31 March 2015

Baboo's birthday

TWENTY-ONE YEARS OLD, this girl!  Can't believe it.  

For her birthday, we took her out for dinner at her favorite place, Cafe Rio.  She ordered the same thing she has ordered there the past ten times she has gone, I think.  Quesadilla.  Anyway, it was fun.  I love talking to her.  She makes everything fun and interesting.  The only pictures I got on her birthday were these candid ones I took of her while she was eating.  I tried not to let on that I was taking photos.  Isn't she cute?

She'll probably hate me for posting these.

Anyway, after dinner we went home where we had a little family birthday party for her.  For her birthday treat, she wanted croissants and chocolate milk to dip them in.  So we splurged and got some nice quality croissants and pain au chocolat for her.  Then we bulked up the dessert with cheaper and not-so-nice croissants from the grocery store bakery.

One of the presents we got her was her very own gallon of milk.  She loves milk and is never allowed to have as much as she would like.  

But her main gift was a hair cut and style at a fancy schmancy salon that specializes in curly hair.  This is not the cut/style.  That appointment was a few days later.

I miss baby Baboo who was my special little companion.  We were inseparable the first few years and had a sweet little relationship.  I totally miss it.  But I also am loving this fiery, independent, compassionate, strong young woman who is one of my best friends and makes me laugh and love life.  

More stuffs

Wink's tooth-hole.  This crater was newly created at school today.
Did I post that I cut the little girls' hair?  For Baboo's birthday we took her to a fancy hair place that specializes in cutting curly hair.  I watched very closely and then came home and chopped of Pink's locks!  And I kept trimming it over the next two or three days.  Despite what you may think of the photo, she loves it.  We were just trying to get the right angle so there was no glare on her lenses.
I also cut Wink's hair but I think it's less noticeable.  Totally different experience cutting their hair because Pink's is probably five times as thick.
Sweethearts Dance!
This sweet girl asked my handsome boy.  She has great taste!

Stuffs

JJ went to prom!


I don't have a photo of him with his date.  Taking pictures was part of the date so I know they exist.  I just don't know where.    But he had a lot of fun.  The day activity was playing sports and games at a park.  Then they went out for photos.  Dinner was at the Spaghetti Factory.  The dance was at the Capitol.  Then it was watching "Up!" on an outdoor screen on the lawn of a church building until it was time to take dates home.
FYI.  His date said her dress wasn't formal enough for a tux.  So instead of renting him a tux, we just got his mission suits a little early.  This is one.
This was just one of those fun moments.  Baboo had her YSA family home evening activity at the family history center and she found four previously unknown children of a direct ancestor several generations back!  So when she came home, we were all talking about family history and Baboo was showing things to everyone.  I love John's face.  Like, I mean, regardless of the expression.  I'm always grabbing his face and telling him how much I love it.
Lately Baboo has been wrestling with people a ton.  You can always tell because she's more vocal where the boys are kind of silent.  Anyway, her style of wrestling is perfect for the little girls who never get hurt with Baboo the way they do with their big brothers.

29 March 2015

Primary Today

Things were a little wilder than usual today and I felt myself frustrated several times because I couldn't finish a thought without interruption.  Nevertheless, there were good things that happened:

1.  Starting the class with personal scripture study is genius!  Not even kidding.  I ask how they did with our weekly challenge (reading a verse of scripture on their own that week) and then I provide scriptures and a few minutes of quiet time to do it then.  They LOVE reading as much as they can and it starts the class out with quiet reverence and they are so proud of themselves!

2.  I could tell one child in particular was all set up to be disruptive during class.  So instead of just having them to tell me one thing about their week this week, they also had to say one nice thing about someone else in the class.  It was really hard for them and only one person thought of anything nice to say about anyone else.  But then it was MY turn!  Those kids were rapt to hear what I would say about them.  And I started with the child who was already causing trouble.  That caught their attention!  And everybody was listening and loving all the great things I had to say about them.  So fun!

3.  At the point where I had really had it--the pinnacle of my frustration--I stopped talking and sat down.  Immediately, two kids sat down and folded their arms and stopped talking.  Soon thereafter, a third kid did the same.  I had to wait a full minute for one child to notice and stop talking and sit down.  As soon as she sat down, I started the lesson again. I didn't have to shush or say a word.  It was pretty cool.

