24 October 2014

Alma 49

We did this before once before with Lehi's Dream.  I can't believe that was three years ago!  

Well a couple nights ago we were reading in Alma 49.  And the way we are doing our scripture study right now is to have each family member read a verse until the chapter is done.  It's REALLY difficult for me to follow the story line because some readers are so much slower and less expressive than others.  It's easy for the mind to wander.  

But it was a cool story about how the Lamanites kept trying to attack the Nephites but the Nephites had prepared and strengthened and fortified themselves so much that the Lamanites couldn't get to them.  There were thousands of Lamanites slaughtered but they couldn't reach the Nephites with their stones or arrows and couldn't get past their fortifications for hand to hand combat.  I kind of pictured the Battle Of Helm's Deep (if you're a Lord of the Rings fan).

I thought that kids would think this chapter was way more interesting if they were paying attention and picturing it.  So for the next night's scripture study, I re-read Alma 49 while everyone had paper and pencil in hand.  I told them to draw the way the pictured it.

 This is Wiyah's.  Hers was awesome!  What more can you say?  She's got the ditch the Nephites dug around and their walls so high that the Lamanites couldn't reach them with their stones and arrows.  Ha!  My favorite touches are the dead guys with arrows still sticking out of them.  The sandals on their feet.  And of course, the leg hairs and armpit hairs on the last man standing!

 This was Kelvinator's.  And what I LOVE about his picture is that even though he just drew stick figures, you can really see the ACTION!  I also really love all the dead guys and discarded weapons on the ground!  (In fact, I accidentally looked at his before I was done and that made me add dead guys to my picture as well.)  He has the high banks of earth and the Lamanites retreating into the wilderness.  And yes, that is a guy with a cloud over his head getting hit by lightning.

 JJ didn't get a chance to finish his and I knew he wouldn't, so I'm just posting his partial pic.  Interestingly, he kind of had the same idea/perspective on the banks of earth and an entrance as part of a big wall, very similar to mine.

 X did this one.  Is this not awesome?  I love the expressions of the two guys closest to us and the perspective and how everything diminishes into the distance.  But even though farther away he is using stick figures, it's still visually interesting.  Here you can see the ditches surrounding the Nephites that are filled with the bodies of the dead Lamanites.  And he depicts the fact that in the story, the Lamanites approached two cities for battles.  My favorite touch is how he emphasized that the Lord was protecting the Nephites.

 This was Pinkleberry's second drawing.  She decided she didn't like her first one.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe she saw someone else's.  But at any rate, she shows the Lamanites trying to scale the height of the Nephite walls.  LOVE seeing them climb those awesome ladders!

 This was Pink's first attempt.  The only child who drew any girls!  In both of her pictures, this wall features prominently.  And actually, this was the kind of wall I was trying to draw in my own unartistic way.

 Winkleberry's drawing.  This one just makes me squeal!  My very most favoritest part is her writing.  I know she was listening because I read about how the Nephites were in their places of "Security".  Sound it out, people!  She explained the flag and the beeping to me, but honestly it never did make much sense.  However, the guy on the far right is Nephi.  He is punching the guy next to him and that's his blood pouring out on the ground.  Just FYI.

And this is what Wink drew after she saw my drawing.  I still love it.  "Security!  Watch Out!"

Mack's picture tracks the whole story.  It starts out in the upper right corner with King Amalickiah telling the Lamanites to go to battle against the Nephites.  But he does not go in the head of them.  He stays behind.  So they get to the first city and there are ditches all around and they don't dare attack.  So they hike through the wilderness to get to the next city.  Also, those dark things on their heads?  Those are helmets.

And this is mine.  Honestly this might be my best drawing ever.  Because I am so not artistic.  But I'm actually kind of proud of this.  This is a fair representation of how I see the battle unfolding in my mind's eye.  I added blood on the ground around my dead people.  I loved Kelvinator's surprised reaction that I would draw that.  He also wondered how the stick figure at the top was holding that huge rock.  I told him I probably should have drawn bigger muscles!

