Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The ASL Bee

Are you ready to hear about our new ASL learning initiative?

It's so easy to let yourself plateau in a language. Especially for the little kids, who don't feel the weight of an injunction from God Himself to learn ASL. Coming up with creative ways to keep us learning is what I do for fun :)

So right now, we're working on vocabulary. We found word lists for ASL 1-4 at www.lifeprint.com, complete with links to videos of the signs, and we put them in a spreadsheet. On Monday night, we're having an ASL Bee! Our first one was yesterday. We run it just like a spelling bee, only you have to sign the word instead of spelling it.

Yesterday pitted the younger kids (Sam, Martha and Jane) against each other, then the big kids (Lige, Ellis, Lillian and Marriner.) (Sorry, that was a bit of mom-snark.) The little kid bee was pretty fast, but I'd like to note that Jane didn't get out until the 4th round, correctly signing "me", "nice" and "yes" right before getting out. I didn't try to give her easy words, but we were using the ASL 1 word list for the littles. Sam and Martha did really well on nouns, but they got out on pronouns. That was a good thing for us to talk about, anyway. Martha eventually won for getting "you (plural)" after Sam had missed it. High five to smarty-pants four-year-old!

In the big kid category, we randomized the entire word list. Lige got out the first round on "rollerblade". Which I felt bad about, because when was the last time you used that in a sentence? Marriner and Lillian were the finalists, and Lillian might have won when Marriner signed "poor" instead of "pour", but Mom accidentally showed the right sign instead of letting Lillian have a chance. But she admitted that she didn't know the answer, anyway. Marriner finally won. High five to smarty-pants forty-year-old! :) (As of 2 weeks ago...)

And we'll see who takes home the trophy next week!

Sunday brought some more to the story of the Temple Recommend Renewal. After church, Marriner said, "Guess what, MY temple recommend expires this month, too!" Duh, don't know why we didn't figure that out earlier, we always go together to get ours renewed. So then he asked the big question: "Who interviews me?" In a ward, anyone in the bishopric can do a temple interview. In a branch, only the branch president. Who interviews the branch president? We indulged in a little guessing, then arrived at the practical solution: go read the handbook.

Interestingly, the handbook didn't have any answers. But my grandma told me that when they were called as mission president, Grandpa signed his own TR. And we found out, that's how it goes with the branch president - he signs his own recommend. So Marriner went up to his room and had a little interview with himself. A visit with the stake presidency for the second half of TR interview, and we're ready to go to the temple!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The TR interview

We went to the temple last weekend, and I noticed that my recommend was about to expire. That was more emotional than I expected - I got it renewed last 2 years ago, only a month before we were called to join the branch.

First, let me explain temples and temple recommends a bit. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints go to temples to do ordinances. To keep them a very special and holy place, we're required to be spiritually prepared and worthy to go. Every two years, we meet with our bishop and stake president and answer questions showing that we're keeping the basic commandments. For example, "Do you have a testimony that Jesus Christ is our savior?" and "Do you keep the law of chastity?" It's a cool experience to sit down with a representative of the Lord and be able to say, "Yes, I am living the commandments you've asked me to live." And then to have that representative of the Lord tell you that even though you're not perfect, you're worthy to enter the House of the Lord. And if I had messed something up, that same person would help me change my life and repent, so I could get back on track. I know some people think the idea of temple recommends is a little strange, but I really love it!

So 2 years ago, just before our lives were about to change, I met with my bishop, then a member of the stake presidency and got a new temple recommend. I wonder if President Williams looked at me when he met with me and thought, "Oh, this girl's life is about to change big-time..." Maybe he didn't know yet.

After Marriner was called as branch president, we learned some interesting things. In a ward (a full-sized congregation) the bishop or his counselors can do temple recommend interviews. In fact, when Marriner was a counselor once, that was a lot of his job. The bishop is usually saved for first-timers or people with particular concerns or issues. But in a branch, the counselors don't have the same authority as a bishopric, and only the branch president can do temple recommends. We sorta laughed that in a couple of years, I would have to have an interview with my husband, no other options! I like my husband, but I think that if he was a bishop, he would have had me interviewed by one of his counselors, just to preserve that feeling of...I dunno...separation between church and state??

