Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Blissdom, Family Update, and Disney Guide

I am officially on my way to Blissdom this weekend, and although I am already desperately missing my husband and children, I'm feeling very excited.

Blissdom is a conference for bloggers, and as I have been researching the speakers and attendees, I have been so inspired (and a little overwhelmed, to be perfectly honest). But really, I know this will be great.

Before I get on the plane, I just wanted to give a quick update on my mom and our family. (I've received a few emails asking about them, and I didn't mean to leave anyone hanging! It's so nice that people care.)

Our family is all healthy now (after WEEKS of coughing), and my mom's surgery went well. She's recovering in a special rehabilitation center for the next few weeks, and it looks like she's getting better each day. (There were some REALLY hard moments in the process, and I've kind of been a mess, but things are looking up now.)

While I was going through our sick time and feeling stressed about my mom, I felt like working on something fun, so if you haven't yet, please go see our new Power of Moms Disney Guide, okay?

Creating it was an absolute labor of love, and we're giving it away free as a way to help introduce more people to Power of Moms.

(Plane is taking off soon!)

Much love,

Monday, March 18, 2013

New Tracking Sheets for Personal Progress and Duty to God

A little note: Most of what I write on this blog is principle based and applies to people of all religions.  My goal is to unite people on the common ground we share--our desire to strengthen families.  This specific post talks about a couple of programs run by my church, but the organization ideas could be implemented in a variety of ways.  Thanks for visiting!

Our church has two beautiful programs for youth who are between the ages of 12 and 18. 

The program for young women is called "Personal Progress,"

and the program for young men is called "Duty to God."

Moving through these programs requires the youth to accomplish a series of assignments and activities--like what you would do if you were certifying to become a fitness instructor or a lifeguard. The purpose of these, however, is to help our youth deepen their faith in Christ and develop attributes that will strengthen them throughout their lives.

I completed my Personal Progress when I was 18, and now my daughter has been working on hers for about a year.  I love it.

As I have spoken with a variety of parents and leaders in these youth organizations, however, I've found that there is a need for a more clearly-defined tracking sheet and process that will enable each participant to identify the "next action" required to move each assignment forward.

So for the past several months, I have been trying to figure out a way to apply the principles I teach in my mom-focused organization program to these youth programs.

After lots of trial and error, and some wonderful advice from our youth and my friend Michelle, we are ready for "beta testing."

That's why I'm writing this blog post.  I'd like to invite any of you who are working with Personal Progress or Duty to God to try this out with your youth and let me know if this tracking sheet works for you.  (Then you can send any recommendations my way.)

The process is fairly simple:

(1) You download a copy of the tracking sheet (one sheet will probably last a couple of months or so).

 Click here for the Young Women Personal Progress Tracking Sheet.

(2) Once you print it, you'll want to trim the paper, so when the form is folded in half, it will fit right into the Personal Progress or Duty to God book.

(3) Once a week, your youth (possibly with the help of a leader or parent) will take just two minutes to look through their books, choose the next specific action they'd like to do, and record the details on this tracking sheet.

I've zoomed in on the header of the Personal Progress Tracking Sheet so I can explain this in a little more detail (you can click the image to make it bigger):

  • The first column has a single box that will be checked once this "Next Action" is completed.
  • The second column is an optional spot where the youth can draw their own boxes for assignments that require a bit of ongoing tracking.  If it says to do something "every day for two weeks," they would draw 14 little squares.  If it says, "once a week for three weeks," they would draw three squares. That's pretty straightforward, right?
  • In the third column, they record where the assignment can be found in the book.  For the Young Women, the column is titled "Value #," and something like "Divine Nature, Experience 3" would be noted as "DN3." For the Young Men, I simply labeled the column with "Page #," since that book is more loosely organized around general areas of focus.
  • In the fourth column, the "Next Action" is listed.  This is supposed to be really specific.  Something like, "Memorize this scripture:_____________" or "Record in my journal how I felt about the service project I did this past week."
  • The fifth column simply says, "When will I do this?"  This gives the youth a chance to think about their schedules for the week and identify a time they could work on their Personal Progress or Duty to God.  This also enables them to easily transfer the assignments onto their calendars or into their phones as reminders/alerts.
  • The final column is simply a place to add notes.  Something like, "Daily for two weeks, ending on June 16th" or "I want this one to be an ongoing habit."
Last week, I was invited to speak at a youth event (where the Young Women and their parents were in attendance) and show them how to use this tracking sheet.

I recorded about 7 minutes of that class and posted it here, in case you would like to watch it.  I uploaded a mobile-sized video, so you can't read the words on the board very well, but the chart is patterned exactly like the zoomed-in picture above, and I'm explaining everything aloud as I go.

    This is a photo of the poster that was hanging on the right side of the chalkboard.  These are the components of the assignment for Personal Progress, Faith #1.  (My cute Alia made it for me.)

    I hope this is helpful to you.  I'm excited to get your feedback, and  I'd love to know if this works for your youth and if you have any ideas to make it simpler or more effective.  

    Thanks so much!


    Saturday, March 9, 2013

    At the Hospital

    I got a call last night from my sister, telling me my mother fell and broke her hip and was admitted to the hospital.

    My heart has been aching for her all night, and the first chance I got, I drove out to see her.

    The children and I made cards for her, and Alia hung them all over the windows.

    (I'm posting this from my phone at the hospital, so I can't control where the pictures are, but they'll probably be down at the bottom.)

    I'll give a better update later, but I just wanted to explain what's been going on around here.

    My mom is in generally good spirits as she awaits surgery (8am tomorrow).

    And every time she wakes up, I can tell she doesn't know what's happening or where she is, but she smiles at me and holds my hand and says, "Oh, April, we've got lots of fun."

    This has been a hard, hard week, and this is the first day I'm out of bed from my own sickness, but I'm just grateful to spend a little bit of time with this precious lady.

    And I'm praying hard that she will have a successful surgery tomorrow. (Extra prayers are much appreciated!)


    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

    Never Lose Your Voice

    I've been sick in bed for the past three days.

    I caught what my girls had, and I was down with a fever, and then a cough and body aches.

    And I lost my voice.

    It became a scratchy, raspy whisper.

    When I lost my voice . . .
    • I couldn't teach my class at church.
    • I couldn't sing "Baby Mine" to Grace or read to the children at night.
    • I couldn't carry on after-school conversations around the kitchen table.
    • I couldn't talk on the phone with my mom. (She used to be able to carry the conversation, but she's been in a bit of a fog lately, and she can't remember what to say.)
    • I couldn't cheer Ethan on at his basketball game.  (I just kept pointing to the little photo button of him that I was wearing and giving him double thumbs up.)
    • I had to cancel our Power of Moms Radio show for the week.
    • And a tele-class I was supposed to record for another parenting website.
    • And a podcast with the lovely Katrina Kenison (who I'm so excited to interview).
    • I couldn't return voice mails or answer the phone when the Kindergarten teacher called to tell me Spencer had a big bump on his head (he was fine).
    • I couldn't go to lunch with a new friend.
    It's been kind of sad.

    But then last night, I hit a low when I started looking at all the balls I've been dropping since I got sick.  (SO sorry if you were involved with one of those balls.)

    Emails are stacking up in my inbox.

    A bunch of projects are at a standstill.

    Our children haven't been on top of all their responsibilities since they've been sick, too, and I haven't set consequences in place well enough to really make sure they do all their jobs, so they know I'll usually pick up the slack, but since I'm sick, I haven't been able to, and SO many things are being left undone, and my husband is feeling a little frustrated, as well.  (Sorry for the run-on sentence.)

    I consider myself to be a pretty strong person, but by the end of last night, I was ready to call it quits.

    I was coughing deeply, retching into the sink and dizzily walking back and forth in my bedroom, with crazy hair and mismatched pajamas, trying not to collapse in tears.

    Eric had no idea what was going on in my head, and I tried to explain it to him, but all that came out was, "I'm just trying to do too much.  I can't do everything.  Would it really matter if I just stopped doing all this? I'm just tired of trying to do so many things that might not even make that big of a difference, and sometimes I just want to stop."

    He held me and talked me through this low point--saying all the right things and getting me to settle into a steady breathing pattern.

    And then a soft voice came into my mind, reminding me of something I already knew about the adversary--or something I should have known.

    April, he wants you to lose your voice.

    "But I already have lost my voice," I thought.

    And then it clicked.

    We weren't talking about my literal voice.  We were talking about my other voice . . . my real voice.

    And this is a war in which every single one of us is a part.

    We've each been given an ability to express ourselves, to lift others, to offer encouragement, to extend support, to stand up for what we feel is right.  And each person uses his or her voice in a unique way.

    It happens through music, through quiet conversations, through genuine smiles, through writing, and sometimes just by "being there."

    But the grand plan of the adversary is to convince us all to deliberately lose our voices.

    Because then he thinks he wins.

    I sat on my bed for a long time and thought about that.

    And then I apologized to God for letting myself act like such a quitter.

    Of course there's no need to overdo it, and I need to seriously adjust my expectations when I'm sick, but giving up my voice can no longer be an option.

    This blog is my safest and easiest place to share my voice.  I like that it's small and kind of out-of-the-way.  I like that the people who read and comment are my friends who have a lot of great advice and solid perspectives on the world.

    And today I would really like to hear what you do when you feel like I do.

    How do you keep using your voice, even when it's hard? 

    How do you make sure you'll never lose it?

    I appreciate the strength you give to me.

    Much love,

    Friday, March 1, 2013

    The "Sick Week"

    Alia came home with a little cough on Monday afternoon.

    It turned into a croupy kind of cough that lasted for two sleepless nights, accompanied by a fever, body aches . . . the works.  She had to miss four days of school this week and is still huddled in a little ball in our family room, waiting to feel better.

    Then Grace came home with a fever yesterday and needed to take some time off of school, as well.

    Our home is a whirlwind of medicine, cough drops, humidifier treatments, thermometer-sterilizing, and lots of cat naps in random places.

    It's been a tough week for all of us, and I'm trying to fight the tickle in my throat and get enough rest so I can take care of our family. 

    I had a serious case of the "blahs" today and couldn't really do anything, and I was feeling discouraged that my energy and productivity has been so low this week.  Eric put me down for a nap and reminded me to stop expecting so much of myself.

    I've realized that "productivity" DOES includes taking care of sick children.  It's not as visible, but it's more important than any of the other projects I had on my schedule.

    I think my biggest realization, however, has been how much I miss my healthy girls.

    Alia typically cooks dinner several times a week and Grace manages much of our laundry.  They also clean their zones, help empty the dishwasher, clean up after meals, and pitch in with lots of other little jobs.

    So now, with both of them sick, I'm scrambling to pick up those jobs--in addition to making sure the bedding is washed, the door knobs are bacteria-free, and everyone has enough fluids, snacks, hugs, and back tickles.

    Can't wait until everyone is healthy!

    xoxo to all the families out there going through sickness right now.

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