Monday, August 18, 2014

6th Grade Girls Camp

My Mom said I should post on my blog about the little "girls day camp" I organized for my lovely daughter Annie who is entering the 6th grade next week. Here in Texas that is the start of middle school. My daughter's elementary school is a feeder to two different middle schools. So half of her friends will be going to a different middle school than she will. Meanwhile there will be LOTS of new kids at the middle school from other elementary schools.

I'm not sure how well you remember this phase of life we call middle school. I think most of us just want to block it out. But I remember well how important it was to find a good group of core friends and how excited I was to find a friend in a class filled with relative strangers.

Sixth grade is a big transitional year and I wanted to give Annie a head start in all this. So I called around in our church community and found out the names of every other LDS girl that would be in the 6th grade at her middle school. There were a total of 8 girls. I had only met 3 others who are in my congregation.

I contacted all the parents and organized a week of planned activities for the girls so they could get to know each other before school started. I asked the other parents to volunteer to plan one of the days activities. Three other moms were able to do it so I took the first day and we all came to my house to play get to know you games and do team building activities.

The next day, one of the other moms took the girls to see Maleficent. The third day they went swimming and had a pizza at another girls house. On Thursday the school held the 6th grade orientation. Several of us found each other in the school gym and sat together for the boring talking part. Then the girls went off to get their schedules and run a mock day of school. Turned out that Annie had 2 classes with two of the girls she had not met previous to the camp. She did not have any classes with any of the kids from our congregation. She only had one class out of eight with any of her friends from school last year in them. I was so glad we had made some new friends so she could have a couple more classes with familiar faces!

The last day the girls got together for a Just Dance and cake decorating activity. And one of the moms took it a step further and has invited the group to come over for a late over Tuesday night! So Fun!

So for my day - It was really important for me that the girls felt united. Four of our girls were from one ward and four from another. I really wanted them to see themselves as a group of 8, not 4 and 4. So here are the games I planned. First I had each girl bring a shoe to describe herself. That was fun and took about 15 minutes. Next we played a game with skittles where each girl took a few skittles. Then for each yellow they had to tell about their family or any random thing. For orange= something that made them happy. For Green = something that made them envious. For purple = an embarrassing moment. For red = something that made them mad.  We played several rounds of this and the girls really opened up about embarrassing moments.

Next I took the girls into the front room where I had jersey knit strips cut up to make finger knit bracelets. Before we made the bracelets, I talked to the girls. I told them that this was the whole of the LDS female 6th grade class at their middle school. I told them about how hard middle school can be and how different it is from elementary school. I told them how important finding a good group of core friends is in that time. I related a story about my middle school years where a guy called me a "B" and how hurt I was. I ran off to the bathroom and heard one of friends slap him and tell him what a jerk he was (Thank you Heather Shaw Bankhead!) That meant so much to me that she would stand up for me like that.

I told the girls that the girls at this table were the ones that would be there to defend them when others questioned or teased them. I had Annie stand up with her hands at her side and feet together. I told her not to move her feet and then I pushed on her and illustrated how easy it was to push her over. Then I had one of the new girls come stand up the same way but holding Annie by the elbows. I could still push them over. I added another girl holding both those girls elbows. I could still push them over but it was getting harder. I kept adding girls holding elbows. By the time I got to 6 girls, I could no longer push them over no matter how hard I tried. I had all the girls stand up together like that, feet together unmoving and holding on to two other girls elbows. I could not budge them.

I told them that if they would stand together they could make it through middle school. Then I showed them the bracelets we were making and how to make them. I told them that these bracelets could be subtle reminders of their alliance. They could see the other girls wearing them and know that is a girl who stands with me in my standards and my beliefs and is my friend who would stand up for me and defend me.  Then we made some really cute bracelets.

Next we played a game called press conference where one kid pretends to be a famous person and the other kids act as reporters asking the person questions and trying to figure out who she is. Lastly we divided into 2 teams (with one person you knew before and two you didn't) and made up skits / dances to music. Then we performed them for each other and some of the parents as parents arrived to pick up the girls.

