Geography: Angola & Zambia

Week 7 of school we learned about Angola and Zambia using Layers of Learning, year 3 unit 4.

We found Angola and Zambia on the map.

We watched several YouTube videos.

We did mapwork.

We looked at some African art in the Henry Tayali style.

We had beef stew with nshima (basically cornmeal mush balls) dipped in it. The missionaries joined us for that meal.

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10-Day Social Media Fast

At the Women’s Session of General Conference, President Nelson invited us to do four things:

1. Participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other negative or impure media
2. Read the Book of Mormon between now and the end of the year
3. Establish a pattern of regular temple attendance
4. Participate fully in Relief Society

So, to complete number one, the evening of Sunday, October 7th, I deleted all my links on my computer to social media and deleted the apps off my phone. The exception was Instagram. I have one account for pictures of Rae and I follow lots of conure and other bird accounts and those pictures make me very happy. On my personal account, which I mainly use to post pictures of what we did in school each day, I started following a whole bunch of church-related accounts that post things like a scripture or temple picture each day (I didn’t realize just how beautiful the Tucson AZ temple is!). As for number two, I was already up to 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon so that’s totally doable. Numbers three and four I’ll have to think a bit about.

Day 1

The first day was Columbus Day so Jamie was off work and we didn’t have school. That probably made it a lot easier. I had put off sweeping and mopping most of the rooms in the house the previous week (I sweep weekly and also mop monthly) so I did all of that over the course of the day. I caught up on some blog posts I’d half done. I did some laundry from putting it in the washer to putting it away all nice and folded. But, most importantly, for the first time in weeks I didn’t feel like my insides were vibrating. I felt comfortable. I already know a few of the more contentious and/or whiny people that I will unfriend or unfollow when I return to social media. By the way, I feel way better when my house is clean. So starting out with all the sweeping and mopping, while a lot of work, definitely helped contribute to the calm, peaceful feeling I had by the middle of the day.

Day 2

The second day actually went quite easily. I don’t miss Facebook or Twitter at all which is weird since the new iOS tells me I’m on them for hours every day. And that doesn’t count the time I spend on them on my computer. That’s a lot of hours a day I’m reclaiming. Also, I am mentally present for these amazing guys and that’s the most important thing of all. Usually I mindlessly check social media throughout the day and I realized that even though I’m there, I’m not there. Today I sat and watched some episodes of Mind Field (Vsauce on YouTube) with them. They were fascinating and we all learned some stuff. This morning, Cameron made a pancake creation. It was a stack of regular size pancakes surrounded with overlapping upright small pancakes with a giant pancake on top. He wouldn’t let us eat any pancakes until he finished his creation. I commented that I didn’t take a picture before we started eating it and Fritz said isn’t that the point of making stuff like that (as my best friend said, that was the most 2018 thing ever). Cameron told him he did it just for the personal satisfaction. But I started thinking. What are my actions teaching Fritz?

Day 3

I am fascinated by how much I am getting done. I’m getting all the school stuff graded and put away soon after the boys complete it. I sweep whichever floor is supposed to be swept that day pretty early in the day rather than putting it off until late when I just don’t feel like doing it and end up not getting it done at all. I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon every morning rather than scrolling through social media and that’s been a really nice start to my day. Today I was a little concerned about what I would do when I went to pick Cameron up from instructor training. I forgot to bring my Kindle and usually I sit and scroll through Facebook or Twitter while waiting for him to come out. I ended up spending the time adding today’s video clips and editing our weekly school video. It was such a great use of my time. It was something I needed to get done and I had nothing else to do while sitting in the car. So I guess this fast is teaching me to make better choices for what I am using my time for.

Day 4

A really weird thing has happened. I love to read, but recently I’ve found myself reading a little bit at a time, more avoiding reading than actually reading. Reading a book takes a lot more focus than just scrolling through social media where things are in little, tiny bits. Since I started the social media fast, I’ve discovered that focusing on reading is easy again. Maybe it’s because I can’t use social media right now. Maybe it’s because I’m getting unused to tiny bits here and there. I don’t know. But for whatever reason I’m enjoying reading for long periods of time again.

