Heart-to-Heart with Diane

Hello and Welcome! Isn't raising a family the greatest!? I know I've got the best job in the world, just being Mom! I love sharing things I've discovered that make being "Mom" better, easier or more fulfilling, and that is what this blog is all about. Welcome!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April Fool!

Here comes one of the "funnest" holidays! I make the most of April Fool's Day, because it is a perfect opportunity to be playful, one of the keys to being a great parent! You've got to get on it first thing in the morning, before anyone realizes it is April Fool's Day, so I'll start with breakfast. Here's some fun tricks! (Can't tell you what I have up my sleeve this year, because my kids read my blog!)

Buggy Breakfast

Buy plastic lizards, spiders and bugs and wash them really well. Or dig up some from the toy box and give them a washing. Secretly put a creature in the bottom of each bowl, and top with oatmeal and a little milk to make them ready to eat, so they don't stir it around and discover their little friend before starting to eat. Make the oatmeal special by adding cinnamon, butter and chopped apple pieces to the boiling water before you put in the oatmeal to cook. Put the bowls on the table already served up and dig in. Eeeew!

Bungled Breakfast

If nobody likes oatmeal at your house, then you can try a Bungled Breakfast. Serve whatever is not breakfast food: tuna fish + crackers, cold canned corn, olives and pickles, radishes, spaghetti noodles. . . you get the idea. Set the table with pan lids instead of plates, upside down so they sort of roll around on their lid knob, and odd utensils such as an egg beater, potato peeler, or ladle. Everyone drinks out of measuring cups. Print off some goofy jokes (Boy's Life magazine has plenty) and tape a folded piece of paper with the joke inside to a toothpick. Stick these in the radishes and let the family take turns reading the joke they got. Enjoy!

Nail Polish Disaster

Buy a cheap bottle of nail polish. Dark colors work best! Poor out most of the contents of the bottle into a puddle onto a piece of plastic wrap that is laid on a sturdy paper plate. Lay the empty bottle on its side. Lay the brush coated in nail polish on its side. Let everything dry completely in a hidden spot (about 3-5 days). When your prop is completely dry, peel the nail polish puddle off the plastic wrap. Now you're ready! To play your trick, lay the dried puddle of nail polish on the page of an open book, planner, calendar, scriptures or other valued item. Lay the brush and nail polish container on their sides nearby, randomly, so it looks like a little one made a mess. Now all you have to do is wait for their discovery, with a loud wail! Followed by a mad, "Mom! That's not funny!" I think it is!

Whose Baby?

Dress your baby in something unusual: a Halloween costume, inside-out clothes or his sister's clothes. It will give him/her lots of attention! And make the kids laugh.

Muffled Muffins

Can you get away with another trick? Muffins would be nice, then! Just make up your normal muffin recipe. Put a little bit of batter in the bottom of each muffin cup. Add a cotton ball. Then scoop muffin batter over it. Bake as usual. Don't smirk when they bite into their muffins!

Juice Break

Hard at homeschool all morning long!? Take a juice break. Add a tricky ice cube to each opaque cup. (Tricky ice cubes have some obnoxious item that is edible or safe frozen into them: cheerios, a piece of a cracker, a leaf, an olive, etc.) Pour juice over the top and serve. My kids would be so delighted and surprised to get a juice break, that they might not notice until the fun begins!

Nap Time for Mom

Tell your kids that you are really tired (from all the pranks) and that you need to lie down and take a nap. Sneak some pillows and blankets onto the couch and arrange them so it looks like you are buried and comfy. Enjoy your free time! Hee hee.

Cake for Dinner

By now, suspicions may be arising over you and your trustworthiness. But if not, make my meatloaf recipe and bake it in two round cake pans. Whip up some mashed potatoes, very soft by adding a bit more milk when beating them. Get out a pretty cake pedestal (a very necessary part of being a fun mom!) and put the first round of meatloaf on the pedestal. "Frost" with mashed potatoes. Add the top layer of meat loaf and frost remaining layer generously. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Put birthday candles in the top and light them. Tell the kids you are having cake for dinner, for a treat! It makes a lovely layer cake with frosting in the middle when sliced. You might want to use ketchup to write "Surprise!" on the top of the cake for little ones. For bigger kids, you have to be quite discrete or they will find you out before you cut the cake!