So now the two years has passed! Sunday night, I went down to the family room and said, "Marriner, what's the most convenient way for me to get an appointment with the branch president for a temple recommend interview?"

"Umm...can we talk after I finish a phone call I'm waiting for?"

Woohoo, that was easy :)

When it came time for the interview, Lige was rushing around getting stuff put together for band camp in the morning. Our house doesn't have an abundance of rooms with doors (and I truly love my open floor plan - it's just bad for privacy) so we ended up in our bedroom. I threw all the laundry spread on the floor into a basket to try to make it a bit more branch president's office-y. It was moderately successful.

I know the question you're all asking is did we do the interview in sign language or English? Well, we did it in English. It was the end of a busy day, and honestly, ASL just takes longer than English. I know, cop out.

The interview itself was very special. It's really cool to be able to tell your priesthood leader that you are being honest and honorable. But this interview had double meaning - not only was I telling my priesthood leader, but I was telling my husband. It was a very sweet spirit as I told my priesthood leader and my husband that I am faithful to my marriage covenant. And that there is nothing in relation to my family that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ. It felt very vulnerable - which reminded me that I had complete and total trust in my partner in life and eternity.

Despite the tender moments, it required great restraint to refrain from cracking inside jokes. "Do you strive to attend all your church meetings?" "Oh gosh, honey, it's fully of strife, you know as well as I do!" No, I did not say that. Because I'm mature. (cough, cough...)

Now that the interview is over, I can go back to my normal behavior around my husband...like nagging him until he remembers to fill out my recommend form and give it to me...I guess that's the only downside to having your priesthood leader be your husband :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The hottest Trek ever!

Marriner and I seem to be forming a habit of forsaking our children and vacation time to go be "Ma and Pa" at our stake youth conference. I won't try to hide that it's one of our favorite things to do. The youth are so wonderful to work with, and it's amazing to do something that might actually make a big difference in someone's life. I know some of my youth conference experiences were really important to me as a teenager.

Every 4 years, our stake does the dreaded, feared, and anticipated Pioneer TREK. A friend described it well: we take all the youth out to the mountains and LARP :) (Old people - that means "Live Action Role Play.) In the 1850's, some fabulously faithful and determined members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actually pulled hand carts of all their worldly goods from Nebraska to Salt Lake City to escape persecution and gather with the Saints. They couldn't afford wagons. It was a heroic and faith-promoting journey, and getting a taste for what they went through for the gospel of Jesus Christ is a life-changing experience.

Although I love going to youth conference, I was pretty scared to go on this one because I knew that it involved a lot of walking in the middle of summer. My knees are prone to fussiness, and I haven't really exercised for the last 15 years of childbearing...and I was scared! I tried to do as much walking as I could to get ready, but as the day came closer, it was clear the weather was not going to cooperate with us.

Every year in Washington, we get a few miserable days in which the forecasters tell everyone to just stay inside, and the county opens cooling centers for people without A/C. And look at us, we decided to spend those days out pulling hand carts!

But, as always seems to happen, we got a family group of the best youth in the whole stake. It's magical, the way you are filled with love for kids you've never met before. Their good qualities just shine, even in their tough moments. God is real, guys, because it's not possible to love a group of teenagers like that without the influence of the Holy Ghost.

Our family had to create a cheer, and Marriner and I foisted a cheer on them - "We're grateful for this experience!" It was a good thing to cheer. We cheered it when we had blisters, when we accidentally slept on a cow pie, when we were walking in the dark with no end in sight, when we arrived at camp and had to start a fire before we could eat, and we were exhausted, when they made us put salt in our water because people were getting sick from losing electrolytes...and mostly, when we were SO. HOT. All these experiences were no fun, but we remembered why we were there, and were grateful to get to experience them. At least, I hope they're grateful for them now...I'm pretty sure our cheer had an air of propaganda at times while we were there.... :)

But I have to say, the real reason we love doing youth conference, the thing that keeps us volunteering every year (even though we don't volunteer in our church!) is getting to hang out with the most amazing adults in Southern Maryland. If we took all these same people and went to a party together, it would be fun, but not particularly meaningful. But when we go out and work together to teach the gospel to our youth, it is so amazing. The strength my testimony and commitment to follow Jesus gains from a few days with other people who love the Lord with all their hearts is immeasurable. I am so touched by their examples. And I'm full of love for them and the blessing of having such people lead my children.

