Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lord, can you do that?

I told you guys yesterday, this Thanksgiving has been filled with tender mercies.

It has been the fruition of many promised blessings, whispered in quiet moments.

Today, I found another one...just a little drawing that I found in the basement, made by Scarlett.  

Now, I don't know what made her ask this question, but this Thanksgiving, I can confidently answer, YES, He can do that!  

He can walk on water.  He can move our mountains.  He can bring us together.  He can heal us.  He sees a future that is infinitely brighter than we can even imagine, and he will help bring it to pass.  Nothing is impossible to the Lord, God, and Father of us all!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Let's celebrate!!!

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Monday, November 25, 2013

First Potatoes

Amidst the hustle and bustle of preparing to host 30 family members for my first Thanksgiving, there have been many tender mercies.  

From Him supplying an extra freezer that we badly needed, to feeling my Grandmother near as I cooked her special recipes the other day, we have truly felt the love of God from both family and friends.

It has become clear to me that Heavenly Father has had this family gathering, the central event being Guy's baptism, on His radar for quite some time.

The proof is in so many tiny miracles and tender assurances that pop up at every turn.  

The most recent one came today.  As I was searching for a picture to hang, I found instead this Relief Society Literary contest pamphlet that my Mom entered in 1982.  She wrote a piece about me at age 4.5.  She gave me the pamphlet with a host of other books some time ago, but I only just took a moment to read it today.

How appropriate that it would be entitled "First Potatoes" as I get ready to peel potatoes for my "first Thanksgiving" gathering as the woman of the house. (Finally, yay!!!)

Thanks, Mom (and Dad!), for giving me this and so many other gifts and the confidence to say, "Well, I can do it--I's a Mudder, ain't I?"

After all, you always lived that phrase.  I just followed you.

And that's probably why I call all my own girls "Little Mama."  Because the cycle continues.
And now I have my own little Mamas to raise.

My Baby Soft-Sounds
My Real Baby Honor!

Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!

PS - For the record that koala looked good when I got through with it...my sister on the other hand...not to much, I'm guessing.  And yes, I still cut my own hair!
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Friday, November 15, 2013

I'm planning on it.

Ah, you guys.  I have been baking, cleaning, crafting, shopping, exercising, and birthday-partying-up a storm lately.  Seriously, no time to blog.

But I am feeling, oh so good, and happy, and enjoying the busyness AND the anticipation of hosting 30 of the people I love most in the world in my Home for Thanksgiving!!  What a blessing~!

Here's a picture of one of the views of the morning sky on my walk this morning.  Beautiful.  Subtle, but pretty.  The colors are brighter in real life!  

I am thankful that Steve gave up his normal workout time so that I could get into the habit of working out again.  I feel refreshed and more energized...and more capable of doing what is required of me every day.

And so much has been required lately, but I love it.  Anyway...

 My Mormon Mom Planner for 2014 came today.

At least I think that is what this thing is called.

It really is all it's cracked up to be, but it's kind of thick for better or for worse...better probably!

I only wish on the website they didn't bill it as "cute" because while it is indeed pretty, it is so much more than that...it is a way to keep your mind focused on what matters most to Mothers who know.  And as a "planner" all my life, I am soooo excited to plan our many adventures in the coming year using this very personalized tool (including a family reunion just six months from now....oh, boy!)

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

8 Years Ago Today

Eight years ago today, I became a Mother.

Best and biggest adventure of my life.

Grateful to be going through it with a wonderful husband & priesthood holder.

Blessed to have such a dynamic boy as my #1 son!

Happy 8th Birthday, Guy!

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Monday, November 11, 2013

The Moral Force of Women

Today we are honored to hear from Jenny Panameno who blogs and shares some really nice family and fhe lessons at http://www.panamenos.blogspot.com/.

I think you'll really like what she has to share!

Here is Jenny:


I loved Elder Christofferson's talk in October 2013 general conference titled "The Moral Force of Women". It felt timely. In addition, as a mother of three girls, I wanted my daughters to recognize that they can have a great impact on the world for good AND that my most important role is as their mom. 

I work full time as a second grade teacher, and I am currently serving as Relief Society President in my ward. These two responsibilities keep me pretty busy, and they are important, but I want my children to know and be reassured regularly that my greatest joy comes from being their mom.