Day 5

Last night an indie author I like sent her most recent manuscript to me to Dragon Edit. I’ve been doing this for her for a while now. She dictates her books and as anyone who has used a dictating program knows, it doesn’t always understand her totally correctly. So she sends it to me and I go through it and fix it up into proper English and then send it back to her so she can edit it into a proper book. I really enjoy doing it (especially seeing how her books go from very rough draft to finished product). So, anyway, I spent the day Dragon Editing her next book, Forbidden Knowledge. Usually, I go back and forth doing a page or two and then checking Facebook or Twitter. This time I just did the editing. And it made it way easier, actually. Because I was actually focused on the job I was doing. That was nice.

Day 6

This morning we had to get up and pretty much right away go over to the church to help clean the building. This threw off my new routine. Before this social media fast, when I woke up in the morning I’d lay in bed and scroll through Facebook and Twitter before getting up. Since I started it, I’ve been reading at least one chapter in the Book of Mormon instead. I didn’t have time to do that this morning and I really, really missed it. It’s such an amazing way to start my day. I still read my three chapters at some point during the day, but it was different from reading first thing in the morning. That’s definitely a habit I want to keep after this 10-day fast is over! (By the way, my arm hurts. We got our flu shots this afternoon. I spent the time waiting for them to call us in reading in the Book of Mormon. I always feel calm reading it, so I’d say I made a very good choice in reading it before getting a shot.)

Day 7

The new iOS tells you every week how much you’ve been using your phone. It’s pretty crazy to see all the hours added up by category at the end of the week. No surprise that my usage went down a lot over the previous week since my social media fast started on Monday. The majority of my time on my phone this week was actually reading scriptures. Kindle + Gospel Library app was almost 7 hours. I read scriptures on the Gospel Library app and the guidebook I’m using to study the Book of Mormon is in the Kindle app. The next highest app use was messages. The majority of that time was texting back and forth with my daughter. The previous seven days the majority of my phone time was on Facebook and Twitter. I’m actually considering not putting those apps back on my phone later this week at the end of the 10 day fast.

Day 8

I thought this social media fast would be hard. I really did. But it hasn’t been. In fact, it’s been fantastic. I don’t want it to end. I’ve wondered how a few people who post on Facebook regularly were doing (so I know they will definitely stay on my friends list), but I haven’t missed the contention on there at all. I really haven’t missed the contention on Twitter. Whenever I leave the Temple, I feel totally calm, almost like my insides are vibrating in harmony with… something. Anyway, it’s a wonderful, peaceful feeling that lasts a few hours. Since I started this social media fast, that’s how I’ve felt most of the time. It’s been nice and is a feeling I definitely want to hold on to. (PS I finished reading 2 Nephi this morning.)

Day 9

Last night I was thinking that I need to get to work figuring out how to implement numbers 3 and 4 on the list of things President Nelson asked us to do. I’m obviously almost done with number 1 and number 2 is going great. But I haven’t even started on the other two things yet. I’m thinking since we still have a few weeks until the temple reopens that I’ll do a search on LDS.org about the temple or read a book or something. Then after it reopens, I was thinking because we live so close to the temple, we can run up there for a little while on the Tuesdays that Adrian has Scouts after we drop the boys off at church (that’s twice a month). Participating fully in Relief Society is a little more complicated since I currently serve in Nursery. President Nelson said something about reading the Relief Society declaration, so I’ll do that. Our ward sends out an email saying what the next lesson will be, so I’ll read along. I figure I can know what they are talking about in class even if I can’t be in there with them on Sundays.

Day 10

Check it out. I finished through Jacob this morning! Today is the last day of the social media fast. Tomorrow I can go back to using social media however I want. It’s funny, but I don’t really want to. In his talk where he invited the women to go on this 10-day social media fast, President Nelson said the following:

What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted—even just a little?