On Sunday, our new Stake President sat down and talked to me for maybe half an hour. He'd been assigned by someone above him to meet with the wives of all the bishops/branch presidents and make sure they were doing ok, and that their husbands were treating them right :) I came out of the meeting just feeling great. I realized it was this same thing - the wonderful feeling of being with other people who are trying to serve the Lord. Knowing that Marriner and I are giving our all, but there are lots of other people out there giving their all, and we're all looking out for each other. 

I feel that way about our branch, too. People talk a lot about feeling a special spirit in our branch. Part of that, I'm sure, is the experience of worshiping in a different way. But honestly, part of that is being with a bunch of people who drive past several other churches every week to come to the church where they can give their best to the Lord. And people who all come together with their one Deaf family member, instead of just going to the ward that would be more convenient for the rest of them. They're all sacrificing, and it gives us a certain special portion of strength and unity. 

On a totally different note...it was Fast Sunday this last week, which is a week where we all fast for 2 meals, then in Sacrament meeting people have an opportunity to share testimonies with each other. I generally enjoy bearing my testimony, but I've struggled with it a bit lately, and I finally realized why this week. I debated with myself a long time about whether to bear my testimony, and what to say, and finally I decided to do it. When I sat down, I was frustrated that I hadn't really expressed what was in my heart very well. In English, I'm good with words and can put feelings into sentences fairly well. And it turns out, I have a little pride there. I like feeling like my words are influential. And when I come away feeling like my words didn't have much convincing power, I feel frustrated. So the next month, I try again. And it's still less than what is in my heart. And I get frustrated again. In our previous ward, there was a sister who was a native Spanish speaker who bore her testimony every month, even though it was never very eloquent. I wonder if she just wished every month that she could express herself better. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Children's progress

Some of the little kids have been doing interesting things lately. Thought I'd write them down so I can look back and remember.

Jane has, until now, had a funny habit. Say it's signing time, and she talks to me. So I sign, "Signing time, no talking!" So she stops talking and starts whispering. I don't know why kids do this - all three of the younger ones have done the same thing. ANYWAY, this week, in addition to whispering, she'll sometimes start babbling with her hands. She waves them around for a few seconds, then looks at you, expecting an answer. I usually sign, "Oh, I see" back to her, and she looks happy at my response and babbles some more. Totes adorbs.

Sam's been doing something interesting, too. When he was younger, he signed very naturally, and very much the way a deaf person would sign - very visually. Obviously, not totally like a deaf person - he's limited by the quality of role models he gets - but still very visually. Then he learned to read. I hear from other parents that this happens to their kids too - when they learn to read, they forget how to sign ASL and start trying to sign every word, exactly like English. (Ha ha, I'm remembering the time a kid in the branch - who, interestingly, had just learned to read - signed, "I want 2 B a (fingerspelled) h-e-l-p-e-r." I about died. Now I get it. It's what happens when you learn to read!)

The fun thing I'm seeing Sam do is start to go back to some ASL things. Today he was praying something about people all over the world, and he drew the world with his hand and pointed to all the people all around it. Isn't that so much more pleasant than finger spelling "a-l-l a-r--o-u-n-d t-h-e w-o-r-l-d"? (Answer: yes.) (And yes, he would have finger-spelled all those things, even though he knows the signs for all and world.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Name sign difficulties

We gave our kids name signs a long time ago. It was long before we joined the branch, or had any Deaf friends. We just needed names for our kids, and so we gave them some.

Usually, a sign name should be given by a Deaf person. We knew that. But, some of our Deaf friends have been very kind to point out, parents have the prerogative to name their own kids. So we don't feel too bad about it. Still, some of our picks are a little unusual, and confuse people sometimes.

