Sunday, September 30, 2018

General Conference 5k

Our family loves General Conference, and rightly so.  Over the last 13 years, we've always set aside Conference weekend, protected it from distractions, celebrated it with food, games and fun.  And after Conference is over, we've spent a lot of time studying the talks together in creative ways as a family (You can see some of our adventures in GC Lessons here.)

A few years ago, I started to imagine that it would be cool to take my older three children to the Conference Center for General Conference just as soon as the youngest of them turned 8 years old.  Then we moved and things got too busy, but this year I remembered that goal.  That child is turning 10 this month, so I entertained the idea that I might take the three oldest and do General Conference in Salt Lake for once...make the "pilgrimage" so to speak.

However, upon the mere mention that we might break with tradition and go on a little/big adventure to the conference center, this same 10 year old child started to cry.  What was she so upset about?  She didn't want to miss watching General Conference at home!

You see, all of the work we've put into making Conference-watching a fun, special, memorable, and meaningful experience has also made it a sacred experience.  And my kid didn't want to miss out on that!

I realized as I was bearing my testimony about this in church today, that she was on to something.  When we watch General Conference all together as a family, when we block out the world for a whole weekend, it's holy time spent together.  Knowing that the home is the most sacred place on earth, second only to the temple, and knowing that most of my children are too young to enter the temple...General Conference is a unique and sacred opportunity for our family to feel the spirit so strongly together in our most sacred place, our home.  So, why would we give that up?

I'm not saying we'll never go to view GC in the Conference Center, we just don't feel the need right now.  As Elder Andersen mentioned last Conference immediately following the Solemn Assembly for President Nelson, the spirit is just as strong in the Conference Center as it can be felt in homes and even huts wherever people are listening around the world.  I knew he was correct before the words even left his mouth.  We felt it too.

And we're looking forward to feeling it again, together, in our home, this weekend.

I am so grateful to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the only true and restored Church of Jesus Christ, the same church that Christ instituted when He was on the earth, and to be lead by a true Prophet of God.

Every good gift, every happy moment we've shared as a family has come to the extent that we have tried to live the teachings we've heard in General Conference, and we will continue to do so.

If you're looking for some good General Conference-viewing ideas, I've kept a list of things we do/have done on this page of my blog:

And just a PS - We added a new GC tradition last Spring - a General Conference 5k.  We met friends at a park a few hours before the Saturday AM session, anyone who wanted to come, and did a fun run/walk....a GC5k.  This year we're hoping to make some signs to put along the path for runners to read, quotes from Conference and such.

What special General Conference preparations are you making this week?  I'd love to hear!

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Monday, September 17, 2018


This summer, I fell in love with this piece of artwork on display in our town's municipal center art show.  

Of course, I loved that the local artist chose to depict the subject of Motherhood, but what really won me over was that she chose to title it "Endurance," showing that the artist really knows what it means to be a Mother.

I passed by this painting a lot this summer, and I thought about it and the title often.

When I look at this picture it reminds me that I am not merely a mom (as some might say), but I am a Woman on a Mission to lead my children safely through this life.  I am a guide, a leader.  I made a covenant before coming to earth that I would lead my family through this life and bring them home safely, No. Matter. What.

I have people depending on me to Endure.  So, Endure, I will.

Now when my children (one in particular!) nag me and try to wear me down to get me to say "yes" to something that I have previously decided is not good for them, I simply smile at them and think my magic word (Endurance!!) and I stand firm.  And I remind myself that I am doing what I said I would do.  I am taking my children through the storm.  They might hate it right now, but there will be time for thank you's  later! 

I had a moment with my oldest this morning where he was doing something without permission online before school (which is against our Family Media Plan). So, although it would be easier to shrug it off, I'm following through. I am enduring.  He didn't like my "enduring," but I assured him as I walked with him to the bus stop that even though his teachers don't care that he does these things, they don't care about him nearly as much as I do.  Because my love for him and my relationship with him will endure FOREVER.  I am his Mother.  I know what it best for him.  I will care about how he turns out and deal with the consequences of how he turns out...forever.  

Later, I received an email from him saying, "I'm sorry, Mom.  I love you."

When I received his email, I just happened to be reading "The Runaway Bunny" to my 2-year old.  I remember discovering this book and how much I loved it's message when Scarlett was in Kindergarten.  In the story, a young child bunny wants to run away, but every time the young bunny elaborates on some way he will run away, his Mother comes up with an answer for how she will orchestrate his return.

