Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Reason

I try every year to do this, but I thought I'd share this year in case others with young children are interested but don't want to put in the time (or don't have the time) to figure it out.  For every day in December leading up to Christmas, I have a scripture and a small activity to go with it, to help focus the whole family on why we're celebrating.  While the scriptures apply at any age, most of the activities are geared toward littler kids.  But if you have older kids, maybe the activities I've listed will help give you ideas for ones you could do.  The vast majority of these take very little time or money--enough activity to focus us, not enough to stress us out.  Obviously, you could rearrange things to suit your family's schedule.  Non-LDS families shouldn't have any trouble finding Biblical substitutions for scriptures I've drawn from other books in the LDS canon.

Dec 1st  -  2 Nephi 11:8, 25 (tree of life) Get/put up tree

Dec 2nd - John 10:11, 14-16 (Good Shepherd) Put candy canes on tree, watch Christmas devotional

Dec 3rd  - D&C 110:3-5 (description of God's appearance)  FHE (family lesson) on Christmas symbols

Dec 4th  - Isaiah 1:18 (sins will be made white as snow)  Paper snowflakes

Dec 5th  - Ps 98:4-6 (make a joyful noise), D&C25:12 (song of the heart is a prayer)  Caroling

Dec 6th - Ps 27:1 (lord is my light) - ding dong ditch candle+treat

Dec 7th - 2 Nephi 2:25 (men are that they might have joy) - Ward Christmas party

Dec 8th  -  Micah 5:2 (out of Bethlehem)  - watch The Nativity Story as family

Dec 9th  -  Exodus 20:12 (honor father and mother) - Make ornaments for Gpa's

Dec 10th - Matt 2:11 (wise men bring gifts) -  FHE on using our gifts to serve God

Dec 11th - Luke 2:12-14 (angels announce holy birth) - Handprint/footprint angels

Dec 12th - 1 John 4:8,16 (God is love) - talk about ways to show love at home and at school

Dec 13th - 2 John 1:6 (walk after my commandments) Footprint reindeer

Dec 14th - John 8:12 (I am the light of the world) - Go for light drive

Dec 15th - Isaiah 49:15-16 (I have graven thee upon my palms) - porcelain hand ornaments

Dec 16th - Alma 32:42 (fruit of tree of life is sweetest of all) - make/deliver goodie plates

Dec 17th - Isaiah 53:3-5 (despised and rejected of men), Matt 25:40 (unto the least of these) - FHE on kindness and always remembering the Lord

Dec 18th - Moses 1:39 (my work and my glory, bring to pass eternal life of men) - handprint wreaths

Dec 19th - Isaiah 9:6 (he shall be called Wonderful) Jesus name/title "Subway art)

Dec 20th - Gen 1:26-27 (male and female created he them) - make gingerbread men

Dec 21st - John 16:27-28, 33 (Father and I love you, be of good cheer)--what are our reasons to be of good cheer?

Dec 22nd - Josh 24:15 (me and my house will serve the Lord) - Gingerbread houses

Dec 23rd - Job 19:25 (I know that my Redeemer liveth) - family testimony meeting

Dec 24th - Nativity play/story with cousins

I realize that many of these are not typical "Christmas scriptures", but that's precisely why I picked them: Christmas isn't just about celebrating a baby's birth, its about understanding better who that baby became, what he did, and why it matters to us, and striving to find ways to honor him.  Merry Christmas to your family. A parting thought, one of my very, very favorites:

""There would be no Christmas if there had been no Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection." ~Gordon B. Hinckley

Monday, November 19, 2012

A good thought...

"We come to this earth charged with a mission: 
to learn to love and serve one another. 
To best help us accomplish this, 
God has placed us in families,
 for he knows that is where we can best learn 
to overcome selfishness and pride
 and to sacrifice for others
 and to make happiness and helpfulness and humility
 and love 
the very essence of our character."

John H. Groberg

Friday, November 16, 2012

Parent Teacher conferences

Last Thursday, before we got snowed in, we headed to the kids' schools for parent teacher conferences.  Dylan's teacher, Mr. Tesson, was up first.  Not long after we got into the classroom, Dylan was showing his sisters around while we started visiting with the teacher, and at some point little man heard his name and looked toward the three of us and grinned a mile wide.  Mr. Tesson, with obvious affection, said, "That smile, oh that smile, it could get you out of anything."  He told us repeatedly that Dylan was a great kid and that they were having a lot fun.

