Monday, January 31, 2011

Perfect Parenting

We "built a snowman" tonight for family home evening.  We didn't have packing snow, but we made the best of the situation, because Guy had been begging me to do it all day.  Best thing about being my own boss?  If I want to scrap my plans and build a snowman in the dark with my boy with snow that doesn't pack...I can!  And we had an awesome time doing it!
I spotted this billboard when I was in the DC area this weekend, and it made me chuckle.
Tonight, as we built our very imperfect snowman, I started to understand a little more of what this advertisement was trying to get at.
As a person, I do a lot of things imperfectly...really, really imperfectly!
But as a parent, I love my children with everything I've got!  And in the end, kids don't need perfection...they need love and our attention.

I am so thankful for Family Home Evening.  It is truly an inspired institution!
(20 minutes, every Monday, to a better life!)

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We're In This Together - Service Boot Camp Giveaway

All right now, friends.

It's almost February.  Around here that means that it's time for another Service Boot Camp.

Many of you have joined me for Service Boot Camps in the past.  Together, we:

Raised $700 for Haiti...
Made 200 Journals for Grieving Military Widows...
and Served Others Every Day for 30 Days.

For this Service Boot Camp, we are going to embark on a mission to write letters to people who have helped us, inspired us, served us, or made a difference in our lives or the lives of those around us...THANKING THEM for their efforts.

It's a simple thing, really, writing a letter.

But it can be a huge thing for the recipient of your sincere expressions of love and gratitude.

Hopefully, you'll join me every day in February, as we try to make the world a little better with every letter that we write.

To get us prepped for this Service Boot Camp, I have some excellent giveaways lined up.

The first one is from The Canton Box Company, who has generously donated the card that you see above.  They have some really amazing things in their shop, so I do hope you'll check them out!  Really...amazing!

In order to be entered to win this lovely card you may do any of the following:

1.  COMMENT on this post.
2.  PLEDGE to join us in letter writing Service Boot Camp.
3. Visit The Canton Box Company.
4. Link to this Giveaway on FB OR LIKE THIS POST
5. Be a follower of my blog.

Please leave a comment for each entry that you do.

I will announce the winner of this card tomorrow.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cheering Each Other On...From the Bench

My son Guy stood in as the reverence child before Sacrament Meeting today.  Do you have a reverence child in your ward?  The reverence child is a Primary child who stands on the stand in church as an example and reminder to others of how to be reverent in the chapel.  When the meeting begins, the person conducting usually dismisses and thanks the reverence child for their service.

Well, after Guy fulfilled his five minutes of reverence this morning, he was dismissed from the stand.  On his way back to our pew, he passed the Elders and the Priests who were sitting on the bench in the front row waiting to pass the sacrament.  The next thing we know, Guy is giving everyone on the bench high-fives!  He ran down the row slapping fives not once but twice!  It reminded me of the scene that takes place when the starting line-up is called at the beginning of a basketball game.  The starters usually slap high-fives with their teammates as a way to get them all pumped up for the game.  The pride and excitement on Guy's face was priceless!

This scenario made me laugh, because it was just sooooo Guy, but I also really appreciated that these priesthood holders were cheering on a young boy who was performing his duty in the gospel.  It's a neat thing to see the older boys encouraging a younger boy in his budding testimony!  Hopefully, we can all do our part to cheer each other on as we make strides to grow in the gospel!
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The Mission Call

Steve's parents received their mission call Thursday night, and I am so psyched for them!  I love Steve's family so much!  It was fun to have all of us on the phone or on Skype while they opened their letter.  I decided to video tape their reading of their mission call letter, and it turned out pretty funny as I didn't realize my camera was rolling in the moments before the letter was actually read and for another reason.

I am thrilled for them.  They've been planning and looking forward to this for a long time!  They will be really awesome missionaries!! (They already are!) Congratulations, Mom & Dad Christensen!
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Love to See the Temple

Steve and I went to the temple today.  It was wonderful.  When we entered the temple, the worker at the front desk gave us this photo of the temple that was taken by one of the other temple workers.  This temple is so amazing in any light.  I just love the look of it.

Here are two other photos that I took today with my camera phone.

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Gender is Essential & Eternal

"Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, 
and eternal identity and purpose."

The letter "G" was a hard one for the kids to learn in the Family Proclamation A, B, Cs this week.  I guess there were some pretty big words in there for a 3 and 5-year-old, and I wasn't as diligent about having them practice.  