4.  We were talking about the nature of the Holy Ghost and the kids were a little confused.  So I was telling them that there was only one sun but everyone could feel the warmth.  And since it was a beautiful day, I took them outside and we finished our conversation out there.  I pointed out how we all could feel the warmth and see the light of the sun even though there was only one sun and it was just in one place.  Then one boy pointed out the shade under a tree and said there was no sun there.  So I took them under the tree and had an unplanned conversation about how some things in life made it hard for us to feel the Holy Ghost.  Some things could kind of block the influence of the Holy Ghost, the same way the tree was blocking the light and warmth of the sun.  It was awesome.

5.  Two moments in the class when the kids were quiet and listening and the spirit was teaching.


How I Write a Talk for Church

You know, sometimes it's hard to be You.  I mean Me, of course.  But hypothetically this maybe applies to a larger audience than one.  I am in the midst of getting help from a sister-in-law in planning Winkleberry's birthday party.  Because I am the lamest mom in the universe, this will probably be the one and only birthday party she gets over the course of her life at home.  I hate party planning.  It's stressful and not fun.  I hate decorating.  I dislike having hyper children in my home.  This is why I need help.

So I spent a couple hours perusing the internet (minus pinterest, because I still have some sense of self preservation) looking for activity ideas for this party.  But I just started feeling so bad about myself.  So many pictures of beautiful parties--all with themes!--and even the ideas for "simple" party ideas are just not simple enough for me.  It's hard on the self-esteem to think that people actually live regular lives where they enjoy and pull off parties like that.  

I am not that person.

So I am trying to think if there is anything in this world that I, personally, am good at.  Where someone would think, "I need help with this.  I'm going to turn to Real and see if she has any pointers for me."  And the only thing I could come up with is speaking or teaching in church.  In fact, I have a friend who has consulted with me via email many times when she has a talk to give in sacrament meeting.

This is it folks.  This is all I have to offer the world.  Below is my process for writing a Sacrament Meeting talk.

1.  Usually, you are assigned a topic.  If you are not assigned a topic, you can really pick anything.  If I have to pick my own topic, I usually pick the thing I am feeling passionate about at that time.  My passions change from week to week or month to month so it's guaranteed to be something new.  I would say speak on something that you are passionate about because your knowledge and testimony will come through.  The only time I would say NOT to do this is if it's something that has been a passion for a very long time.  Because chances are that people have already heard from you on that topic plenty of times before.  If you don't feel particularly passionate about anything, then just pick any topic (as if you were assigned something random).  It's ok.  We'll walk you through it.

2.  Once you have your topic, make a list of the most obvious things to say about that topic.  The things that jump out at you.  The things you have heard frequently before.  And then cross them all off and throw that list in a garbage can and burn it.   Those things that come easily to your mind are the things that you don't even have to think about anymore.  Those things are probably the same things that come to everyone else's mind without even thinking about.  And if you aren't thinking and the congregation isn't thinking, that's not going to be an uplifting talk.

3.  Take a new angle on your topic.  I'm not talking about searching out some deep, never-before-heard-of doctrine.  I just mean, look at it from a fresh point of view.

Ex:  For my first sacrament meeting talk in this ward I was given the topic of "What my membership in the church means to me."  And the first thing that came to my mind was a list of all the ways my life would be different without the church.  What else can you DO with that topic!?!?!  I mean, that question practically begs for that answer.  But I wouldn't particularly enjoy hearing other people answer that question that way for 15 minutes.  And it's not super applicable to anyone else but me.  What could the rest of the congregation gain from hearing that?  But I knew that in the New Testament it talked about how we are members of Christ's body.  And I could take and use those scriptures to develop this topic in a way that would be beneficial and applicable to anyone, not just me.  Plus, I had never really heard a talk about that before.  Which means that other people probably wouldn't have either.  And when a topic is presented with a fresh outlook, that means it will be interesting.

4.  So what if you're assigned a topic that for whatever reason you just can't come up with a fresh outlook on?  Or what if you were told to pick your own topic and you still can't come up with that interesting, new idea?  It's ok.  You're still good!  Start pondering and/or reading about your topic.  As you study, ask yourself these questions.  1.  Why?  2.  How? and 3.  How does this apply to ________?

Basically these questions will help you drill down a broad topic into something meaninful and specific.  For instance, a while back, I was really into studying about how and why there seemed to be behavioral contradictions in what was right.   Like how the people of Alma had a law not to pray vocally and they were praised because they continued to pray, they just did it silently.  But when Daniel was in the same situation, he was openly defiant and continued to pray vocally.  He was also praised for his great faith.  During that scripture study, those questions fueled me for months and I became aware of so many more situations like that in the scriptures.  You can really say A LOT about a topic like that once you have a question.  Your own questions drive your interest and your passion meaning that you learn more and you care more about what you're learning.  And when that happens, what you have to say can't help but be meaningful and interesting.

