Relief Society Lesson: God’s Compelling Witness

God’s Compelling Witness by Elder Callister


Whether we grew up in the church or joined it later in life, I think we all have that moment when we realized that the Book of Mormon was an important part of our religious faith. What sets us apart from other Christian religions is this other set of scripture that does indeed shed new light on gospel subjects and gives us further information. It is a huge part in helping us have the fulness of the gospel.


What makes the Book of Mormon so important to our faith?


It gives further aspects of the gospel.

The existence of the book define the truthfulness of our church.

It supports the story of Joseph Smith and his claim to the priesthood.


I have heard people say that the church would be a very nice place, a very nice religion, if only it weren’t for that Book of Mormon. Perhaps we should reduce it to a nice philosophy, or get rid of it altogether. It’s at this point that I wonder what would become of our church if we did not have the Book of Mormon. Back in the day people in the church were mocked by the name Mormon, obviously from this book of scripture. Today we tend to happily accept the term, a nod to just how we value this book and what it does for our faith.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints would not have much to stand on if it weren’t for the Book of Mormon. While I hate to use words like proof and evidence when talking about things of faith, the Book of Mormon is indeed clear evidence of the restoration of the gospel here on earth. Without it, would Joseph Smith had any clout in claiming to be a prophet, or even just a fervent effort in restoring another Christian religion? Or would he have just been some crazy guy talking about seeing angels and whatnot?


The fact that he did present the Book of Mormon is indeed evidence of all he witnessed. It is scripture given to us, blueprints for the return of the fullness of the gospel, written down clearly for us to read. In his talk, Elder Callister speaks of just what the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith mean.


He says ” critics must explain how Joseph Smith, a 23-year-old farm boy with limited education, created a book with hundreds of unique names and places, as well as detailed stories and events. Accordingly, many critics propose that he was a creative genius who relied upon numerous books and other local resources to create the historical content of the Book of Mormon. But contrary to their assertion, there is not a solitary witness who claims to have seen Joseph with any of these alleged resources before the translation began.

Even if this argument were true, it is woefully insufficient to explain the Book of Mormon’s existence. One must also answer the question: how did Joseph read all of these alleged resources, winnow out the irrelevant, keep the intricate facts straight as to who was in what place and when, and then dictate it by perfect memory? For when Joseph Smith translated, he had no notes whatsoever. In fact, his wife Emma recalled: “He had neither manuscript nor book to read from. … If he had had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.”1


We could debate and discuss for ages all the things that simply don’t add up when it comes to Joseph Smith creating the Book of Mormon himself. The book mentions historical details scoffed at the time only much later to proven true by those who study such things. There are different organizations out there with the express purpose of working to prove or at least defend many of the things in the Book of Mormon. The point is, practical, likely evidence lands on the side of Joseph Smith writing the book himself, giving us the proof that everything the book says comes from another source, giving us evidence of a fullness of the gospel. If Joseph Smith or someone else had simply made up the book, we would be listening to pretty principles made up by man only, void of authenticity from Heavenly Father.


Why is it so important we have instructions from God rather than Really Good Ideas from man? If it is the same principle, why does it matter from whom it comes?


I think again to those who would rather have the Book of Mormon as a source of nice ideas. This is not to condemn at all the concepts in the book, but to celebrate them. What they do to give us a fullness of the gospel, to help create our church, is wondrous. However, to simply put them as fine ideas made up by man makes them rather incredulous. If man could make up principles, who is to say he could not change them as so many other great concepts and idealolgies have changed? That these ideas and concepts are gospel coming from heaven makes them so much more than the good idea of the day. It makes them timeless and crucial, things we can trust on for our salvation.


As much as we honor Joseph Smith, we recognize him as a prophet and helper of this dispensation as the gospel, certainly not as the person who made up a new religious, even a really good religion. The Book of Mormon’s existence helps support Joseph Smith in his calling as prophet. If we know he didn’t make the book up, if we know this book comes from God, then we can then believe what else comes with it. We know Joseph Smith is a prophet because of a testimony that likely comes from a testimony of the Book of Mormon. If we believe in the Book of Mormon’s truthfulness, then we believe Joseph Smith was called of God and we know that he was given proper priesthood authority.