So, now that we're a little smarter, we're thinking about changing some of our kids' name signs.

A lot of families will have a family theme. For example, each kid's initial on the same part of the face. Like tapping their initial on the chin or the cheekbone. In our family, Ellis's name sign is our favorite - an E on the chin, like the sign for "mom" with an E. (If you know Ellis, you can guess why she got that sign! She loves being the mom!!)

So, I had this thought yesterday that we could do all our kids on the chin. And it could be so awesome, because an L under the chin means "pogi" in the Philippines - pogi means guwapo. Hot stuff. All that and a bag of chips. Perfect sign for Lige!

pogi sign 25 Things That Only Filipinos Would Understand

See! Isn't that a pogi fellow ^^ :)

So, I showed it to Marriner. His face immediately showed that it wasn't a great idea. I was so let down! Why not, I asked.

Well, in ASL it means Lesbian.

Oh well. Guess we'll let that one go.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The signs you wish you never had to use...

We had a party at Activity Days yesterday! It was an obstacle course, and it was super-fun. Other than the trampoline accident after the party, we had a blast. We had popsicles and a closing prayer before everyone went home.

Looking back, I'm shocked this hasn't happened yet in the year and a half we've been doing Activity Days. It's just so obvious, given a bunch of little boys who know their parents can't hear them. Any group of 4 boys would do the same thing. Boys! Ah!

Someone let loose the biggest fart I've ever heard in the middle of the prayer.

These guys are good - they know how to giggle and talk without moving around a lot so their parents (who are all watching the prayer) won't see them. :)

Finally, I had to stop the prayer and address the problem. Because there are some times when you just shouldn't be trying to talk to God :) Of course, even though the kids and I all knew why we were stopping and trying again, I had to explain to everyone else. And that was when I was grateful I'd seen the sign for fart.



Gotta add to this story. I texted the mom of the boy who got hurt on the trampoline yesterday to make sure he was ok. We were worried he might have gotten a bit of a concussion. She said he was fine, which she credits to the prayer of faith that opened our activity. I'd totally forgotten about the opening prayer! The prayer, in its entirety, was:

"Father, bless that nobody will die on the trampoline, Amen."


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Empathy for a native Spanish speaker

My son Lige picked up a couple of new piano students. I know the mom and dad from the school book fair. They're native Spanish speakers, but have been in the US a long time and are pretty much fluent in English. Today, Grandma brought the kids to lessons, so I got to meet her. She's been here a while, but she's at home all day with little kids as the designated kid watcher. Thus, she's not so good at English. When they showed up, I sat down to talk with her for a few minutes while Lige taught. I planned to go get some work done after being polite, but something in the way she talked made me think that maybe she really wanted to practice English. It struck a chord of empathy in me. I want to be better at ASL. But I'm home all day with little kids, and just don't get to talk to native speakers very often, either. So in my head, I realized that staying and talking would be an appreciated service. We sat down and got to know each other. I tried using all the things my Deaf friends do for me - slowing down, helping her learn new words when she was trying to express new things she didn't know the word for, avoiding hard words, stuff like that. It's not easy to have a conversation that way. My brain wanted to go faster or change to something more fast-paced. But I made myself slow down and enjoy the conversation in honor of all the patient people who have done that for me :)

It ended up being a neat experience. I told her about how I was sympathetic to her language struggles because I had the same thing at church, and told her a bit of our story. I asked her if she went to church, and she said she was frustrated with her church and looking for a new one. I told her we had some missionaries that could come tell her about our church (in Spanish, even!) if she was interested, and she was as excited about that as anyone I've ever seen. It made me grin that our little conversation made her so happy. I spent a year and a half as a missionary in the Philippines, and I don't think I ever saw anyone who was so excited to talk to some missionaries before. So we picked up the phone and called the missionaries right then.

So, I was glad I took the time to talk. She was looking for some English conversation and a good place to go to church, and I could help with both of those interests. Because really, I do go to a pretty fabulous church.