And he told us about his challenges with Dylan, smiling genuinely the whole time.  Apparently, a few times Dylan has simply refused to do something (eat the daily snack--usually some kind of fruit or vegetable--even though all he has to do is taste it, or get up and stretch during the afternoon with the rest of the class, or answer his teacher during oral exercises) just because he wasn't interested in doing it at the moment.  And its good to know that Mr. Tesson employs the same method we do at home: patiently wait him out, restricting all other privileges or activities until the required ones were completed.  As we commiserated about the challenges of teaching an iron-willed and very independent child, Dylan flashed us another smile, and it had the same affect on all three of us: What a delight he is!  He is rarely defiant out of rebelliousness--I won't do this because you want me to--when he is defiant it is simply because he doesn't understand why he should ever have to do something he doesn't want to do.  Most of the time, he is so pleasant and sincerely friendly.  Its relatively easy to wait him out on those things he gets stubborn about, because he's not a tantrum thrower and doesn't have much temper, he's just so enjoyable the rest of the time that its easy to not be mad.

I told his teacher that Dylan had whined to me that he couldn't read chapter books because they were too hard, but I got a couple of Magic Treehouse books from the library and he flew through them--it took him one afternoon a piece to read them from beginning to end.  Mr. Tesson told us he was in the top reading group they have for the first grade and is still outscoring most of the class.  So, as I suspected, he's a bit lazy.  We'll work on that.

Keilana has Ms. Flynn this year, whom she just adores.  She's also doing well in all her subjects, and Ms. Flynn couldn't stop saying how sweet she is--helpful and affectionate and always, always, always smiling.  We laughed about what a little perfectionist she is (one time this year, her homework didn't make it to school, and it was, admittedly, my fault, and she reminds me at least once a week that the only work on her homework chart is because of me).  She has made a lot of friends this year, and has been working hard on every assignment she's been given.  She's a very attentive and careful student--she has her mother's need to please the adults in her life (hey, it served me well at that age, hopefully it will serve her well, too).

So, the main thing I took away from these meetings, now that I've made you sit through all this rambling about my kids, is that it is absolutely wonderful to have real conversations with my kids' teachers and see that those teachers know my kids and genuinely love my kids.  From what I can tell without sitting in the classroom, they seem to be very good teachers, too.  Even though our kids go to school all day, we ultimately take responsibility for their education and do a lot of things at home to try to enrich their learning (first and foremost with requiring reading time every day, and trying to gently guide their reading choices a bit), but its nice to feel like that 7 hours a day is well worth everybody's time, and that they're spending it with people who are paying attention to them and know what helps them and what doesn't.  Being raised by two good teachers, I have some idea what it takes to do that job well, and I'm grateful that my kids have teachers like that.


Its an iPad and Netflix kind of day around here--my stomach is upset for reasons that are not entirely clear to me (though a houseful of young children should be explanation enough) and I have a cold that has got my sinuses so congested that my eyes feel stuffy.

Anyway, Kylie was sitting in the rocking chair with the iPad watching Angelina Ballerina, and Keira tried to take the iPad, so Kylie kicked her and knocked her down.  I took the iPad and put Kylie in the corner (as I saw the kicking--and the older child doing it--as the worse offense here) and she sat down and cried.  I also wouldn't let Keira have the iPad and she was upset by all Kylie's crying, so she started crying and marched over to the corner, kneeled down and put her arm around Kylie as they sat in the corner, facing the wall and crying together.

Oh, sisters.  They're either best friends or mortal enemies.  Which one they'll be at any given moment isn't always predictable.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


So, yesterday, I got in my workout and shower, got the whole house cleaned, got the laundry going and sent several messages before Keira was down for her nap.  Did I mention I also had an extra toddler most of the morning?

Today, by 11 I had still not exercised or showered, there were toys everywhere and both the girls were still in their PJs.

Oh well.  I did get the most time consuming parts of one of Dylan's primary Christmas presents done, so its not a total wash.

Someday, I'll be able to make a schedule and stick to it, uninterrupted by other people's shrieking fits, runny noses, falls down the stairs or off of chairs, and other such life-stuffs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I think one of the things that is very underrated in our "I deserve to be happy" society is the value of the things we do, big and small, to accommodate the people we love.  I don't think we need to cater to the every whim of our loved ones and its perfectly OK to sometimes say, "Nope, I really don't want to do that", but I think we way under value being flexible and accommodating.