If you've already tricked them in years past with this cake, trick them again by making cupcakes! Bake meatloaf in foil muffin liner cups. Put a little food coloring into the potato frosting and sprinkle the top with nuts. Fooled you!

We All Scream for Ice Cream

Buy vanilla ice cream in one of those cardboard oval cartons and open the recessed bottom carefully with a sharp knife, cutting along the seam, just a big enough opening to remove ice cream. Remove ice cream through the bottom. Make up a batch of mashed potatoes and pack them into the ice cream carton. Replace the bottom panel carefully. You can secure it with clear packing tape, a toothpick, hot glue gun, or whatever you have on hand. Nobody usually looks at the bottom of an unopened container. Let it freeze up well. Have everyone seated and ask whoever you want to trick if they will scoop. You want everyone to watch them open the container (which has not been opened before). Serve each ice cream scoop with ice cream toppings. Yum yum! Should be a good laugh to see and hear their surprised palettes!

Time for Bed

We're not done yet! Discretely hand stitch with big stitches the left leg hem on the bottom of your child's pajamas closed. He'll put in his right foot first (usually) and then have a bit of trouble with the other pajama leg. Should be tricky getting dressed! Once he figures that out, it's time to lay down for a good sleep, only the bed sounds crinkly. That's because you've sneaked one of those noisy plastic grocery bags or potato chip bags just under the sheet on the area he would lay down. Once he solves that problem, it really is time to get some sleep! . . . If he can stand the orange that has been stowed secretly into the pillow case on the underside. Will this silly day ever end?

Hee hee!

Have fun!

And Happy April Fool's Day to you!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dispelling Gloom

It was one of those days. The sun never came out. It was cloudy, cold and gray, with the foreboding of a storm. The baby was pulling at her ears and crying—sick again. The little ones squabbled over every imaginable injustice. Homeschool was far from "homey". I was without a car, but with a long list of errands that had to be done. My scripture study and planning time had to be set aside, as the baby wouldn't nap but wanted to be held. Laundry was backing up so badly that everyone was wondering if they'd have clean clothes tomorrow. I could go on, telling you my woes. Bleak, very bleak.

Things could have gone from bad to worse, but I had one of those rare experiences in which I saw in glaring reality that we create our own happiness by our attitude. As dinner time approached, I had even more to gripe about, but I put on some fun, lively music and involved the children in work. We cleaned up the living room, set the table, and did chores that had never been finished in the morning's awful gloom. No one was smiling or eager, yet. But I sang along to the music and rallied the children to make a super dinner. We peeled apples and made an apple crisp. Then we dove into making casseroles. We set the table with fancy goblets. The children took turns rocking the baby in the midst of the busy preparations with the upbeat music playing.

By the time Daddy and my teenage boys came home from work late (of course, it always happens on those days!), the dining room was bright and full of delicious smells. Immediately they picked up on the happy spirit and willingly helped with the final meal preparations. We enjoyed being together and no one even complained that the dinner was over an hour late.

A small thing. How different it could have been. I felt I had plenty of reason to complain. Most wives and mothers come to learn before too long that their attitude is contagious. I have often wanted to moan, "Can't I just have a bad day without everyone else borrowing it?". It seems that the family members pick up on mother's attitude and transfer it into their own personal feelings about the day. If I am overworked, my husband feels he has worked far too hard too. If I am too tired to make dinner, every other member of my family seems to be exhausted! I can't even sit down during chore time without finding myself surrounded by others who just need to "sit down a minute!". And so it is with having a happy countenance. It passes on to each child and to our husbands like wildfire. Even a conscious effort can't prevent it from transferring!

The woman is the center of the home, just as the hub of a wheel. She cannot have a bad day without influencing the whole family. And just the same, her cheerfulness or enthusiasm spreads quickly through the family.

How long and how much effort does it take to turn and look your loved ones in the eye and smile when they come home? Such a little thing. How much energy does it take to for a moment look at their sweet faces and say something positive to your little ones? What a pitance of a price. What keeps us from doing these things? Preoccupation? Laziness? What?

Victor Hugo, in his novel, Toilers of the Sea, speaks of the heroine Deruchette: "Her presence lights the home; her approach is like a cheerful warmth; she passes by, and we are content; she stays awhile and we are happy. Is it not a thing of divine, to have a smile which, none know how, has the power to lighten the weight of that enormous chain that all the living in common drag behind them? Deruchette possessed this smile; we may say that this smile was Deruchette herself."

