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Honoring President Packer

Boyd-K-Packer-Newsbio-official-portrait(Photo from Mormon Newsroom.)

I wanted to mention the passing of President Boyd K. Packer yesterday and honor him. Considering that the pen is more powerful than the sword, has had a tremendous influence on my life.  I carry many of his words with me in my heart and mind that have influenced my decisions. Here are four that I have remembered since I first heard (or read) them:

❤ As a parent, I can create a shield of faith at home, individually tailored to each of my children:

The ministry of the prophets and apostles leads them ever and always to the home and the family. That shield of faith is not produced in a factory but at home in a cottage industry.

The ultimate purpose of all we teach is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in an eternal marriage, linked to their generations, and assured of exaltation in the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Lest parents and children be “tossed to and fro,” and misled by “cunning craftiness” of men who “lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14), our Father’s plan requires that, like the generation of life itself, the shield of faith is to be made and fitted in the family. No two can be exactly alike. Each must be handcrafted to individual specifications.

The plan designed by the Father contemplates that man and woman, husband and wife, working together, fit each child individually with a shield of faith made to buckle on so firmly that it can neither be pulled off nor penetrated by those fiery darts.

It takes the steady strength of a father to hammer out the metal of it and the tender hands of a mother to polish and fit it on. Sometimes one parent is left to do it alone. It is difficult, but it can be done. 

In the Church we can teach about the materials from which a shield of faith is made: reverence, courage, chastity, repentance, forgiveness, compassion. In church we can learn how to assemble and fit them together. But the actual making of and fitting on of the shield of faith belongs in the family circle. Otherwise it may loosen and come off in a crisis. (“The Shield of Faith,” April 1995 General Conference)

 ❤ Studying God’s words will help me become better faster than studying behavior:

True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.

The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel. (“Little Children,” October 1986)

❤ Music is powerful. Music teachers matter. Listening to–or simply thinking of–good music can help us control our thoughts. Our mind is like a stage. We can kick unsalient actors (thoughts) off by putting uplifting ones on.

Music can, by its tempo, by its beat, by its intensity, dull the spiritual sensitivity of men….

There is so much wonderful, uplifting music available that we can experience to our advantage. Our people ought to be surrounded by good music of all kinds.

Parents ought to foster good music in the home and cultivate a desire to have their children learn the hymns of inspiration.

The time for music lessons seems to come along when there are so many other expenses for the family with little children. But we encourage parents to include musical training in the lives of their children….

How wonderful is the music instructor who will teach children and youth to play and will acquaint them with good music in their formative years, including the music of worship. To have such music as a part of one’s life is a great blessing….

I had been told a hundred times or more as I grew up that thoughts must be controlled. But no one told me how.

I want to tell you young people about one way you can learn to control your thoughts, and it has to do with music.

The mind is like a stage. Except when we are asleep the curtain is always up. There is always some act being performed on that stage. It may be a comedy, a tragedy, interesting or dull, good or bad; but always there is some act playing on the stage of the mind.

Have you noticed that without any real intent on your part, in the middle of almost any performance, a shady little thought may creep in from the wings and attract your attention? These delinquent thoughts will try to upstage everybody.

If you permit them to go on, all thoughts of any virtue will leave the stage. You will be left, because you consented to it, to the influence of unrighteous thoughts.

If you yield to them, they will enact for you on the stage of your mind anything to the limits of your toleration. They may enact a theme of bitterness, jealousy, or hatred. It may be vulgar, immoral, even depraved.

When they have the stage, if you let them, they will devise the most clever persuasions to hold your attention. They can make it interesting all right, even convince you that it is innocent—for they are but thoughts.

What do you do at a time like that, when the stage of your mind is commandeered by the imps of unclean thinking?—whether they be the gray ones that seem almost clean or the filthy ones which leave no room for doubt.

If you can control your thoughts, you can overcome habits, even degrading personal habits. If you can learn to master them you will have a happy life.

This is what I would teach you. Choose from among the sacred music of the Church a favorite hymn, one with words that are uplifting and music that is reverent, one that makes you feel something akin to inspiration. Remember President Lee’s counsel; perhaps “I Am A Child of God” would do. Go over it in your mind carefully. Memorize it. Even though you have had no musical training, you can think through a hymn.

Now, use this hymn as the place for your thoughts to go. Make it your emergency channel. Whenever you find these shady actors have slipped from the sidelines of your thinking onto the stage of your mind, put on this record, as it were.

As the music begins and as the words form in your thoughts, the unworthy ones will slip shamefully away. It will change the whole mood on the stage of your mind. Because it is uplifting and clean, the baser thoughts will disappear. For while virtue, by choice, will not associate with filth, evil cannot tolerate the presence of light.