There are a lot of things that my husband likes and enjoys that aren't really high on my list of interests, but I take an interest in them and give my full attention to them, not to convince myself or him that I love those things, but to show that I love him.  He is excited about those things and wants to share them with someone, so I make myself available to be that someone.  Or my kids--heaven knows my kids find all sorts of things fascinating or entertaining that I find annoying or impossibly boring, but I put on a smile and try to enjoy them because its important to them.  Keilana is old enough and perceptive enough that she knows there are some things that I pay attention to or indulge only because I care about her, and in seeing that example, she will often put on a genuine smile and decide to enjoy things that aren't really in her wheelhouse because she can see how much doing so makes her younger sisters, or me or her dad happy.  She has already figured out much about how to be a good friend, sister and person and I credit a lot of that to her sweet, people-pleasing personality.  She has a few key things she won't bed on because they're very important to her, but on everything else she has learned very young to be flexible.  She is loved by just about everyone around her, and whether they consciously realize it or not, that is one of the primary reasons why.  She loves to generously accommodate people to make them feel important and loved.

It doesn't do much good to accommodate people while frowning and foot-dragging;  that doesn't make them feel loved, it makes them feel like they are an imposition on you.  It is human nature to want to do what we want to do, how and when we want to do it, and there's nothing wrong with that sometimes.  But there is a great deal right in saying to ourselves, "This isn't really what I'd prefer to do right now, but I'm going to put on a smile, be pleasant and do it happily, because it makes me happy to make the people I love happy."  It does us little good to sacrifice for those we love if we are then unhappy and saying constantly, "But I sacrifice so much for you!"

That flexibility will add much happiness and smooth sailing to our relationships.  On the other hand, the sort of selfishness that creates inflexibility or mere foot-dragging complicity, while born out of a desire to please ourselves, ironically ends up making not just those we love miserable, but making ourselves miserable as well.

Loving people, and showing that love, is rarely convenient; but in the long run, it always leads to more personal satisfaction that selfishness.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Its here. .

There's something just fantastically magical about the first real snow.  I mean, we've been snowed on a couple of times already, but this was the first time it was more than an inch or two--the first real snowball-fighting-snowman-building-sledding kind of snow.  (And no, we didn't get three feet--that pile is from shoveling the sidewalk.  But we are at 6", and counting).

Its supposed to snow most of the night.  The high tomorrow is supposed to be in the low 20s.  And only 15 on Saturday.  But no worries:  we'll be back into the low 40s by next weekend!

It seems far off at the moment, but I'm quite certain Christmas will be here in about four days.  Soak it up.

Friday, November 2, 2012


I've been thinking about all the different admonitions and accompanying promises in the Sermon on the Mount.  One that has always been a "favorite" of mine, or at least something I try to keep in mind, is the Lord's declaration that "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy".

There are lots of good reasons to judge other people--lots of bad behavior to accurately condemn or be irritated at, lots of habits to point out that we (legitimately) think they need to change.  Human beings are wonderful, but also have bundles of faults and mistakes.  Its easy to focus on those things.

But I've always cherished that promise, essentially,  that "if you're forgiving of and patience with others in their flaws and poor decisions, I'll be merciful to you about yours".  Those who extend grace to others will receive it from the Lord for themselves.  What a comfort.

I have my strengths, but heaven knows I've got my struggles.  I'm condescending when I'm annoyed and self-righteous when I'm angry.  I'm lazy and self-indulgent when I'm tired.  I'm viciously passive aggressive when I'm hurt.  I sometimes will thoughtlessly spout off some thought, only considering afterward how it might affect/sound to those around me.  I'm nicer to every one else than I am to my husband (I mean, I think I'm pretty nice to him most of the time, but I probably spend more time trying to "fix" him than I rightly should).  And that's just to name a few.  I am grateful for the many people in my life who are willing to focus on the things they love about me and overlook the things that may (rightly) drive them nuts.  I'm grateful for the fact that I am sure I am the recipient of the grace of others more frequently than my flawed-self even realizes.

In bearing that in mind, I try really hard to see the good in others.  I think that too often we approach relationships with the idea that "whatever a small hammer won't fix, a bigger hammer surely will".  Even if people genuinely need to change, you will be better at helping them to do that by focusing on building up their strengths (or strengthening their desire to do and be better by openly acknowledging and expressing appreciate for their good qualities) than you will by drilling away at their flaws and mistakes.