We also need to consider the nature of the ideas in this book. While we indeed share plenty of doctrine with other Christian religions, there is still much we believe, even stemming from the Book of Mormon, that is very different,


Elder Callister says “how did Joseph produce a book that radiates with the Spirit, and where did he get such profound doctrine, much of which clarifies or contradicts the Christian beliefs of his time?’


Without the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, we are either another nice church of no particular originality or a church of very odd beliefs with no particular source for them. The fact that this book which is true had some different ideas makes it another witness for our church and the gospel.


We learn from the Book of Mormon that the Fall of Adam was a good thing. We learn the covenants of baptism. We get the allegory of the Olive Tree. We get the full understanding of just what Christ’s atonement does for us, perfecting us rather than just saving us.


Elder Callister says “God’s fingerprints are all over the Book of Mormon, as evidenced by its majestic doctrinal truths, particularly its masterful sermons on the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”


Even as literature, the Book of Mormon is beautiful, complex, full of incredible and powerful themes that go beyond the skill of even one decent writer. The beauty of the book can be a witness of its truthfulness, and it is certainly a celebration of all that God offers us in this dispensation.


Elder Callister describes that believing criticisms of the Book of Mormon goes beyond finding little errors or historical issues we don’t agree with or fully understand. While I do love reading now and then all the fun proofs of the Book of Mormon, I have to think of just why I would want to find fault with the Book of Mormon. With all the goodness it offers, why would we want to deny the amazing spiritual and doctrinal truths it has to offer? Even if we don’t fully understand them yet, even if we don’t have a testimony in each of them yet, what good does it do to for us to condemn them? I really have to ask, what sort of person is going to seek to find fault with Book of Mormon doctrine?


Now, most of this talk really is some remarkable ways of justifying the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, but the truthfulness goes beyond proof. Callister says that if he were to believe the critics, he would have to “I would have to reject the divine doctrine that fills page after page of this sacred book with its supernal truths; I would have to ignore the fact that multitudes, including myself, have come closer to God by reading this book than any other; and above all, I would have to deny the confirming whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This would be contrary to everything I know to be true.”


What I find fascinating is that even while we are told above all else to pray about the Book of Mormon’s truthfulness, we still have so much evidence that is difficult to deny. Heavenly Father will reveal further revelation to those who have faith. Elder Callister tells of a friend who had left the Church. One of my good and bright friends left the Church for a time. He recently wrote to me of his return: “Initially, I wanted the Book of Mormon to be proven to me historically, geographically, linguistically, and culturally. But when I changed my focus to what it teaches about the gospel of Jesus Christ and His saving mission, I began to gain a testimony of its truthfulness. One day while reading the Book of Mormon in my room, I paused, knelt down, and gave a heartfelt prayer and felt resoundingly that Heavenly Father whispered to my spirit that the Church and the Book of Mormon were definitely true. My three-and-a-half-year period of reinvestigating the Church led me back wholeheartedly and convincingly to its truthfulness.”


Despite the evidence we have of the Book of Mormon, our ultimate evidence is prayer and faith, taking the time to search, ponder and pray over this scripture. This is where we will be converted to its truthfulness. This is where we will learn all that it has to teach us.


Heavenly Father gave us the Book of Mormon for our time.


Callister says It is both sword and shield—it sends the word of God into battle to fight for the hearts of the just and serves as an arch defender of the truth. As Saints, we have not only the privilege to defend the Book of Mormon but also the opportunity to take the offense—to preach with power its divine doctrine and bear testimony of its crowning witness of Jesus Christ.


There is no book on earth quite like the Book of Mormon. It brings us a fulness of the gospel, clarifying and supporting other doctrines while revealing more. It is indeed a cornerstone of our faith and is very much meant for us in this latter day.

Relief Society Lesson–Be Ye Therefore Perfect–Eventually (Elder Holland)

Be Ye Therefore Perfect–Eventually


Perfection. What comes to mind when you hear the world perfection? Particularly when it concerns you?

Perfection is a commandment that has been given to us. We have been commanded to be perfect .  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father … in heaven is perfect.” Out of all the commandments given, this may be the most intimidating.

This commandment comes from the Sermon on the Mount, a speech full of many instructions that in and of themselves are plenty overwhelming, and then we are instructed to become perfect. Elder Holland described one as reading that scripture for morning scripture study and then wanting to pull the cover back overhead. It’s a lot to take in, when we are imperfect and foolish mortals in an imperfect world.