I’ve noticed that I am calmer. I feel better. I’m more in tune with the Spirit. I’m a better mother. I’ve read more and enjoyed that reading more. My house is cleaner. I’m happier. School even has been going better. My little boys have been asking more Gospel questions and I’ve found that easy answers for them have just popped into my head. There is a definite change in where I now want to spend my time and energy. I’m not going to bother putting the Facebook and Twitter apps back on my phone. I’m going to dramatically cut down my membership in groups on Facebook and unfollow or unfriend many people on Facebook and Twitter. I might keep right on reading three chapters in the Book of Mormon every day because I’m really enjoying it. I’ve discovered I’m happiest when my time and energy are on my family and the Lord. Have my priorities shifted? Yeah. And maybe not just a little.

All my life I have found that when I follow the Prophet, I never go wrong. These four invitations by our dear President Nelson are no exception. They were the right things for me at the right time and I am grateful for his prophetic counsel. I am thankful that I immediately made a plan to follow what he asked. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but it kind of changed my life.

Update on Ani’s Health

It’s been almost four months since we started getting diagnoses for Ani. At that point, she was sleeping up to 18 hours a day and worn out all the time. She was so incredibly sick.

What’s wrong with her: Ani has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, POTS, Fibromyalgia, and Celiac Disease.

What we’re doing to treat her: Every day Ani takes a beta blocker to help control the racing heart from the POTS. She did an experiment trying various POTS remedies and found that Nuun electrolyte tablets work best for her. She takes one in the morning and one in the evening now. She takes Lyrica for the Fibro pain. Recently she had to up her dose because the drilling pain that she now knows is from the fibro started up again. Hopefully, we’ll be able to decrease it back down in a couple weeks. She is careful with her range of motion to avoid EDS pain and, of course, she eats no gluten so the Celiac is usually a non-issue. She has been going to physical therapy for her neck (side effect of the EDS) and that pain has decreased a whole lot, enough that she no longer takes Aleve regularly. She is getting better at watching her body temperature (she has trouble regulating her body temperature because of the general dysautonomia that includes the POTS).

So how is she doing?

Amazing.

She’s still so incredibly sick, but when I think of how my daughter was just a few short months ago, the difference is incredible and so encouraging. I’ll be honest. I did not think she would survive. She was getting worse and worse. I thought she was going to die. She thought she was going to die. It was bad.

In March, a friend asked if they could dedicate their monthly fast to Ani’s health. Her whole family fasted for Ani. She encouraged others to do the same. I will always believe that changed everything for my daughter. It was within days that we started getting answers. We found doctors willing to help instead of brushing her off. We got medication, we got a treatment plan to help her, we got diagnoses.

She still has bad days. Some are very, very bad. On the Fourth of July, we had a church picnic. It was hot. We live in Texas, after all. She got overheated. Getting overheated means she got sick. Very sick. She slept most of the afternoon/evening that day. The big difference is, though, that the next morning she got up and was functional. She didn’t need three days to recover. That is a miracle. She still gets exhausted relatively easily, too, and she never feels truly good. But it’s livable.

Over the last week, she spent several days being a substitute nanny for three little girls and still did her normal program directing at taekwondo and also babysat a little girl Friday night. These are things she literally couldn’t have done just a few months ago (though I think she might sleep most of today since she was so exhausted by last night). She’s got plans to go see Spider-Man with one friend and Wonder Woman with some other friends. She’s training at taekwondo and working toward her second degree black belt again. She’s actually being able to be a human. Most importantly, she has hope for a future. A sometimes painful, taking medication for life future, but still a wonderful, full, happy future.

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

Fritz, upon discovering today is the first day of spring, wondered just why we had spring break last week before spring started. Good question. Of course, living in south Texas the temperature has been quite spring-like since, well, January.