In due time you will find yourself, on occasion, humming the music inwardly. As you retrace your thoughts, you discover some influence from the world about you encouraged an unworthy thought to move on stage in your mind, and the music almost automatically began.

“Music,” said Gladstone, “is one of the most forceful instruments for governing the mind and spirit of man.”

I am so grateful for music that is worthy and uplifting and inspiring.

Once you learn to clear the stage of your mind from unworthy thoughts, keep it busy with learning worthwhile things. Change your environment so that you have things about you that will inspire good and uplifting thoughts. Keep busy with things that are righteous.

Young people, you cannot afford to fill your mind with the unworthy hard music of our day. It is not harmless. (“Inspiring Music–Worthy Thoughts,” October 1973)

❤ A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it.

Oh, if I could teach you this one principle. A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it! Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that “leap of faith,” as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two. “The spirit of man,” is as the scripture says, indeed “is the candle of the Lord.” (Prov. 20:27.)

It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the Spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what you have testified is true. Can you not see that it will be supplied as you share it? As you give that which you have, there is a replacement, with increase! (“The Candle of the Lord,” January 1983).

 

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Hunting for a bunting

bunting

Several years ago, I bought one of these–a flag bunting–to hang somewhere in my home. I have always loved flag buntings (“Independence Flag 18-in x 36-in American Pleated Fan”) and wanted to get one for the Fourth of July. I realized that it fit perfectly in my kitchen window, so the next year I bought another one. This year I wanted to finish off the windows. Because they are about $16/each, I didn’t buy all 5 at once. This year, I went to three stores to find the buntings as I had the previous years, but I didn’t find them. WalMart had had them before, but not this year. Home Depot didn’t. I was amazed that Target had almost ZERO patriotic decorations. What?!? Are they anti-American? They were sold out at Hobby Lobby. I was delighted to find them at Lowe’s. I wish I had started looking again about a week ago, because I could have gotten them for about half the price on Amazon. I’m happy to have found some and have completed that Independence Day decor.

I have realized over the years, having a limited budget for non-essentials “extra spending,” that a year passes quickly. It is hard sometimes to postpone buying something, but over time, we accumluate things faster than we think. Time goes fast and before I know it, I have a set of whatever I purchased one at a time, year by year. I hope it helps me learn patience (I’m still have a lot to learn) and I hope it helps my children see that you can wait to buy things, especially things that aren’t important in the long run.

 

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Independence Day: July 2?

Signing Their Lives Away“Happy Fourth of July! Wait, scratch that. We mean: Happy Second of July! Hold on, that’s still not right: Happy Second of August!

“John Adams thought that future generations of Americans should celebrate Independence Day ‘with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.’ …Oddly, when he wrote these words to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776, he wasn’t talking about the Fourth of July. He was speaking of what he considered to be the nation’s true birthday: July 2, 1776″ (Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence, p.10)

So begins our family book club book for July. I’m so excited about this book! The cover is actually a folded-up color copy of the Declaration of Independence, for starters, and it’s size is not as intimidating as some of the David McCullough books on our shelves that I’m going to read…someday.

Lane is a huge U.S. history fan, so this book came as a birthday gift this year, on the recent recommendation of a dear friend of ours, Karen B. (One of my former BYU writing professors!). I love how the biography summaries of each of the signers is only a couple of short pages, so even a young reader can be enticed to learn more about these incredible men and their pivotal, personal and world-changing choices.

 

yousafzai_iammalala-1

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The other books that I’m inviting our famly to read this month are I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Big Red by Jim Kyelgaard. More about these later!

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Dead-end thoughts

Dead End sign

 

This afternoon I was just getting showered at about 5 pm. I started to feel negative about my day, because my mom had given me some ingredients to make enchiladas this morning, and I hadn’t gotten the dinner made yet. She would be here soon, and I felt bad. That negative thought led to another (“Why am I so bad at getting dinner made all the time?” “Why can’t I get more done?”) and suddenly my thoughts were headed down a dead end road.

It must have been the Spirit that said, “Hey, wait a minute! Just because you didn’t get dinner made doesn’t mean you’re a terrible mother or that you didn’t have a good day. Think about what you have done that made it so you didn’t get dinner made.” (Lane has said positive things like that to me, so it may have been the Spirit bringing his words to my remembrance.)

And so I thought about it: I took a child to a music lesson. I picked up some things at my mom’s and helped her fix her music stand. I cleaned up the kitchen. I watered the garden. I practiced with Anna. I gave an interview over the phone with Sarah for an English paper.  I prepared for a music lesson and taught one. I helped Eliza with her babysitting. I went to another music lesson. I helped Eliza some more with her babysitting, and then I got in the shower. All day I had opportunities to serve that I took. I didn’t get some things done that I had wanted to, but I did help where help was needed, and I did it the best I could in the moment.

I felt better. I was reminded of how often my brain can slip into negative thoughts when I’m tired and hungry. I’m grateful that the Spirit helped me stop in my tracks and re-evaluate, so I didn’t have to go any further down the dead end road of fault-finding.

As a side note, after I wrote the post about Elder Perry, I decided I would try to have three weeks of no bad days. I realized that I simply needed to look for the good in whatever happened that day, and then it could be a good day. I can say that I have had no bad days since then–even though I had a very difficult challenge and have made plenty of mistakes–including getting very mad, overeating, going to bed too late, buying something I didn’t need with money that shouldn’t have been spent that way, procrastinated something that was important, and found fault in one of my children, to name a few. But I have also apologized and recognized my mistakes (I’m sure not all of them) and decided that I’m going to just keep doing my best, repenting and trying to do better. I don’t have to be perfect. And every day can be a good day! It feels much better than feeling sad about my days.

 

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Back to my full-time job

IMG_2589.JPGFor 9 days during the last two weeks, I was doing teacher training for Suzuki Book 1 and Book 2. It was delightful! I learned much, and I have some good stuff to share.  As an observer, I was reminded of some pivotal truths about nurturing: 

  • “the teacher [is no] better than the learner” (Alma 1:26), and
  • children are “consummately precious” (Pres. Boyd K. Packer).

IMG_2583I have seen some teaching that has demonstrated both the understanding and the lack thereof this week. This marvelous teacher pictured above seemed to understand. It was a joy to observe him teaching. When a teacher loves children, prepares well, and does not feel better than the child they teach, there is happiness. Even when the child is extra-energetic or very young with a short attention span, you can enjoy teaching them. I want to try to remember how important children are when I teach, bring positive energy to my teaching/nurturing, and remember how much I have to learn from them. Understanding those principles makes ALL the difference! Watching others teach during my training has reinforced that.

IMG_2590.JPG

I also got to watch my niece dance her way to first place in prelim championship (in her age group) in Irish dance last night. Now she can compete in Open Championship. It was her goal to get there in two years, and she did it! Her mother has helped her work so hard. (As had so many moms there!!) We are so proud of them both. Being together (both our families and my mom) reminded me that my family matters most. While I loved learning and stretching at my training, I missed being with my family  and am so happy to be back to my full-time job: being a mom. There is so much to do to nurture a family, and I’m grateful that I don’t have to work two full-time jobs at this stage of my life.

 

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I’m taking a blogging vacation, as I sometimes do. I know that I don’t really need to post about it, but it is good for me to do this, because it’s like a personal commitment, even if it’s short-lived!

I need to catch up on organizing my finances and focus on my family and forget about blogging for a few weeks. (Is that even possible for me? Forget about blogging?)

Hope you have a lovely June!

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P.S. Sorry about disappearing menus

I just wanted to say that I’m sorry about my disappearing menu tabs. I don’t know what is happening, but I will see what I can find out. If you can’t find something you’re looking for, please email me: Liz@raisingamazingchildren.com. :)

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No bad days? My hope

L. Tom Perry

Our recently released bishop stood up during fast and testimony meeting to share a lesson he learned from Elder L. Tom Perry whose funeral was Friday. He (Bishop S.) said he was at a training meeting when someone asked Elder Perry how to help people suffering from depression. Bishop S. said Elder Perry’s response was something like, “I don’t know. I’ve never had a bad day in my life.” Bishop S. said he wondered how that could be the case. He knew Elder Perry had lost his first wife to cancer just after being called to serve as an apostle, with 3 children to raise, then remarried and lost his daughter to the same terrible cancer his wife had. Certainly he had many other challenges as well. How could he feel that he never has had a bad day?

Bishop S. said he felt it was a question of attitude and faith in the Lord.

As someone who struggle with energy challenges and has dealt with depression and anxiety before, I stand in awe of that kind of faith and attitude. I would really like to have the mental fortitude to get up every morning and say, “Today is going to be a great day!” And then go forward and make the best of whatever I will face.

I’m not there yet.

This morning, after going to bed too late and waking up too early, I feel dizzy and tired. I wish I could go crawl into bed and sleep, sleep, sleep until I wake up feeling bouncy with energy!

Yesterday I did wake up after a rare good night’s sleep at 5 am FEELING RESTED and had a wonderful start to my day: I read my scriptures in the beautiful morning quiet, I started laundry and had it drying before I even ate breakfast; I had a good run and got showered and dressed before I walked out to do my first carpool! Yowza! Those are my FAVORITE kind of mornings!

And today feels like I stubbed my toes and knocked my head against the door frame before ever stepping foot out of bed.

So it goes.

Ebbs and flows. Gotta keep moving forward with faith that even the mornings that start out this way can end up well.

Good things have happened so far today, despite the physical drag. Going to keep moving forward.

And before I close this post, I just want to say how grateful I am for wonderful L. Tom Perry. He has given so many talks that have influenced my life over many years. What an awesome, upbeat, fun man he is! I loved his booming voice.

One time he came to visit our neighbors, some relatives of his wife, Barbara. The children gathered on their lawn and sang a song for him and Barbara. Julia was amongst those children singing. He said to her after something like, “You’re going to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir someday, aren’t you?” It made us all feel loved.

I especially loved his talks about his mother and how she influenced his life. “Clean in the corners” is one line I’ve always remembered, as well as the story about when she ate too many sweet rolls and didn’t feel like praying. I’m so grateful that our leaders share stories from their home. It helps us learn from and relate to one another.

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Cream of coconut cake

blowing out the candles birthday dinnersI learned many great things from my friend and former visiting teaching companion Kelly C. She always was sharing great ideas, traditions and stories with me. She also shared some great recipes with me, one of which was for Cream of Coconut cake.

We made this cake first for Sarah and her cousin Emily’s combined birthday luau–a swim birthday party in which we served a Hawaiian menu (Kalua pork, steamed rice, fruit salad, and this cake). The food was a big hit, and the girls had a great time swimming together. Poor Sarah seemed a little out of sorts that day; we found out later that she had a fever and an ear infection! Poor girl. She is so stoic in dealing with pain and discomfort that she didn’t say a word until much later that day (as I recall).

This cake is quick and easy to make, but the biggest thing to remember is that you have to have cream of coconut (NOT the same as coconut milk) and coconut pudding.

 

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The Load

A friend asked me about “the load” today, and so I decided to post about it again.

Last year, we started a self-management program for summer called “the load.” It originated from a conference talk given by Elder Bednar, based on the story told in the video above. We have a sign on one of our kitchen white boards with a picture of a 4WD truck, a quote from the talk, and a tagline that says, “Having a daily load will help keep us from spinning our wheels.”

the loadThe load is a set of 10 daily assignments that each child is supposed to complete before going out to play. They can be completed in any order, and sometimes the load gets interrupted by a lesson or appointment or whatever. But we try to come back to the load before doing other recreation.

Here are the 10 assignments:

1. Pray and read your scriptures.

2. Make your bed.

3. Write in your journal.

4. Do math for (x number of) minutes.

5. Work on your Christlike attribute.

6. Do your housecleaning job/laundry/summer nurturing job.

7. Work in the garden.

8. Exercise.

9. Music practicing.

10. Serve someone and give love/gratitude.

The 10 assignments are written on the back of little wooden rounds that we made by cutting up branches from trees we cut down in our yard.

The wooden rounds are stored in a quart jar with their name initial on the front.

Housecleaning job is when they work for 2 hours together in teams to clean the house. They do that one day during M-F. (They do it on Saturdays during the school year.) On the days that they don’t do their housecleaning, they do a daily “5-minute tidy” that their team leader has assigned them. Each child has their own laundry day once a week. I help them when I can.

A summer nurturing job is a special assignment I gave each child for the summer. One older child’s job, for example, is to bake bread each week on one day. Another child’s job is to work on a Faith in God goal. Summer nurturing jobs originated with the idea that there are two things we need to learn how to do before we leave home at age 18: be able to take care of ourselves and be able to take care of others, at least the basics. We need to learn how to nurture ourselves and others. (“Love your neighbor as yourself.“) Summer time is a perfect time to work on some of the skills that we may not have time for during the school year because of homework, sports, etc.

Garden jobs are specific assignments, such as watering the herb pots on the back porch or the vegetable garden.

Music practicing is specific to that child’s teacher’s assigned amount of time, etc.

Reading is not one of the assignments because we read for pleasure a lot in summer. It’s part of our fun! Sometimes, though, I might ask if a child has read before they can watch a show.

When they complete an assignment, they move the appropriate wooden round into a basket. (We are trying to get a wooden truck made instead of the basket–that is Peter’s assignment for this summer.)

The general rule is that they need to be done with their load by lunch time. Some days they get it done much sooner if they are focused and motivated. Some days they take all day to do it. Some days we miss and don’t get it done.

The load is not a perfect solution to helping keep children on track during the summer, but it helps. It doesn’t mean I never have to ask or follow up on a child or call a child back to finish his or her work, but it is something that helps me not be constantly begging or nagging or threatening–at least not as much–for the children to do something productive and helpful. My children are not perfect in doing their work, and I’m far from perfect in training them, supporting them, and following up on them. Overall, it helps and works well in our home. I am proud of our children for doing a good job on their load. I LOVE getting a phone call or text that says, “Mom, can I go play? I finished my load.”

Hope this helps!

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