For instance, if he runs away, she will run after him (for you are my little bunny), if he becomes a fish and swims away, she will become a fisherman and fish for him.  If he becomes a rock, she will become a mountain-climber and she will climb to where he is.  If he becomes a boat, she will become the wind and blow him where she wants him to go...and on and on.

In short or rather in elaborate ways, she WILL endure.  She will go to where he is and always bring him home.  In particualr, she will always love him enough to go after him.

With this knowledge, the child bunny decides it's useless to try to run away, and stays home in the arms of those who love him.

While I'm not trying to get my children to stay home, I am trying to help them return to their Heavenly Home and hopefully my own love and guidance will be a great help to them in doing that.

That's all the time I have for that...there's much work to be done before my babies come home from school today.  Have a wonderful Monday and remember to ENDURE!

Some day, your children will thank you for it!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Pespective is a funny thing.  Time is a funny thing.

I sure think about things a little differently from where I stand today than where I stood ten years ago.

I am really enjoying this new perspective on life and on my family and on the decisions we made in faith years ago, because now those choices are starting to bear their fruit.

As I mentioned this summer, our family tried all sorts of sports camps.  We took tennis lessons, played basketball, did swim team, learned to dance, act, play soccer, played volleyball, went to an art camp, the girls even tried their hands (and feet) at Tae Kwon Do.  Organized sports are things we've mostly stayed out of for the first 12 years of our lives together, in favor of doing things as a family or playing with neighborhood friends.

When our summer activities were over, I asked my two older children what they enjoyed most and what they might like to continue with.

One wanted swim team, the other wanted Tae Kwon Do.

We considered carefully how feasible each activity would be for each child and for the family.  Their practices would fall on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Mondays, which we have protected for so long, Wednesdays which is our busiest day with piano lessons and church activities, and Fridays when we like to socialize, relax, and play with friends.

Scarlett really is good at Tae Kwon Do, but was it something she needed for her development?  We love the values it teaches, the end she wasn't willing to give a year committment to it.  And the days interfered with how we like to spend that time. Same for Guy.

So, we skipped both things, in favor of our regular routines, home, friends, free-play, piano, scriptures, family home evening, crafting, baking, family road trips, etc.

Another time when I asked Scarlett about activities she might want to do during the school year, she said, "I don't like to be THAT busy during the school year. I need time to do my homework, and I like being home and playing with my friends."

Over the years I have watched my friends run from one activity to the next.  I have sometimes questioned if I was doing the right thing for my family.  This summer was so fun, and I enjoyed watching them accomplish things and shine, but these last few weeks as we've made the choice again to be together rather than to go in separate directions, and hearing my children's choices has helped me to understand, looking back, that we really did make the right decision for us as a family, a decision that has brought us a lot of happiness and allowed us to make a lot of stress-free memories together.

I remember once back in Lewisburg, some parents at school started a "running club" which met only on Sundays.  I talked with one of the moms and expressed dismay that we could not participate.  Her reaction to my perceived criticism was met quite defensively, and I then had to smooth out the ruffled feathers of my friend.  But what did we do?  My husband started a running club of our own with our children and kids in the neighborhood.  He ran them around the block and promised rewards for those who ran the 1 mile loop every day after school.  We have found lots of ways to protect our family time together and still enjoy the benefits of different sports, etc. One way is not just to sign up for things that don't practice or play on Sundays and Monday nights, but to find activities the three oldest could participate in together.

This is a decision we make over and over again, a decision that now we can feel happy about and more confident in.

On Sunday during church, I looked at all of the empty spaces on my personal planner.  To me those empty spaces represented potential for how our family could fill that time together.  It represented freedom.  The Spirit confirmed to me again as I looked at my calendar the blessings of our choice. Now to seek the Lord's help in filling that time with the very best activities we can together...

Is there anything that perspective/time has taught you that you'd like to share with me?  I'd appreciate hearing about it in the comments...

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Why Did Christ Tell Joseph Smith to Join No Church?

Just quick thoughts this week, but I wanted to remember something that struck me as I was reading "Saints" this last week after our trip to Palmyra.  ("Saints" is the new history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that you can read right here.)

While we were in Palmyra last weekend, the sister missionaries were telling us stories that I didn't remember or don't often hear.  I thought, 'where are they getting this?'  My answer came upon starting to read Saints.  There are lots of stories in there that aren't the same ones we've heard over and over.  Very enlightening.

Speaking of enlightening, one thing struck me this time around, when we were hearing the story of Joseph Smith's 1st Vision, and also when I read the account in Saints.