The best thing about this activity was how absolutely absorbed everyone was while I was reading and afterwards while they were drawing. Everyone lingered long after I was done reading to finish their pictures and most people were still not done yet when the Hubba finally told everyone it was bedtime.  Wink and Pink loved this activity.  And so did Wiyah.  So it was good for all ages.  We all had a lot of fun comparing pictures and seeing how everyone else pictured the scene.   Some of the kids mentioned that they wanted to do this for scripture study every night.  It's probably not possible every night, but I definitely think we should do this more often.  It would be kind of fun to have family pictures depicting the whole Book of Mormon!

The Amazing Mackster

Do you remember when Mack used to be so distracted all the time?  Where did that kid go?

He's probably one of my most on-top-of-it kid now.  He pretty much takes care of himself and does it well.

Take for instance, in the mornings.  It used to look like me reminding him to do things three or four times and still finding him kind of spaced out on his bedroom floor looking at something in his underwear.  I couldn't give complex instructions that involved more than one direction.  It was supremely frustrating.

But lately he is always the first child up in the morning and the first child ready.  In fact after I wake him up, the next time I see him he is completely dressed, teeth brushed, hair brushed neatly, shoes and socks on and he's ready for breakfast.  I pointed it out to him one day and he says that each day he tries to break the previous day's record.  He's down to taking 7 minutes to get completely ready in the mornings.  He hasn't broken the 7 minute barrier yet, but he keeps trying.

Then he takes a leisurely breakfast and has lots of time to play on the computer before he has to leave in the mornings.

He finishes almost all of his homework at school, so he never has homework.  At least I assume he never has homework.  I don't actually know.  I just never remind him to do it.  And I never see him doing it.  And each week when they have little parties for kids with no missing assignments, I get the email from Mack's teacher that he gets to go.  He spends a couple hours in his bedroom reading Harry Potter after school each day, so maybe he's doing homework then?

But here's a funny story.  Yesterday, Mack actually left for school without brushing his hair.  It was the first time in forever.  He realized it in the car.  (Wiyah was driving them to school.)  So she reports that he asked for the car ice scraper/snow brush and proceeded to brush his hair with that!  Wiyah said it looked good, too!  What a hoot.  I love that kid.

Proof That I Am Not an Easy Woman To Please

My poor husband!

Let's take a look at third grade math.  I hate it.  Honestly, third grade math should not be hard.  For me, anyway.  And yet I just dread it.  Some of her homework has been ridiculous.  A few problems I actually have to get on facebook and ask other adults if they can understand what she's even being asked to do.  On every homework assignment they are being asked, not just to do the work, but to explain why something is right or wrong.  And then my third grader with her big, sloppy handwriting has to write her answer in maybe two square inches, if we're lucky.  It's the kind of thing that would take me a paragraph to explain.  And then there are the new math problems where instead of doing math the old way, the way I was taught, she has to use a new fangled method that requires more steps and for every step, of the problem, she is doing the old style of math anyway.  So what's the point in that?

At parent teacher conferences, I brought this up to the teachers.  They agreed that some of the math was ridiculous.  And the French teacher said that she also didn't like the "American" (which I assume menas Common Core, because this is all new the past couple of years) way of teaching Math and that wasn't how they did it in France.  But they have to teach this way.  And basically in class they are teaching math the regular old way but on the homework assignments they do have the problems and maybe there are some kids who will understand better this way.  So, give one problem a try so she can see how to do it that way, but otherwise she can use the method she's most comfortable with.

At first I felt vindicated!  Like "Thank you!"  Even the professionals can see how stupid this all is and it's not just me and we were basically told to do the homework however works best for Pink.  And it made me laugh at administrators and bureacracies and Common Core stupidity.

