Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ahh, Peace and Quiet.

A while ago at our adult meeting for stake conference, one of the members of the stake presidency compared himself to Winnie the Pooh and assigned the other members with character roles from the Hundred Acre Wood. I remember hearing a speaker years ago at church use the same characterization of herself and others in a talk she gave.

I have to admit, if I were to pick my character, I would be Rabbit. I tend to get grouchy like Rabbit does. I think this comes from my grandpa, a no-nonsense guy who did not tolerate horseplay. He enjoyed good wholesome fun, after all he and my grandma did square dancing for years and even went to a square dancing convention in Denver, but he was impatient with silliness and wastefulness. I find myself being the same way.

This came clearly to my mind recently when I took my children ice skating. My friend KeeNan lives in Huntsville, Utah, and she had told me about the great ice skating place (it's not really a pond or a rink, more of a "slab") the city has up there. Anyone can go, it's at the city park, and you can rent ice skates from across the street at the little restaurant for only $2.

When we arrived and I gazed upon the serene, quiet, frozen wonderland, devoid of noisy human activity I found myself quoting Rabbit in my head from a Disney Winnie-the-Pooh movie that I've seen 100 times, because we've had it since my oldest was 2. "Ahhh, peace and quiet, and no Tiggers!" Rabbit says this at the beginning of a scene while he (is Rabbit a he?) is blissfully gliding on the ice. Unbeknownst to him, he is about to be pounced by a gleeful Tigger. Tigger simply wants to say hello and have fun, and that's his way of doing it.

I love Tigger's bounciness, but at the same time it annoys me. As I watched my children descend upon the ice and discover the joy of skating, each in his or her own way, I wished we could do this more often. So many simple joys in nature await us, sledding and skating and hiking, if we can create the time, away from the distractions, the Tiggers of our life. These are the electronic forms of entertainment that compete for my children's leisure time. They are fun and exciting like Tigger, but can also get annoying. (Don't worry, this is not a long post on the evils of TV or video games. I'll save that for another time. My point is something else.)

I expressed to KeeNan my joy at being able to bring my children to come ice skate. We had entered something fresh out of Little Women, complete with church bells ringing. It seemed so old-fashioned and charming. (While we were there at the ice the bells on the LDS church across the street rang to mark the hour.) I told her that every city should have a place to ice skate like that and I wondered aloud what it would take. This ice skating place was nothing fancy. It wasn't even an official rink, just a huge place with the snow plowed off to the edges and a slab of ice put down. The walls around the "rink" were walls of snow.

She told me that all it takes is volunteers who are willing to put in the time to create it and maintain it. Someone to plow the snow. Someone to get a fire truck and spray lots of water so it can freeze into a fun place to skate. That got me wondering, what is it in my home, not even in my community, that I could create if I just volunteered? What fun, charming, nonelectronic classic joys of yesteryear and nature can I create for my children and my family if I have the spirit of volunteerism? It's definitely something to think about.

KeeNan is a great example to me of this, both in her family and in reaching out to her community. She could have kept quiet about the ice skating but she sent an email out inviting all her friends to come skate and use her home as a pit stop to get hot cocoa. She also collects ice skates from D.I. (a second-hand store) and loans them out to her friends. She had enough, plus even a hockey stick and puck from D.I. (much to the delight of my eight-year-old) that she outfitted my whole crew. We didn't have to spend a dime to go ice skating and it was soooo much fun. Thank you KeeNan. May the spirit of volunteerism and old-fashioned fun revive in our families and communities. That's all it takes to recapture the pure, old-fashioned classic joys of nature. The peace and quiet afforded when life was simpler and safer.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Friend Tara's Cooking Blog: a Godsend and a Dream Come True

Aack, this week involved the baking of two cakes, one for the Blue and Gold Banquet for Cub Scouts and the other for my son's birthday on Friday. For years my family has been afflicted by my desire to bake a healthy birthday cake, one with whole grain flour and whole sweeteners. Sometimes they are passable, other times they taste like cardboard or play-doh. Not that I've ever tasted cardboard or play-doh, I can just imagine what they taste like. My mother and husband are the only ones who really like them, because they don't have a strong sweet tooth. My kids will pass over my passable cakes to eat the cake from a box cakes that their aunts bring to family birthday parties for their cousins.

Well, passable and cardboard cakes are a thing of the past. I discovered that my friend Tara has a cooking blog. This is the answer to my prayers and dreams! That's because this is no ordinary cooking blog (I've been to a lot and they are usually too full of fake food or too raw foody for me.) I've been wanting to find a mentor with recipes that a real family likes to eat based on Nourishing Traditions, the cookbook by Sally Fallon. That cookbook teaches that the most wholesome foods are those that involve whole, real food, including some animal products from animals that were pasture fed or cage free. Fallon teaches that grains should be eaten the way our ancestors ate them, after being soaked and or sprouted, to get maximum nutrition.

The problem with her book is that, with over 200 pages, it is so overwhelming. Enter Tara. See She has recipes for busy moms. Tara is a homeschooling mom so you know her time is at a premium! I am so grateful that she has chosen to share her recipes with the rest of us!