We began by singing "I am Trying to Be Like Jesus." After our opening prayer, we read Proverbs 31:10, "Who can find a virtuous woman, for her price is far above rubies." Then I explained that Elder Christofferson spoke about how good women are needed in the world. (One of my daughters piped up and said good men are needed too. I agreed.) We read a quote from Elder Christofferson's talk: "A woman's moral influence is nowhere more powerfully felt or more beneficially employed than in the home." I told them that of all the things I do, being their mom is the most important. I said that good women have an impact on others' lives. 

I told them of three women that helped shape my life...my mom, my grandma and a Young Women's leader and what I learned from them. Then I asked them to write down the names of or draw pictures of 2-4 women that have helped them and set good examples for them. They worked for a little while, talking as they worked, and then they shared who they put down and why: their aunts, Primary teachers, Activity Day leaders, piano and violin teachers. They shared what each of these women had done to set an example or to teach them.


 Then I pointed out that the world often teaches things about women that aren't true...and that Elder Christofferson spoke about three:

 1. Motherhood is not valued by society as it ought to be. He said, "We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career--and we all benefit from those achievements--but we still recognize there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage." 

2. Morality and sexual purity are not taught or practiced by society. 

 3. "A third area of concern comes from those who, in the name of equality, want to erase all differences between the masuculine and feminine." This often means women are encouraged to be tough and coarse. 

 Perhaps my favorite part of Elder Christofferson's talk was the quote from Sister Nadauld. I am sure I heard it when she said it, but it didn't strike me powerfully as it did this time.

This is what she said, “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.” 

My original plan had been to learn some sign language signs to compare what the world had and what the world needs. But I ran out of time. So Plan B was to create a chart...One one side we wrote what the world has and on the other side, we wrote what the world needs. The girls loved reading this quote and taking turns writing down the ideas. We talked about what they mean and shared some examples. I am thinking (now) that another idea might have been to create a handout with two pictures of the world where each girl could write what the world has on one side and what type of women the world needs on the other. Because my youngest is five and just learning to write words, the big chart worked well for her since we took turns writing.

Finally I closed with these words from Elder Christofferson, "My plea to women and girls today is to protect and cultivate the moral force that is within you. Preserve that innate virtue and the unique gifts you bring with you into the world. Your intuition is to do good and to be good, and as you follow the Holy Spirit, your moral authority and influence will grow." 

Then this final quote, "Sisters, of all your associations, it is your relationship with God, your Heavenly Father, who is the source of your moral power, that you must always put first in your life." 

Then I bore my testimony of my love for the gospel, my love for them, and my knowledge that as we keep the commandments and love and serve God, we can each have a wonderful, positive impact on the people around us. 

I am thankful for the privilege of being a mother to three daughters and teaching them to serve the Lord. I am sure if I had sons, I would focus a bit more on the quotes he shared about the importance of men and women working together...or I might combine this talk with the talk from Elder Andersen "Power in the Priesthood". Or perhaps, I would teach this lesson one week and a lesson based on Elder Andersen's talk the following week. You can watch or read Elder Christofferson's talk here.

CLICK HERE to access all of the
 General Conference Review Lessons!

Thank you, Jenny!!

Also, the winner of Friday's giveaway was comment #3.
Amy, please email me so you can claim your print of President Monson's quote.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

To Touch Heaven

We spent the day together for Honor's Birthday and had a brilliant time: played at an indoor play place, hit Wegman's, ate yummy food and had a family birthday party.

Got lots of photos which promptly got erased while trying to download them to my computer.  So today, I'm moving on, but trying to be Thankful for the day and not focus on losing my photos.

That's the thing about gratitude, right?  It's easy to be grateful when everything goes just so.  But when things start to go awry...well all bets are off! ;)

Let's try to remember President Monson's advice, "To live with gratitude EVER in our hearts is to touch heaven."

Reaching out for heaven today.

You can win this instant downloadable print from Jalipeno Digital Art by leaving a comment on this post sharing your favorite HOLIDAY RECIPE, side-dish, treat, etc.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Honor is ONE!

She's one, she's one...my baby is ONE year old today!!!

And all of my kids are home from school (luckily) so we can celebrate together!

What a joy each child is that comes into a home.  What a pleasure it is to be a Mother, especially when I thought for a time that I wouldn't be blessed with a child again...and then I was...and everything was different.

