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Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Praying Mantis - homeschool study for children

Toward the end of the summer season when the long days are growing shorter and the sultry mid day temperatures are waning, the unmistakable fragrance of females begins to permeate the air. But you'll never notice it. Unless you're a male praying mantis. They're everywhere now, males eagerly seeking to procreate with the beckoning females. How could we resist bringing some mantises indoors for observation?

Right now we are studying Zoology and have begun with invertebrates, specifically insects. There are plenty to be found in our garden. The children draw and write down their observations about each new subject in their nature journals. Then we study the creatures more in depth using library book and internet resources. This week we've been focused on Mantises and they are something else!

Just look at the spiny ridge on each front leg, ready to pierce and hold tight its prey. Did you know Mantids are strictly carnivorous?

We have four of them inside a large clear plastic bowl right now. They are playing nice with each other for the moment, but we are making sure to keep them well stocked with plenty of prey.

Mantises have a total of 5 eyes. Two large compound eyes which are clearly visible, and three very small eyes, directly in between the antennae.

Mantises eat their pray alive and struggling. And they devour things rather quickly I might add, which I suppose is good for the struggling insect. They are also particular about which body parts they will eat. The floor of the temporary habitat is littered with insect body parts: moth wings, fly wings, fly legs, june bug casings and wings, etc.

It has been truly fascinating and exciting to watch these amazing hunters. To see the way they cock their head slightly when they've noticed prey, to see the way they patiently and carefully move toward it, to see how quickly they snatch their prey into an inescapable grasp and begin immediately devouring it has been educational and delightful. The children have loved it! We have been leaving our back door open, welcoming flies into the house. With clear condiment cups in hand the kids have been trapping flies on windows, sliding paper beneath each cup and then asking the resident "expert fly releaser" (a.k.a. mom) to get the flies into the habitat without them escaping.

The following are resources we used for our study of the praying mantis:

Mrs. Warner's Fourth Grade Classroom - Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis Love - Video of Mantis Mating and Female eating the Male

Nature's Perfect Predators

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Family History Work, My Testimony

A talk I wrote and gave in the my church ward on July 27, 2014

In the Magazine, New Era May 1997, President Thomas S. Monson wrote
"One warm summer afternoon when I was about 12, I took a large, inflated inner tube from a tractor tire, slung it over my shoulder, and walked barefoot up the railroad track which followed the course of the river. I entered the water about a mile above the swimming hole and enjoyed a leisurely float down the river.
 I was about to enter the swiftest portion of the river, just at the head of the swimming hole, when I heard frantic cries, “Save her! Save her!” I saw the top of her head disappearing under the water for the third time, there to descend to a watery grave. I stretched forth my hand, grasped her hair, and lifted her over the side of the tube and into my arms. At the pool’s lower end, the water was slower as I paddled the tube, with my precious cargo, to her waiting relatives and friends. They threw their arms around her and kissed her. Then they hugged and kissed me. I was embarrassed and quickly returned to the tube and continued my float down to the Vivian Park Bridge. The water was frigid, but I was not cold, for I was filled with a warm feeling. I realized that I had participated in the saving of a life. Heavenly Father had heard the cries, “Save her! Save her!” and permitted me, a deacon, to float by at precisely the time I was needed. That day I learned that the sweetest feeling in mortality is to realize that God, our Heavenly Father, knows each one of us and generously permits us to see and to share His divine power to save. "

While we may not often find ourselves saving actual mortal lives, we are often able and encouraged to be engaged in the saving of souls. This power to save has been entrusted to us both for the living and dead. The first chapter of Preach My Gospel asks a question that applies to every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: "What is my purpose as a missionary?" The answer in short, is to bring others to Christ.

As concerns our dead, while we cannot personally help teach them, we have been given the privilege of performing the ordinances they need to enter into Salvation. Some of them have already been brought to Christ by missionaries beyond the veil and wait only upon us to do their work by proxy. When you consider that an estimated 107 billion people have been born upon this earth, we have a staggering amount of work to do.

I will admit that a love of and desire to do genealogy research is a gift that I have been given.  So it's of little credit to me that I lack no desire in spending time and effort finding as much as I can about each person within my family tree.  But not everyone has this strong desire. We each have been given different spiritual gifts and at times it may seem difficult to pursue something we've been asked to do when we have so little motivation for it.