But then I got mad.  Because when I'm not completely frustrated by it, I can see the vision in teaching math this way.  I can see that they are trying to help kids understand the underlying mathematics of numbers and not just memorizing formulas and magic steps that if done in the correct order give you a number that you can then bubble in on a sheet.  And I actually would really like that for my kid.  But how can she really be expected to learn it if the teachers aren't really on board and are still essentially teaching the old way but the new way is on homework assignments?  No wonder she is having such a hard time with her homework!  If she's not learning it at school, then the only real instruction she is getting on that new way is from me at home!  I'm unfamiliar with it and untrained!

And my thoughts on this are that if they want to implement a new way of teaching something across the nation, then they need to spend a lot more time and money on teacher training and I think they need to roll it out more slowly.  Because you can teach my third grader how to do a complex math problem by giving her the steps.  And she can follow through, do the steps and get the right answer and you can teach that in a short amount of time.  But if you're really trying to adjust the way she thinks about numbers, that's going to take loner.  It's going to take class discussion about numbers and visualization and hands-on learning, not just paper and pencil.  And it's going to take for these ideas to solidify in her head so that she can apply that learning to more complex ideas.  But from all I can tell, they are still moving along at this fast clip and she's expected to actually be moving FASTER through the math concepts.

And I realize that I'm not happy either way.  Darned if you do, darned if you don't.  I am an enigma to myself.

Here's another example.

For the past half decade or so, every night has been difficult for me.  Tucking the little girls in bed.  A while ago the Hubba and I divided up the bedtime duties so that he tucked in little boys and I tucked in little girls.  But the boys became really easy to get in bed a whole lot earlier than the little girls.  So while I perceive that his job had gotten easier over time, mine was still a nightmare.

It was hard to get the girls ready for bed and then harder to get them in bed.  I couldn't just send them to their room after scriptures and prayer.  I had to accompany them (and often give piggy back rides) to their room.  Then I had to tuck them in their blankets.  Then I had to sing two songs to EACH girl.  And invariably, before the last note of the last song was sung they would already start saying things like:

I need to go to the bathroom.
Can I get a drink?
Guess what happened at school today?
My lip hurts.
I forgot to do my homework.
I have to bring some ridiculous thing we don't have in our house to school tomorrow.

And then after addressing all those concerns, I would help them say their prayers.  And then there would be more commentary.

I can't sleep.
I'm not tired.
I'm scared.
I want to sleep in your bed.
Tell her to be quiet, I'm trying to sleep.

And if they were lucky, I would walk out of their bedroom with a sweet disposition and being patient through it all.  If they were not lucky, it would end badly with me saying, "I love you.  Goodnight."  And then slamming the door while they were still talking to me.

I couldn't wait for the blessed day when after scriptures and prayer I could just say, "Ok, hop up to bed now!"  And they would go up to their room and get in bed and say their prayers themselves and just go to sleep already.

That day has finally arrived.

And I love it.  I love the freedom and the extra free time I have in the evenings.  I love not getting frustrated right at the end of the day.

And it's so, so very sad.  Don't they want me to sing to them anymore?  Don't they want me to hear their prayers anymore?  How can they go to sleep at night without me stroking their face and telling them I love them?  Don't they have things to tell me that will keep me in their room just a little longer because they don't want me to leave just yet?  Don't they love me anymore?

So pretty much, I can never be happy.  No one can win with me.  I'm sure there are other examples.  But these are the biggest ones I've seen recently.

My poor husband.

14 October 2014

Intinsic and Extrinsic Rewards

So, at the hospital I teach at, there is a supply closet where my childbirth teaching materials are stored.  The closet is shared by multiple groups of who knows who and on a little bookshelf there are a bazillion copies of a pretty little blue book called "If Disney Ran Your Hospital."

One day when I had set up the class and was ready but no one had shown up yet, I grabbed a copy of that interestingly titled book and began to read.  I found it absolutely FASCINATING.  The author was a hospital administrator who had also spent time working at Disney parks.  And as you might expect from this book, he compared how things were run.