I was helping Guy memorize this line from the Family Proclamation this morning, but he was getting frustrated, so we stopped.  Then this afternoon, Scarlett, who had been listening in all morning, busted out with the whole phrase all on her own!

Learning is such a funny thing.  Kids really do absorb what is done and said in the home so naturally.  I have had the Spirit whisper this truth to me this week--that one major reason why families benefit from having a Mother in the home is because it's just so much easier for children to learn important lessons by watching Mom's example in every day situations.  Every moment of the day is an opportunity to model faith, courage, humility, hard work, and every other good behavior that is necessary for children to become happy, healthy, well-rounded individuals.  And they pick up these lessons at lightening speed!  I am so thankful that I have the ability to be with my children in this way.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Service Boot Camp: The Write Stuff

My son discovered conversation hearts last night.  He received them as a "prize" for a special accomplishment.  He immediately started playing this funny game with them.  He'd come up to me and read the heart, then I had to do whatever it said (like "XOXO" or "Hug me").  Then, he'd give ME the candy as payment.  Pretty sweet deal for me, eh?

So, if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, hopefully you've picked up on the fact  that I LOVE LETTERS!  I love sincere expressions in all forms, but hand-written letters are a true treasure to me.

My scrapbooks are peppered with letters that I have received from family, friends, teachers, and coaches over the years.  I pulled some of them out this morning.  It was such a joy to re-read them after all of this time.  I think that the written word can change the world.  I know that I've had my world changed many times over by words that someone has lovingly written to me during a time of need.

That is why next month (February 2011), 
I am hosting a Letter-Writing Service Boot Camp.  

All that you need to do to join in is WRITE ONE LETTER to someone who has made a positive influence on you in your life and thank them for it!  That's it...super easy!  You can also write a letter of encouragement, or whatever you can think of.  Will you join me?  Who knows...perhaps there'll be some "candy hearts" in it for you as well!

Just for fun, here are a few letters that I read this morning:

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Miss My Kids...Already.

I think I need to up my dose of chocolate today.

For some reason, I'm sitting here thinking about my kids (Guy) going off to kindergarten next year, and I am in tears.  So I decided to post some pictures of some quintessential moments that I share with my kids on a daily basis...the ones I'll surely miss when they all go to school.

And this little poem that I wrote to express what I am feeling:

My children's laughter is the soundtrack of my days.
They are loud and creative and passionate and like me in so many ways.

But what will happen when their music is not a part of my day?
Will I find another song to bring me joy?  Oh Lord, help me to find my way...

...and keep them always in Yours.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Deans Mother Goose Book of Rhymes - 1977 Edition

Growing up, my sister and I shared the attic bedroom.  In many ways it was a world all our own.  It was a magical place with desks built into the walls and a bookshelf that ran the length of the stairwell creating sort of a balcony effect.  This shelf housed hundreds of well-loved books.  Our favorite books were always changing, but there is one that I consider one of my all-time favorites:  Deans Mother Goose Book of Rhymes, 1977 Edition...and I still have it.

My grandparents, who lived just down the street from us growing up, gave the book to us, and I believe that she bought one for each of my sisters as well.  Here is the inscription:

Now, I'm not sure how much added value my 3-year-old scribbles bring to this copy of the book, but I looked online, and a new copy of this book is selling for $499.00!!!  I'm thinking that my book is now worth anywhere from $50-$199, as that is what used copies of this exact edition are selling for on Amazon and Ebay.  Note to self...hang onto the good ones!  I'd never dream of selling this though!  Obviously, the sentimental value is just too great!

As you can see, the artwork in this book is amazing!  That is what I remember most as a child--getting completely lost in the rich, romantic, warm illustrations.  Even the ragged characters' clothing, texture, and depth is just beautiful.  Each page is a masterpiece in and of itself!

I guess I always thought it would be so neat if people still dressed this way.  Just look at the detail on the clothing!  And many of the rhymes are just no longer repeated in the home, let alone in print!

This picture of the cat in a dress used to fascinate me!  I remember inspecting the hole made by the coal and thinking, "Oh, dear, she's in trouble now!!"

I liked this page a lot for obvious reasons...