I'm a big believer in the power of positive reinforcement, for individual progress and for the relationships between individuals.  I'm a big proponent of extending to someone the biggest benefit of any doubt.  There are times when we are prompted to address a specific problem with an individual who falls under our stewardship, and there are times when someone knows that something is amiss but doesn't know what and seeks our input, but in those moments it is essential to remember that when the Lord says we will have to "reprove with sharpness" at times, he is speaking of clarity, not harshness of tone or method.  We spend so much time trying to make people understand how we feel and why we see things the way we do, when in reality we probably ought to be spending twice as much time trying to understand why others feel the way they do, why they see things the way they do.  We ought to extend to them the grace we hope for for ourselves.

I know that's what inspires me, motivates me, and pushes me to be better.  When I have realized my mistakes and am feeling terrible about where I've failed, the Lord doesn't double down and say, "That's right, you should be sorry!" even though I nearly always should know better.  No, he quietly whispers, "I love you.  You are of infinite worth. I made you, I love you, and I know you can become more than what you are at this moment. Nevertheless, I accept you just as you are at this moment.  Keep trying.  We'll get there together--I'll help."  I am so grateful for that reassuring love, so grateful for that kind patience, that I want to be better.

Most people will react to us the same way if we extend to them that Christlike grace--yes, I see your flaws, but I love you, I see all the good that is in you, and together we'll work on becoming better.  If you express your love to people--often, sincerely, and openly--and express your respect and gratitude for all the good things they are and do, they will want to be better--generally speaking people want to live up to the gracious opinions others have of them, they want to pay back in kind the love and kindness extended to them.  Grace, and mercy, are not just about forgiveness for the big things.  They're about patient, enduring love from day to day in all the little things.  Its not about just letting that little snippy comment from your spouse go, but in letting it go and then finding a way to comfort them--maybe that snippy comment was born of a hard day at work or a personal challenge or just plain old fatigue.  Its not about just enduring that one family member's annoying behavior, its about finding ways to serve them, to refocus yourself on their strengths.

The Lord is more readily able to be merciful to us when we extend mercy to others, because that continual behavior of faith shows him an obedient, understanding child;  he can see in that merciful disposition a soft heart and loving spirit.  He can see that this is not a child who needs harsh discipline and fire and brimstone to learn, but a child that is meek and anxious to learn.

It is by grace we are saved, after all we can do, and so it ought to be that most of what we do is done in an attitude of grace.  Justice is necessary, good, and eternal.  Without it, chaos would reign and all life would be miserable.  But for all the merits of eternal justice, in the end it is mercy that wins us the freedom of our souls.  The Divine sacrifice that made that mercy possible should be always on our minds as we interact with other children of God and navigate our relationships.  We would be unwise to, flawed and indebted souls such as we are, exact harsh judgments upon those around us.  It is the Lord who has paid that price for them, it is to him they owe that debt.  If the prophet can write offense after offense the people have committed against God and then, speaking on the Lord's behalf, write "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still," then far be it from me to stay my hand of service, affection and love for much smaller, much more petty offenses.  I owe a debt far too large to then be harsh to my own debtors.  Ultimately, we are all in debt to one great benefactor, and I need his mercy as much as anyone.  Thankfully, he gives it quite freely.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012


So, kids are gathered around the kitchen table, doing homework.  Dylan finishes his math, and brings me the paper and says, "Can you correct my paper, please?"  I ask, "So do I just need to circle the ones that are wrong?"  And then comes this very Dylanesque reply: "No, you just need to mark that its all correct."

Can you tell he's not used to getting it wrong?  This confidence of his is either going to be his greatest asset or his entire undoing.  So far I don't see a lot of swagger or superiority, so I'm really, really hoping for greatest asset.  But I'm trying not to take it for granted.

For the record, it was all correct.

Parenting Tricks

Today, Keira kept bringing me the Listerine, trying to take the lid off the Listerine, and insisting she needed Listerine.

If Keilana had done the same thing at this age, I would've spent 20 minutes telling her no and eventually got the Listerine high enough that her remarkable monkey skills would've been unable to get her to it, ending with her screaming and me annoyed.

After telling Keira twice that it was yucky and still being met with annoyingly insistent begging/whining, I just gave her a teaspoon of Listerine.  Problem solved.  Everybody's happy, and I didn't waste 20 minutes of my life or have to endure an epic tantrum.  She tried her best to spit it out, and happily went along her merry little way.

You live, you learn.