Saturday, July 31, 2010

Where, oh where has that blogger been?

On an ordinary day in April of this year I said an earnest prayer to my Heavenly Father to help me to discover my talents. I felt like I had many interests, many passions, lots of things I wanted to learn more about. I love school, love learning. I think being a student is one of the greatest joys in life. But of talents I felt like I had few, and nothing that gave me any get up and go. I can sew, I can read, I'm decently smart, I like to garden, I like to cook. Perhaps, I thought, maybe I need to ask for motivation to find a way to share my interests with the world in a unique way. But I was feeling shafted on the talent scale, like I was doing what I could with what I had, and I wasn't finding any increase.
Then it was June and I had finished reading a book. Actually, I had finished reading a lot of books. Reading is often like that. I take sabbaticals from reading most of the time because if I don't, I never get anything done. Anyway, the last book I read was a fascinating concept but a poorly executed plot, a terrible use of prose, and too little dialogue. I started thinking of all the ways that it could have been improved and then I started thinking of good books I'd read that were actually good. You know, the ones you don't want to put down, the ones that make you think about life, about your reality, and that push your mind to extremes, making you ask questions, considering things you have never considered before. And then I was struck with a feeling "I can do that. Really, I think I could. How hard could it be? I had lots of truths I wanted to tell the world. What better way to tell them than in a story?
I spent all the next day trying to figure out a concept I could work with but everything seemed done already. I thought of ideas that at first I thought were original but upon further thought seemed like something I had already read or watched. Being weak in confidence I chastised myself for thinking I could come up with an original idea on my own. Despite my feeling of weakness I was still confident so I said another prayer. This time I asked that if God thought I could write a book, such as I was, that He would give me an idea, something to go on. Maybe, I thought, He could send me a dream. My dreams have always been bizarre contradictions and sometimes had me waking up and wondering "Where the heck did that come from?" What better source of inspiration, I thought. So I went to sleep, confident that an idea would come. And so it did.

That idea was a concept with no plot or philosophical basis, just an idea, the barest of inklings.
It is hard for me to describe exactly how the plot or idea came about, how the characters developed, how the little nuances of the story came to life. Every time I sat down to brainstorm and write out ideas for the plot, they came like I had turned on the creative water hose in my brain. I stayed up late at night just writing my ideas, thinking of better ways and little by little vagueness became more specific. And even before I had completed the plot, or even a theme I began to write. Every day was a revelation. Characters took on a life of their own and every time I sat down to write I was excited to find out what would happen because I had no idea what would happen. I tell you, it is many times better than actually reading a good book. Every day a character would say or do something that surprised me and I thought "Where in the world did that come from?" but it was always perfect, fit right in with the story, sometimes in ways that I didn't even realize until later.
I have never felt so alive, so capable, so confident in myself as a spirit daughter of God. I have thanked Him every day for the joy I have discovered in writing. Because through my story, fictional as it is, I have found a way to share my testimony in a way that I feel is beautiful and unique. Writing has become like a daily bearing of testimony. I have learned more about Him, communed more with Him, and never thanked Him more than I have in these past weeks.
How true is the Psalm that says "And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee." He has given me increase beyond what I thought possible, beyond what I thought I could comprehend and so, my friends, that is where I have been. Writing my heart out elsewhere. I have finished the first of what I believe will be a trilogy and am 3/4 of the way through the second. Well, at least I think right now it will be a trilogy. Who knows though, things in the story change so drastically from day to day and when I think I have told a good story I am impressed with an even better one, one that builds beautifully on the one I have already written so there has been little plot change from the very beginning.
So, my friends, I suppose I can now add "writer" to my profile description, yes? So cheerio for now readers, my head is practically bursting with words for my next chapter. More to come, I promise.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Obedience, a Divine principle

A trend has occurred to me, since becoming a parent, a trend that has taken shape that has made spanking a bad word. I have many friends, probably some that read this blog, who do not believe in it. Even my husband, when we first were married, said that spanking was demeaning and inappropriate. I have found that the consensus, among those who do not believe in it, to be that it is some type of abuse. It sends the wrong message. It tells children, "If you don't like a behavior, just hit the person to make it stop." It is possible that this may be the case on a very basic level. I have seen many many many kids, some whose parents don't believe in spanking, and some who do. I have not observed any trend in their behaviors to indicate that children who are spanked hit other people more than those who aren't. I have made it a study. I have worried and prayed over the appropriate use of physical punishment with my kids and have found that despite the message I may send to my kids about when to use physical violence and when not to, I see very real and observable results with using spanking as a parenting tool. It teaches a foundational principle that supersedes any other idea they may form.