Lucky for me, the most recent recipe was a birthday cake. Before I tried it out, I made a cake for my son's Blue and Gold Banquet using a recipe that was not Tara's. I insisted on using whole wheat flour and whole sweeteners, of course. The cake looked horrible. I had to triple the recipe to accommodate what my son wanted, which was to have even cake to make a step pyramid cake since we have been studying ancient Egyptians in our homeschooling. Att he same time I added more butter and honey because in the past it has tasted too dry and not sweet enough. I was feeling rushed an hour before the party and didn't want to take the time to hunt down my recipe for made-from-scratch-wholesome ingredient frosting so I just winged it on the frosting. As a result, the cake was rather homely. My only consolation was that it looked like it was made by an eight-year-old instead of a seasoned homemaker and cook, which I am not apparently. The cake won "Most Mysterious" which is a kind way of saying, "Uhh, gee, we aren't sure if we can eat that thing or not. It looks like a lump of mud covered with semi-gloss paint."

So two days later I made Tara's cake and it turned out fabulous, I am happy to report. May we have many more wholesome birthday cakes to come.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Best Baby Shower Gift

So That's What They're For!: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide 3rd edition So That's What They're For!: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide 3rd edition by Janet Tamaro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had the sweet pleasure of getting a thank you, during the recent Christmastime, for a baby shower gift I gave over a year ago. We were at my mother-in-law's home for a Christmas Eve program. My husband's nephew's wife, Becky, said to me, "I never did tell you what a great gift that was that you gave me at the baby shower I had. Out of all the gifts, that was the best."

That totally made my Christmas! I love giving gifts that people love, especially gifts that encourage and support a woman's God-given ability to nurse her baby. The gift was the book So That's What They're For! by Janet Tamaro. Becky said the book helped her so much. She said she read it before her baby's birth, took it with her to the hospital, and consulted it when she started nursing. She said it helped her overcome some hurdles. She loves the book so much that when her sister was having problems nursing twins, she went and bought the book in Denver and gave it to her.

This is the funniest book on breastfeeding. I love it. I get a kick out of giving it to my pregnant friends at baby showers, especially first-time moms or those who haven't had much success with nursing. I love the author's conversational, girlfriend style. She speaks in the language of Gen X and Y. I appreciate her willingness to tell the truth about artificial baby milk and the ingredients it is made out of, like the cheapest oils available, hydrogenated oils, which are frequently passed over for health reasons, and whey, the waste products of the dairy industry.

So if you want a baby shower gift that stands out from the pile, one that will be remembered and provide lots of laughs as well as information, one that will support a mom to fulfill her God-given gift to nurture her baby, look no further. This is the best baby shower gift.

I love LLL's The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, don't get me wrong. That book is great too and I give it at baby showers as well. It just isn't as fun to read. It is written from a grandmother perspective, rather than a girlfriend's. It is currently being rewritten by Diane Weissinger, LLL Leader and board-certified lactation consultant. I have thoroughly enjoyed her writings about breastfeeding (see and click on "starting," "continuing," and "help"). It was her article "Watch Your Language" that shifted my paradigm about the language I use when comparing breastfeeding and bottlefeeding. She and her coauthors are rewriting the WAB to be more "girlfriendly" for the latest edition that will come out this year. I'm eager to see the changes. I hope they keep the grandmotherly wisdom in the current WAB and add some of the zingy one-liners that Diane has come up with. That would be the best of both worlds.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Review of a Book About a Boy Who Knew His Mission

Snowflake Bentley Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Every winter, when it starts to drag on (feeling like it's "always winter, never Christmas"), I suddenly remember this book and go get it from the library. It makes the season more endurable and opens my mind to the beauty of winter. It's a true story about a boy, Wilson Bentley, who absolutely loved snowflakes. He loved to examine them and not only discover each snowflake's beauty but preserve the beauty. He begged his parents for a fancy machine to take pictures of them, quite a feat for them to do because this was the 1800s and cameras were very expensive for them since they were a simple farming family. They must have been in touch with his unique mission in life to be willing to invest money in their son's hobby.

So you can read into the book the idea of mission/calling and that parents have the opportunity to either cherish their children's interests and further them into a mission or shut the mission down by not helping further it along. Parents can be true mentors or just custodians.

This book always inspires me to make a bunch of snowflakes with my core phase children (do a search on for more on core phase) to decorate the window. That's definitely a mood-brightener for any dull winter's day. To make a true six-sided snowflake just Google "snowflake." You can also find some patterns by Cindy Higham in the article, “Valentine Snowflakes,” Friend, Feb 1999, p. 31 or her book Snowflakes for all Seasons.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

They Won and Then We had a Night with Knights

Warning: indulgent bragging mom moment ahead. I get to brag about my brilliant children once in a while. I really do generally avoid it, believe me. Skip if you don't want to hear. I also generally avoid being on the computer this late but I have insomnia. My baby has been asleep since 7:30 P.M. Why is that I fall asleep during Family Home Evening, miss out on treats, and then after everyone is in bed and the baby is still soundly sleeping I am suddenly wide awake? It's because of racing thoughts. One of which is the good news of my two children's recent victory. They are in scholar phase at ages 14 and 16 (see for more on scholar phase) and loving it. Saturday was pay-off time for them.