And everything IS indeed different.  I am so much more grateful for the gift of motherhood...so much more aware of the blessings that my children bring to my life.  So thankful for all of it.

Now I've got to go change a diaper and get us moving through the fun day ahead.

But first, here's the winner to yesterday's Thanksgiving print giveaway from IAdoreDecor.

Random.org helped pick comment 16, Rozy Lass as the winner.  Please email me your contact info, so you can receive your print!  Thanks again to IAdoreDecor for this fun giveaway!  And be sure to check out her other fun prints!

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Gift of a Grateful Heart

I went to school early this morning to attend parent/teacher conference for my children.  I laughed, I cried (happy tears), and as I was leaving I noticed this bulletin board inviting students to write what they are thankful for.  I just couldn't resist adding a comment of my own.  

Sundy mentioned in the comments on Monday's post that their family hangs a poster by the front door, and every time they leave, they stop to record something that they are thankful for, even inviting visitors to get in on the act.  I think that is a pretty neat idea, and I was happy to see it implemented at my kids' school.

Anyway, on Monday evening, we had nothing planned for FHE, so I cracked open the November Friend which had just arrived and started reading the first article to them called "A Grateful Heart".  

In it President Henry B. Eyring teaches us that "We must ask in prayer that God, by the power of the Holy Ghost, will help us see our blessings clearly.  He can help us be grateful for blessings we take for granted."

He continues, "Giving thanks in prayer can allow us to see the magnitude of these blessings and all of our other blessings and so receive the gift of a more grateful heart."

This gift of a more grateful heart is definitely one that I would like my family and I to receive during this season of thanks.  So, we knelt down together as a family and each offered aloud a prayer asking Heavenly Father to help us have a grateful heart.  Then we thanked God for as many blessings as we could think of and tried not to ask for anything for ourselves.

This was a very simple FHE lessons, but a powerful one.  Can you imagine what the world would be like if all families knelt down together to offer thanks to God...each person praying in turn together...even just once?  It certainly has made a difference for us, and my children all said that they felt the spirit as we prayed together.

I am thankful for the words of the prophets brought straight to our door through The Friend magazine!

Now I said there would be a giveaway today, and here it is!  I stumbled on this Thanksgiving-themed print on Etsy from IAdoreDecor...and I did indeed adore it.  And the shop-owner has been kind enough to offer this print as a giveaway for you today. 

I love this idea of "entering His gates" with Thanksgiving and praise and blessing His name.  Being "in his gates" sounds like a protected and calm place to reside.  In his recent conference address, Elder Bednar taught that "A grateful person is rich in contentment.  An ungrateful person suffers in the poverty of endless discontent."  

I don't know about you guys, but I want to enter His gates dripping with the "richness" of being grateful for all I have received and not live my life in the poverty of what I think I lack.

It's a fairly easy change that can alter the course of our day...and ultimately our lives.

Anyway, if you'd like to win the print above by IAdoreDecor, just leave a comment on this post telling me something you're thankful for today.  And be sure to check out her other cute prints.

We've already said family and The Book of Mormon on a previous post, so let's stretch ourselves and try to think of something that we might sometimes forget to be thankful for...and leave it in the comment.  It can be silly or serious...big or small...subtle or obvious blessings.

I will announce the winner tomorrow!

PS - Looking for more Thanksgiving ideas?  Check out these posts:

Free Thanksgiving Activities (including an FHE on Gratitude)

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Shhhh, don't wake the baby.

Before my baby wakes up, I guess I'd better pick a winner for the giveaway of the book "52 Life-changing Questions From The Book of Mormon".  

Boy, you guys did not hold back!  All of the comments about what you love about The Book of Mormon were incredibly insightful and moving.  And your Thanksgiving ideas were brilliant, thank you!  

You don't make it easy for me to pick a winner, but I'm going with Hilary who talked about how her family set a goal to read The Book of Mormon daily as a family this year and how her 4 and 2 year old have responded to the call.  (Hilary, please email me your contact info, so you can get your book!)

I loved hear your conversion stories, how you came to know that The Book of Mormon is true, how it has changed your life.  I especially liked the reminder that the conditions spoken of in The Book of Mormon that existed before Christ appeared in the Americas will occur again before Christ returns.  This too gives me hope as I see the world deteriorating at a rapid pace before our eyes on the news each day.  It is a dark world, but the light of Christ's presence is what we all have to look forward to, and that is one of the beautiful messages of hope that The Book of Mormon holds for each of us.