It reads:

“Joseph,” the Savior said, “thy sins are forgiven.”

His burden lifted, Joseph repeated his question: “What church shall I join?”
“Join none of them,” the Savior told him. “They teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”
Of course, I've heard that account many times before, but this time the question entered my mind, "Why did Christ tell Joseph Smith not to join any church?"  And then the answer suddenly  made sense to me.  Not only were the other churches teaching false doctrine, and God wanted Joseph to establish His true church again on the earth, but history would reflect differently on God's true church if Joseph Smith had joined a different church and THEN started a new church.  History would then say that Joseph Smith's church was an off-shoot of some other religion.  By not joining himself officially to a certain religious sect, he was free to establish The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter days under the direction of the Savior, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, without any ties to other organizations.  
I just thought that was a neat thing to learn through the spirit.

PS - Here was one more passage from Saints that caught my attention, the use of the word "command":
Joseph and his friends were young and lighthearted. Sometimes they made foolish mistakes, and Joseph found that being forgiven once did not mean he would never need to repent again. Nor did his glorious vision answer every question or forever end his confusion.1 So he tried to stay close to God. He read his Bible, trusted in Jesus Christ’s power to save him, and obeyed the Lord’s command not to join any church.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

A Place to Meditate

I went home this weekend, to the place that I grew up.  It's funny how home is always home.

We went home for my nephew's baptism.  This is my little sister's oldest son.

My sister who I grew up sharing a room with, who I went to college with, who I young with, and went to Seminary with and first dances, and had first driving adventures with, and on and on.  Where does the time go?  This life is so brief.

Anyway, it was awesome to be there for the blessed occasion.  And, of course, my kids made sure we stopped for a spell at the Lake...Lake Erie, to be precise.

Lake Erie is the place where pretty much everyone in our family went to meditate, to play, to unwind, but mostly to contemplate life, I think.  And it's the place where we still go.  

The waves can be so relaxing, the sunsets unbeatable, and when the Lake is like it was this weekend, it's wild and energizing and exciting.

Do you have a place like that?  Do you have memories attached to it?  I'd love to hear about it.

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Take No Thought

When we returned from our Labor Day weekend trip to Palmyra, we were greeted by a sweet gesture. Someone had "heart-attacked" us.  Paper heart cut-outs containing encouraging words and scripture references were taped all over our front door and windows.

It was really sweet.

There were a LOT of scripture references, so I decided to sit down at the table and look them all up, and then copy them in to my scripture journal.

Remember our Scripture Study Plan we embarked on a few months ago?  (I outlined it in this post.)  It has been a great way to go deeper and to have personalized time in the scriptures.  We're still doing it, but intermittently.  As we get used to new school schedules, we're figuring out how family scripture study will look now that Guy, our 7th grader, leaves for the bus two hours before the rest of the crew!

One day this week, something funny happened. I knew Guy had slept in and after hurriedly getting dressed and packing his lunch only had a minute before he had to leave for the bus. I also knew he hadn't had any breakfast (which he didn't seem to mind too much.)  I promised Guy that if he stayed one minute more and let me read scriptures to him, he'd read something amazing. So he stayed.

Not knowing what the amazing thing would be, I opened my app and started reading right where we had left off.  I read Alma 31:37-38: 

"37 And after that they did separate themselves one from another, taking no thought for themselves what they should eat, or what they should drink, or what they should put on.

38 And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith."
Both of us found this pretty fun...So, after that Guy "separated" himself from us to go to the bus stop, taking "no thought for what he should eat" (a.k.a. he grabbed an apple).  I told him on his way out that he should follow the example of Alma and pray in faith that he should not hunger and that his afflictions would be swallowed up in the joy of Christ!  (Good thing he had a packed lunch to look forward to!) 
The Scriptures never cease to amaze me!  Even when we only put in the absolute smallest effort to read them, the Lord still shows forth great grace in answering us.  Our tired, human efforts can result in hearing His voice each morning.  And His voice that day said to us "I see you.  I know you. And you just might have more in common with the people in scripture than you might think!"  

I'm humbled by the way the Lord is always making efforts to reach out to us, wherever we are and whatever we're doing.  I want to be more like that...

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Accepting President Nelson's Invitation to Share

I was excited when President Nelson asked us in his recent Youth Broadcast to not only study the For The Strength of Youth pamphlet, but also to pray to find a friend with which to share it!

I have written and re-written a list of friends to share these truths with many times.

I have told myself during many a Sacrament meeting that I need to go home and order a bunch of the pamphlets off of the distribution center website.