Last week was fun. Cameron went on Trek. This is a thing Mormon kids do to simulated being pioneers. They wore pioneer clothes (plus tennis shoes because we’re not that crazy). Slept outside. Cooked some of their meals on a fire. Were put in groups called families with a Ma and Pa. Pulled handcarts (and in the case of Cameron’s family, also pulled the chariot of their “sister” in a wheelchair). Got sunburned. Walked 26.6 miles over three days. Sang 99 Cartons of Milk on the Wall. Twice. And then sang 499 Cartons of Milk on the Wall. He absolutely loved it.

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

Wednesday Ani saw her rheumatologist and got some diagnoses and a treatment plan that is already helping a little bit.

Friday I took the kids to see Beauty and the Beast. We loved it. It was absolutely perfect. We’ll definitely be buying it when it is released on DVD (or, rather, digitally from Amazon because that’s what we do).

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

It’s been a year since we started redecorating Ani’s room. We’ve still got a few touch-ups left to do, but now we’re ready to move on to Cameron’s and the boys’ rooms. Saturday we went and got paint chips from Home Depot in pink (Cameron), blue (Cameron and Fritz), and yellow (Adrian) to choose from. Cameron and Fritz separately picked the exact same shade of blue.

Spring Break also included lots of reading (I’ve read 13 books so far in March), youtube videos, video game playing, and Cameron working at spring break camp at taekwondo after he returned from Trek.

Today we went back to school and everything went great. Everyone focused and worked hard and we even got all of our all together work done (rarely does that all get done in one day). Ten more weeks of school and then we’re off for the summer!

My Cleaning Plan

The other day I was talking to my best friend on the phone and mentioned that the room I was in was echoing because I had taken all the furniture out of it. She asked why and I explained that I do that every month so I can sweep and mop under everything. She said I have it way more together than she does. This is not true, however. She’s a single working mom and still somehow manages to feed her kids and get them to school on time and everything. I, however, am slightly neurotic and inherited a love of marking things off lists from my mother and so I have, over time, developed a cleaning plan that works really well for me.

I took the ideas I use from FlyLady, Side-Tracked Home Executives, and some other random cleaning gurus. For a long time I wrote my to do’s out on paper (and even tried the SHE index card system – which did not work for me at all). Now I use some apps on my phone. I use the calendar that came with my iPhone for scheduling, Wunderlist for my to do list, and MealBoard for menu planning, grocery list, and pantry inventory.

I have things I do every day, every week, and recurring on some other schedule. They are all entered into Wunderlist so they show up each day for me automatically. Some things are somewhat silly to be listed as a to do, but, as I said, I really like checking things off my list so I leave them. As things come up (like if a kid is doing a multi-day thing for Scouts), I’ll add it to my to do list temporarily. If I come up with something extra to do (for example, reviewing a book I have finished), I add it as needed. Below are my regularly scheduled chores.

Daily:
*Pray (I’m great with bedtime prayers, not so much with morning so this reminds me)
*Upstairs Toilet (either wipe it down with a Clorox wipe or use the brush inside the bowl)
*Downstairs Toilet
*Vitamins (I put them out on a shelf so people can pick theirs up and take them any time)
*Read Scriptures (currently reading the Doctrine and Covenants and using a verse by verse book to help with studying)
*Add to Letter (I write to my aunt every Wednesday, but if I write it all at once I forget a lot of things so I add things daily)
*Journal
*Spot Clean Cage (guinea pigs – pick up their poop)
*Family Scriptures
*Picture of the Day (I’ve taken a picture each day since 2011, plus in 2009)
*P365 Page (add the picture of the day to a digital scrapbook page)
*Dishes
*Finances (yes, I update our finances every day – I actually enjoy it)
*Indexing (I do one batch a day)
*PokeWalk (with Fritz)
*Wash Critter Kitchen (sugar gliders are horribly messy when they eat so we have a plastic container with their food dish in their cage)
*Critter Food 1/2/3 (we always have three mixes of food cubes for the gliders in the freezer and each morning I take one out, put it in a dish, and stick it in the refrigerator so it’s thawed by evening when they get fed)
*Brush Lola (she is such a shedder!)
*Notebook (I check the next day’s meals and schedule and add them to the to do list, noting if I will need to take any meat out to thaw or make bread or whatever in the morning)
*Pinterest (I’m always looking for gluten and dairy free recipes)