Later, he philosophizes: "There is in this world no function more important than that of being charming—to shed joy around, to cast light upon dark days, to be the golden thread of our destiny and the very spirit of grace and harmony. Is not this to render a service?"

I believe there can be no more important job than to cast cheer on dark days, spreading sunshine, and lifting those who live with you, and who work with you. It seems a small thing, but those moments add to make up a lifetime, and an eternity. A happy attitude draws others like a magnet. They enjoy the feeling. They long to be around it. Mothers, we have so much influence and power to dispel gloom!

(Written years ago, when my children were younger. It still works the same way!)

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Formula for Happy Kids

Thank goodness for kids!
My darling granddaughters, Rebekah and Abigail

I just had my dinner date dampened. My husband took me out to my favorite Chinese restaurant, where we were sitting enjoying our meal when a mother with a little boy and a baby entered the restaurant. She had a friend with her and no sooner had they been seated did the drama began:

"Sit down, Tommy! Sit down right now! If you don't sit down, I am going to put you in a highchair!" Although she was across the restaurant from our table, she was loud enough that I couldn't ignore what was happening. Tommy continued to jump on the booth seat, next to his mother's friend, while his mother scowled at him. I wondered if the friend was going to enjoy her dinner.

"Tommy, I told you to stop jumping. Tommy, TOMMY! Stop jumping and sit down right now or you aren't going to get any food."

"Tommy, TOMMY! You sit down right now or I won't let you get a soda." I have not seen the mother smile yet.

"Tommy, you need to sit down right now. . .stop jumping! if I have to tell you again, you'll be sitting in the car."

. . . . TOMMY!

Well, I won't torture you any longer. It was not a pleasant thing to observe. I told my husband I needed to blog. Poor friend who is along for the miserable evening. I feel sorry for her. Poor mother! Life isn't very fun for her. She'll get "frown lines" while she is still young. But, most of all, POOR, poor child being nagged to death. I don't want to see the future, when he is 13 and twice her strength. It won't be a pretty sight.

With Ammon turning 19 this year, we've got 6 of our kids launched, and just one left to go. My 7th, Louisa, is just 14 years old . . . I can finally begin to see the finish line of child raising off in the distance. Parenting is the most difficult, overwhelming, monumental challenge I've faced in life. And the most thrilling, joyous, and meaningful one too! We struggle to learn, we do our best, and we hope and pray it will be enough. It is a huge job to raise a family. When they are all grown, I will miss having a house full of life, full of kids!

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was a senior in college at a big university. I was used to research, so I began the confusing and conflicting study of child discipline. After several months of serious study, one day I began to sob amidst my stacks of books. This was not like math, where formulas always gave consistent results. This study was full of conflicting opinions. For every theory, there was an opposite theory, just as firmly supported. One said "spank". The other said "don't spank". One said "structure". The other said "flow with it". The family scientists were all of differing opinions. They all had research and data, but how to interpret that information was a mystery. When I asked friends, their opinions were all over the board. That's when I began my occupation as a desperate praying mother. You get more results that way!

There's a million things learned by parenting. I think most of it is for the parents' benefit and training, as much as for the children. What does it take to be a good parent? If I could put it in a nutshell, though, here is what I think is most important:

1. Be playful!
2. Be trustworthy!
3. Take charge!

Be Playful!
Everyone craves fun! Playfulness is a most delightful trait in a parent. I think parents get too scowly, too serious, too boring. Smile and be affectionate. Laugh a lot! If you are playful, you'll get lots more cooperation. It is so much more fun to do chores to bouncy music or have races to see who can finish this or that first. Silly things are so delightful to children: like coming to breakfast with a wig on! Or spontaneous things like suddenly deciding to jump in the car and take off on an outing with 5 minutes notice.

Why not? Being playful makes kids see you as a happy companion, rather than a finger-shaking grouch.

Be Trustworthy!
Be trustworthy. Kids are dependent on us for everything and being dependable is basic to their well-being. Make sure meals are on time, be there to pick them up on time—do what you say you will do. This alone creates security in a child. So much of life is unpredictable, but if you are trustworthy, your child will be stable.

