THANKS (acrostic poem)

To the

High king on high,

A Lord who is better than I.

No, no, much better than all; the

King of all kings

Sits up on high, helping all humans such as you and I.

By: Ryan Robison (age 10)

December 14, 2015

2016- and Texas- here we come!

I just finished the syllabus for January 2016- whew!! It’s always such a relief to get that ready for our next session of school. I plan one month at a time, doing a separate syllabus for my 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. When I first started almost a year ago, the hours it took me were counted in the dozens.

I take this teaching job very seriously, by the way… ūüôā

This time, I spent less than 10 hours- woohoo!! I am getting faster! And I’m building systems and processes that work, thank goodness.

It might have helped, too, that this coming month includes a week of hands-on-learning¬†in… Texas! Yep, we get to learn about U.S. and Texas history, Davy Crockett, and visit the Alamo in person. And we get one step closer to Rebecca’s longtime dream of going to the moon with lots of amazing education experiences at NASA’s Houston Space Center. Plus we’re having lunch and doing science with the alligators. Not to mention that we will be with family in Houston and Austin. History, culture, science, technology, engineering, and quality family time all wrapped together… sounds good to me.

One of the things we’re doing to prepare is reading this awesome book. I love reading aloud to my children! And thankfully, even though they are both fantastic readers who devour books on their own, they still love cuddling up with me and a good book. Historical fiction may just be my favorite. Life is good.

We are – and try to be- House Upon a Rock!

I never knew we were THAT couple. Tips and hope for overcoming challenges in marriage.

Seriously. I never knew we were that couple… or that we ever could be. That couple that could work at home together… and spend every minute together… complement each others’ abilities… and actually enjoy each other.

For many years, we were the couple barely hanging on. We were the “why do they even stay married?” couple. We struggled. That’s an understatement. I describe those days as very dark. Life felt dark and heavy. It was hard. Really hard.

But we stuck with it.

And then, miraculously, we became the couple that found great joy in our children together. We were happy watching our babies and toddlers learn and grow, we found fulfillment doing everything with and for our children.

But I always wondered what would happen when the kids were gone. All of our happiness and togetherness was tied up in our roles as parents. I feared we really only were happy together because our amazing, beloved children united us.

And then, miraculously again, we somehow, one day, had a great time together without our children. We wanted more of that time together. We actually began to love and appreciate each other again… outside our roles as mom and dad. I don’t know exactly how it happened. But I’m sure glad it did.¬†meme-families-improve-relationships-1390582-gallery

I’m truly humbled and amazed that now we can spend all day, every day together and appreciate and support and strengthen each other. That doesn’t mean it’s always hunky dory; we definitely still disagree often and have very different perspectives. We have trouble communicating. Our short-term priorities don’t always match and sometimes we can be selfish. But we truly value one another and are unified in our love and purpose. So, amazingly, finally, we are that couple.

It’s been almost twenty years since we ¬†made eternal covenants as husband and wife. We take those covenants very seriously, and are so grateful that we have figured out we can have great joy together… more than I ever thought possible. Seriously. This is better than I ever imagined!!

So we’ve reflected about how and why our relationship has transformed for good over the years, and offer the following reasons. Maybe they will be of help to you. The work that is marriage, is worth it.

Hilarie:

  • We kept having prayer together all those years, even when we didn’t feel like it and it was just “going through the motions.”
  • I still pray every day to be humble and have charity in my marriage.
  • Even when I felt I was the only one trying, I never gave up. The Lord blessed me with the gift of faith.
  • Though the burdens were very heavy at times, I tried to not talk negatively about him.
  • My dear, divorced Jewish friend¬†taught me that even difficult marriages are¬†better than the pain of divorce. [I realize that is not a universally true statement.]
  • I relied on the motto: “If a man is worth loving at all, he is worth loving generously, even recklessly.”
  • I relied even¬†more on the Lord.
  • I try hard to apologize even when I don’t want to. It’s better to be happy than right.Hilarie and Ben, married almost 20 years
  • Managing expectations is helpful; I try to be grateful for whatever he can do or be or give at various times. I remind myself how often he overlooks my weaknesses.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions; it really helps when I¬†give him the benefit of the doubt and am extra patient as we try to communicate.
  • Remember that love is a choice. And it is an action verb. Choose every day to love him.

Ben:

  • Prayer, every day. ¬†As a family, couple and individually. ¬†Sometimes we forget, sometimes it’s rushed, but we and I strive to consistently pray.
  • I try to have those prayers focus more on gratitude than needs. ¬†Granted, I need a lot, but looking to be consciously grateful – while challenging – helps get and keep the correct mindset.
  • Author Aldous Huxley said, “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” ¬†To that, I would add, “and seeing the negative.” ¬†I think this mindset comes quite naturally for both men and women. ¬†Consciously decide to NOT take things (or people) for granted; to look for and recognize the positive. ¬†Sometimes that is hard, and often I fall short on this. ¬†That segues¬†to my next point.
  • When you or your spouse make a mistake, or don’t do something as well as you’d like, don’t dwell on it, move on. ¬†By all means, give some thought as to how you can do better next time. ¬†Societal norms teach that failure is a bad thing, but great people see failure as a learning opportunity. ¬†Resolve to be great, as an individual and a couple. ¬†Understand that takes time. ¬†I love this well-known quote about failure:

I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. ¬†I have lost almost 300 games. ¬†On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to¬†take the game-winning shot, and I missed. ¬†I have failed over and over and over again in my life. ¬†And that’s precisely why I succeed.”

