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#notspecialneeds, just human needs

Despite the crazy cat massage, I was really touched by the message of this ad today. (I found out about it when Nate walked into our home wearing colorful, mismatched socks, and I noticed.)

I graduated from university as a special educator. I had an opportunity to work with children who had special needs as I completed my student teaching and also in my job as a special education seminary teacher prior to graduation.

But I never wanted to be a special educator after graduation. I never felt totally comfortable with the way education approached children with special needs. Removing children with individual needs reminds me of racial segregation. Today when I watched this video and saw the conclusion, I felt like they described my feelings–that all children have needs, just like everyone else in our human family.

When it comes to education, I believe each child has particular needs that may not be met by the traditional way of teaching. This isn’t just for children with obvious differences! It is true for ALL children. I believe that educating all children together (mainstreaming children with “special needs”) allows every child to learn from the other, to become more compassionate, to learn to service, respect, protect, and ennoble one another in ways that children naturally do before they learn from adults how to not do that. Children with learning or physical disabilities have talents that can teach those without. There is so much children learn from one another, and that we as adults could learn from working with them together.

When I visited my mission in November 2015, I reconnected with a friend who is the mother of a teen with Down’s Syndrome. She told me about a wonderful school of dance program called DragonFly that is helping children with DS to progress academically. They combine learning “numeracy and literacy” with dance. I reviewed it online, was inspired by it, and wondered, Wouldn’t this approach also help other children not with Down’s Syndrome? Couldn’t we do things like this to help every child?

I have seen some wonderful integration at each of my children’s schools, and I hope this is an upward trend across the nation. I know that having opportunities to work with others who can use a helping hand in the classroom setting has blessed our family’s lives.

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The same God that placed that star in a precise orbit millennia before it appeared over Bethlehem in celebration of the birth of the Babe has given at least equal attention to placement of each of us in precise orbits so that we may, if we will, illuminate the landscape of our individual lives, so that our light may not only lead others but warm them as well.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, That My Family Should Partake (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974), 86.

I recently heard this quote will listening to a rebroadcast of a speech by Michelle Marchant, BYU professor of special education. I had read the quote for the first time at Christmastime, when it was printed on the tag of a star cookie cutter, given to us at a Relief Society activity.

I especially love the part that refers to God giving special care to placing us each in the “precise orbits” of our lives. As much as I can tell, God does not leave the sending of children to earth to chance. He is perfect in his timing in such important matters. We are each a deliberate, carefully planned piece in his marvelous plan.

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I walked into my door this morning, after doing a 40 minute carpool to Eliza’s Irish dance performance this morning, just in time to try to help Anna finish up her macarons to take to school. I hadn’t made her a lunch, and I figured she would just have to be late to school. But I came home to some great surprises: Anna had finished making the fillings and the cookies were all finished and arranged on a tray, and my friend showed up at my door to pick her up and take her to school! She and her daughter even waited a few minutes while Anna hurried to finish getting ready–even when I said I could take her so they wouldn’t be late–and she said that she would take care of Anna’s lunch for me since she also hadn’t made her daughter’s lunch either and would make Anna one! AND she handed me a celebration banner that she had made the other day, one for her family and one for ours!

I had just been considering, last night and this morning as I drove home, how blessed I feel with all of the mothers, women, and daughters in my life who work together as a team to get the members of families where they want to be in order to be educated, to develop their talents, and to be stengthened spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. It is amazing.

Divine help

But it is not without divine help! I have felt Heaven’s hand in all the details of my life this past week, and when my friend texted me asking if I could pick up her daughter from harp, and then I texted her saying I needed to reschedule a music lesson, we were both thrilled at how the timing worked out to bless both of us. I was able to help other moms and children, and they were able to help me, as we performed this dance of feeding, clothing, transporting, and nurturing our children and spouses, helping one another make it all come out even.

“PHIL 413”

It was a delightful irony, while on my way either driving to pick up the “bonus daughter” at her harp lesson or taking the boys to hockey practice, that I saw a car with the license plate “PHIL 413”–and thought of one of my favorite scriptures, Philippians 4:13. It was the scripture whose words I clung to in labor with each of our children, and it is the same words that I cling to now as I wonder on Sunday night, “How am I going to do this week?”

