Categories: Happy Things, Life

When I was 15 I made a plan for my life. I was going to go on a date with J and it was going to be great. After graduating high school I was going to attend BYU and get a degree in elementary education. I would serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and thought England would be a great place to go although I knew that I wouldn’t get to pick where I served. I’d get home and get married on February 2, 2002, at 2pm because that is the coolest date ever. And then I’d have kids and be a mom. The end.

And then my life actually happened.

I did go on a date with J. It was nothing special and even as it ended I thought to myself that I could’ve skipped out on that and not missed anything in life. I did go to BYU and got a degree in elementary education, with a minor in computer science (my minor wasn’t part of my 15-year-old plan). I did serve a mission for the LDS church and went to Brasil. I ended up student teaching in Mexico (not part of the original plan). February 2, 2002, came and went and I wasn’t even dating anyone.

The list of things that have happened so far that I couldn’t even begin to imagine at 15 is a rather wonderful list. It involves graduate degrees, belly dancing, community theater, getting married on maybe not the coolest date ever but instead on the most absolute perfect date ever to someone I couldn’t have even dreamed of at 15. It involves struggle and pain, sorrow and joy. And yes, it did eventually involve having kids (twins never would’ve been in my 15-year-old plan, I wasn’t that crazy).

But that hasn’t been the end yet. And thank goodness for that.

I still have plans for the future, but there’s not really a time line to it any more. And I’m much more open to all the different things that will come up along the way. In fact, I’m looking forward to all the ways my plans will go awry.

Teaching the little ones

Categories: Books, Education, With the Kiddos

I remember when this Luvs commercial came out and I couldn’t believe there would be moms who would actually think flash cards were an appropriate way to interact with babies and toddlers. I thought for sure this was some stretch of the truth they did to make the commercial funny.

And then we had Iddo and I found myself in online communities of moms who were asking for flash card recommendations and comparing tricks to get toddlers to sit still and pay attention to the flash cards. Apparently this craziness was an actual reality.

In true mom fashion these women were making teaching their kids harder than it needed to be and piling the guilt on themselves when reality didn’t match their fantasy.

Teaching kids is definitely important and needs to start as soon as birth (and does, whether you realize it or not), but it does not need to be complicated. In my professional opinion, and I went to school long enough to have a professional opinion on this, teaching kids is really quite simple.

Read to them every day. If it’s a book that’s 1 minute long, great. If you’re reading a longer book out loud while they run around, perfect. And let them see you interact with physical books too.

Sing to them. The rhythm and rhymes help them learn new words quickly.

Talk to them. Narrate your day. Describe what you’re seeing and doing. Ask them what they’re seeing and doing, even if they don’t have the ability to answer back yet.

Draw, color, scribble, paint with them. Until Iddo had the mental ability to understand when we told her to only color on coloring pages her crayons were something I controlled, but they came out regularly.

Play with them. Run. Jump. Climb. Spin. Build block towers and knock them down. Nobody, even adults, is meant to sit still for long. Little kids need to be moving and exploring and discovering. Someone will make them sit still for longer than they want to some day. For now, let them move.

That’s it. No flash cards required. A library card definitely comes in handy, but it doesn’t take any special skills, schedules, or big plans to teach children. The reading, singing, talking, playing, and even the coloring to some extent, all happen as they naturally come up during the day.

So put the flash cards down and stop it with the unnecessary guilt and stress. You’ve got this.

Thank you

Categories: Musings

As we’ve been teaching our kids manners it’s dawned on us that while we can withhold things until they say “please,” we have no power to make them say “thank you” after. Shimri flat out refused to say “please” when we first started working on that even though she loves the watermelon we were offering. It wasn’t until a few days later when she realized she wasn’t going to be getting any potato chips we were offering if she didn’t say it (sign it) that she finally relented. We often have to pause when our kids make a request but they’re real quick to say please.

Teaching them to say “thank you” though is a whole different thing. They already have what they want so we can’t hold that over them till they say it. So far the only way we’ve been able to teach them is through example. We say thank you to each other whenever the other does something. We say thank you to them when they do stuff or us. Saying thank you does not come as a natural part of us. It’s something we must learn. And I’m learning that it’s something we learn through observation.