I once was in a carpool with a mother who just didn't show up to pick the kids up on time. These were teens in a play practice that got out at 9 PM. It was dark outside and the theater locked its doors and everyone went home after the practice, leaving our girls standing on the curb waiting, waiting, waiting. It didn't take me long to realize that carpool wasn't going to work, but I finally understood the very nervous, flighty jumpiness that the children in that family exhibited. They just couldn't depend on their mother, good person though she was. And that non-trustworthiness shook their foundation.

Being dependable starts when a child is newly born. They need to learn that you will help them cope with life—that they will be fed, cared for, comforted, and that their own needs will not overwhelm them, but will be met by you, their loving parent. As they grow, trustworthiness means you will always, always, ALWAYS do what you say you will. If you say you will not let them have dessert until they have eaten their food, or that they have to sit in the high chair, or that they have to wear a coat outside, or that they must come first time you call, you had better mean it. Because every time you break your own word, you lose respect in your child's eyes. They learn that you lie, that you say things that you don't really mean, and that therefore, you can't truly be trusted.

As my parenting years increased, I ended up making few edicts because I knew I had to follow through and make it happen. Eventually I learned by hard experience not to be a liar, and tried to carefully calculate what I said, and only lay down the law on the things truly worth battling over. I was far from a perfect parent, but I did learn that the more trustworthy we can be in following through on our word, the happier and more secure our children will be.

Take Charge!
There is no more insecure feeling that to realize you are on a plane without a pilot, or in an army without a general, or worst of all, in a family without a parent in command. Take charge! Children need it so much. The waffling, softy parent is scary to me. Because I was one—once—and I saw the damage it did.

Seeing that, my main task in raising little ones was to teach them first-time obedience to me. We practiced it together, rewarded them for it, drilled it, and told stories about it. God expects our obedience. Parents stand in the place of God to their very young children, leading them to God. How can children ever learn to respect a heavenly parent if you have not taught them to respect and obey their earthly parent?

If you say it is time to put your pajamas on, make sure it happens. Don't repeat your command. Don't beg and nag and negotiate. Be non-negotiable! If mommy says it is time to put on your pajamas, the kids better know that she'll be behind that, following up on it, making it happen and ready to counter any resistance. So, Mom, that means you better be willing to do that before making any idle requests. And you can't say it twice without weakening your authority—so get eye-contact, get their attention before you make a command. And be prepared to "check their work" right away and make sure it is done, even if you have to dress them yourself.

This may not feel like you are being "nice", but it is much, much nicer for a child to be secure, to know that mom is in charge, to know that she is trustworthy and dependable and unyielding. It makes life a safe place. Kids should not be able to direct the affairs of the family by their whining, tantrums or refusing to obey. If a child feels like they have their hands on the steering wheel, no one feels safe that the family car is not going to careen off a cliff!

Especially, don't forget the playful part. Promise some fun—"I'll start a story in 5 minutes and you'll get to choose it if you are here with your pajamas on!" Be happy, smile and show lots of affection. Be tender. But once you have said it, don't let 5 minutes pass without getting up off the sofa and seeing to it that you are obeyed.

The formula: if Mom=a playful, trustworthy, authority figure, then childhood= a safe, secure and happy time + children grow to = emotionally healthy, happy adults.

That's the formula I believe works for raising good kids. Best success!

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Get Ahold of Your Time!

It's Saturday, and I'm stunned. How does this happen?

Seems it is Sunday, and I am sitting in church with the week ahead of me, and the next time I look up, it seems to be Saturday and the week has whizzed by. I've gotta get a hold of my time!

So, here's what I did. I made a random list of all the things I do everyday, every week, every month. I laid it out where I could see it and added to it whenever I thought of anything. It looked like this:

read scriptures
teach a Bill of Rights class
do my job at church
grocery shop
talk to my husband
go to the library
talk to friends
organizing teen ballroom dance class
doctor/dental appts
run my homeschoool support group
phone calls
keeping connected with my mother, sisters
training kids on life skills
put on birthday and holiday parties

After a few days, I felt my list was pretty well complete, with daily and occasional activities on my list, as well as things I really want to do, but haven't been able to get to. Next, I carefully assigned a priority number to my activities: #1 for top priority, #2 for medium and #3 for lower priority. I thought about this for awhile, because I realized I was choosing what to do with my life.