There seemed to be a lot of kissing, and being sweet on, and marrying going on between boys and girls and men and women in the illustrations.  The idea of romance, playing house, getting married, having children, being a mother, and carrying for children was portrayed in a beautiful way.  I love how the children are portrayed so realistically.  Many of the pages show them getting into normal childhood mischief, yet their innocence and wonder remains in tact.

Now that I look back, I can fairly easily recognize that this strong sense of family--parents who are in love, a mother who is present in the home, and siblings playing together--which was very strongly represented in this book is THE reason why I loved this book so well, and why it stood out from all of the rest as a treasure.

Now as I compare this book to similar books of nursery rhymes that are available to our kids, I appreciate this version even more.  The nursery rhymes are sweet, straight-forward, and timeless.  In my kids' rendition, for instance, the author has switched "What little girls are made of" to make it read that they are made of snakes, and snails and puppy dog tails.  Why mess with a perfectly good nursery rhyme, I ask you?  I'm so glad to have this for my kids to enjoy!

PS - Don't you think that the little girl pictured in my last post looks like a character straight out of this book??

PPS - I am linking up to Chocolate On My Cranium's Wordfull Wednesday.  Check it out and join in if you'd like!
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Children In Sacrament Meeting

As I was leaving church on Sunday, I spied a stack of ancient-looking 
Family Home Evening Resource Manuals on a table marked "free".  My husband had suggested that we use one of these old manuals as our main source for Family Home Evening lessons this year, a suggestion that I had scoffed at originally.  Since they were free, I took them home to have a look.  After reading just one lesson, I'm changing my tune.  There seems to be some very valuable wisdom to glean in these books--lessons that are, more than anything, a primer on good parenthood!  You might want to read on to school yourself...I know I learned and was reminded of some good practices that I plan to emphasize in our parenting moving forward.

Lesson 25 "Children at Sacrament Meeting"

Objective: "Help your children to learn appropriate behavior for sacrament meeting."  I have been thinking about this a lot lately.  Unlike other churches, our children are welcome and expected to attend the main and most sacred meeting in which we partake of the Sacrament.  Instead of being sent to a nursery, families worship together.  This can pose a challenge for parents in instructing their children how to site quietly for a long period of time. (Understatement of the year, I know!)

When I first became a Mom, the message that I got by watching others was more of "sacrament meeting survival".  All I knew from watching other young mothers in my ward was that the cardinal rule of church was "never run out of cheerios".  That worked ok, until my kids grew out of an acceptable age for snacking at church, and I realized that I had created a problem by teaching them that it was ok to eat in the pews!

Then there were the toys and books that we brought, which only caused fights to break out as we added more children to the mix.  My mother-in-law told us that when she took her seven kids to church they each were only allowed one notebook and one pencil (not a pen or crayons), and they only came out after Sacrament was finished.  We eventually gave it a try, and it definitely worked better than what we were trying.

Still, we needed an approach that would help our children learn how to behave in church that would be about their personal growth, and not just a trick/quick fix to keep them quiet.  And I think that the concepts outlined in this lesson does just that.

At first, when I started reading this lesson, I found myself laughing aloud to myself, as I read their "True-False Statements" that were meant to help the adult parent understand basic concepts about child development.  I thought the writer surely must have had a sense of humor, then I realized how dead-on the points were. Here they are:

True or False Quiz:

1.  Praise spoils children.

2. Children need not be involved in decision making and planning before they reach the age of accountability.

3. It is helpful for parents to exemplify the behavior they want their children to exhibit.

4. A young child has a long interest span.

5. Everyday experiences, such as taking walks, meeting people, and looking at magazines, influence a child's behavior in sacrament meeting.

6. A child's feelings about himself can affect his behavior during sacrament meeting.

7. Young children delight in annoying adults by demanding their attention at inconvenient times.

8. Young children can make meaningful contributions to the welfare and happiness of the family.

9. The readiness for a good experience in sacrament meeting comes eventually to each child.

10. Parents have a responsibility to interact warmly and lovingly with their children.

Now for the answers:

1. FALSE:  Sincere praise reinforces appropriate behavior.  Often parents let a child know what he is doing wrong, but forget to praise desired behavior.  Be sure to let him know when he is being helpful.

2. FALSE: Children need experience in planning and decision making on their level of understanding.  Even parents of two-year-olds should respect the agency and thinking powers of their youngsters.  Adults tend to plan for instead of with their children and only pretend to give them choices.  Often choices have already been made for children when alternatives are offered.