If you haven't already, I hope that you will go back and read the comments on yesterday's post.  They were each inspiring in their own way.  I can't thank you enough for sharing your thoughts with me yesterday!

I will be back tomorrow with another giveaway, because I'm just in a giveaway kind of mood.

PS - She doesn't look like much of a baby anymore, does she?!
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Monday, November 4, 2013

52 Life-Changing Questions from The Book of Mormon

This week Honor turns one.  Next week Guy turns *8*!!!  Two weeks after that, we're hosting 20+ people in our home for Thanksgiving and the next day Guy is getting baptized!

I am so excited I can hardly sleep, and I frankly hardly have time for sleep!

Visions of all the yummy desserts that I'd like to make and all the special arrangements that need to be made are constantly dancing in my head.  And I just can't wait to give my family a big fat hug on Thanksgiving day.

It's kind of hard for me to take a time out from my Thanksgiving and Baptism and Birthday prep to do this book review, but I'm going to try.

A few weeks back, I received the book "52 Life-Changing Questions from The Book of Mormon" by Brad Wilcox and John Hilton III.  Naturally, anything that helps me internalized the messages of The Book of Mormon is of interest to me.

So often, I go to The Book of Mormon with questions about my life, but this book encourages us to slow down and take notice of the questions that The Book of Mormon is asking us to consider about ourselves...or rather the Lord through The Book of Mormon is asking us.

Questions like:  Do you look forward with an eye of faith?
Have ye spiritually been born of God?  
Can ye feel so now?
Are ye stripped of pride?
Have miracles ceased?

No matter how busy our lives are, we'd all do well to slow down and consider these questions and most especially make time to read and ponder The Book of Mormon during this season of celebration.  It is this book of scripture that will help us draw closer to God.

From how many questions are asked in all of scripture to which prophet asked the most questions, "52 Life-Changing Questions from The Book of Mormon" takes a look at all of that from a scholarly but mostly applicable, down-to-earth perspective.  Each chapter focuses the reader on just one question, so you can take it in bite-sized nibbles.  Read it in the morning and consider the question all day or take on one question each week for a year.  (That's more my speed!)

Well, I really must get to work on this fine Monday.  24 days till Thanksgiving, don't-ya-know!  If you'd like a chance to WIN THIS BOOK, just leave a comment on this post.  

Tell me one of the following:
1. Something you love about The Book of Mormon
2.Something you are thankful for.
3.Share some Thanksgiving/family gathering tradition or tip.

I will pick my favorite comment and announce the winner on my blog tomorrow.

Have a great day!

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Elder Packer: Unlock the Scriptures FHE

For today's installment of our General Conference Review Lessons, I am happy to introduce you to Malina and her beautiful family.

Malina has agreed to share her experience teaching the lessons of General Conference in a recent FHE.  Here's Malina:

Watching General Conference this year, I felt impressed that I needed to do a better job of helping my kids learn about the current apostles and the importance of the messages shared at General Conference. Inspired by Jocelyn and ideas in the Ensign, I discussed with my husband making our Family Home Evenings centered around a general conference message each week. He agreed it was a good idea to try so after our first week traditional General Conference Jeopardy game, the next week I worked on choosing a talk and planning a lesson about it. I also printed off the short mastery quotes from each talk shared by Stephanie at Diapers and Divinity to help me. I knew I wanted to include some sort of craft or object lesson for my kids if I could - similar to ones Jocelyn has shared previously. I wasn’t sure how it would work every week since we rotate who presents the lesson so I also felt like I had to set a good example with this first lesson.

 Monday evenings in the fall are tricky for us because sometimes my older boys have soccer or football games or practices happening as well. We have some flexibility as homeschoolers since they don’t have to catch a bus in the early morning but I still like to get kids to bed at a reasonable time. So Monday afternoon (yes I procrastinated) as I thought of a lesson to share based on the talk I chose I tried to seek guidance from the Spirit and plan a simple lesson to help my kids learn about it. I also prayed that we would be able to have FHE at a reasonable time before the younger ones were too tired!