As a parent, my primary goal is to teach obedience. Obedience is such a basic characteristic and is defined by action. God says, "Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right." I think that it is not only interesting but vital that this one of the only counsels that the scriptures outline specifically regarding parenting, by including the words both "parents" and "children" in it. In no other place is it so readily obvious that God is talking about what kind of behavior should be expected of children. It is not just passing advice. Learning to be obedient, like no other principle in the gospel, lays the foundation for a successful and provident life. Upon this characteristic of obedience, the rest of the gospel builds. God demands our obedience before our understanding. He knows that if we will just do what he asks, whether we understand the reason or not, we will be changed people, and understanding will come as we continue to do.

So when I say my primary goal as a parent is to instruct obedience, I mean that it takes precedence over every other characteristic that I might want to instill. I don't go about correcting Novan's taking his sister's toys with the goal that I want him to understand why taking from someone else is not right. The message I first want to instill is that he is not allowed to do it and that I am the authority. I don't care if he understands that taking something hurts Beya's feelings. I want him to know that if I have told him not to, he had better obey or there are consequences. So he learns that failing to be obedient merits consequences and I want to send the message right away and swiftly. As Novan grows and learns, probably by having things taken from him, he will begin to understand why he is not to take things away from people. Understanding comes after obedience.

I have heard various parents relate to me about their kids doing this or that behavior in school and the teacher says "Little Johnny didn't have a very good day. He hit little Susie and when I asked him why he said [insert some rudimentary reason]." The new age of parenting says we have to learn about our child's feelings and try to get to the root of the problem, find out what kind of home situation a child has that might be causing them to act out, or maybe see if there's some kind of neurotransmitter imbalance to determine if his emotional responses are out of whack for a biological reason. We are disturbed when Little Johnny says he hit Little Susie because he wanted to. Oh goodness, it must be a conduct disorder so we better get him into therapy before it turns into antisocial behavior in adulthood! Well of course he did it because he wanted to! Children are curious little cave people and experimenting is how they learn. They are looking for what kind of response their behavior will illicit because that's what they do. It is our job, as the authority figure in their lives, as the one who knows far more than they do, to show them the consequences. We simply have to be the authority just as God is to us. God can't be here to teach those hard and fast lessons to our Children when they take something from another child or hit you because they don't like that you told them 'no.' God has given that job to us and he says to teach obedience so that's what we have to do. Love, understanding, compassion, charity, faith, perseverance, and all those wonderful characteristics we hope they'll have will come if they see us as the authority in their lives. Then, when we have established ourselves as the person to look to for what behavior is acceptable and what isn't, they will take notice of and practice our examples.  They will watch how we handle hardship and difficulty, how we show them compassion when they fall and skin their knee, or how we kneel down to pray to ask for Divine help. But obedience must come first.

So back to my point about spanking. I spank because it is an immediate response to an unwanted behavior. It sends a clear and concise message that bad things happen when you don't obey. I've said it before and I'll say it again, understanding comes later. So it's not that I look to spanking as violent enough to make my child feel bad and not do it again but I have found it the quickest means to deliver a quick message. If I take my child's arm, come down to his level, look in his eyes and say in a firm voice "Don't hit your sister again." then I am simply telling him what the desired behavior is in a different way and he is learning that his behavior doesn't have consequences. If I put him in time-out for the purpose of giving him time to think about his actions or to take away his interactions with others as a punishment I am only giving his child mind time to get distracted by something else. He may not repeat the behavior immediately because he has had time to become distracted. It will only crop up again later because I have failed to send a message that disobeying has consequences. If I tell him, "Don't hit your sister or you can't have a treat after lunch." The consequence has been placed too far from the undesired behavior. He fails to form a connection. Some may say that consistency is the key but how many treats after lunch can I take away in the same day? This is not to say that spanking is one hundred percent the absolute best punishment all of the time but for quick behaviors that I am trying to stop, it is the best response, after an initial warning of course, unless it is a behavior they already know is unacceptable.

Ok, so as a final note. Mental illness does exist. Abusive parenting does exist. Children who have had physically abusive parents, parents that repeatedly took punishment too far or hit their kids because they felt like it, have grown up mentally scarred and such behavior is abhorrent in the sight of God and all that is right. An imperfect world full of harmful substances and harmful practices have resulted in debilitating mental illnesses that sometimes require medication and therapy. These things are real, not imagined.
But please, let's not complicate the simple and Divine principle of obedience.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth...