Why do you think we are given such a commandment?

The great purpose here of our journey here in mortality is to return to our Heavenly Father and we know that no unclean thing can dwell in His purpose. Ultimately, we know we must become perfect. Yet many of us, probably most of us, make a terrible mistake in considering this commandment. Satan is a master of lies, and he often twists the good and lovely commandments and blessings given to us. If we consider the commandment and the gospel logically and prayerfully, we would rationally realize that of course this is a reasonable commandment to take upon ourselves. Of course it’s necessary for our salvation. And of course we would not be commanded to do something impossible. Satan however takes away this logic and reason and faith and only paints a picture of the size of this task.

Elder Holland quotes a sister in the church, Sister Darla Isakson, who says Satan has somehow managed to make covenants and commandments seem like curses and condemnations. For some he has turned the ideals and inspiration of the gospel into self-loathing and misery-making.

This notion struck a deep cord with me. Like many others I have found myself nearly buried in the tasks of life: keeping a semi-neat home, being a good mom, being a good wife, being successful in my career. I have a friend who lives on the surface the perfect Mormon housewife life of a beautiful clean home, a happy kid, and a home business who yet is comfortable decrying how hard life is. Just the other day in a group I’m in someone posted a musing and comment of a Mormon blogger lady who is fabulously wealthy in the millionaire status with a seemingly charmed life. The musing consisted of if this perfection might be a trial in and of itself, and this led to a fascination conversation of just what mattered most.

Was any of this wrong? Maybe. Why are we agonizing over the blessings we have been given? Why are we weeping over where we are in our journey to perfection? Why are we comparing ourselves to others?

Like Sister Isakson said, this is possibly Satan’s doing. We have been given this beautiful commandment, one I would rather call a promise, of attaining perfection. We have been promised that if we follow our Father’s commandments, we can return to His presence. We have been given all that we need to achieve it. In fact, unlike other times in history, we have the full gospel itself right here on Earth—and this is not to say that people in other times did not have their own sources of God-given inspiration and help. But we in this dispensation have the gospel. We have a prophet and his counselors who help us. We have the organization of the church to help the teachings get to us. We have incredible technology to make this near effortless in comparison to days of the past.  We have communities, families, friends if we seek them out or even ask for them. Even the social media of perfection can be used rather to inspire us if we use it and view in the right frame of mind.

Satan instead takes all these blessings and masks them in ugliness. The help the Church and gospel gives us in attaining perfection becomes a derision of how we aren’t good enough and that the gospel expects far too much of us. The communities we have been given become unenlightened cliques that makes us feel unworthy. The general ideas of help and inspiration become subcultures of intolerance and hated. Even this littlest tweek from the adversary makes what ought to be a good and inspiring goal become unattainable.

What I find interesting is that this lie of Satan isn’t so much saying that these goals and promises of perfection are too high, but that we are too lowly to reach for them. Our Father in Heaven cheers us on, helps us, builds us up; Satan pulls us down.

Elder Holland says I believe in His perfection, and I know we are His spiritual sons and daughters with divine potential to become as He is. I also know that, as children of God, we should not demean or vilify ourselves, as if beating up on ourselves is somehow going to make us the person God wants us to become. No! With a willingness to repent and a desire for increased righteousness always in our hearts, I would hope we could pursue personal improvement in a way that doesn’t include getting ulcers or anorexia, feeling depressed or demolishing our self-esteem. That is not what the Lord wants for Primary children or anyone else who honestly sings, “I’m trying to be like Jesus.”

While I doubt anyone meant the road to attaining perfection was to be an easy, effortless one, I don’t think it was meant to be the sort of road that destroyed us, either.

Elder Holland reminds us we live in a telestial world. By nature of mortality, God-like perfection isn’t possible. This does not excuse us from the commandment, however. When we think of this commandment to be perfect, we need to look beyond this blink of mortality and look into the eternities. The commandment, Elder Holland says, should be thought of as a tribute. We ought to look at what God is, what He stands for, and what we can become with H is help and the grace of Our Savior Jesus Christ. Moroni says “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.”