I chose President Boyd K Packer’s talk “The Key to Spiritual Protection”. I felt like it would be a good message to share with my kids as I try to encourage the older ones to establish their own personal scripture study habits. I printed out the talk and highlighted things that stood out to me. I studied it and pondered what messages I wanted to share with my family. I came up with the idea of making some sort of key reminder for them as a craft and worked to quickly prepare it. Monday evening about 8:30 PM after eating dinner and cleaning up some we were all finally ready for a quick family home evening lesson.

After our song, prayer and scripture (we have a job rotation board for Family Home Evening assignments that my kids love to use) it was time for my lesson. Since it was 8:30 PM my goal was to inspire my kids and help them feel the importance of the message in less than 10 minutes, so we could then make the key bookmarks, give them a quick bowl of ice cream for dessert and still get everyone in bed by about 9pm. I started by telling them about my goal of discussing a general conference talk each week and that I had chosen President Packer’s message about the scriptures this week and sharing the following story:

          Years ago, Elder S. Dilworth Young of the Seventy taught me a lesson about reading the scriptures. A           stake was struggling with tensions and difficulties among the members, and counsel needed to be                   given.
          I asked President Young, “What should I say?”
          He answered simply, “Tell them to read the scriptures.”
          I asked, “Which scriptures?”
          He said, “It really doesn’t matter. Tell them to open up the Book of Mormon, for instance, and begin             to read. Soon the feeling of peace and inspiration will come, and a solution will present itself.”
 Next I shared the quote: “The scriptures hold the keys to spiritual protection. They contain the doctrine and laws and ordinances that will bring each child of God to a testimony of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer…They teach us where to go and what to do. They offer hope and knowledge.” I shared my testimony that I believed this to be true and that the scriptures had helped me many times in my life to find answers to prayers and to learn more about Jesus and the gospel. At this point my younger two were quite antsy, so I handed everyone their paper key and asked them to read what it said, repeating the shortened quote a few times with the younger ones.

Then I asked my older boys and husband to read some more short quotes for us to discuss.

           "Make scripture reading a part of your regular routine, and the blessings will follow. There is in the                scriptures a voice of warning, but there is also great nourishment.
           If the language of the scriptures at first seems strange to you, keep reading. Soon you will come to                recognize the beauty and power found on those pages.
           Paul said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for              correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Tim 3:16)
           You can test this promise for yourself."
We then quickly discussed some topics toward the end of the talk about how the scriptures help us live righteously and repent. On another night, this section might have been expanded in a review discussion with my kids about repentance, but we were short on time and energy so I quickly just shared a few quotes and thoughts including: “The gospel teaches us to be happy, to have faith rather than fear, to find hope and overcome despair, to leave darkness and turn toward the light of the everlasting gospel.” 

I read the quote “But peace can be settled in the heart of each who turns to the scriptures and unlocks the promises of protection and redemption that are taught therein.” and pointed out that President Packer ends by repeating the promise that the scriptures hold the key to our spiritual protection. I again shared my testimony about the power of scripture reading in our everyday life in bringing us closer to our Savior. We then moved to the kitchen table to color our keys and glue them onto card stock to be a bookmark. I had them repeat the promise and write President Packer’s name down the key as the author of the quote. We colored! We cut and glued! We ate ice cream! Then we hurried off to bed!

I am not sure if I should have had my younger kids coloring their keys while we shared a few of the great quotes from the article. It might have helped them focus. But I dislike competing with crafts for attention so that did not occur to me while preparing. I felt like it was a successful family home evening overall and that my kids were taking away the one central message about the importance of reading scriptures. I have also posted the quote on my wall in my kitchen, hoping to remind us all about the message shared with us by President Boyd K Packer: “The scriptures hold the keys to spiritual protection.”

 I hope this discussion of how one family home evening happened in my house helps you! I believe it is worth it to make time for Family Home Evening lessons even when life is crazy and busy. It is also worth it to always make time to read the scriptures, even if it is just a little bit. I have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the happiness that it brings into our lives and I am very grateful for the blessings of having a prophet and apostles in this day who provide guidance and direction for our lives through the messages of General Conference.

Malina is a mother of 4 (soon to be 5!) active children, who are currently 11, 8 almost 9, 4 almost 5, 3 and due to be born this month. She and her family reside in the great state of Texas with their pet dog and fish. They happen to be a homeschool family also. When she has a free moment, Malina enjoys trying new recipes, researching family history, and learning crafts like crocheting or trying to grow plants. She does blog occasionally at kmduff.blogspot.com.
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