Some see this task as beyond their abilities, some see this task as unbelievably boring, some see this task as being fulfilled by others within their family and some may even see the task as fearful, after all some of us know we are more likely to pull heretics than heros out of the pages of our family book. But do we realize how much we need to do this, not just for our ancestors, but for ourselves?

Elder Theodore M. Burton has said, "We have assumed that temple work was to be done merely as a gesture of grace on the part of the living for those of our ancestors who are dead. This is a misconception which comes from not understanding the full meaning of the gospel. The plan of salvation is the plan of saving the children of God in a family relationship."

And Joseph Fielding Smith explained, "When everything gets finished, we will all be one family—every member of the Church a member of one family, the family of God.  It is not merely enough that we be baptized for our dead or for ourselves, but also we have to be sealed to our parents. We must have the parents sealed to their parents and so on, as far back as we can go, and eventually back to Adam"

James Faulconer wrote, "Salvation is not singular...Heaven can only be heaven if it is filled with those we love."

 Family History work helps create some of those loving family relationships. As Elder Dennis B. Neunschwander has said, "Family history research provides the emotional bridge between the generations. Temple ordinances provide the priesthood bridge."  If possible, we should try to build both halves of the bridge to receive a fulness of the blessings promised.

As Joseph Fielding Smith has stated, "There will be cases of course, where some of our ancestors will not be able to be saved in the family of God, but the links will have to be joined without them...The Lord cannot save the willfully wicked.. nor [they] who refuse to accept the work."

But it is up to God to decide whether or not someone is worthy. As for us, if an ancestor hasn't had their work done, we do it. Even if our closest family members in life are people we don't get along with or think ill of, when they are gone, we do their work.

Elder Richard G. Scott has said, "Perhaps you have been prompted to look for ancestors but feel you are not a genealogist. Can you see that you don’t have to be anymore? It all begins with love and a sincere desire to help those beyond the veil who can’t help themselves...Any work you do in the temple is time well spent, but receiving ordinances vicariously for one of your own ancestors will make the time in the temple more sacred, and even greater blessings will be received."

It's not too late to start. You don't need to devote countless hours to research or visit the temple every single weekend, our leaders have not asked each of us to do everything, but they have asked each of us to do something. I know that even doing something is of course difficult when we have no desire so I would say, along the lines of the words of Alma, that even if you can no more than desire to have the desire to do your Family History, let this desire work in you. Pray for help in catching the vision of this work, and more than that, I would encourage you to go and do. For often we receive no witness of the truth and importance of a commandment, or love for it, until after we have put it to the test.

And you will have help. It is not only my calling to hold your hand in this endeavor if necessary, it is my greatest desire. I cannot adequately convey the joy that I feel in doing this work, I can only assure you how much I wish for each of you to feel the same inexpressible joy.

Elder Richard G. Scott has said, ""This work is a spiritual work, a monumental effort of cooperation on both sides of the veil, where help is given in both directions."

Remember what Nephi has said in 1st Nephi 3:7 - ..."the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."
Many of these people from whom we descend but never knew, know us and love us. They prepare the way for us to fulfill the commandment of God to do their work. They bring to light hidden documents and pictures, they sometimes preserve and protect things and help them make their way into the right hands and they often do so much more than this.

Brother John A. Widtsoe once stated that “Those who give themselves with all their might and main to this work...receive help from the other side, and not merely in gathering genealogies. Whosoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life.”

I testify to you of this. I know this. I cannot doubt it for I have experienced it time and again.

Aside from that, Elder Boyd K. Packer has stated that while family history work has the power to do something for the dead, it has an equal power to do something to the living. Family history work ... has a refining, spiritualizing, tempering influence on those who are engaged in it."

This is all true. There is no principle we can follow that will refine us more. As Elder Packer has said, "Was not the sacrifice of Christ a vicarious offering for and in behalf of all mankind? The very Atonement was wrought vicariously. The Lord did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Is it not Christlike for us to perform in the temples, ordinances for and in behalf of those who cannot do them for themselves?"
What an incredible privilege, perhaps the closest we will ever come in mortality to being like Christ, when we do for others what they cannot do for themselves!