– Michael Jordan

  • Tell her she’s beautiful. ¬†Mean it.
  • Use the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change and become better, bit by bit, day by day.
  • Faithfully take action. ¬†There will be many times when you don’t know what the right thing to do or say is. ¬†Exercise faith in God, make a decision that He would approve of, and do it. ¬†If it turns out to be wrong, refer to the Michael Jordan quote above.
  • Say “I’m Sorry” and “Thank you.” ¬†This has been shared who knows how many times. ¬†It may seem cliche, but it’s not. ¬†Be quick to forgive, quick to ask forgiveness, and always look for reasons to be grateful.

 

How do you strengthen your marriage? We’d love to hear what works for you!

Letting go…

I do love the Frozen song, “Let It Go,” and by the way, Rebecca does a pretty amazing version. But no, that’s not what this is about. At least, not directly.

I am learning to let go. It’s hard. When we made the decision to educate our children at home, it became- and still is- pretty all-consuming. With 8-10 hours on most days¬†directly or indirectly tied to school, I have had to let some things go.

One of those is dinner.

I used to pride myself on daily making from-scratch, balanced, wholesome dinners for my family. But I simply don’t have the hours required for that every day anymore. Don’t worry, we haven’t resorted to convenience foods (I’m too budget- and health-conscious for that ūüôā .) We still sit down and eat together every evening, but often it’s leftovers, or a simpler version of dinner. Ben can make some amazing dishes and is super-helpful to take over at dinnertime now, but he’s an on-the-fly cook, making it up as he goes along and not planning ahead or worrying about a well-rounded meal.

And last night (gasp!), I was on a long blogging streak so Ben took charge of “dinner” and served us all¬†fresh cookies, warm from the oven. Nice. Well, it is Christmas break. I guess we can call that the excuse.

I haven’t given up making whole-grain breads from scratch. That’s important to me, and I can squeeze it in a few times a week. And I still make dinner some nights.

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In fact, one night I helped Ryan multi-task making dinner AND Christmas cookies!

But, at least for now, daily, complicated cooking from scratch isn’t the top priority. If that’s the hardest thing I have to let go, I’m pretty sure I’ll be just fine.

We are- and try to be- House Upon a Rock.

 

Sunnybrook Farm produces (Summer and Fall 2015)

From those beautiful February days of planting, we did have some production at Sunnybrook Farm.

Ryan was a terrific steward over his precious pepper plants and harIMG_20151125_202333528vested a horde of jalapenosIMG_20151107_112929302!

We turned them into jalapeno poppers, dip, soup, and froze them to use all year.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Moapa squash seeds, a local cultivar that I use like pumpkin, also gave us an abundant harvest.

Rebecca won a “carving” contest at Halloween with her Mr. Moapa.

Mr. Moapa squash

 

 

At Thanksgiving, Ryan was a trooper cleaning out all the seeds and goop so I could turn Moapa squash into pumpkin streusel squares (yum!) and a side dish.

 

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And, of course, not pictured here is the often-overwhelming zucchini harvest. I think we had so much that it wasn’t fun anymore, so no pictures. ūüôā We also enjoyed some delectable tomatoes, but they never last long enough.

It’s always a joy- and a bit¬†surprising- when we have gardening success!! We’d like to think we are somewhat self-reliant, though we still have a long way to go…

We are- and try to be- House Upon a Rock.

Missing the Reindeer Run (December 2015)

So I saw the article in our local paper about our elementary school’s annual Reindeer Run. And I got teary-eyed. Silly, I know.

Ryan won the Reindeer Run last year. He took 2nd place the year before. It’s just a¬†fun foot race held at Christmastime. And I wished my kids Reindeer Run champion 2013 and 2014could have participated.

Yes, I miss the Reindeer Run. Yes, I miss class parties and fun traditions at school. And, yes, sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision to educate my children at home.

And then I remember all the amazing spiritual and academic growth I see in them. And I remember that they were too tired and worn out after all the school-required to dos, for us to have quality experiences together daily. And I remember that the work we are doing at House Upon a Rock is of eternal consequence and value.

Those experiences at school are fun. But they aren’t of greatest import. So I remember¬†good, better, best, wipe my tears¬†and soldier on.

We are- and try to be- House Upon a Rock.

I am an entomologist (June 2015)

I am an entomologist and this is what I do.

I study bugs and insects, and you can do it, too.

I am an entomologist and this is what I know.

If you catch a spider, you have to let it go!Photographing Insects | Close-up Photography Tips

 

 

 

It’s an insect, not a spider!

It has six legs instead of eight…

Three on this side, three on that side,

And it’s crawling on my plate.