Sundays
*Cut chicken (I have chicken issues so I get all the gross stuff cut off at one time and freeze single breasts in ziploc baggies so they are ready to be used as needed; I cut the chicken on Sundays because I grocery shop Friday and Monday is trash day and if the nasty bits sit in the garage in the Texas heat longer than a day it is really gross)
*Sacrament (because of the Celiac we have to bring crackers for taking the Sacrament at church)
*Write to Steven (he’s a friend of Ani’s serving a mission right now)
*FHE (because of the big kids’ work schedule and Jamie taking taekwondo on Monday evenings, we do Family Home Evening on Sundays)
*Church
*Skype Jamie’s Mum

Mondays
*Sweep Living Room
*Trash (Cam) (taking out the trash is Cameron’s assigned job)
*Cans (once they pick the trash up, we have to bring the cans back in)

Tuesdays
*Counters
*Sweep Kitchen
*Taekwondo (I only add taekwondo to the list when I’ll be going there – otherwise it would be on there almost daily)

Wednesdays
*Bathe Lola (Cam) (another of his assigned jobs)
*Refrigerator (clean out the leftovers we didn’t eat)
*Sweep Stairs
*Print Letter to Aunt Betty
*Take Cameron to Work (he works Wednesdays, but Ani doesn’t)

Thursdays
*Catalog Food (I go through our cabinets and make sure my food inventory in MealBoard is correct)
*Menus (I plan a week at a time and grocery shop on Friday morning)
*Trash (Cam)
*Cans
*Taekwondo
*Mail Aunt Betty Letter
*Sweep Dining Room

Fridays
*Guinea Pig Cage (I put the girls in their pen on the floor and wash their bedding and clean the coroplast)
*Plan FHE
*Prepare for Sunday School
*Sweep Craft Room

Saturdays
*Prepare for Relief Society (if Sunday will be from the Gordon B. Hinckley manual or Teachings for Our Times)
*Pills (refill the pill containers to make it easy to put them out each morning)

Every 4 Weeks
*Mop in addition to sweep (when I do that I remove all furniture possible from the room; when I do the counters that week I remove everything as well; when I do the dining room I also wash the table)
*Wash Sheets, Dry Sheets, Make Beds

Every 24 Weeks
*Wash and Dry Mattress Pads (when I do the sheets)

First of the Month
*Cabinets (wash their doors and also the center island)
*Change Welcome Sign (my sister gave me a felt sign years ago and each month has a different little picture to go on it)
*Lego Calendar (I have a perpetual Lego calendar that I happily rearrange every month)
*Clean Dishwasher
*Clean Disposal
*Clean Washing Machine (I get little tablets for cleaning those three things each month)
*Lola’s Heartworm Medicine

If I don’t get around to something that is not a daily recurring chore, I just let it go to the next day. For example, I really hate washing the cabinets every month. It’s probably my least favorite chore (well, other than sweeping and mopping the stairs – I HATE that one). I finally got that one done on the 4th even though it was originally assigned on the 1st. Wunderlist puts overdue tasks at the top of my daily list in red so it annoys me until I do it. I never let things go way too long, mainly because I absolutely love ending a day with the entire “Today” list empty. That’s another thing my best friend recently noted about me. I feel the most productive when I’ve got a clean house and have marked things off my to do list. (But I’ll be honest… some days I don’t do much other than school, walk, and read because sometimes you just need a day off.)

Currently, I have an added recurring daily chore of plan school. As long as I do a little each day I get the next year’s plan done before the end of the current school year.

I check our laundry basket daily to see if laundry needs to be done. Usually that happens twice a week (and I add Wash Clothes, Dry Clothes, Fold Clothes, and Put Away Clothes to the list those days because marking off four things is way more awesome than just one). Towels get washed as needed, usually every week and a half or so. Ani and Cameron do their own laundry.