President Harold B. Lee taught "Where is the spirit world? Is it away up in the heavens? That isn't what the scriptures and our brethren explain. They have told us the spirit world is right here round about us... And if our eyes could be opened we could see those who have departed from us--a father, mother, brother, a sister, a child. We could see them, and sometimes when our physical senses are asleep, sometimes our spiritual self...will be very keen and awake, and a departed one may come while we are lying asleep and come into our consciousness. We'll feel an impression. We'll wake up. Where does it come from? It comes from the spirits of those whom we are sealed to."

President Ezra Taft Benson taught us, "On the other side of the veil, the righteous are taught their duties preparatory to the time when they will return with the Son of Man to earth when He comes again, this time to judge every man according to his works. These righteous spirits are close by us. They are organized according to priesthood order in family organizations as we are here; only there they exist in a more perfect order."

I testify that those we have loved and lost and those we have never known who dearly love us, surround us. They are always close by, they are always aware of us, they are always anxious for us. They come in dreams, sometimes they come in thoughts and impressions. They are eager to help us whenever and however they are permitted. Death is only a rebirth into another plane of existence. We will see them again someday.
In closing I share with  you a poem written by Mary Elizabeth Fry:

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow
i am the diamond glints on the snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gental autumn rain
When you wake in the mornings hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there, I did not die.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Empty Chrysalis Photo in Weather Channel Contest

So I've been meaning to post pictures of the caterpillar as a chrysalis and then a butterfly and I will but just haven't gotten around to it yet. For now though you can see and vote for my photo of the empty chrysalis in the sunlight on weather channel. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Photographs

We've been having some great growing success in our Austin garden since we moved here. We've enjoyed salad greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, beets, strawberries, spinach, kale and loads of herbs. Right now we're working on green beans, green peas and carrots as well. I love all of the amazing insects that having a flourishing garden brings, even though that means they're there to munch on everything. Just seeing wildlife of almost any variety brings a smile to my face. 

I found this big beautiful black swallowtail caterpillar hanging out on our parsley today. So I decided to bring him inside and place him in our butterfly habitat. He has been devouring parsley all day and the kids are fascinated watching him munch. 

Take a look at those "claws". I have no idea what they are really called but they look sharp. Also, amazing!

This guy is just so pretty. It's fascinating watching him move around, lift his head off the branch in search of more food. He looks ready to form a chrysalis any day. I'm excited to take some pictures of that as well.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Free Printable - Recognize when you have enough - LDS General Conference Quote by Elder Teh

I love watching LDS General Conference not only for the spiritual strengthening it provides me, but for the common sense, practical living applications as well. Concepts and truths are taught that can help anyone, religious or not, lead a happier life.

My favorite speaker this time around was Elder Michael John U. Teh. His talk titled, "Where your treasure is" was a positive influence and example of the mindset I am trying to adopt.

It is easy as a thrifter/deal seeker, to justify purchasing things I don't really need because they are a steal! Sometimes I browse craigslist, local garage sale sites and thrift stores just to "see" if there is anything I "need" on them. But if I don't know I "need" it until I see it, it's likely something I can do without. That doesn't mean life should be restricted to food and shelter living only. As humans we have a desire to move beyond the motions, to do more than survive. We want to live and thrive in happiness! But sometimes we gain false ideas of how to live well and of what we need to be happy.

Gaining true happiness isn't about owning things, it's about owning ourselves. Our own mentality.  We need to become aware that if we're not content with what we already have, we probably won't be content with anything else we acquire. I have to remind myself to often, that I have enough. That money and time are so easily wasted on things that won't matter to me in a short while.  That purchasing on impulse is always a really, really, silly idea.

I designed a printable of a quote within Elder Teh's talk that continues to resonate. It is simple but it is true and it is a good reminder for me every day, to look at what I have, and decide it is enough.

My printables are free for personal use. They may not be put up for sale or altered in any way. Thanks!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Free Printable - Family Group Sheet, Family Group Record, Smaller Version

Here is a follow up to my previous post that had a family group sheet designed for those ancestors who were exceedingly fertile. : ) This group sheet is just a smaller version. One sided, with space for up to 7 children and some notes. Again, it's free and coordinates well with my pedigree chart.

Remember, these are not to be used for re-sale. Personal use only and no modifications to the design.  Thank you!