain to put together, but it’s an impressive structure. L and R can go out and play in the backyard with minimal supervision now, which is a huge blessing, and it’s just fun to look outside and see something that I assembled. Who needs to go to the park anymore, right?