"Are you ready to come to my celebration dinner at Spanky's (a restaurant) after the Freedom Bowl?" asked my son's friend Christian after their economics class at their Commonwealth School last Thursday. I happened to be there subbing for my friend Aneladee who had gone to teach a Commonwealth training in Mesa AZ. (see She and her husband teach the class and the kids are learning principles of macroeconomics according to Thomas Sowell.

"You mean, are you coming to my celebration dinner?!" replied my son playfully. They are on opposing teams. I was pleased to know that another team would be representing Davis County homeschoolers at the Freedom Bowl competition the ensuing Saturday in SLC, UT. The Freedom Bowl was sponsored by American Youth Leadership Institute. (see AYLI uses the study guide about the Revolutionary War and the Constitution produced by The cool thing about that is that Roots of Freedom uses a tree motif in its logo, which fits in nicely with Tree of Life Mothering. The motif even shows roots and fruit, which my logo for my upcoming book and website shows as well. But I digress.

The competition was stiff. My son got second place last year, first place the year before. My daughter got fourth place two years ago, and then first last year. This year she moved up to the senior division and could finally be on her brother's team. We had to round up a teammate from Tooele and they were still one person short. Two years ago, we had to find teammates way down yonder in South Jordan for my son. The drive to get him to a practice was a sacrifice but he and his teammates had fantastic synergy and they won first place. This year my kids and Tooele boy practiced through Skype. I love technology that saves me driving an hour with a screaming baby who thinks car seats are torture chairs. My friend Shauna's daughter, Lightning Answer Girl, joined my son's former team last year, displacing my son, and beat him last year. The word on the street was that the two teams to watch for were my kids' team and LAG's team.

I was looking forward to the fierce competition. Last year when they went head to head LAG answered almost all of the fifteen round of questions after two or three words of the question were given by the moderator, quite a bit before anybody else would buzz in. My son was quick but she was even quicker. She had all the questions memorized, and what first three words went with each answer. The girl went through 15 questions and answers in five minutes, which normally takes 20-30 minutes. This year, after prodding from me and other parents, the organizer rephrased the questions so the kids would have to actually think. Amazingly enough, those two teams never competed against each other. There was an odd number and the organizer did not have them play round robin. Each team had a bye.

Anyway, my kids' team won all four matches, whereas LAG got tripped up by the rephrasing and her team lost to Christian's team. Way to go south Davis county! (I really do love LAG, after all, she is my girlfriends' daughter and she gave of her bed so I could have a place to sleep when I stayed at her house the night before my NFL4LDS Moms Conference last spring. I was the one who knew she would be good at this whole thing and told her mom about it.)

My kids looked really sharp in their all black outfits. My daughter, who is into drama and fashion, planned this and even had her brother and the other boy (they were supposed to have four people but could never find a fourth) walk around the room once in formation and sit down all at the same time to intimidate one of the other teams before a match. I say next year they get their two cousins from the commonwealth school in St. George to be their teammates, and all wear black, including dark sunglasses. That would be way cool. My daughter is already coaching her near 12 year-old brother on how to win next year, with LAG's younger brother, Tooele boy's younger brother, and another cousin on his team. Forget a dynasty with Kennedys and Clintons, we are creating one with Shumways/Winters/Kaisermans/and Gierisches.

So my kids each won a scholarship, worth $165, to Simulations Week sponsored by AYLI in June. See It sounds so much fun I almost wish I could be a scholar youth again. Life is so much better for youth who don't want to be teenagers than it was for me, a female nerd who loved to do weird things like sluff high school assemblies, wait until 17 to drive and 18 to date, and study 5-6 hours a day. I was odd for thinking high school was a time to prepare for college, not play.

After that rousing competition, we rushed home. The two big kids and my husband went to a Supreme Court trial simulation for the south Davis county commonwealth school, and I took the middles and littles, all five, to a Knights of Freedom family activity. My 8-year-old was dubbed Knight of Respect. We had a fun night with the Knights, visiting and playing games. I am so grateful to Diann Jeppson for setting up AYLI with its Knights of Freedom chapters, Liberty Girl chapters (which my drama daughter participated in when she was younger) and the Freedom Bowl. She could have just stayed in her own homeschooling world, just doing things with her daughters, but instead she expanded her vision and gave of her gifts to create these organizations and events. Thanks Diann!

The best part of the whole day was seeing my kids win and my other son take a vow to be a knight. That means he promises to obey his parents, serve his family and others, and always tell the truth. The second best part was finally finding out that someone from my hometown who I knew from growing up does TJED. She lives in Morgan now and is between my older brothers in ages. I have seen her face at TJED events for years and always wondered if she was the person I thought she was. I took a risk and asked her and sure enough. We were in the same ward and in Mutual together. She was one of the big Laurels when I was a Beehive. She has a big family too and her husband took the Face to Face with Greatness seminar with me almost four years ago. I love making connections like this.