Another trick to making your talk manageable is with question number 3 above.  Let's say you're given a broad topic like "loving one another" and you just have no idea where to begin or what to say about it.  An easy way to tackle it is just to fill in the blank.  For me, the blank is usually a situation.  But it could be a person, too.  I might ask myself, "How does 'loving one another' apply after a natural disaster?"  This is a legitimate concern of mine as we try to follow the counsel to have a year's supply of food.  Does this mean that if many people in my neighborhood are in need after an earthquake, I'm obligated to share everything I've stored with them?  What if there are more needs than my storage can supply?  Do I just hand out everything because I'm commanded to love everyone?  Or does my family's immediate needs come into play because I love and prepared for them?  My obligation is to them? I don't know what the answer is, but now I've got a topic that I'm interested in and looking for answers about.  But also, here's a situation that other people might find themselves in literally or metaphorically and by giving a specific situation, it helps get people's minds thinking more deeply than a just a broad idea.

If you're still stuck after all that, look up several scriptures on your topic and make outlines of each.  Look for the underlying patterns and governing principles.  Then you can look for your fresh perspective on those patterns or ask yourself those same questions about the governing principles of your topic.

5.  This should be a no-brainer.  But in all your study and questioning and pondering and thinking, make sure that your answers are coming from the scriptures or general authorities.  In other words, use your brain and your creativity to question and think critically, but make sure any answers you propose are from God and not from you.  

6.  But personal experiences are not off the table.  A good personal story (it doesn't even have to be yours!) related to your topic helps the listener retain interest in what you are saying and also helps the listener remember the points you are making.  It's easier to remember a story for years to come than it is to remember a list of 5 points.

7.  Organizing your talk.  My favorite way to build a talk is to start with smaller ideas that lead up to a big conclusion at the end.  I think it's a powerful way to bring the listener along with you.  However, because of time limits, you have to be really disciplined if you're doing this.  Because if you run out of time that means you end up cutting off the main point of your talk or else leaving out some of the steps to get there, which leaves the listener confused.  So more often than not, what I do is to start with my main idea.  The whole thing I want the listener to take from the talk and then use all of my other points to tie back and support this one idea.  Then if I run out of time, I've at least said the most important thing.

8.  I'm not a big fan of writing out an entire talk.  You can definitely know for sure how long your talk will take and you will for sure not miss or forget anything you planned to say.  But when you read a talk, you're interacting more with the paper than with the audience.  Even if you look up frequently.  I like the feedback I get from looking at the people I am talking to.  Sometimes I can see the quizzical looks on a face and realize I need to explain something better.  Other times I see that many heads are down and people are looking bored.  So maybe I've made my point and I need to move on already.   Or maybe I need to spice things up a bit by telling a illustrative story that I wasn't sure if I was going to include.  And nothing feels better than when you are speaking and you see people smiling or being pensive or nodding their heads.  I love the connection I get from eye to eye contact while speaking.

So how do you DO that?  I write a general outline for what I want to talk about.  I remember the things I want to say because they are important and meaningful to me so I just need a reminder about the topic.  It might look something like this:
a.  Story about the song "I am a Child of God" when I got baptized
b.  Read  D&C 8:2
c.  How God speaks to mind and heart--Thoughts and Feelings
d.  How can you tell whether thoughts and feelings come from God or from yourself?
                               live righteously
                                practice and experience
                                Moroni 7:16
e.  Testimony
Clearly, if this is all I am taking up to the stand, there is no way I can "read" my talk.  It also gives me the flexibility to be open to the Spirit if I need to expand a topic more.  I don't feel obligated to follow what I have written.

9.  What not to do (i.e., My Pet Peeves)
  • Dictionary definitions
  • Jokes about what you did when you were asked to speak
  • Bearing a testimony saying only things you are grateful for and not anything you know to be true
  • Setting yourself as an expert on a topic and assuming your audience doesn't know or has never thought of what you are saying.  Assume your listeners are just as knowledgable as you are.  You can explain things without being condescending
  • Thanking the people who performed the musical number before your turn to speak
  • Telling the previous speaker what a great job they did.  It's great to reference another talk in your talk, especially if something someone else said supports your topic.  
  • Saying that all other talks were so good you should just sit down and everyone would be well fed.




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