3. TRUE:  Parents need to be examples of the behavior they expect of their children.  Parents are the first and most important teachers the child will ever have.  By the time he is five, a child will have many basic habits established.  A child is greatly influence by his surroundings.

4. TRUE:  This answer may surprise you.  The key word here is interest rather than attention span.  Ask: What is the difference between interest and attention span?  In terms of time, the difference could be from one to thirty or more minutes.  Think how involved a young child can be in putting things from one box into another or playing in water or sand.  Young children can be completely absorbed in an activity for long periods of time if they are interested in it.  There is a difference between an interest that comes from inside and something that is imposed upon them.   

5. TRUE:  Children need experiences and skills in many areas in order to solve problems and enjoy the benefits connected with going to sacrament meeting.  For example, a walk with a young child can help him if you take pleasure in shared experiences, focus on interesting features of our Heavenly Father's creations, extend his vocabulary for communicating with others, and help him feel comfortable in his world away from home.  You can relate each fo these points in behavior during sacrament meeting.

6.  TRUE:  A child who sees himself as an individual who is loved, who is helpful, and who is learning and growing is more able to practice self-control.

7. FALSE:  Children basically want to please adults.  Their misbehavior often indicates that their needs for approval, affection, or empathy are not being met.  Parents of unruly children may need to change their own behavior in order to promote a desirable change in their children's behavior.

For example, during sacrament meeting, parents who are impatient and disapproving when young children have a difficult time being quiet can often expect their children to misbehave.  Discuss together how this kind of parent might change.

8. TRUE: It is a basic need to extend love and helpfulness as well as to receive it.  Because of this, young children find pleasure in giving of themselves and in behaving appropriately.

9. FALSE: Readiness for an experience such as sacrament meeting does not just happen.  A young child need encouragement, example, and practice in order to profit from sacrament meeting attendance.

10. TRUE: Children need parents who are warm and loving with them in order to learn appropriate behavior.  Children need to feel that they are loved and respected if they are to develop their potential.  Only when these needs are met will they feel the desire to give positively of themselves during sacrament meeting.


Note:  The ten statements above can be summarized in three main principles that will help young children demonstrate appropriate behavior during sacrament meeting....and I'd add during school, at the store, at the library, or any other public outing where a strict code of behavior is expected!

1.  A model of the desirable behavior is important
(point 3)

2.  A positive self-image is important.
(points 1, 6, 7, 10)

3.  Experiences that give practice in learning appropriate behavior are important.
(points 2, 4, 5, 8, 9)

The rest of the "lesson" had a cute family dialog that demonstrated how one family encouraged their children to act with reverence in church and how they helped the youngest family member to improve, by acknowledging her good behavior, practicing, and talking about ways they can feel the spirit and find interesting aspects of sacrament meeting.  It was worth the read, but I think I've typed enough for one afternoon, so I'm signing off.

My kids were excited to receive "skinny strips of paper" in Primary this week with special assignments for each of them.  Next Sunday, Scarlett will say the closing prayer in Primary, and Guy will stand in as the "reverence child".  So we'll have a "big" Sunday coming up! :)

I hope that you find this lesson as helpful as I did!
There's lots of good concepts here that I feel requires pondering 
and careful application to each individual family.

For another resource to help children listen in Sacrament Meeting see my Sacrament Meeting Worksheet that children can fill out as they listen.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Bring Back Summer Dinner Party & Giveaway Winner

I woke up on Saturday morning to seven degree temps, and decided that it was time to 
BRING BACK SUMMER...inside our house, at least.  We had plans to spend the evening with some friends who were coming over for dinner, so I declared a tropical-themed dinner party was in order.  Here's how it went:


All signs of winter were banished for the evening, which also means that I finally took the NYE garland off of my mantle!  I swapped out my "Winter" blocks for "Summer" and put up family photos of us fishing at the lake last summer.  We resurrected the desert island decor from Steve's Birthday party last year:  grass skirts, pineapples, and a grass umbrella. Cue the beach sounds from youtube.  It was all very convincing actually.  Our friends were such good sports...they showed up wearing SHORTS!  Love it!

For dinner, I made Pampered Chef's cool and crunchy tacos which was our favorite meal of summer 2010.  We had fruit salad as a side dish and made yummy fruit smoothies for dessert.  The adults played games while the kids were downstairs (forever) swinging on our new indoor swings and climbing the ropes like little monkeys.  (A note on the tacos:  The recipe calls for jicama. If you cannot find jicama, just use some firm apples instead.)