This morning I had made the kids grits for breakfast. I was cleaning up the kitchen when I caught sight of Beya, sitting properly in her chair (a rare occurrence) and playing with her hands, literally. Her little make-believe session was so intriguing I watched her quietly to see what the plot was. Apparently her bowl was "the house". The bowl has a wide overhanging edge and underneath was where her hands could take refuge. Now her hands were people, and the right hand was a girl and the left was a boy. They were fighting, you see, over who would be able to go into the "house." I got the impression that the boy hand was the bad hand and the girl hand was the good hand. The boy hand kept trying to oust the girl hand and the girl hand would say, "No! No swiping!" (dialogue courtesy of Dora of course) and the boy hand would steal the house. Girl hand would say "Get out of my house!" and some such things. Unfortunately there was no happy ending to this story. Boy hand killed girl hand and she lay lifeless on the table and boy hand continued eating. It was so strange and intriguing that I asked Beya what she was doing.
"The boy killed the girl." she informed me sadly.
"Which is the bad one, the boy or the girl?" I asked.
"The girl." said Beya, "She died." Still the right hand lay lifeless on the table quite literally like it was dead.
"Oh no!" I said. But a few minutes later she informed me the girl hand was all better.
Phew, it would have been hard to live with only one hand but seriously, I gotta teach that girl about happy endings, good prevailing over evil, and the stuff good stories are made of. We ought to teach left hand some manners.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Princess Hair

I think I posted before that I couldn't wait until Beya's hair was long enough to do things with. Well, apparently, it finally is. It's not very thick, which makes it difficult to work with but it's so cute and curly. It's very much like mine, but cuter. This morning, before church, I was doing my own hair and Beya wanted me to do hers like I had done mine. She calls it "princess hair". I thought it was cute that we both had our hair done the same way so I got Novan to take a picture of us. (Brad is out of town for a couple weeks). I had to bribe him with candy to take the job seriously but he's obviously capable.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Crush

I have to throw this out there despite the fact that it may embarrass my child one day. I just think it's so hilarious and...well, I'll let you decide. I bought Beya a little Ariel princess doll some time ago. I also bought her Sleeping Beauty and Belle. As I have mentioned before, she's really into the Disney princesses and her favorite is Ariel. I'm not sure why but it may be that she is just enthralled with mermaids in general. This particular doll has interchangeable outfits made out of some kind of rubber/plastic that make them much more durable. I like it. You can take off Ariel's tail and put a dress on her and Iyov has found that if you bite hard enough, you can pull her head off too. Well, that's beside the point. Someone else in our family also thinks Ariel is the best princess:

Yeah, that's right. I'm not talking that he just thinks Ariel is the best, I think he might have a little boy crush on this doll. When I first bought Ariel he would find opportunities to take her when Beya wasn't looking and hide her in his pocket. Beya would come crying to me that she couldn't find Ariel and I didn't realize what was going on until one of the neighbor boys was over and saw it happen. When he saw me helping Beya look for Ariel, he told me Novan had taken her. Sure enough she was in his pocket. The little stinker knew I was looking for her and had gone inside to avoid me. Sometimes he tries to take her from Beya outright. When I see this I ask Beya if she will share a princess with Novan and she tries to hoc Sleeping Beauty on him or something. He cries and throws her aside. "I want the RED one!" he says to me. I can only assume he's talking about Ariel since she has red hair. It doesn't take rocket science to figure that kid out. I thought maybe he thought it was cool that she had a fish tail and that's why he was so intrigued but he could care less about whether she has her tail on or not so it makes me think it's something else, like I don't know, maybe he has a thing for REDHEADS? That's entirely possible, I think to myself. If attraction is genetic, maybe he got that one from my Dad who I am sure preferred redheads.
On the plus side, Novan is interested in her modesty, or maybe it's just her wardrobe he cares about. Ariel's dress comes in 2 parts, a top and bottom and one time we lost the bottom. He cried and cried, "Her bottom! Her bottom! I can't find her bottom!" Seriously, I am cracking up the whole time but I know he's distraught so I help him find it so his precious Ariel can have her dignity. It was getting pretty rough around here with Novan and Beya always fighting over her. Brad thought I should just go buy another one for Novan to have. No way! I was not going to buy this kid a princess doll just so he'll leave Beya in peace. So finally I told Novan he wasn't allowed to have Ariel anymore even if Beya said she'd share it and if I saw him touching her I was gonna break bad on him. It seems a little harsh but there was simply no middle ground that he would tolerate. I think he got the message because he hasn't fought with Beya over Ariel in a while but I still see him sneaking a peak and he enjoys the Little Mermaid cartoon on TV as much as Beya does, probably more.
So I'm pretty sure I know what color hair his first HUMAN crush will have. Hopefully he doesn't try to stuff her in his pocket.