I can’t think of anything worse than to be limited in what we can do, and what we can become. We often seek toward perfection, often without thinking about it. I’m sure that all of us want to become better in at least one area of our lives. Very few of us are so satisfied with not becoming better that we do nothing. From birth we seek to become better. I believe it is our part of our God-given nature to seek improvement and betterment. It’s Satan’s whispers that would even dare suggest the worst-case scenario is good enough. Now, I’m a big believer in the “good enough” concept in much of life. I use this to balance out the desire for the wrong sort of perfection, to step back, take a deep breath, and think about what really matters the most at whatever time, to perhaps work towards perfecting that. That “good enough” mentality never means living in sin, or living in squalor, or doing beneath what it means to get by.

In the gospel and life, of course we are not meant to lower our standards or excuse sin. But we are to take the help that is offered to us: repentance through the Atonement, learning of and practicing the gospel, seeking to become more like Our Savior. We are to understand that we are imperfect and that is why we have the gospel. If we were not to improve towards perfection, why would the gospel even have been given to us?

It might seem like a tricky balance, seeking perfection yet realizing we can’t attain it in this life, but there it is and it can be done.

Elder Holland brings up the parable of the indebted servant, who was unable to pay an astronomical debt of 10,000 talents to his master. Yet, when he was forgiven of this debt, he refused to forgive the debt he himself was owed of a measly 100 talents. The master in the parable asked “Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?”

Elder Holland uses this as an example of that balance of perfection. We are mortally incapable of solving the sin-equivalent debt of 10,000 talents, so the Savior atones for us. In return, we are commanded to handle forgving the debt of 100 talents. This is the level of perfection we are asked to take on. Perhaps we may struggle, but it’s ultimately doable for each of us, whatever that 100 talents is for each of us.

We are not asked to live a level of perfection beyond the reality of mortality. We are asked to improve, to aspire to the best we can and to use the Atonement and all the blessings of the gospel we have been given to achieve that. Of course, we won’t be godly perfect… now. But we have not been given an impossible commandment.

We need to turn ourselves away from what the talk called “toxic perfectionism.” Instead of wondering “why aren’t I at such-n-such point yet?” why don’t we calmly, happily, and prayerfully find a way to get ourselves there? Instead of comparing ourselves with others and their location on the path to perfection, why don’t we cheer each other on, celebrate each other, and perhaps even take inspiration from each other? Why don’t we build each other and ourselves up? Instead of hoping for perfection all at once, why don’t we just put ourselves toward it without becoming bogged down in the seeming impossibility of us all? Why don’t we focus first on things that matter?

Yes, we have been commanded to be perfect like our Heavenly Father is perfect. Embrace the commandment and what it truly means. Thin k of the Primary Song “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus”, whith its use of the verbs “trying” and “following”.  Don’t get caught up in what the world thinks as perfect, but don’t be afraid to prayerfully seek betterment and improvement in important things.

We were not thrown on this Earth to immediately burst into perfection, whether is be through Pinterest/Instragram wonder or those spiritual giants around us. We are here to improve ourselves, to study the gospel, to seek God… and yes, one day in the eternities, become perfect.


Relief Society Lesson: Stand Up Inside and Be All In (Elder Sabin)


The original talk of which upon my lesson was based.



Elder Sabin begins his talk with an amusing story of his granddaughter coming home from a soccer game, so thrilled with herself for having scored all three goals—in a game quickly revealed to score 2-1. Yet the little girl’s enthusiasm was not dampened. The lesson we take from this is of a passionate young girl who gave her all and gave her best. Despite logically having scored at least one wrong goal, I like to imagine that this young lady’s soccer game eventually improved, as she took her enthusiasm and ability and redirected them to playing the game a little more correctly.


Every time I looked at the title of this talk, my mind kept trying to reinterpret its meaning. I would think of all those lovely metaphors of the oak tree. Some powerful tree that does not break or bend in the trials of adversity or temptation. However, as I would study the talk, I was reminded this was not that lesson. Elder Sabin speaks of redirection and repentance. Perhaps becoming the powerful unyielding oak tree is a fine goal, but as we grow toward that we actually want to be something different.


A huge essential part of the principle of repentance is change. We need to be a people who are willing to change ourselves, accept admonishment and advice, and listen to the words of our leaders. Another story used in this talk is speaking of a GPS device that recalculates for us and even tells to make a legal U-turn, things requiring change on our part.


So what is to be made of these lessons? We are to be devoted to the gospel, we are supposed to stand tall in our beliefs, and we are supposed to also be willing to change? What ideas do you have on how these principles fit together?