I loved to arrive early for work and set up class and then have a few minutes to read.  If I was lucky, I could read half a chapter before anyone showed up.  I loved seeing how hospitals were run and also how Disney parks are run and looking at the differences.  I loved thinking about hospitals in general and also maternity care specifically.

But also, I am now the office manager at a law office.  How would Disney run our firm?  I loved trying to take these principles and apply it to our own business.  Every day after work I would come home and discuss with my husband the principles I had learned.  It kept my brain invigorated for months.

I finally finished that book a few weeks ago.  And that last chapter was a doozy.  It was all about internal and external rewards.  It was such an eye opener!  It really helped me look at the entire world differently and assess what made me tick.  But not just me. I was applying it to hospitals and maternity care and law firms and schools and my very own family.  I wish that I had a copy of the book so I could quote it or even just really remember everything I read.

But all I can say is that even without being able to verbalize in any way what I learned from that chapter, it has affected me deeply.  And I think about it all the time.

I just don't have the energy to do more.  But the main theme was that people who are motivated internally do a better job at things than people who are only doing it to earn a reward.  So it makes me think of things like salary bonuses and getting paid for chores.

Ugh.  I don't have the brain for writing tonight.  It's fatiguining me.  So I guess this post is more some type of notes to review for myself than for anyone else to gain anything.

C'est La vie.

12 October 2014

Dissensions and Hearing

For the past several years one of the things that has really bothered me is seeing modern day dissensions from the church.  I feel as if this  movement is picking up speed and force.  When I first joined the church about 25 years ago, I felt as if the community of saints was one cohesive whole.  But I feel like now there are these divisive groups, even among the believers.  And that among those who consider themselves to be believers, there are those who deny the power of the priesthood and of revelation, who disapprove of the way Christ has set up His church and who take every opportunity to oppose the counsel and commandments from the prophet and apostles.  There is much contention within the church.

I've wondered if it has always been like this, but I have just been unaware?  Or if it really is picking up speed lately?  I feel like it is definitely gaining traction as time goes by.  The internet does a lot to feed the fire.  If you are unhappy or have a question or a doubt, it's very easy to get sucked into blog-reading of those who are happy to show you exactly how and why the Church that you once loved is wrong.  And instead of talking to a bishop and faithfully reading scriptures to find the answers to difficult questions and private agonies, we read the philosophies of men and feel "enlightened" because there are so many other people dealing with the same issues.

And unfortunately, I have seen time and time again where this pattern ends in people dissenting away from God's church.

So today as I was reading in the first few chapters of Helaman I thought, "These chapters are exactly what I am seeing in my day."  The Nephite dissenters leaving the church, leaving their lands and defecting over to the Lamanites and trying to stir up their hearts to anger.  They don't just leave the church and go live their life in peace somewhere else.  But it became their goal and their mission to destroy the church, to destroy the people and lands they came from, to overpower them.  And the people who leave the church today rarely just say "To each his own."  But they start forums and groups and websites and gather people to their cause.  It's the same old same old.

And when the Lamanites and former Nephites attack the Nephites, the Nephites are decimated and their lands taken.  Because even those who had not dissented had not remained faithful enough.  Because even though who professed to belong to the church of God were wicked and proud, the scriptures say.  They were rich, they oppresse the poor.  They mocked sacred things, denied the spirit of prophecy, murdered, plundered, lied, stole, and committed adultery.  And then, interestingly, the last on that list was actually dissenting away.  It reminded me of Alma 39:11 where Alma is chastising Corianton for his behavior while on his mission.  "Behold, O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe my words."  And I was thinking that maybe that's why there is so much dissension today.  People looking around themselves and seeing the behavior of those of us who profess to be believers, but our fruits aren't that great.  And then people who are struggling in the faith see that and stop believing.