Next I made a grid of all the days in a week, from 7:00 in the morning to 11:00 at night. I blocked out the time for meals, and set a bedtime (a very hard thing for me to follow). I looked at all the items marked with #1 and found a place to put them into my week. What a revelation! I realized how much I do daily that fills up my time that is not top priority (or even medium priority). These lesser priority activities often crowd out the more valuable ones leaving me feeling less satisfied.

After I got all the #1 priorities placed on my weekly schedule, I tried to fit in the #2's. Guess what? I was out of time in my week's schedule before I could even get through half of my list. How in the world do I do all that I'm doing? No wonder I'm tired!

I got my daughter Louisa to chart out her weekly schedule too. She put her chores, her activities, her homeschool subjects and music practice on it, and it suddenly became clear why she can't get all her schoolwork done! Not having ever counted the hours out before, I was shooting from the hip, overloading her.

Then we came up with a self-correcting system. We folded a column of paper and paperclipped it next to the day on her schedule. Whenever she followed her self-scheduled time slots, doing the assigned activity, she left the "Actual Schedule" column of paper blank. Whenever she did something else than her schedule dictated, she wrote in on the column of paper. At the end of the day, she could clearly see what she did instead of what she had planned to do. Shocking reality! Instantly she improved. She could see what she was putting off, and was able to discipline herself to do it.

Just creating a plan, and monitoring it, gives one a huge sense of control! Ooh, this feels good. I have a handle on my time. I can choose what to do with it. I can make sure those things which are most important aren't at the mercy of those things which matter less. I can be realistic with what really fits into one 24 hour day, and not overextend and over-commit and end up overtired.

I'm liking this!

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Evoultion: Are You Still Wondering?

Bless my friend Sarah for introducing me to the DVD that finally answered my questions about evolution! How I wish I'd had this sure knowledge when my children were growing up so I could have passed on firmness of conviction, instead of a hazy uncertainty on the important subject of "where did we come from?".

In my heart, I know that we have a loving Father in Heaven, and that our earth life is a carefully orchestrated test of our character. But I went to public school myself, and my science classes were 100% pro-evolution. We learned Darwin's theory as scientific fact and regurgitated this info for tests, and followed the latest discoveries in the missing link of monkey to man. College only increased my confusion, because my science classes were teaching evolution as total fact, while my testimony of Jesus Christ was blazing bright.

So I had to leave the question of evolution unresolved, unfortunately. Very unfortunately, because that uncertainty cannot be hidden from homeschooling children, who watch your every innuendo and know your heart. I avoided teaching them about dinosaurs, still uneasy with the idea of a primeval word where man was being mutated, ever so gradually through natural selection, from an animal into a human. I believed the scriptural account of creation and I knew I couldn't answer my children's questions about dinosaurs and man's orgin on this earth with conviction in the face of Darwin's theory. I feared damaging their delicate faith.

I am so very grateful to finally have the evolution theory completely put to rest in my heart. Thanks to the advances of molecular biology, and the ability to create amazingly powerful microscopes, scientists can now see into the cell and have discovered what we should have known all along: that Darwin's theory is too simplistic, too flawed to pose any threat to the belief in an Intelligent Being, a God who orchestrated all creation in intense intricacy, even down to the molecular level!

Do yourself a favor and remove from your heart the public school teachings which question faith in God via the theory of evolution. This DVD is scientifically accurate, well-presented, interesting to watch, and amazingly freeing . . . if you have been a captive to doubt. Watch it with your husband on date night, let your college-age kids or friends watch it, show your school-age kids little segments to help them understand bit by bit. It is faith-building and thrilling to see through scientific discovery that we are God's design, right down to the very smallest unit of life!

See the Unlocking the Mysteries of Life DVD here.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Science Backs Up Being Chaste

Thank you to the reader who sent me this very information article in which science proves chastity is best!


Sexually Indulgent Now, Marriage Ruined Later?

By Paul Strand
CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent
Friday, March 05, 2010

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Moms! Wake Up and Do Something!

Have you read the statistics? Are you as alarmed as I am?

Moms are forced to deal with pornography because:
  • 95% of children 10 and under have already been exposed
  • 80% of 12-14 year olds have had multiple exposures to hard core pornography
  • 70% of teens 15-17 years old have accidentally come across porn online
  • Addiction can occur with a single exposure and is common within three months
Pornography is taking our culture by storm. It isn't "if they see pornography", it is "when". The number of church-attending young men that view pornography on a regular basis is at a crisis level, far past the majority. No religion is exempt, no, not even yours. Everyone is facing the crisis: Jews, Christians, everyone. If those are the statistics in religious homes, what happens in the personal lives of those living without religion, in the world at large?