Dishes get washed a minimum of once a day, generally at night (so they get put away, generally by Fritz and Adrian, in the morning). Often the dishwasher needs to be run twice or even three times during the day and that gets done as needed.

I walk 10,000 steps at a minimum each day. Regular movement around the house is about 3500 steps. The PokeWalk adds a couple thousand. Taekwondo days also add a couple thousand. I have a path I walk around the main floor of our house. It’s an open floor plan so I make a convoluted circle of just over 100 steps over and over. It would be boring to just walk around and around like that so I read while I walk. It is one reason why I read so much. I read while I exercise. I also do a little picking up as I walk. Each time around I grab something in a place that doesn’t belong and as I make the circle I put it where it goes (or on the stairs if it belongs upstairs). That kills two (really three) birds with one stone.

I don’t put school on the to do list, but of course that gets done every morning. We try our best not to run into the afternoon, but on taekwondo days sometimes that is unavoidable.

My kids are big enough that on occasion I assign a random chore to one of them. Fritz is getting really good at sweeping the craft room (it’s the easiest to sweep since it’s small and pretty much empty). I am more likely to assign stuff to them when I’ve been busy doing other stuff and running out of time in the day.

Deeper cleaning projects I do as the urge strikes. Like right now I really want to clean the shelves in the craft room (again), but I haven’t quite gotten around to it. A while back I decided to use a toothbrush to clean the dirt-catching crevices in the cabinet doors. I did one door per day. When I get the urge to do a deep cleaning project, I add it to my daily to do list temporarily. I almost never do any major cleaning on the weekends (unless I feel like it). Weekends are for relaxation and church for me.

It really doesn’t take long to complete all the things I’ve assigned myself. Some of them literally take seconds, but need to be done every day to keep our house running smoothly. I am much more calm and am a much better wife and mother when my house is straight. I hate clutter. Because of that, it is imperative for me to have a “company-ready” house and my cleaning plan helps make that happen.

I’ve found that getting as much done as possible early is best for me. I am a morning person naturally. I have also found that if I do not get on the computer before a good number of my daily to do’s are done things also go better. It’s Newton’s Law about objects in motion staying in motion. As soon as I end up at rest (on the computer) I’m somehow stuck and have trouble getting moving again (the 250 step per hour reminder on my FitBit helps with that, though). Really, if things aren’t done by about 4, they probably aren’t getting done since I’m really tired by then.

The most important thing I have learned through tweaking and adjusting my plan is it will only work if it is customized to me. It’s why I had to take ideas from others, but still make it mine because me and my house are unique. So that is my advice to others who want to make a cleaning plan: Don’t just copy someone else. Make it your own. And, most importantly, make it something that you will do, is realistic for you, and meets your goals or you will not succeed.

The Corn Became an Elephant

Several months ago Ani’s friend Steven asked if Cameron liked corn. And then he showed up at our house with this slightly scary and totally bizarre giant ear of corn.

The Corn Became an Elephant

He had seen it on the side of the road put out with the trash, stopped, took it home, fix a tear it had, and then, for some reason that I still don’t actually know, gave it to us.

The Corn Became an Elephant

The corn amused us for a long time. We left it in my parents’ room when they came to visit and didn’t mention it to them just to see how long it would take for them to say something. It was also in that room when Tony and Roo came to visit because it seemed like something that should be there to greet them. It hung out by the piano for a while, too.

The Corn Became an Elephant

But, with a white elephant gift exchange planned for the last Wednesday night activity before Christmas, we decided it was time to let the corn go to a new home.

The Corn Became an Elephant

The girl who got it was delighted. She laughed and laughed. Her younger sister loved it so much, she said she wanted it for Christmas. And then she laid on it like it was a huge pillow for the rest of the evening.

The Corn Became an Elephant

As silly and slightly scary as that corn is, we did get quite a bit of enjoyment from it and now even more people are enjoying it. I guess it’s really true what they say about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure.