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The Reading Mother

This painting hung in my best friend's home when I was young. It was the first print we bought with money from wedding gifts after Lane and I married. It is called "Jungle Tales" and was painted by Sir James Shannon in 1895. I love how lost in the story those children are.

This painting hung in my best friend’s home when I was young. It was the first print we bought with money from wedding gifts after Lane and I married. It is called “Jungle Tales” and was painted by Sir James Shannon in 1895. I love how lost in the story those children are.

I couldn’t find one of my favorite poems on my own blog today!


So I’m posting it again and putting a link to it so I can find it in the future.


The Reading Mother by Strickland Gillian

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be – 
I had a Mother who read to me. 

Thanks to poemhunter.com for having it on hand!

He restoreth my soul


The view from the hammock

Yesterday I sat down and rewrote my “how to raise amazing children” page because the first one I wrote previously wasn’t simple enough. It had been on my mind for some time, but yesterday I just felt I should take the time and do it.

That being done, the thoughts have lingered about how my reaching to be closer to my Heavenly Father brings Christ more into focus as the center of my life. And that affects everything I do as a wife, mother, woman, person.

You might want to hear a list of specific to-do’s that will make your child some wonderchild. But that’s not what I have discovered about motherhood in my 23 year journey.  I have learned that in trying to stay close to my Father in Heaven, He directs my paths and helps me with everything I need, not just motherhood. And that influence affects the way I mother in ways that are peaceful and strengthening.

This has been so much as a theme in my life–putting Christ at the center of my day–my thoughts, my focus–and how it makes all the difference in everything. The scripture that came to mind today, after a totally edifying walk with a good friend of mine, was “He restoreth my soul” (Psalm 23:3). That’s how I feel when I work to have Christ at the hub of my life.

One way I try to be close to my Heavenly Father is by pouring out my soul in prayer to Him. I also seek Him in the scriptures and try to follow Jesus. As I do this humbly, help comes to me. I feel closer to Him, I see His hand in my life, and I find answers.

The biggest part of all of this for me is patience and will. I have such a hard time being patient for answers, and I have such a strong will that I forget to verify if my plan (that I’m marching along doing) is acutally aligned with God’s plan. When it is aligned, things go so much better. I can FEEL it.

When I’m humble, when I’m brokenhearted, when I want to do God’s will no matter what, I FEEL peace.

I was describing it to my friend this way: Sarah and Nate both bought hammocks this summer. They hung them at different times between two trees in our backyard. I went out one Sunday afternoon and lay in the hammock. In fact, Nate gave up his spot so I could have “five minutes peace,” and Julia even came and got the puppy so I could enjoy the quiet and not have a dog trying to join me in the hammock.

I lay there, looking up into the branches of the trees, the warmth of the summer sun relaxing me. I just swung slowly, bathing in the quiet of the Sabbath afternoon.

That feeling of being relaxed, of being cradled in God’s hands, of being safe and at peace: that is how I feel when Christ is at the center of my day.

I want that feeling all the time. I want to make space for the “spiritual work” required to maintain that feeling. That’s my focus. I’m working on it: cleaning out my physical space, asking for God’s help to clean out my inner space, to make room for Him and His plan.

That is what I feel is the key to raising amazing children. You align yourself with God and what He has planned and then you watch and learn. And you see how He is raising you and how He is raising your children.



Pumpkin Moonshine

pumpkin-moonshineI love fall! When Halloween comes around, I have just a few Halloween books simply for the fun of it. I prefer celebrating fall to Halloween. So much more goodness and beauty in fall!

I found this darling book last month that celebrates both fall and Halloween: Pumpkin Moonshine by Tasha Tudor. “Pumpkin moonshine” is what they used to call Jack-O-Lanterns, apparently. This darling story, published originally in 1938 by Oxford University Press, tells the story of “little Sylvie Ann,” who is trying to get a great big pumpkin home from the farm so she can carve it.

Tasha Tudor is a beloved illustrator from books from my childhood, so when I saw this book on sale at the Storytelling Festival, I snatched it up. Someday I’ll read it to one of my grandchildren…

Click on the book for a more detailed review from RaisingJane.org.




Reading in your child’s classroom?

Abraham Lincoln museum with Lane
On our steamboat trip this past week, we visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois. What a great place! If you are traveling through that state, I highly recommend stopping in Illinois to see the museums and homes that highlight Lincoln’s life and gifts to humanity.

Of course I had to stop by the museum bookstore! When I travel, I love to bring home a children’s book to add to our family library. If I find one I like, I often purchase it on amazon.com so that I don’t have to carry it home (gotta love amazon prime for free shipping, right?).