It is a miracle. No one coordinates it all better than Heavenly Father. I don’t know how it is done, but I know that we are given help beyond our own natural abilities and after our diligent efforts to accomplish this work of motherhood!

By the grace of God

My wonderful visiting teachers came yesterday and shared the message about the enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives. This is what I am talking about. Somehow, by the grace of God, we are able to accomplish the work that God invites us to do! It is amazing!

175 Years

Today is the 175th anniversary of the Relief Society. The Relief Society is the oldest women’s organization in the world. Recently the mission of Relief Society was reworded to reflect its emphasis on the atonement of Christ, strengthening women and families, and working in unity to help those in need. This is such an encompassing, embracing mission. I love working arm-in-arm with the angels who surround me, the women in my family, neighborhood, and around the world. By so many daily acts of service, we are indeed accomplishing “something extraordinary” just as Emma Smith said we would!


Did you know Relief Society has been so involved in promoting the welfare of women, children, families, public health, education, and so many other beneficial efforts?

30 years

While I have been blessed by the Relief Society my whole life, I didn’t know how much I loved being a member until I became one after graduating from high school. Now after 30 years, I feel more grateful than ever for all the women who have helped me through college, my mission, young adulthood, and learning to be a wife and mother. I know that Relief Society will be there for me in all the years ahead!

(I wish I had time to write more, to give more specific examples! Another day…)

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“In the name of God, do your duty.”

Reading a book as a teenager is not the same experience as reading (or listening to) it as a person in her late 40’s. Wow, this book is something!

Right off, I must say that there is a ton of profanity in this book, and that the plot revolves around a rape case, so it is not a book you would choose to read aloud to your young children, even though the main character (who is utterly delightful)–Scout–is only 8 years old. I typically don’t listen to or read a book with profanity like this, but somehow it seems to be very much in context and understandable as part of the setting and vernacular. I would definitely recommend knowing your teenager to know if this story would be traumatizing or not. But it is a powerful story, for sure.

Here is what I love about it, so far (since I just finished the part where Atticus Finch, the father and defense attorney in the story, gives his closing speech to the jury–hence the title of this post): Atticus represents honor, nobility, integrity and civility towards all men. He is not only the educated man, he is also the thinking man, the moral man, the one who refuses to ignore the criminal in exchange for going along with the crowd. He’s the kind of man a child would want for his father.

Atticus’ daughter Scout reminds us of the pure goodness of unfettered and innocent childhood, of the wonderful, candid honesty that children possess. And she is hilarious.

And so many other characters and descriptions made me laugh out loud while I’ve been listening! Sissy Spacek does a phenomenal job portraying the characters with her voice.

I started listening to this book as I ran, since I’m trying to run longer mileage as I prepare for my half-marathon (…which scares me, so I need a good story to make the runs go by faster…). Then I have turned it on to keep listening as I drive and work and blog about quick dinners because I have to find out what happens! I cannot remember the conclusion from when I read it in high school. I just remember thinking it was a good book back then.

So off I go to finish listening. And I won’t let you know so that I don’t spoil it for you.

(But I will say that the breakfast description after the trial made me cry. And I love Miss Maudie and Calpurnia. And the title of the book and Atticus’ last name. And Scout’s conclusion: “We’re making a step. It’s just a baby step, but it’s a step.” And I agree with Eliza: this book is sad.)

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Tonight at 5:30 pm I said a prayer to ask for help figuring out what to make for dinner. It had been one of those days and one of those weeks when I didn’t get meals planned for the week or the day and wondered what I could make at this late hour with my low blood sugar and blank mind.

I peeled an orange and, while eating the sections, surveyed what was in the fridge.

I noticed some good items:

  • hazelnut 12-grain bread from Kneaders
  • baby “creamer” red and white potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts

I put the bread in a basket and sent it with willing hands to the table. I was grateful that the table was already set. That’s why I set the table in the morning when I empty the dishwasher. It means that at least one part of dinner is ready when it comes time to make it.