We made "sandcastles" yesterday because the kids were having too much fun swinging to do it the evening of the get-together.  (Thanks to my friend Marie for giving us the sand supplies!)

This morning, it is NEGATIVE FOUR degrees outside.  Who is up for a tropical-themed LUNCH???  I'm going to go make myself a smoothie...

NOW FOR THE WINNER OF an AWESOME Print of their choice
Please be sure to visit her shop and thank her for this great giveaway!

The winner is LORI - Comment #21 who said:
"I like the Los Angeles Temple print."
Please email me, Lori to claim your prize!

Have a great Monday everybody...and STAY WARM!
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Our Underground Tree House

I came home from running some errands on Saturday morning to find that Steve had installed SWINGS and ROPES into the rafters of our basement, basically turning it into a an underground tree house!  It is perfect for us.  The kids want to spend all of their time down there now.  And best of all, I can swing too!  I am considering this an early Valentine's gift, because it was done with such love for the kids and me.

One of the funniest things about the rope swings is the "motivation" that Steve has built into it.  Check it out.

I said that by the time Guy can actually reach the top, a dollar won't be worth much!

For now, they just love to swing and make up games and laugh and feel the thrill that swinging brings...even in a basement, in the dead of winter!

Just another awesome creation by my husband...

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

There Are No Unsolvable Problems

My good blog-friend over at Samurai Mom just mentioned the article that came out last week called "Why I Can't Stop Reading Mormon Housewife Blogs."  I love the author's subtitle, "I'm a young, feminist atheist who can't bake a cupcake. Why am I addicted to the shiny, happy lives of these women?"  Good question!

The writer of the article admits to being enthralled with the lifestyle that she sees portrayed on our blogs...staying home, cooking, loving our husbands and children, and, in general, loving our lives.  While she, at times, expresses skepticism about the validity of the happiness that so many of us "Mormon Mommy Bloggers" display in our posts, she still seems drawn to it, like a child with her nose pressed up to a toy store window.  Here is part of what my friend wrote in response:

"I just want to affirm that marriage IS wonderful.  Being a mother IS the most important and fulfilling job a woman can have.  That Mormon women DO really do all the things they blog about.  That for the most part we ARE happy.  In short, we are the real deal. "

And to her words, I'd like to add:  While we don't always love every minute of our jobs at home, we do love our lives and try to make the most of every day.  We get depressed, we get sick, we are met with disappointment.  We experience all the same feelings as any other woman out there working in any other occupation...but we shine through it with the Lord's help, and live to see better days.

Many of us have been in vastly different life situations than the "ideal" described in her article.  We've been single.  We've been employed outside of the home.  We've been divorced.  We've struggled.  Life is perfect for no one.  No matter how someones blog may appear (or how you may read into it).  

Perhaps the writer of that article is the one wearing rose-colored glasses, if she does not notice that we blog about both the good and the bad.  But to answer her original question: Maybe this self-proclaimed atheist has had something stirred inside of her as she has witnessed (perhaps unwittingly) the peaceful pattern of living that has brought true contentment to all of these women's lives, as described on blog after blog after blog.  

Personally, I think we seem happy, because although we live far from perfect lives, we face each day with the knowledge that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, there are no unsolvable problems in this life.

And that's something that every woman, in all walks of life, can be happy about.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

President Thomas S. Monson Quotes

The world would sure be a dreadful, lonely place without thoughtful, considerate friends.

One such friend of mine was kind enough that when she heard me admiring a set of quotes from President Monson that she had given to someone for Christmas, she used her own precious time to secretly make me a set of my own.  And here it is!

There are 30 quotes here, neatly compiled, laminated, and kept together by this ring.  Of course, she used my favorite color to mount the quotes too, and it fits so nicely in my new planner, so I can always have the wisdom of President Monson on-hand.

I know what you're thinking.  You want one for yourself.

Well, here is the list of 30 quotes from President Monson that she used 
for you to print off.

And here is a list of a LOT MORE quotes from President Monson, so you can pick and choose.  Enjoy!  And thank you to my friend Gantrie for being so sweet and thoughtful!

Don't forget to enter for the giveaway from Heaven on Earth Arts...
I will announce the winner on Monday!

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