Another story Elder Sabin tells is of a Scouting camp-out. The Scouts built a fire and settled down to sleep in their sleeping bags while Scoutmaster Sabin slept in his truck. The next morning, one of the Scouts complained he had slept badly that night due to being cold. His excuse was that the fire had gone out, as fires will do. Scoutmaster Sabin asked the Scout why his sleeping bag had not kept him warm, and it turns out the kid had never even used his sleeping bag. His reasoning was some twisted plan to save time—if he didn’t roll out his sleeping bag, he wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of rolling it back up. This is technically true, the Scout didn’t have to bother with rolling up his sleeping bag in the morning. But at what price? Freezing all night.


A similar story came from one of my friends just this week. She administered a history test, and allowed her students to use all of their notes as well as the text book. One of the students missed every single question. When conferencing with the student, my friend asked the girl if she had used her notes and textbook like she had been allowed. The girl said she had. My friend asked how she then managed to fail the test. In the most inexplicable, headscratching answer I have ever heard, the girl replied “History test? I thought it was a science test!”     So what happened in this situation? How did a girl who had every help handed to her fail to use what was given?


In the case of the Scout, surely this kid knew that a good quality sleeping bag will do just fine in keeping one warm, if one bothers to actually get into it. Surely he knew that taking five minutes to roll up the bag is better than freezing all night. (Though I worked five summers at Boy Scout camp and Scouts did tend to have some interesting logic.) In the case of the student, surely the girl knew how to read, how to determine just what the test was asking her and where she could find any information she needed.


We too have  so much information and help given to us. We have our classic and oh-so-essential primary answers of prayer and scripture study. We have resources, words of our prophets and apostles. We have the advice of our church leaders and the fellowship and wisdom we can gain from each other. Thanks to the internet, I regularly check in on a Mormon-themed online community where all sorts of gospel questions and life problems are discussed. I feel somewhat comfortable in saying that we really have no excuse for not knowing better.


The same teacher friend once shared another story. Due to some issues, she had to change where her class would be meeting one day. So, she wrote what she thought was a very clear note and taped it to her regular classroom door. She then waited… and waited… at the other location. No one came. She finally went back to the regular program to find a bunch of very confused teenagers milling around the door. Oh, they had seen there was a note on the door. They just hadn’t bothered to read it.


Once again, the title of the talk is Stand Tall and Be All In. When do these things, we think of what we want, to truly live the gospel and return to our Father in Heaven. We are not lukewarm, but as passionate as Elder Sabin’s granddaughter even when she was scoring goals for the other team. We are willing to repent and learn and change. We do not wait to be acted upon, for someone to drag us back to the correct classroom or hold our hands and make us roll out our sleeping bag. Think how these stories could have been different. A Scout realizing he wanted to be warm enrolling his sleeping bag. A girl who wanted to do her best on a test paying attention to what the test was. A class of high schoolers reading a note.


And yet, how many of us do stuff like this in  more gospel-related subjects? How many of us seek the easy way out despite bypassing the very principles that would make our life ultimately easier or better? How often do we refuse to do the simple commandments we have been given, preferring to spiritually freeze? I get it and I think we all do that life happens and things get hard. Perhaps we sometimes fail to do what we know we need to do. But, like the GPS that helpfully reminds us when we need to make a U-turn, we will always have the choice to change and repent. The trick is when we are willing to do this.


Another Scout Story. Years ago, we had a Scout who started the week off rather badly. He had trouble following his Scoutmaster’s rules, getting along with others. He was younger, and may have just been homesick. On that first or second day, he climbed up a tree in his ward’s campsite and hid there for hours, sending the entire camp staff into a lost Scout search. But the story has a happy ending. He changed. He found a way to do when he needed to do, to feel better about the week, to have fun and enjoy himself. He wound up receiving an award at the campfire at the end of the week from the staff for the hard work he had done in one area.


He stood tall despite his initial struggles. He didn’t let a troubled beginning stop him from growing that week. He bounced back and gave his all to that week of camp.


We compare these different children and we can compare ourselves. What happens when we remain lukewarm with principles we really know better about? What happens when we invest ourselves in those principles and do our best with faith and trust in God?


Another story told is of a father and son who went to a toy store and spotted one of those balanced punching bags shaped like a person. When punched, the punching bag man of course bent backwards with the force, only to quickly rise back up to standing. The father asked his why the man kept bouncing back up. The son replied “I guess it’s because he’s standing up on the inside.”