Then I started some water boiling in a pot and rinsed the baby creamer potatoes. Once the water was boiling, I dumped them in and turned to the Brussels sprouts.

Anna loves them, and so after I turned on the broiler on high and rinsed the mini cabbages, together we chopped off the little ends. Then she put them in a mixing bowl, poured some olive oil over them, and tossed them in it. Then she pulled out 4 baking sheets (well, 1, but 3 fell on the floor in a loud racket that surprised us all) and poured the Brussels sprouts on the baking sheet. She salted the Brussels sprouts and we put the tray into the oven.

Then I got some frozen chicken tenderloins out and rinsed them. I pulled out a bottle of Boar’s Head Deli Dressing and poured some in the bottom of the frying pan, turning it to high. I zested a lime, sliced it in half, and juiced half the lime into the pan. After adding the chicken, I covered the chicken with a lid. After a few minutes, I turned down the heat to medium high, added the lime zest around the pan as well as perhaps a tablespoon of minced ginger, and let it cook for a few minutes before covering it again. I cooked the chicken for maybe 5 more minutes or so. Then I added some mini carrots to the pan and covered it.

After cooking it for perhaps 5 minutes more, I turned off the heat. By then the potatoes had finished, and I had drained and added some butter, salt and pepper.

The sprouts were done after 10 minutes under the broiler. I turned off the oven and left them in so they would stay hot. When the chicken was done, we put everything into serving bowls and ate.

I called the chicken was “lime ginger surprise” because the deli dressing, and just because recipes with the word “surprise” in the name always crack me up. I got a few smiles to match the name.

And you have to say surprise “soo-prize.”

My prayer was answered. A yummy meal resulted, and we had a nice visit together while enjoying a hot meal.

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We heeded them not

This beautiful painting of Lehi partaking of the tree of life, by Marcus Vincent, is part of an exhibit at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake. Click on the image to go to the online exhibit.

I just finished recording 1 Néphi 8 in French as part of my goal to read aloud and record the Book of Mormon in French this year. I read the chapter first in English and then aloud in French. How grateful I was to read it again! I love this chapter: the imagery, the words.

I especially love the phrase, “We heeded them not.”

Remember the setting? There are tons of people watching Nephi and his family grope along a path, holding onto an iron rod, moving through mists of darkness hand over hand towards a beautifully tree full of the most delicious fruit. Lehi, his father, is already there and has tasted of the fruit, which is more delicious than anything he’d ever tasted. Of course he beckons for his family to come.

But there are all those people, mocking and pointing and laughing at them. Does it stop Nephi?

It doesn’t.

Why?

He didn’t pay them any attention. “We heeded them not.”

I’ve had to do that a lot in my life. In fact, just this morning, I was battling my own fatigue (thanks, daylight savings) and insecurities (those negative thoughts that come) and lay down to take a nap (one of the wonderful yet sometimes rare opportunities of having children at school and being a stay at home mom). When I awoke, I remembered I still needed to connect with my Father in Heaven via the scriptures. So I turned to 1 Nephi 8. And I was remembered that the negative thoughts that come don’t mean anything. I just need to ignore them. Heed them not. And go forward with my day.

I am so grateful to be learning the power of positivity and dwelling on true thoughts from heaven. My goal to read the Livre de Mormon aloud is an example. It’s not necessary that I do this. It’s just a goal I have. I don’t know who it will help, but that’s ok. I hope someday my children will play it as a lullaby for my grandchildren, so they can hear my voice and learn how beautiful the French language and the Book of Mormon are, despite the sometimes blaring imperfections of how I read both. I love the Book of Mormon with all my heart. I hope, like Lehi, that my children will keep pressing forward, hand over hand, towards the tree that offers us such sweet fruit.

(The file ended up being too large to upload, so I’ll have to record it again, breaking it up into two parts.)

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Too Many Mangos: A Story about Sharing

Some people collect spoons when they travel. I collect children’s books.

When we were waiting at the airport in Honolulu last week to catch a flight to Kona, I visited a book store and found this darling story. A grandfather notices that his tree is loaded with mangos and so he asks his grandchildren to take the excess fruit in their little wagon and share them with the neighbors. At each home they visit, the neighbors thank them and share something else in return. When they have given away all their mangos, they see that they have enough other food to enjoy a meal with their grandfather.

