Corn Husk Dolls

Today I went with the fourth graders to Peralta Adobe, to see the oldest house in San Jose. All the parents ran the stations at the site. I got to help the kids make corn husk dolls. They also made candles, tortillas, did some dressing up and played other games. I really like hands-on learning. Here is Maren making the corn husk dolls, playing the ball and cup game, and dipping a candle.

IMG_1422IMG_1423IMG_1425 IMG_1434IMG_1432IMG_1435IMG_1438IMG_1436IMG_1437

It has been a long week, and I am tired. Good night!

Parenting 101

I am always amazed at how much I don’t know in parenting. Just when I think I have a certain part of my life in order with systems where the kids are thriving, something can throw things off. It could be sickness, new attitudes entering into the kids’ vocabulary, different stages of development, or just fatigue and traveling.

Today I participated in a great webinar, sponsored by The Power of Moms,  from Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions. One thing she said jumped out at me. She said that our intuitive ideas to deal with behaviors in children are not always the right approach. I have often felt I had pretty good instincts, had good parents myself, and that I have a generally effective approach. But time and again I have come up short in solutions on various parenting dilemmas. So the webinar today was about how to get kids to listen without nagging, reminding or yelling. I feel like lately I have done too much reminding, mostly because the kids don’t always listen the first time.

So Amy shared some powerful tools. First was that kids misbehave for different reasons than we think. Children need to feel emotional belonging within their family by getting sufficient positive attention. They need to feel powerful and capable in their environment. This can be achieved by giving them independence, a sense of autonomy, free will and control over their lives. When there is a lack of feeling of power or emotional wholeness, misbehavior comes out. I took a look at my children and found some areas where we could improve on giving more positive attention and handing over control.

The next portion of the webinar explored how consequences should not feel like punishment. Punishment means the child feels blame, shame or pain. So if a consequence   gives them shame or blame or pain, the child may resort to lying to avoid those feelings. Effective consequences have 5 R’s. They must be respectful, both in tone of voice and the way it is given. The consequence must be related to the misbehavior. They should be reasonable in duration of time. The consequence needs to be revealed in advance. And the child should be able to repeat the consequence back to the parent.

Consequences should only be used 10-15% of the time. Often we need to take time and let things go. We need to hand over the responsibility to our children in following through with the rules in the house. It was a great webinar. During it, we could type questions and responses at the bottom of the screen. A couple of times, she said, Julia….and answered one of my questions. It felt like I was getting some personal coaching.

I got an email today from another parenting organization, Clear Path Parenting. They gave a great tip I used already today. It was how to avoid temper tantrums in kids. One child is prone to anger and power struggles. So the strategy is to answer them with the phrase, “I know” when they are arguing about something. So I tried it tonight and used that simple phrase, and it totally diffused the negative energy I was getting from that child.

Well, parenting is never easy, but it is totally worth it. I am grateful today to be learning some great strategies to help me guide my kids and show them more love and diffuse negative energy. I am starting to think that all parents should have continuing education weekly or monthly or daily to help us navigate the tough spots of family life.

Maren is 10!

An amazing thing happened today. Yesterday Maren said she wanted to invite 15 of her friends to go to a nearby bouncy house arena for her birthday. So I sent out a last minute email to all those friends, and every one of them could come except one. It took some last minute scrambling to find a third driver to accommodate the 19 kids we ended up taking. The girls were very energetic and busy running up and down the slide and climbing walls and playing games and bouncing around. It was nice to celebrate on Maren’s day. She said she loved every part of it.

DSC_5283Maren is energetic and bright. She has a smile on her face and is enthusiastic to try new things. She easily makes friends. Maren cares for young children in a uniquely attentive way. She has a brilliant mind for math. She has been loving The Little House on the Prairie books this year. She is orderly and neat. She has nice penmanship. She is a loving daughter and sister. I love her!

Here are some pictures from the grand event.

Erik and Maren


Three generationsDSC_5215 DSC_5199DSC_5198

Blurry, but fun expressions, love holding hands with Robin.DSC_5158 DSC_5157 DSC_5092 DSC_5194 DSC_5193 DSC_5183 DSC_5090 DSC_5195DSC_5269 DSC_5264 DSC_5262 DSC_5248 DSC_5214 DSC_5211 DSC_5210 DSC_5209 DSC_5202 DSC_5201DSC_5205

Great girls and friends. Fun for Erik and me to join in the fun. Thanks to Heather for loaning her car, and to Erik’s dad for joining us on the adventure.


Picking up sticks

Robin gave a great lesson on choices and accountability in Family Night tonight. The fun part was the final activity where Robin took two sticks. She gave us two choices, and then we had to choose what stick to pick up. Each choice had different outcomes —better or worse consequences. It was interesting to reflect on how sometimes there are clear choices and harder choices between two good things.

Here are Brandon and Erik playing a rhythmic stick game after choosing.


Robin did a great job preparing and sharing music and scriptures and games with us. She definitely shone during the game part. She is fun-loving. I have lots of choices to make right now. I hope I can figure out what is the best or better choice that will bring more happiness and help the most people, in my family or community.