A true thank you cannot be coerced out of us. It cannot be forced. It has to be freely given. And it has to be given with knowledge of what it means. I think that may be why gratitude is a form of love.

The Reader, Part 3

Categories: Books, Challenges, Remembers

When I started teaching school I met some amazing people. We had a sixth grade teacher at our school, Mrs. Jenny Sumsion, who showed me how her kids kept track of their reading. They each had a sheet of paper with a chart on it, one row for each book. The columns were title, author, pages, start, finish, and rating. I liked it. And since I’d recently started my own website (this one), I decided I’d turn the paper chart into an electronic one on my website and I started keeping track of all the books I read. And since I had more space than just a row on a chart I added in a review of the books as well. And that is how “Giggles Book Log” came to be. You can find a review for every book I’ve read since mid-2003 there.

I’ve kept track of reading challenges. In 2008 I set out to read 52 books, and I did. In 2009 my friend Amanda and I challenged each other to read one non-fiction book for every letter of the alphabet, in alphabetical order. We thought after reading 52 books the previous year that reading 26 wouldn’t be that big of a deal. We grossly underestimated just how much longer it takes to read non-fiction compared to fiction. But I loved it! For one, when people find out you’re reading non-fiction they don’t insist you read whatever book they just finished and loved that you’ve already heard of and decided it isn’t for you. Having the subject of each book fit with the alphabet meant I read about a whole lot of different topics as well and learned some real fascinating things along the way. As far as I know my Grandpa Nelson only ever read non-fiction books. He said there was too much fascinating true stuff to read about in the world to spend time reading fiction. I’m not that converted to non-fiction, I still love a good fiction book, but I’ll definitely be reading more non-fiction in the future.

An interesting thing I’ve noticed, because I’ve kept track not just of the books I’ve read, but when I’ve read them, is that I’m not a consistent reader. Oddly, I did the most reading while I was working on my PhD, and I couldn’t really count school reading (because those were articles generally, not books). But I had designated time almost every day while I rode the bus to and from campus when reading was ultimately the best choice of how to pass my time. Since graduating my reading has pretty much been board books and picture books and I haven’t recorded those at all (but I have intentions to, because some of them are just that good).

And that’s where I’m at as a reader for now. It’ll be interesting to see where reading takes me in the future.

Making where I am home

Categories: Life

I just realized that as of next month I will have lived in Tucson longer then I have lived in any other city – 8 years and 11 months. That’s how long I lived in the Salt Lake City area when I was a kid. And that’s why when people ask where I’m from my first response is “heaven.”

When people ask where I’m from I’m not sure if they’re asking where I live now (Tucson), where I was born (Salt Lake City), or where I grew up (do I say Salt Lake where I lived till I was almost 9, Santa Fe where I lived after that, or El Paso where I lived while I went to middle school and high school?). And it’s definitely not where my parents live, they’ve moved four times since I graduated high school. It’s a much more complicated question then the average person asking understands. So “heaven” is the best answer.

But wherever I am, it’s home. I’m from heaven and my home (currently) is Earth. While I think it would be an adventure to live in other places I am also very happy to live where I’m at, to have the chance to settle and explore this small corner of the world. Home is what we make of it and I choose to be happy and enjoy where I am. Especially because this is where my family is, where my husband and children live. People have also asked if Brett and I have family in the area and that’s why we moved here (separately). Neither of us had family here at the time, but we do now because we have each other.

This is my home. And there’s no place else I’d rather be.

A Taste of Home

Categories: Folks, Food

The year and a half I lived in Brasil I learned that around lunch time every day you could smell the same flavors coming from each home. It didn’t so much matter what you were cooking, you always started by sautéing diced garlic and onions in olive oil. If you stop by my place around dinner time you’ll most likely get a whiff of garlic and onion sautéing in olive oil. It’s how we start cooking most things at our home.

My family all went back to Santa Fe two years ago, bringing our spouses and the next generation to show them where we’d lived as children. It included a stop at Tomasitas for real sopapillas. If you’ve never had a sopapilla there you do not know what a real sopapilla is. It’s part of my childhood. Which makes it part of me now.