Great lessons and bright, colorful illustrations in this darling book! And so much aloha, too. 💛

(Note: When we visited the temple in Kona during our stay, one temple worker told us that the true meaning of aloha is “breath of God.” That was interesting to learn and think about. I searched just briefly on the internet and found that there are many interpretations of the word. One site concurred that aloha means divine breath and indicates the recognition of the divine in each other.) For me, the way people treated us in Hawaii showed us that aloha means love.

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Welcome March!

I LOVE MARCH! March is the green month, and boy do we love green here in Utah after the cold days of white, brown, and gray. Green is SO revitalizing! I just returned from a trip to Hawaii which was FULL of green. I couldn’t help but think of how the Psalmist said the Lord “maketh me to lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2). Of course! No one wants to lie down in a brown pasture, really–not when there is soothing green grass to rest upon.

What a delight it was to come home yesterday to see the sun shining so warmly, the snow so melted away, and the grass underneath beginning to green up in the sunshine! And then the bulbs in my front flower garden are all poking up. In a few weeks, we will be colored in color again. Joy and rejoicing!

I returned home to find that the child who had been asked to water my potted plants forgot. Completely understandable. I hadn’t left any reminders, and no one noticed them withering away. But thankfully they didn’t die! The shamrocks were close, and the hydrangea (remember the one that almost died the second day I had it?) nearly didn’t make it, and my gardenia were heading that direction. I did some serious pruning on the hydrangea and am praying that it will stay alive long enough to be able to be transplanted into the yard. I soaked them with water yestereday and today have brought them out into the sun to begin hardening them off for outside transplanting. I really hope the hydrangea makes it: those pink blooms were gorgeous while they lasted.

As I weeded and watered a little yesterday, I was reminded of the lesson that bulbs teach us about the law of the harvest: if you spend the energy to plant the bulbs when the time is right, then you may enjoy years of flowers in springs to come. I am particularly enjoying the fruits of my labors as a young mother and even earlier this year, in so may ways.

I’m not talking papayas

One of the fruits I enjoyed while on my trip to Hawaii was being able to leave the children under the supervision of one of my college-age children, and, for the most part and in a very admirable way, they continued on with their chores and responsibilities at home and at school. They even got along! Sometimes it is hard work nurturing those habits as a mother, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. But it is so worth the effort! Lane and I were perhaps the most relaxed ever on our trip because we knew that things were taken care of at home.

And those mini daffodils and mini pansies: oh they are such a joy. So bright and cheerful and tiny.

Welcome March, and welcome spring!

More about March traditions and book reviews to come this month!

 

 

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Faces

In an attempt to help one of my daughters find a photo for her student council election poster, my husband and I were looking through loads of family photos on his computer. Here are some gems we found:

Easter Parade, circa 2006 (Where is Sarah, we were wondering?). The little girls were over the moon about having gloves and hats. And boys in bowties are too cute.

That summer, the children all attended Disney singing camp, taught by the incredible Debra Bounous. Talk about an amazing nurturer! I need to write about her sometime. At the end of the week-long camp, the children had a performance, and then she gave them a goody basket she prepared for them! They were so excited about it. (Well, I won’t say that Nate would have been excited about performing in a voice recital. Or Sare. But everyone loved goody baskets!)

Loads more photos, and tons of fun candids that I’d love to share. But it’s too late and I’m tired, so off to bed for me. I’ll share more another day.

I will say that this was a really wonderful exercise in recalling great memories. When you look at photos over the years, you can see that all those little, fun things you do together as a family really add up! I’m so grateful for family photos!

Seriously. Family is where the action is, just like my grandma said.

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It is well with my soul

Talk about soul!

I had to post this after Rebecca shared it with me.

My thoughts:

  1. How proud their parents must be of them!
  2. Those faces! So utterly sincere and wonderful!
  3. Beautiful music. Pure blended tone.

Simply awesome! Hope you enjoy it as well.

P.S. Watch it to the very end.

Thank you, Vocal Point!

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