Lincoln and His Boys

I saw one book in the museum that we have in our home library and that I love. Lincoln had such a great love for his children, and this book really conveys that love in both word and illustration.

This morning, I began updating my reading recommendations page that lists some of our favorite books by month, season, and holiday. I have lots of updating to do! Check it out for some ideas for Halloween or the other holidays for which you may read in your child’s classroom at school or at home. For more books on Lincoln that I recommend, go here.

(And I highly recommend reading aloud in your child’s classroom. The children will love it. You will love it. You may come to be thought of as “The Reading Mother,” which is a wonderful alias, in my opinion.)


Nauvoo Gingerbread

Scovil Bakery Nauvoo gingerbread

This kind missionary sister let me take her picture serving the gingerbread cookies. We have those exact gingerman and gingerwoman cookie cutters at home, and I love to give them as part of my wedding gifts!

When I first tasted gingerbread from the Scovil Bakery in Nauvoo, Illinois, I knew I wanted to make it at home. Just think: My great-great-great grandmother Lucy Morley may have eaten the same recipe from the store, which was next door to the recreation hall! Kind of like stopping to get ice cream after the dance. Some traditions span generations! Plus, I’m a gingerbread fan. So this recipe is a keeper.


The bakery was reconstructed on its original foundation. This photo from lds.org. (Click on the photo to go to the photo.)

Today this recipe comes someone else’s blog (click on that link), because I didn’t pick up a copy of the recipe while we were just there, thinking that I had it at home. Silly me! In just tying to find it, it isn’t where I thought it is. When I find the one got years ago when we first got the recipe, I will post it here instead of using that link!

Scovil bakery cookie cutters

I love how the cookie cutters hang over the little ovens (the red handled box). I remember that when we were a young married couple, I hung cookie cutters above my cupboards in our second apartment kitchen. (Cheap decorating!) I’ll have to dig into my photo archives to see if I can dig that up…which actually translates into asking Lane to help me sift through our thousands of digital photos which aren’t organized. (Yep, that’s one project I haven’t taken on yet.)





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Grandma’s Banana Bread

Grandma's Banana BreadI wanted to make my grandmother’s banana bread this week for Activity Days. I’m so glad my mom still had it, since I had not put it into my recipe book and LOST it!

And the recipe says to bake them in 4-8.5″ x 4.5″ pans, but I actually baked them in the 8″ x 4″ disposable aluminum foil pans. I’ll have to check next time I bake them to see if they are just as good in the pan mentioned there. My grandmother made them into two large loaves, which I’m guessing were in the 2-lb. loaf pans. And her original recipe says to bake them at 325℉ for an hour, but because I had just baked 10 mini loaves at 350℉, I kept the oven at the same temperature and baked them for less time. So I’ll have to check that next time as well!

Hope you enjoy making this recipe!



Last year I hurried to the high school to watch my daughter, Rebecca, perform in her a cappella group for the first time in a school assembly. They sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” and I was so touched.

I was touched by the respect I saw. On that day each year, my children and most of the students dress in Sunday clothes to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11. I remember well that attack and what was happening the morning of it. We were just getting ready to send our children to elementary school when we got a phone call (I think from Lane) telling us to turn on the news. We did so and witnessed what all our nation saw that day. It was such a tragic, sobering moment. We immediately knelt to pray, as we always do in a situation of great concern. I will never forget that day.

I don’t know that Julia or Rebecca or Eliza remember that moment. They were too young or not born yet, but still they honor the victims by dressing up before they go to school. I love that respect and reverence. And I love the Star Spangled Banner. I loved how Rebecca’s group sang it that day. I am so grateful we can use our voices for things that matter, singing songs that matter, and honoring lives that mattered and still matter.


Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 7.45.21 PMThis week was Julia’s first week at college. (We actually have TWO college freshman right now, but Nate started in May. More about him on another post.) She and I sat down last night for a few minutes to put together a menu plan of meals she can easily make and afford. (It helps that college is so close that you can run home to grab some wild rice or get your bike tires fixed.) As usual, I’ll laminate these little menu plans. The blank column is for writing in something else she plans to make that day instead, when she sits down to plan before going grocery shopping. Now we understand that she won’t follow the menu exactly every week, but she’s like me: cooking isn’t her passion, so it helps to have a framework in place ahead of time so she doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel each week.

Watching her pack up reminded me of how exciting it was to move to college my freshman year. (I took WAY too much stuff!) I was proud of Julia for cleaning out her room and only leaving her 4 storage tubs behind (that was what I told each child they could have for home storage: 4 bins). And her sister was ready to move into her spot before the day had finished after her move!