My grandma grew up on a sheep ranch. It was her job to make the bread for all the ranch hands and the family. One day she thought she’d killed the yeast, the dough wasn’t going to work. And she’d wasted all the ingredients. Rather than admit the waste she took the dough and buried it in the yard and went back and made more bread. Later that day the goats were acting strange in the yard. Grandma hadn’t killed the yeast. And it had grown in the yard. And now the goats were stuck. My grandma lives on in my kitchen when I make bread and wonder if I’m going to kill the yeast.

My husband grew up eating waffles for Sunday lunch every week in his home. I grew up eating tomato soup with pasta letters as a favorite lunch. Now they are both part of our home and our children will grow up having waffles for Sunday lunch and letter soup for Sunday dinner.

When I want make scones I make them how my mom made them. A small amount of bread dough pulled flat and deep fried. Then covered in jam or honey.

The food we eat defines who we are, where we came from, where we’ve been, and what our cultural heritage is. How I cook dinner and what I cook tells you about me.

Aside from learning the joys of non-processed foods when I was in Brazil, I also learned the phrase, “você faz parte da casa,” which means “you are part of our home.”

We invite many people to our homes as guests. They are welcomed into some kind of front room where there’s a nice sofa to sit on and the floor has probably been swept or vacuumed before they arrived and the clutter was stashed elsewhere. They might even be provided with some type of food or drink refreshment. But that doesn’t make them part of the home.

To invite someone into your kitchen is to invite them into your family. To invite someone into your kitchen is to invite them into the messy heart of your home, to show them your true self, and to let them be a part of it.

We might share bread together as friends, but making it together, getting flour on our shirts together, and dough under our nails, that makes us family, that makes you part of my home.

A Social Testimony

Categories: Gospel, Science & Tech

This past May I was given the opportunity to talk in sacrament meeting about how to share our testimonies using social media. It’s a bit of a strange topic, but I had a lot of fun with it. I thought I’d share, via the internet, some of the things I shared in church, kind of bring the whole thing full circle. I don’t really write talks though, just outlines. So this won’t be as conversational as the talk was, but it’ll get you the main idea. So, here we go.

I taught computers in an elementary school after graduating with two of my main topics being keyboarding skills and internet safety. I could give a class about internet safety and how to use different media, but that would be more appropriate in a setting other than the sacred Sacrament meeting. With that said, Brett and I met online, so I might be a bit biased toward the blessings that we have through social media and technology. One of the main reasons our relationship translated so well from virtual to reality was that who we are online was exactly who we are in person. I’ll come back to that later.

What Testimony Do We Share?
The October 2008 Friend had an article titled “Testimony Glove” that talks about the five basic parts to a testimony:

1. I know that God is our Heavenly Father and He loves us.
2. I know that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer.
3. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. He restored the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth and translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God.
4. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth today.
5. I know that this Church is led by a living prophet who receives revelation.

We do not always have to share all five of the basic parts of our testimony and we can elaborate on any part that we choose, but a testimony is no more complicated then that. Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Quorum of Seventy said “Although [a testimony] may begin with a single spiritual experience, they grow and develop over time through constant nourishment and frequent spiritual encounters” (“I Know These Things of Myself,” General Conference, October 2014). Sharing those spiritual experiences as prompted is also part of sharing our testimony.

How do you share your testimony?
We have a lot of different tools we can use to help us share our testimonies. Elder Mervyn B. Arnold reminded us that “The Lord has provided all of the tools necessary for us,” (“To the Rescue: We Can Do It,” General Conference, April 2016). And President Henry B. Eyring pointed out that, “By the miracle of modern technology, the separation of time and of vast distances vanishes. We meet as if we are all together in one great hall,” (“Where Two or Three Are Gathered,” General Conference, April 2016). Speaking of his wife, President Uchtdorf spoke of how she could always find “something inspirational, uplifting, or humorous to share. This often would lead to more in-depth discussions. … With so many social media resources and a multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before. … My dear young friends, perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to “open [your] mouths” might today include “use your hands” to blog and text message the gospel to all the world! … Brothers and sisters, with the blessings of modern technology, we can express gratitude and joy about God’s great plan for His children in a way that can be heard not only around our workplace but around the world. Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone’s life for eternity” (“Waiting on the Road to Damascus,” General Conference, April 2011). The Church also frequently suggests hastags for General Conference, CES devotionals, the Sabbath, etc. and creates beautiful memes, videos, graphics that can easily be shared in a variety of formats.