But these tasks were just not coming to fruition...until last Friday.

I have been volunteering at school lately, and that day a friend and I were chatting while she walked me to my car. 

I had to clear a few things out of my trunk in order to put my stroller back in, and one of those things was a copy of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.

I will admit it was sort of an odd thing to have in my trunk, and it must've looked out of place to her as she watched me remove it from a pile of life jackets left over from summer trips to the pool.

She was someone I wanted to share it with, but I just made the decision to do it in the moment.  

I turned to her and said, "I'm going to give this to you now.  I wasn't planning on it, but here it is.  This outlines the standards of behavior that we teach to our children.  Give it a read and maybe there will be some things that you like about it and want to teach to your own children."

She and I have had talks about what to teach our kids before and her children are not quite out of elementary school, so it's a good time to start talking about this stuff.

She thanked me and opened it up to the first photo, an artist's rendition of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  

She immediately asked me, "So, is this Jack Smith?"  

I had to laugh a bit, "No," I said, "This is Jesus Christ.  We worship Jesus Christ, so it is His picture that you will most often see in pamphlets like this."

Since I was headed to Palmyra that weekend, I made sure to pick up a Joseph Smith flier with his testimony in it, so she can hopefully tell the difference next time.

I haven't followed up with her just yet, but I do hope she reads it and feels that it's useful for her life and her responsibilities as a parent!

So, that's it.  Has anyone else been brave enough to share FTSOY with a friend yet?  I'd love to hear how it went!
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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Our Weekend In Palmyra

How is it possible that life can be so stressful and so rewarding at the same time?  That pretty much sums up the weekend we just had in Palmyra.  But I suppose traveling with a family of six kids (two of them babies) is basically going to be stressful in one way or another no matter what we're doing.

We went to the temple first.  And boy, did I need that.  I haven't been in quite a while, so the moment I stepped on temple grounds I got a little emotional.  I have a lot of good memories from visiting the Palmyra Temple in my young single adult years, so it was a bit like the feeling you get coming home.

I enjoyed my time in the temple, but had to hurry out at the end in order to allow my son and husband to come in and do baptisms.  

One question I had while in the temple was "Why does the Lord want me in the temple today?"  As I was quickly leaving, I caught a glimpse of myself in my temple clothes in the dressing room, and in that moment I caught a glimpse of myself as God sees me, of the person he wants me to remember that I am.  When I am outside of the temple for long periods of time, I start to forget the person Heavenly Father wants me to be and knows that I can become.  So it was good to see that person in the mirror that day, and I think it will give me strength to move more confidently in that direction.

In the Visitor's Center later that day, we stopped to admire this statue of the Savior.  And my five year old, Honor just was enamored with it.  She told me later that she kept creeping in to touch Christ's feet and to pray.  She has such beautiful, unmarred faith.  I admire it.

We visited the church history sites and the Sacred Grove.  I was super weirded out by the fact that the (non-church owned) bookstore was selling patches of the Sacred Grove!  But I was happy to hear that the Church has started renovating the space to the right of the Book of Mormon publication site/The Grandin Building to include a Distribution Center!  Thank goodness! 

Some other fun highlights of our trip included visiting with two dear friends of mine.  One, from where we used to live and another friend of mine from my single ward days in DC.  Coincidentally, they both attend the same ward.

We also swam in Lake Canandaigua and Lake Erie and came home with bright red (totally worth it) sunburns as souvenirs!

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Back to School Apple Craft

Hello, friends!  I hope you had a nice Labor Day weekend!

We ran away to Palmyra, NY to visit the temple, see good friends, and have a few last beach days before we really, truly go back to school for good!

Near the end of summer, however, we made this little apple book craft. I was itching to make something and to make some memories with my kids (who are no longer babies) in the process!

Here's how it's done:

1. Grab an old, thin paperback.

2. Remove the front and back covers.

3.  Sketch a pattern like I did below (looks like half an apple) on one book cover. 

4.  Trace it on to your book pages and carefully cut with an exacto knife.

5. You'll end up with a big mess of page scraps, but stay with me.  Heat up your glue gun and add a line of glue to the spine, then manipulate the pages so that they come together to look like an apple.  Play with it until you're satisfied with the look and shape adding glue as needed. During this step, we also added a small twig.

6. Finally, using red and green watercolors, paint the edges of your pages to look like an apple, and add a small leaf-shaped cutout to resemble a leaf.

And voila, you have a sweet September decoration or a nice teacher gift.

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