Here lies the lesson. Many of our not quite yet those huge unyielding trees that bend to no one. But we are saplings, able to spring back up. Some years ago my parents bought a young sapling for their yard. It was young, springy, and not as stable as a bigger tree. So they supported it for a time using twine tied to a stake. The tree relied on that freely given support, all the while growing and gaining strength. No matter what winds and weather and environmental problems knocked that little tree about, it had the support it needed. As the tree grew bigger, it no longer needed so specific as a length of twine to support it. To anthropomorphize the tree, it knew what it needed to do. It knew it was a tree that was supposed to grow and decorate the yard. It was all in, and even though it was still comparatively a little tree, it still bounced back against the wind.


We are still growing and learning the gospel. While we seek perfection, we do our best with where we are while still relying on our Savior and our Heavenly Father. We have been given what we need to stand tall on the inside no matter what happens and we have the resources we need if only we seek them out. When we repent and seek a change in our hearts, we give our all. We don’t assume we can be lukewarm and assume that the consequences for being lukewarm are all there is, or that there is no point in striving for more.


Now, perhaps we will have those moments of struggle in our lives, hard times where we care more about saving time on our sleeping bag than freezing, or times when we have no idea what test we are taking or can’t be bothered to read a note. But we should live our lives these times will be few and far between, and find those supports in our lives that can drag us back to the right classroom. The point is that we are invested enough in the gospel, truly willing to give our all, that we will repent, change, and turn our lives around. Perhaps we may, on the outside, have been knocked down. But we can stand up inside.


Elder Sabin says “We stand up inside when we wait patiently upon the Lord to remove or give us strength to endure our thorns in the flesh. Such thorns may be disease, disability, mental illness, death of a loved one, and so many other issues. We stand up inside when we lift up the hands that hang down. We stand up inside when we defend the truth against a wicked and secular world that is becoming increasingly more uncomfortable with light.”


How can we put this into practice? We can rely on the love of our Savior and our Heavenly Father. We can rely on our testimonies and even in times the testimonies of those around us. We can pray for the strength we need. We can serve others to help their burdens be lighter. We can attend the temple, church services, read our scriptures, pray, seek inspiritaional media.


Think of the people you may know who are the type who always seem to be standing up on the inside. These are the people that no matter what bare that attitude and light of taking on life’s challenges and standing up for what is good. Elder Sabin suggests that we all have the capacity to be these people and that if we aren’t, we should find ways to become so. I would again suggest the above answers.

Dear Parent of an ADHD Child

Hello and thanks for surviving the first quarter of the school year with me. Thanks for helping your kid read at home, thanks for coming into volunteer, thanks for being so awesome about getting your kid to school on time. Whatever you’ve done, thanks. You’re an awesome parent.

And yes, I know you have the extra challenge of having a child with ADHD.

And yes, I know your child is smart, capable, and funny. I know you hope for the best for him and seek out the best team to help support his or her educational goals.

I get it. I do my best not to blame your kid for his ADHD. ADHD runs in my family and if I bothered to go to a doctor for a diagnosis I’d probably find I have that or perhaps a true case of Tourette’s this time. I’m sorry if my humming tic sets your kid off in class sometimes.

I do my best to be patient with your kid, to work with his condition. I have wiggle seats, a fairly liberal bathroom and drink policy, fidget options. I let kids do their work on the floor, under tables. I try to keep assignments short and to the point. I try to break up work. I wait to give your child instructions when she’s looking at me, not because that’s what the ADHD blogs say to do but because this is really how most of the population communicates. I remind him to turn in projects. I help get stuff into her backpack. I have subtle reminders to keep him on task. I hold her accountable for his actions. I let all the students go out to recess, all of the recess, every single time.

I have read the letters floating around, asking for pretty much the above, the love and attention your ADHD kid needs.

And your kid rocks. Your kid is a hoot and, really, so clever. I’m happy having your kid in your classroom.

But, in case you don’t already know, your wonderful kid who struggles with ADHD is not at the top of my radar.

If you have a mental model of my classroom full of fairly typical, normal kids of stellar behavior plus your kid with all the ADHD stuff, please scrap that model.  Immediately.