In addition, our very lives are our testimonies. When you bear testimony you share what you know to be true. It is so important to share your true self no matter what format you find yourself in. “Each member serves as a testimony of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ” (“The Reason for Our Hope,” Elder Boyd K. Packer, General Conference, October 2014). We have been told that we “are living evidence of the redeeming power of the Savior. We are living evidence of the ministry of the Prophet Joseph and the faithfulness of those early Saints who remained strong in their testimony” (“Look Up,” Elder Adrián Ochoa, General Conference, October 2013). And President Hinckley taught, “If we are to hold up this Church as an ensign to the nations and a light to the world, we must take on more of the luster of the life of Christ individually and in our own personal circumstances,” (“An Ensign to the Nations, a Light to the World,” General Conference, October 2003).

Going back to why my relationship with Brett worked out so well even though we spent a great deal of it early on over the internet, it was because we were our true selves there. More than once I’ve asked him if I’ve told him something online or in person because I am the same in both places and would say the same thing in both places. Whether it is in person or online there should be and needs to be no difference in how we live and share our testimony. Elder Bednar at a CES fireside emphasized “the importance of personal fidelity—the correspondence between an actual person and an assumed, cyberspace identity, (“Things as They Really Are,” CES fireside, May 3, 2009). Without that personal fidelity between in person and online we are bearing false witness of what we know to be true.

Why do we share our testimony?
It is important to recognize why we are sharing our testimony because that can influence what and how we are sharing. It has been said that “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Part of that nothing would be not sharing the good news and light that we have that the world needs. While I have shared my testimony in many instances where it has seemed like nothing I said made any difference, I can say, like Coach Yoast from the movie Remember the Titans, I “make sure they remember, forever, the [testimony I share]! Leave no doubt!” Or, to put it a bit more spiritually as Elder Ballard did, “The time has come when members of the Church need to speak out and join with the many other concerned people in opposition to the offensive, destructive, and mean-spirited media influence that is sweeping over the earth” (“Let Our Voices Be Heard,” General Conference, October 2003).

As we share our testimony it is important to remember that “there are times when the Lord reveals to us things that are intended only for us. Nevertheless, in many, many cases He entrusts a testimony of the truth to those who will share it with others. This has been the case with every prophet since the days of Adam. Even more, the Lord expects the members of His Church to ‘open [their mouths] at all times, declaring [His] gospel with the sound of rejoicing'” (“Waiting on the Road to Damascus,” President Uchtdorf, General Conference, April 2011). In Matthew 7:6 we are told “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” Share your testimony, but remember that when you share it online you are potentially sharing it with the entire world and they will be able to do with it as they will. Some aspects of our testimony are probably best shared in more intimate settings.

Whether we are online or in person we should remember that “the most effective way to preach the gospel is through example. If we live according to our beliefs, people will notice. If the countenance of Jesus Christ shines in our lives, if we are joyful and at peace with the world, people will want to know why. One of the greatest sermons ever pronounced on missionary work is this simple thought attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: ‘Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.’ Opportunities to do so are all around us” (“Waiting on the Road to Damascus,” President Uchtdorf, General Conference, April 2011). President Hinckley said, “I believe and testify that it is the mission of this Church to stand as an ensign to the nations and a light to the world. We have had placed upon us a great, all-encompassing mandate from which we cannot shrink nor turn aside. We accept that mandate and are determined to fulfill it, and with the help of God we shall do it” (“An Ensign to the Nations, a Light to the World,” General Conference, October 2003). Through the use of the internet each one of us can be that ensign to the nations, all the nations, and a light to the world, the whole world, in our own way.

The night before I gave this talk I told Iddo that I would be talking about Jesus the next day at church and I asked her what I should say about Jesus. She told me I should tell everyone that he helps people. “Does Jesus help you?” I asked. She enthusiastically replied, “Jesus helps everyone!”

I testify that Jesus will help us as we testify of him in word, in deed, in meme, and in hashtag.