The average age for a boy to become addicted to pornography is age 11. I know from raising boys myself that puberty really sneaks up on a mother. Here you are a young bride, now a busy mom of toddlers and little ones, and then—boom—suddenly you have a son who is not interested in girls but inside his body, puberty is creeping on unannounced, taking him by surprise with its resulting strong urges, body changes and functions. Unless you have already been open in your conversations with him about the onset and appropriate use of strong sexual feelings, that boy is unarmed and vulnerable. At such a tender young age!

I have a friend who does "porn drills" with her kids. Remember the school "fire drills"? Same thing, except this is what to do when you are exposed to porn (get up and run from the computer, don't stay and try to close the image window because a blitz of multiple images will pop open. Pull the plug instead. Or better yet, get out of the room and get help. Tell an adult, so that shame doesn't overtake you and discourage you. Drop your eyes if the porn is in a different form than the computer. Don't look at girls or talk to girls who are dressed immodestly. Turn and look at someone else. Etc.!)

The pain and shame of lust are not new. Shakespeare describes it well in his Sonnet 129. Only in teaching our children about the godly use of the power to create life is there purity, light, and understanding. Our powers to create are holy, and in nothing are we more godlike than using those powers to give life to others, to create a family. Creation is the work of God.

The human body and brain love pleasure, naturally. We relish eating a good meal. We love swimming in warm water with the sun shining on our faces. We thrill to see the brilliantly colored tulips and daffodils break through the brown earth in early spring. We melt in a warm, tender hug. These are sources of wholesome pleasure. But, unbridled, our desire for pleasure can urge us to eat way too much chocolate, watch way too many movies, spend too much money at the mall, and seek thrills: roller coasters, mountain climbing, bungee jumping, 4 wheeling, hot-dog skiing—or whatever else caters to the exhilaration of human pleasure. Some (well, according to the statistics, most) young men in our day and age find that pleasure in pornography.

Are young women exempt? My daughters think it's gross when a guy takes his shirt off to swim, so I don't think that most religiously-raised teenage girls are getting kicks from looking. But teen girls are tempted by a romantic story or movie that deepens into pornography. Twilight's soft-porn storyline is so appealing that it has achieved national bestseller rank. That's girl-porn. It's a big money-making market, and every young woman is at risk.

What are the effects of pornography? Donald Hilton, MD, is a neurosurgeon who explains that the brains he sees in the skulls of those who view porongoraphy don't look any different than the brains he operates on that have been subjected to intense head trauma in an automobile collision. The front lobe has shrunk and normal chemical activity has altered. Not being able to cope with the flood of pleasure chemicals present from constant sexual release, the brain inhibits the production of dopamine, in an effort to achieve balance. Less dopamine means less pleasure, so the porn viewer needs harder stuff to get the same thrill. And he doesn't get much pleasure from the wholesome things in life anymore. The hand-holding that gives your daughter a thrill isn't even detected by her boyfriend, if he is secretly viewing porn.

This same neurosurgeon said it takes at least a year and a half for the brain to recover after porn viewing is stopped: time for the frontal lobe to heal and restore itself and for the chemicals in the brain to normalize. Even still, those repeated pathways to pleasure have created grooves in the brain that will always crave to be retraced. Thank goodness there is repentance . . . and hope.

I don't think we realize how serious it is that we safeguard our children. And whose job is it to keep our children decent? Yep, Mom, it's you and me. How can we do it in such an indecent world?

#1 Talk
First and foremost, talk to your kids about sex in a happy and relaxed and reverent manner, providing a spiritual context, so they know the great gift God gives to a married couple, enabling them to have a family—the greatest of all joys. 77% of porn addicts come from rigid families who don't teach or talk about sex. Having normal, happy family life with a mom and dad that are playful and loving—and willing to talk—that is the very most effective way to nurture decency in kids.

#2 Model
If your kids can see a healthy, normal relationship where you and your spouse are comfortable with your own bodies, comfortable with the role sexuality plays in your life, and honor and respect each other's bodies, it is a huge help.