We had a few special moments together before she left, including one night when I called all the girls into my room (the boys were on a father and sons trip) and they all climbed into my bed. I had a couple of my old journals on my lap and opened randomly to read snippets from our lives. Talk about time travel!

I turned to August 25, 2003, Monday. At that time, I was two months away from my due date with Peter, so that means that we had 5 children: Sarah (9), Nate (7 1/2), Julia (5 1/2), Rebecca (3 1/2), and Eliza (6 weeks shy of 2). It was fun to discover my account of Julia’s kindergarten assessment (in which the kindergarten teacher tries to see where a child is in terms of basic letter recognize, reading skills, counting, etc.). Julia REALLY left an impression:

Lane asked Julia how her [assessment] interview went today. She said something like, “I told the teacher I didn’t know anything, and she gave me a treat!” I didn’t get to hear the assessment this year–the teacher sent me into the hall–but it was quite short….I admit to having prepped Julia just a little on the way to school by way of review: our address, phone number, spelling of last name, etc. 🙂 Oh, the pride of a mother!

We all cracked up hearing what Julia told the teacher, especially when a treat would be involved. Julia has been our biggest sweet tooth since day one. We love that about her! And speaking of eating dessert, isn’t it just how it goes as a mom: you teach a child all kinds of things, but when you ask them to perform, they won’t. It helps us moms eat humble pie now and again.

Here is another part of that entry:

Last night Rebecca was in bed when she had to get out to go potty or something. She said to Lane, “Save my spot.” Oh, survival of the fittest in a large family!

I remember bedtimes well, when Lane and I would hold our children’s hands on the side of their beds after kneeling in prayer with them and tucking them in. It can be tricky getting that many children to bed, but it’s even harder to get them to bed now! Now they have curfews, and we are the ones in bed when they come in to report that they are home!

The part of this entry that made us all laugh the most was the Family Home Evening (FHE) story:

Well, tonight we had a family night on contention….I made a chart with a lamb and a heart on one side and a wolf on the other. We listed things we’ve been doing (to contend) under the wolf, and ways we can show love under the lamb side. The idea was good, but the children were having a hard time being quiet or taking it seriously. I started to cry, and then the little girls all came over and smothered me in hugs, kisses, and Kleenex wiping. I shared how I hated the contention in my home when I was growing up and I really didn’t want it in our home, and how we have to work together as a team to make it work….

After the prayer….we had dessert and an interesting teaching moment came up again. Julia had asked for a gumball before FHE instead of having ice cream after with the rest of us. Well, when we started scooping, she declared that she’d spit out her gum since she wanted ice cream. Nathan and Sarah shouted, “No fair!” and wanted no such allowance, unless they could be equally compensated. Lane & I said this was a chance for us to think about what we’d just discussed, and we’d let the whole family vote. (Julia, of course, voted yes.) We said we were voting just to show love with no compensation of fairness to anyone else. Nathan held his ground and said no. I couldn’t help it, and started crying again. Julia ran upstairs sobbing. Sarah asked Lane if she could give Julia her ice cream cone, to which he consented, and she ran up after Julia. Lane talked to Nathan, but I didn’t hear much since I went to put away the ice cream and went to the bathroom. In the bathroom I saw a page showing our Fall schedule and remembered how Nathan, without having earned TV today, watched it after school, without permission. I had an idea to talk to him about justice and mercy. I went back to Nathan who wanted to apologize, and who came to sit by me. I did have a little conversation with him then about how we all will have to pay for all our mistakes and sins unless we repent and forgive others. I asked him about this afternoon, and what would happen in the case of justice. He said he’d have to be punished (and immediately started suggesting lenient punishments). We talked about what we’d rather have–justice or mercy. He agreed on mercy. I told him I wanted to forgive him and let him have another chance to do right. I asked him what he thought he’d want if he were in Julia’s position with the ice cream…

Lane said Nathan prayed tonight to be more merciful and kind and to serve a mission…. He is such a good boy. 

Oh, I wish I had time to find a photo from the archives of them at these ages! They were such an adorable tribe! Now they are all grown up and saving China. (One of our favorite quotes from Mulan.) Sarah is starting her “Super” Senior year and Nate is continuing his freshman year. This little ice cream story reminds me of the time when Nate took Julia to get ice cream at the grocery store–I think he learned that sharing ice cream is a good idea. Love that they are all such good friends.

It’s an awesome time for the whole family. We are so proud of each of them.


Family Trip Prep List

Family Trip Prep List PDF

I found this in my kitchen clipboard when I was looking for something else. I thought perhaps it might be helpful to some of you who are getting ready to go on trips and want to include your whole family in the team effort trip prep! Just click on the image for the printable PDF. And bon voyage!

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