(to the tune of “Oh my darlin’ Clementine”)

 

Rebecca memorized these two poems when she was in kindergarten… we had lots of fun times and experiences in public school! And these were especially fun because entoI am an entomologistmologists have a special place in our family.

I am not an entomologist. But my Dad is. In fact, at one time he was the only Board-certified entomologist west of the Mississippi. Perhaps he still is, not sure…

Anyway, that resulted in lots of adventures and learning opportunities growing up, and
I may write about them another time. But now it’s a blessing to my kids.

When we started homeschooling, my parents were serving a mission in Germany. But within a month of their return home, I had Grandpa on science duty, teaching and supplementing my lessons with his expertise. And what a great teacher he is!! He plans and prepares and teaches and takes them on amazing field trips. I am grateful and humbled at the time and effort he puts into making their educational experiences meaningful. I sure couldn’t do what he does!

Thanks, Dad! You are the entomologist.

We are- and try to be- House Upon a Rock.

 

Hero Night at House Upon a Rock 2015

We held our first Hero Night at House Upon a Rock in February 2015. As we learn about great men and women, I ask my children to choose noble examples as their heroes, and determine how the lessons of their lives can be applied to our own. They research, write a paper, prepare illustrations, and develop a presentation in a format of their choice. My children amaze me with their insight and wisdom. They recognize eternal principles and work to live them. I love that they teach me.

We invite family and friends to participate in¬†Hero Night, where the students give a presentation about their Hero and lead a discussion. We visit, teach, learn and are edified together. Of course, we also have treats. ūüôā I always feel uplifted, and call this an “Evening of Inspiration.”

Ryan’s Heroes of 2015:Ryan's hero: Captain Moroni

Captain Moroni

-Paul Revere

-the ancient prophet Elijah

Horatius at the Bridge

 

Rebecca’s Heroes of 2015:IMG_20150226_192231527

-the ancient prophet Nephi, son of Lehi

-George Washington

-Queen Esther

-Socrates

 

Later in the year, we started alternating Hero Night with Great Books Gathering, and will continue that going forward. It’s the same format¬†as Hero Night, just choosing a book they consider great instead of a person from which to learn and apply eternal truths. We love the lively presentations and discussions!

So far:

Ryan: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Rebecca: Biography of Helen Keller

 

We are- and try to be- House Upon a Rock!

School at Sunnybrook Farm (February 2015)

Rebecca and Gunner at Sunnybrook Farm

House Upon a Rock is built on… well… rocks. Quite literally. So while we have 4+acres, it’s not worth much for growing things. However, our dear neighbors just down the road were smart enough to choose farmland instead of a rock quarry. And they are so good to us that they invited us this year to garden with them at what we fondly call Sunnybrook Farm (in honor of Rebecca, if you’re not familiar). These friends have irrigation water, tractor, green thumbs… everything we don’t. And they have Gunner, a sweet old dog that reminds us of our beloved, departed labs. He and my Rebecca are buddies. Ryan is, too, but I think he was busy chasing cows instead of cuddling at the time of this picture.

The good thing about Logandale (well, one of the good things) is February. Beautiful, sunny days perfect for planting a garden while everyone else is still under snow. So that’s what we did for hands-on science during those early, first days of home school. We tilled and planted and tended and weeded. And learned about the life cycle of plants. And enjoyed being outside in the winter sunshine.

We are- and try to be- House Upon a Rock!

(though we’re glad we have friends with better soil ūüôā )

Why we teach our children at home

meme-perry-parenting-1549664-gallerySome parents do
an amazing job of finding (i.e. making) time amid all the crazy busy-ness of life to intentionally teach their children. I’m not one of them.

Last year, I felt frustrated that I wasn’t¬†spending enough high-quality time with my children, intentionally teaching them. It seemed that there was too little time and energy left- for them and for me- after school, homework, and other activities every day. We had daily prayer and scripture study and weekly family home evening, but I’m not sure I was engaged in persistent, daily intentional¬†parenting.

I absolutely have a testimony that the most important work I will ever do is with and for my family. So… we brought our children home and now my full-time, around-the-clock job is teaching them. It’s hard, really hard. But it’s amazingly rewarding.

Here’s why we at House Upon a Rock educate our children at home:righteous intentional parenting

  1. We are following the Lord’s direction for our family at this time.
  2. We believe our children have important work to do, that the Lord has sent them here “for such a time as this.” (That’s true for all of us, really.) So we have a responsibility to prepare them for that work, and we are entitled to the Lord’s help in teaching our children.
  3. In our home, we unite spiritual and temporal learning; we learn and teach by the spirit.
  4. Our family gets to be together- not just at the end of the day when everyone is tired, but in our high-energy hours as well. We are closer, more unified, and have flexibility in how and when and where to teach.
  5. We teach and learn what is needful and best, leaving out the rest.
  6. Personalized instruction (and spirit-led instruction!) allows our children to learn and progress at an accelerated pace. We also have the freedom and time for them to pursue individual interests and talents.

When in April 2015, then-Elder Nelson testified that, “No other work transcends that of righteous, intentional parenting,” I felt confirmation from the Spirit that we are doing what’s right for our family at this time. What a privilege…

We are- and try to be- House Upon a Rock!