So I was in that frame of mind when I was reading how Lehi and Nephi were thrown into prison as they were preaching to the Lamanites and dissenting Nephites.    At first, they meet great success in the cities of Mulek and Gid.  Theypreach with great power and confound the dissenters and they come forth, confess their sins and are baptized and immediately returned to the Nephites to try to repair the damage they had done.  So this great success was among the Nephites.  Then they go to the Lamanites where they also have great success.  8000 baptisms among the Lamanites!

But then another army of the Lamanites takes them and casts them into prison.  They are kept in the prison without eating for several days and then are about to be delivered up to be executed.  And that's when they are miraculously saved.  A pillar of heavenly light encircles them.  And when they realize that they are not consumed by the fire, their hearts take courage.  I LOVE that phrase "their hearts did take courage."  Because it shows me that they were discouraged before.  Cast in prison, no food, about to die.  It just shows me that they were human, too.  Like me.  I get discouraged from time to time too.  I'm guessing they were prepared to die and maybe they were thinking of Abinadi (I was).  But then this miracle happens and their hearts take courage.  And in that moment of respite, the first thing they do is to testify.

And here is something really interesting.  While Nephi and Lehi are surrounded by this pillar of light, everyone else is surrounded by an awful cloud of darkness and they are afraid.  A still, small voice from heaven that pierces their heart tells them to repent.  And the earth shakes and the prison walls tremble and the voice repeats the message.  And the third time, the voice said marvelous things that cannot be uttered by man.  Wow.

But then you kind of have a D'oh moment!  Because the Lamanites turn to one Nephite dissenter, Aminadab, and ask, "What do all these things mean and who is it with whom these men to converse?"  So, did they miss everything?  Did they not understand the voice telling them to repent three times and saying such marvelous things they could not be recorded?  ACK!  How frustrating!  They don't really have any clue what is going on. So Aminadab tells them they ned to repent and pray to the voice with faith in Christ to have this cloud of darkness removed.  And they do.  And it is.

So why is that?  They did not believe the words of the prophets.  They did not even understand the words from Heaven that said the same things THREE TIMES.  But finally when Aminadab tells them, they get it.  And what's more interesting is that as they pray, the darkness is removed and the Holy Ghost enters their hearts and they are filled with fire.  The voice speaks again.  And THIS TIME, they look up to see where the voice is coming from.

I wonder if that's actually the first time they heard the voice.  It's the first time they respond to what the voice is saying in any way.  And if that's true, what was the PURPOSE of the voice saying all those things in the first place?  Nephi and Lehi are caught up in a pillar of light conversing with angels.  So it wasn't meant for them.  They were busy!  The Lamanites clearly didn't hear it.  But Aminadab is able to translate what the voice is saying to the Lamanites.  So he must have heard and understood it.  Could it be that that everything the Voice was saying was solely for Aminadab's benefit?  And why could he only understand?  The one thing I know that is different from him and the rest of the Lamanites is that he was a dissenter.  Which means he had once had the truth.  He had been baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost.  So when a spiritual event happened, he had the gift that allowed him to understand.  The Lamanites didn't understand until AFTER the Holy Ghost filled them.

There are two things that I want to study more from this account.  For one thing, I wish I knew my Book of Mormon history better.  Because it's talking about the people in certain lands and how differently they reacted to the preaching of the gospel.  In the land of Bountiful in the cities of Gid and Mulek, and in the land southward all the way to Zarahemla among the Lamanites, Lehi and Nephi have great success.  But it's in the Land of Nephi where the Lamanites are so hardened.  And I just wish I could remember the history of those places to understand why that is or what contributing factors might influence the people's different reactions.

Second, there's a little random phrase that is sticking out to me in Helaman 5:27.  "And behold, they that were in the prison were Lamanites and Nephite dissenters."  And it seems like that is really important.  But I don't know how.  I mean, it's a Lamanite prison, so you would expect Lamanites to be there.  And we know that Aminadab was a Nephite dissenter so why bother to mention that Nephite dissenters are in the prison?  It seems like we already have this information.  But it also seems like this information is specifically given to us for a reason in the text.  So why?  I don't know.


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