Taking a break

Sometimes it is good to take a break from worrying and thinking. It was fun to go to a movie with my friend, Heidi, tonight. It took my mind off home for a couple of hours, and then we had a great chat afterward. I don’t get a chance to do this enough, plus there aren’t that many movies that are worth spending the time or money on. It was just what I needed.

Running out of gas

I ran out of gas on the way home from picking the kids up from school. I was literally a half block from my house. I had the kids and their friends jump out of the car and walk home. My neighbor drove by and helped me out. We asked some construction workers to come and push me to the side of the road. I then went home, got a gas can that had less than a gallon of gas and put that in the tank. Not enough. So my neighbor and dear friend drove me to the gas station to get some gas in the can. She filled up her car too. I came back and filled the tank, and it started! I headed directly back to the gas station in my car and filled it to the top.

So what did I learn. I shouldn’t have postponed going to the gas station the three times earlier in the day when I had talked myself out of the trip to fill up the tank. Friends often come right in the nick of time to bail us out of our troubles. It is good to have a sense of humor about these things. I am glad I was close to home and no one was hurt. I need to fill up my tank before it is too late. I was glad I had a gas can! Sometimes we do silly things. The list could go on. We are all safe and sound at home. I am happy the weekend is here.

Habit and Home

I seem to read mostly non-fiction these days. I finished two books last night and this morning.


In The Power of Habit I learned about how much of what we do day to day is a complex set of habits. If we have habits we want to break, we can overwrite the old habit and create new habits. It takes effort and creating different responses to daily cues. One habit we have been trying to break around here is some of the negative ways we interact — nagging, criticizing, belittling, general disrespect. We have been trying to form new habits in how we talk to each other. I have seen a lot of progress in trying to turn around what we say from the more negative approach to the positive. We are much happier as we have consciously interacted more kindly and respectfully.

Happier at Home is a follow-up book to The Happiness Project. The author contemplates how the happiness she experiences centers around her home life. She outlines nine areas such as time, parenthood, neighborhood, now, and marriage as areas to make specific goals so that home is a happier place. I enjoy the practical nature of her discoveries about happiness.

Here are a couple other books I have started and are on my nightstand. Again, they are non-fiction. Maybe someone has a good fiction book to recommend to me.


Happy reading!



Parenting is always on my mind. I took a survey this morning, and the person asked the question, “What kind of parent are you?” I was a little shocked by the question somehow because the survey was about vaccinations. But I slowly answered, “Deliberate. Loving. Strict. Careful.” I don’t know that did my parenting style justice. But I definitely think deliberate is how I strive to live; loving might be the most important quality as a mother.

I was reading another mom’s blog where she talked about the best behavior modification program happens as we spend time playing with our children. I am often with my kids, but not always engaged in their play. I made a goal this week to spend 30 minutes a day just playing with one of my kids. So tonight, Robin and I colored. We have been working on coloring this story book for awhile, and we spent time chatting and coloring.


We weren’t rushed, and it was relaxing and fun to just work side by side. I am not particularly concerned about Robin’s behavior, but more love and time together has to be good. It felt good for me, and I loved that one-on-one half hour together. More importantly I love Robin.


Five together

We just finished reading scriptures. Brandon, Camille, Robin, and Maren are playing the guitar and ukuleles in the other room. It is time for bed, but I am just letting them spend some time together. The other morning all five kids had dentist’s appointments at the same time. Here they are in the chairs, filling the entire room. IMG_1352 IMG_1353

Luckily the report was good, no cavities and good brushing. Flossing could be improved but a good morning of dental hygiene.

It is comforting to me when we are all together. We are planning a big trip to Europe this summer, and I am excited it will be the five kids and us embarking on some world traveling all together. It isn’t always going to be like this, so I am cherishing the moments while they are here.



Learning and Growth…

For family night, Brandon taught us on a lesson about the importance of education. We have been basing our lessons each week on a section from the book “For the Strength of Youth”.

IMG_1399Lifelong learning seems to be a key to a bounteous and fulfilled life, more prepared for the future. We all went around and shared some things we have been learning in class or life that is interesting or helpful. Erik has been learning about interactive data visualization for some of his work projects. Brandon said he has been learning about evolution in biology. Robin shared some of the favorite things she does in math lab. Maren said she is learning all about fractions in math. Nicole told us about learning about the world economy in her economics class, as well as reading poetry in English and differentiating integrals in Calculus. I have been learning to enjoy teaching groups of adults about family life and working with children on ways to create a positive school environment and decrease bullying.

Sometimes learning comes in fun, active ways. Robin is loving her weekly ice skating class with her good friends, Gigi and Ben. Maren and our neighbor also joined in the skating fun today.IMG_1397IMG_1396

I love seeing my kids enjoying friendships while they are learning something new.

Learning comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes the learning comes as we tackle changing family dynamics. We are still trying to learn how to get to bed at a good time each night. We have been learning methods for coping with anxiety and high emotions. We are definitely learning how great it feels to work hard and save money toward a family goal, and then how to have fun and decompress after the hard work. With the learning are lots of growing pains, bumps in the road, mini-successes, relationship stretching experiences, joys, sorrows, and increased capacity.