Yes, your kid is a little different in that struggled with ADHD. But five classmates also have ADHD. Plus two kids with Sensory Processing Disorder. One more on the Autism spectrum. A few more with fairly significant learning disabilities. Not to mention kids who are homeless, have crappy home lives, or are just trying to get through your average boring childhood.

These kids are amazing and awesome, too. I’m happy having them in my classroom. But, remember, they’re in my classroom along with your kid and the ADHD.

Again, if your mental model says all the kids are angels without issues and then your kid is the exception, scrap the model.

Sometimes your kid’s impulsivity sets off the other kids with impulse control issues. Sometimes their impulsivity sets off your kid.

Your kid’s near-screaming volume has a negative affect on the kid with the sensory issues.

The kid who can’t read social cues may misinterpret your kid’s rough-and-tumble nature and get in your kid’s face. We’re working on that with both parties and I’m sorry it’s happening. Work in progress, you understand.

When the fidgets, hallway breaks, alternative seating, and all that fails to fully keep your kid in check and he starts juggling chairs or pretending she’s a rocket-firing robot, we have other kids jumping into the game or having PTSD episodes. Sometimes both. Many of these kids are struggling to control themselves, just like your kid.

Please don’t mistake me. I appreciate what your kid has to deal with and I’m doing my best to help. I’m open to suggestions, since you probably have a plethora of tips and tricks. And I’m sorry that my time and attention can’t go only to your child, not with this classroom.

It’s almost 2018. We don’t shy away from inclusion and teachers and professionals are developing a slew of ways to make inclusive classrooms work (plus a slew of ways to make special-ed only classrooms work even better). It’s a pretty cool frontier.

But it does mean your kid isn’t the only one.naughty_teens_1383900c



November the 1st had better be a miserable day for this teacher.

In this, the year of our Lord 2017, November the 1st, All Hallow’s Eve, the day after Halloween, the first day of November and the rest of the holiday season, falls on a Wednesday. According to my school calendar, I will be as I am many a Wenesday– teaching 2nd graders.

Last year, the same such November day also fell on a school day. My vice principal came in to do an observation. Seriously, I thought? Today? When they’re all in some state of candy hangover? Why would you do this?

But he did it and that is that. And with another post-Halloween school day approaching, I hope for much of the same: another miserable day after kids Trick-or-Treating.

I recently stumbled upon a concept of which I had never heard, one that is supposedly pretty old. The Candy Witch. The Candy Witch is a Santa Claus ripoff of childhood wannabe folklore. The concept is that you let your kids keep a miniscule amount of candy while sacrificing the rest to this mysterious entity the Candy Witch. She then leaves some toy or, according to some accounts, school supplies!

Now, while there is a respectable amount of kids who wouldn’t mind trading in candy for a cool toy and maybe even a few lovable nerds who want school supplies, have these people met the majority of children?

At least in that one MLP episode where apparently tradition dictates little foals leave their candy to a statue of Nightmare Moon they get an awesome eons-old tradition contribution. For me, this is going on my list right up there with trunk-or-treats flat-out replacing trick-or-treating.

I understand the philosophy is to teach healthy habits like moderation. You know, because one night of getting a bunch of candy throws off an entire year of reasonable healthy eating practices. A recent Dear Abby letter was full of comments about just how stupid this thing was, mentioning their kids tended to get sick of the candy after a couple of days, solving the problem right there.

I loved trick-or-treating as a kid. I went far longer than I should have. But oh, what glorious times! Romping through the dark streets with friends, gathering candy, costume-watching… then getting sick of walking around and going home to watch a Halloween movie while trading candy like some delicate stock system. After that, I could enjoy a book with a treat or sneak candy to school.

I have a different memory: buying giant lollipops at something or another. They stayed at my grandmother’s house for us to enjoy until one day the darn Tooth Fairy apparently switched them out for plastic toys. At the time, it was pretty cool. But now, I’m bitter. You switched out sweet sugary goodness for a kazoo? Grandma, had you met before?

No kid goes out Trick-or-Treating to get ten pieces of candy. Trick-or-Treating is a wonderful time when kids get to be kids and experience a little bit of wildness, a little bit of freedom from parents to explore neighborhoods, be with friends, and get lots of candy. Unless a kid has willingly signed a contract to trade candy for a really decent toy, the Candy Fairy is a joke.

If my students show up on November 1st tired, miserable, and sugar-rushed and make my day a living hell, good for them! I will take a deep breath and hope this is because they had a fantastic time the night before.