I was always careful not to make negative comments when changing my baby's diapers. As I see it, their first impressions about the sexual parts of their bodies are important. If "pee-you" and "stinky" are how you describe them as you clean their private parts, it may be doing them a great disservice in how they view sex ultimately.

#3 Guard
It's a lot harder not to steal when the money is lying out open on the counter. We must make sure that computers, cellphones, i-pods, etc. are not the easy open door to pornography for our children. In my home, the computer resides on the dining room table. A horribly inconvenient place. When guests come to eat, we have to haul this heavy monstrosity plus the tower and the keyboard and all the cords it into another room until the table is cleared. No computers with internet access live in bedrooms or downstairs at our house. Our cell phones don't have internet access. Just think of the unhappy opportunity for a teenager who has internet access on his cell phone--and takes it with him into his bedroom at night! Computer filters are necessary too. K-9 Web Protection is a free service that can protect your family. Just know that computer-savvy youth can find just what they want on the internet, in spite of filters. The real filter has to be in their heart.

The internet is not our only enemy in the fight for decency. School sex education: too much talk and information about details of sex is arousing in itself. Even in the books you may teach from. Keep it simple and unillustrated in general. Beware of song lyrics. I have read of church leaders who wanted to inform themselves so they could minister to their people and have become sucked into addiction. I think we underestimate its power.

Television, movies and popular books often present soft porn. With my daughter, I was watching what I thought was a wholesome movie, a love story, only to have it suddenly become shockingly pornographic! As a culture, it is so prevalent that we don't see it for what it is. Billboards, advertisements, magazines, talk shows. . . and "walking porn", via the daily view of girls dressed immodestly, provides a dangerous and publicly acceptable run-in for our youth. Even the glossy news ads with the lingerie section can cause a problem for boys. Public swimming pools are not my friend. Another source that I never considered (until we took our teenage son to Europe) is art museums. We are taught to view nude sculpture of the human form as magnificent. But to a boy, it is still nakedness. It still creates a powerful impression of seeing the forbidden. Home and family life needs to be a haven, a protection and a retreat. Guard what comes into your child's minds!

My message today: Wake up, Moms. I know this is an uncomfortable topic that it easier avoided, but your children are at risk if you don't teach and prepare them. Teach your children about the beauty of their bodies when they are very young. Be there for your growing kids, always willing to talk and explain. Be close—emotionally intimate with them. Reassure them that sex in marriage creates the greatest joys possible and that sex is a gift from God to be used at the right time. Safeguard your children from indecent exposure that will bring them misery! We have an insidious enemy on the rampage. Watch out!

*Information presented by experts at the "Stand for the Family" Forum, March 2010, BYU University.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

10th Annual Homeschool Prom!

Our 10th Annual Homeschool Prom

Saturday night was a magical night for my daughter Louisa. She has "only been waiting my whole life" (as she puts it!) to go to the Homeschool Prom! She is finally old enough, and spent weeks designing and sewing her dream dress—an education in itself. And then she danced, and danced and danced. She came home with stars in her eyes and is still smiling about it!

A magical time for my daughter Louisa

And yes, this is the 10th year that we've put on this special no-date dance. What we do for our kids, huh?! My real desire is to create a counter culture—an alternative to the pop culture that is so invasive in our world, and often so detrimental to raising good kids. We cannot leave a vacuum and expect much success. If we don't want our kids listening to bad music or doing suggestive dancing, then there has to be a bright alternative that appeals to them.

Some highlights of the night: we had a brother/sister team dance the floor show, a cute and innocent cha cha routine. And there was the Twist Contest, with so much energy! We also had a university dance instructor come and teach us to do some English dancing, which was a great new option: stately and beautiful dancing from history to excellent music! I think Jane Austen would have highly approved.

Girls too young to come to prom are thrilled to come and take care of the refreshment table.

I really do get a lot of enjoyment out of watching these good teens, modestly dressed having a great time dancing to good music. They have so much fun! And oh how they enjoy dressing up in formal wear! The girls were sparkling in their modest prom dresses, upswept hairdos, and all. The boys looked great in their ties and dress-up clothes. Parents came too and danced. I love to see the daddy-daughter couples—so sweet. One mom came with a diamond tiara in her hair, looking very lovely. There is no generation gap here. I danced myself into oblivion too—who can resist the fun? (and I could barely walk the next day . . . it's hard for me to remember that I am not 16 years old anymore.)