I felt it went really well and was glad to have gotten to know the other girls and met their parents. All in all I feel this is great way to prepare a kid for the social craziness that is the transition to middle school. Feel free to use the idea if you wish! :)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thoughts on Faith From a Road Trip

I just returned from a month long road trip with my kids. My husband was with us the first 10 days and 22 hours of driving. The 36 hours of driving and 21 days I was on my own. It was a great adventure. For the most part the kids did great and we had a fabulous time. I paid them $5 Monopoly money every 30 minutes they were good in the car. If they were not good I charged them Monopoly money.

I had a garbage bag full of treats they could buy for $5 each (like a granola bar or fruit roll) and I had another big bag of prizes for higher prices they could save up for. It was a good incentive and the prizes kept them motivated and (once they bought them) entertained.

I had a chance to catch up with several old friends along my journey and time to visit with each or my siblings and in laws. It was great.

But somewhere along the way, a train of thought began to form in my mind. Hours of driving on the road gives you lots of time to think. My thought is about faith. I began to think about those times in your life when you just don't know. I think most of us come to a point somewhere in our lives where we question everything we ever thought we knew.

In that moment of doubt and uncertainty, we have a choice. Because the fact is, when we are in that moment we don't KNOW anything. We feel we have "lost our faith" perhaps. But this is just the thing that has struck me. When we "know" things are true we aren't really using "faith." It isn't working our faith to "know" the church is true when you are feeling the Spirit witness that to you. When you are feeling that "testimony" and witness of the Spirit of God you can know the truth of those things about which it is testifying.

On the other hand, when you come to a point where you pray and don't get an answer, or you can't feel the Spirit for one reason or another (because I can tell you that even if you are doing everything right both of those situations can and likely will happen at some point in life); it is at this point that FAITH comes into play. You see Faith is believing and acting upon that belief when YOU DON'T KNOW.

It is when you stand at the cliff with no more reassurance that there is an Indiana Jones Bridge than the word of some old guy you barely know that you must choose whether to step out and hope or stay where you are. Let's face it. The sane thing to do, the reasonable thing, the rational thing is NOT to step out. But in that situation, we must make a choice. Choosing to step IS exercising faith.

I felt like this when Camille passed away. I was in so much pain that I could not feel the Spirit. Here I had just prayed like I had never prayed before for my daughter to be made whole and all the while her condition worsened. I had always been taught that the Spirit would warn and comfort but here I felt no warning voice before and there was no comforting my broken heart.

In that moment, I could have easily chosen to forsake my belief. But instead, in that moment of NOT knowing anything, I Chose deliberately to believe. I REMINDED myself of the countless prayers I had said that HAD been answered. Sure most of them were about small in and inconsequential things but I KNEW they were prayers answered from God. I Reminded myself of the times I had felt warned of the Spirit. And I chose to believe that because I was not warned that Camille's accident was part of her and our plan in this life. Did I know this? No. I chose to believe it. I chose to have believe on faith. I still rely on faith in so many matters that I just don't KNOW.

But I guess that my big thought from this trip was that it is not those who "KNOW" the most that have the most faith. It is those who KNOW the LEAST and choose to believe and live that belief anyway that have the most faith.

What I have also come to discover is that as we act in faith and choose to believe in the face of complete uncertainty (Notice I don't say doubt because if you are choosing to believe you are choosing to stop doubting and just believe.) the Lord will in time help us feel that foundation under our feet and in time perhaps even let us "see" the path upon which we walk so that we can "know" more certainly where we stand.

This I do KNOW: God lives. Jesus is the Christ. He Lives! Christ's Atonement has both that power to cleanse our souls from sin and the power to bind up the broken heart. Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ and was instructed of them to restore Christ's church on the Earth. That Church is today The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Book of Mormon is a true book of scripture and written by ancient prophets of God for the people of our day and age.

If you doubt these things: I hope you will consider me (though perhaps I am a stranger) as the old lady upon whose word you can rely as one who has walked the invisible bridge before you. Choose Faith. Choose belief. Step out and I promise you in time and through continued belief, you will find your footing.