So I’m not going to do reading logs this year.

I dislike homework. It’s a pain to put together, it’s a pain to grade and record, and I tend to read the research speaking against it. If memory serves me correctly, I had no homework until junior high. Why in the world do I want my 2nd graders having homework?

Last school year and the year before I had great plans to do away with homework. And then came our Wildly Important Goal. I’m up those WIGs, don’t get me wrong. But when I found out we were tracking homework and reading minutes? Curse being a team player! So I dutifully sent home homework so we would have something to track, though in retrospect couldn’t the zero homework be included in that tracking? Fortunately, by last school year the homework tracking had been nixed, but still we had to track reading minutes. So I simplified my homework to largely reading minutes, which still included printing and stapling and counting and tallying up totals I’m not sure I trusted.

This year began with more talk of WIGs. I prepared myself for another year of reading log drama on my part only to find, to my deepest delight, our WIGs were moving in another direction.

I could very well be free of reading minutes. No great authority is insisting I record them. And why in the world do kids have to be tracking reading minutes? I have no memory of tracking reading minutes in my own school years. Kids read, it’s their job as students and with any luck they learn to like it.

Last summer I read Debbie Miller’s Reading in the Wild, her follow-up to The Book Whisperer. Her focus is on getting kids to read, not “making them”. I sure would love to raise a class of second graders in the ways of wild reading because what is cuter than a bunch of 7-year-olds happily clutching their books in the way any child ought to be enamored of a book?

Yet does the tracking of reading minutes do anything to help with this? Sure, you have those particular children who like to jot everything down, but that seems something they could do on their own. I am positive I had a bunch of kids last year who just colored in whatever on their reading minute sheets and had their parents sign whatever. Because, who cares?

This year, I’m doing something different. No reading logs. Nada. At least as that apply to me. I created my class letter template for the year and sure enough I provided a few varieties of reading logs to go with it…with the explicit instruction these were for individual use as needed/desired only. I didn’t want them back.

What I do want is my students reading. Wild readers do read at home, and I want to mess with the minds of my 2nd graders until they view reading at home as a normal, daily activity. An enjoyable one and a necessary one. You know, reading like it is one of those things one just does because that is what one just does.

In my class letter I will talk up reading. I will ask questions to consider, all coming from the view that I assume they are reading. I will possibly attempt to create a new normal for some of them, one that goes beyond the assumed required reading. You’re a student, you’re a child, you’re a human. You will read.

Maybe I’ll get a few wild readers.

Cleaning my house with a bar of soap

Some years ago I hopped on the bandwagon of DIY cleaners, leaving behind the college life white glove check store run where we grabbed something for every project. Vinegar baking soda, a use for the essential oils I just can’t seem to use medicinally, and, of course, soap. The book I originally used as my bible for this often spoke of castile soap, so I bought that and I still keep as bottle around as my cleaning supply. But I waxed more lazily.

These days I clean the house with a bar of soap. Bath soap. Cetaphil brand, to be sincere. Amazon Vine gave me a 6-pack of those last year and they failed to mesh with my husband’s skin. I was currently using other soap, so I just opened up one of the bars and used it clean stuff.

I love it.

When I first began cleaning with a bar of deodorizing skin clarifying soap, I sought approval. The interweb didn’t provide much, mostly suggestions on ways to use bar soap that ultimately weren’t cleaning anything. But those soapy housecleaning rebels were out there, also seeming to feel a tad awkward over their delve into cleaning with soap.

But why not? What were people cleaning with before fancy cleaning products? Soap. Soap that was hanging around the house and offering so many wonderful cleansing uses.

I still have a few general cleaning products, but one of those bars of soap sits on my kitchen windowsill waiting to be used.

How do I use this soap?

  1. I run it under some hot water to make a nice soapy water mix.
  2. I rub it over a cleaning rag and scrub away.
  3. I rub in my microfiber mop pad.
  4. I shred it up and use it for laundry soap.

And it works, comparatively with any other green cleaning method or commercial cleaner. I can leave the soap water on a gross stovetop for a few minutes, then wipe. I friggin’ mop with it.

My stuff is clean. The house smells nice because soap has that lovely soapy smell. It’s so easy to use and it’s as teeny as anything.

Soap. Why were you abandoned in the cleaning world?cetaphil