Louisa dances with her Dad

My daughter Julianna, who has taken oodles of dance classes in college, taught a free ballroom dance class for the 6 weeks preceding the Homeschool Prom, so all the kids would know a waltz from a polka. That has been a lot of fun too. Teens are much more confident if they know some steps when the music starts!

My son Ammon enjoying the dance!

This is a good thing. I'm glad we put in the effort required to make this dance happen each year. It gives homeschooled teens the real experience—all the dazzle and excitement of going to Prom, with other high-standarded kids, wholesome music, and happy memories of a magical evening!

My 3 beautiful daughters: Louisa, Julianna and Emily

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Swim Modest

Pretty Emily, my 2nd daughter, on Catalina Island

Having girls is quite another thing. After 3 boys in a row, I got a daughter! And when she was old enough to wear a swimsuit, I was in for a shock. Yes, she was just a baby, but I could already see that the world and I were not going to agree on how much of my daughter's skin they were going to get to see.

So began a very long shop-a-thon which left me empty-handed. We experimented. Covering a normal swimsuit with a t-shirt and shorts was not the answer (a wet t-shirt is very immodest!) Then I began a sewing fury, trying this and that, mostly failures. To dress my daughters in modest swimsuits became an obsession. We tried so many things!

I went to the local swimming pool to observe. If it wasn't so sad, it would be laughable. Every teen and woman there was in a pull-and-yank struggle to keep covered. First it was a two-handed pull-down of the back of the suit so the panty didn't ride up on their bottom. Then it was a yank to the front neck to keep their cleavage a bit more covered. Then on to the underarms to try once again to keep their breasts more covered, and then to the front crotch area, trying to make a tiny width of fabric cover a very private part of the body. This didn't look fun!

This called for some serious pattern drawing. I had lots of sewing experience, and my husband is an engineer, so he got out his drafting tools and some pattern paper. We slaved most of a summer away trying to come up with the perfect swimsuit!

My first goal in creating a swimsuit was modesty, but comfort and stylishness are very pretty important too. Finally, after lots of failed attempts, and a whole summer of sewing prototypes and lots of hysterical laughter when my daughters were summoned to try on yet another suit, we finally designed a suit that everyone seemed to feel comfortable, modest and stylish in! It is made of quick-drying lyrcra swim fabric that stretches with your body's movements. It has sewn-in lightly padded no-show-through bra cups (instead of those limp, panel bras). The sarong skirt (sewn in) drapes beautifully giving the crotch coverage that make us feel much more at ease. Under the skirt are shorts, not a panty, thank goodness, so you can sit at ease cross-legged in the sand without ever tugging at anything! And it is all one piece, so no worry about midriff showing, sarong falling off or anything else. Finally, liberation! Hurray!

Little girls look charming in them, big girls and moms feel comfy and relaxed. Older women appreciate the skin coverage. Boaters wear them as "splashwear". Sun sensitive people love the fact that they give top-of-the-arm and thigh coverage, where sunburns can be so painful. People who would feel ill at ease wearing a swimsuit into a store think they are great and dash into the store in them. No need for a cover-up.

If you are ready for something new, something more modest than what the stores are showing, try a Swim Modest swimsuit. I think you will be delighted!

See a big gallery of modest swimsuit photos here.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

A Delicious Read, Indeed

I want to tell you about my favorite book: Laddie, A True Blue Story. It's not very often that you find such a warm, family-value-oriented book. It is a treasure! The best part of it was reading it out-loud to my children. I found it taught just as much as a sermon . . . with my family chuckling along the way and begging for more. And there is lots more—416 pages of it.

From the eyes of Little Sister (the youngest child living in a big family on a farm in the newly settled Midwest in the 1900’s), we get a delicious taste of strong family values and faith in God. Full of adventures and scrapes—love stories too—with a kind and devoted mother, a protective wise father, and a loving older brother, Laddie, as superb role models that I want to follow!

Leon, a young brother, provides lots of humor, just being a boy. Little Sister, through whose eyes the story unfolds, finds school squelching to her free spirit, and it is hard not to commiserate with her. The mother and father are remarkable Christians in spite of the many challenges of taming a new land. Such a sweet story of wholesome, decent, loving family life!

Get it at your library, borrow it from a friend, get if from my bookstore. . . but read it! It will definitely enrich your life.

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