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Love One Another

I woke up not feeling very well and wasn’t sure what the day would bring. I climbed out of bed into a chair and my husband brought me socks and my computer, Anna brought me a piece of toast, Rebecca said she would drive Anna somewhere for me, and Eliza brought me some cereal. I feel very loved!

It is surely the little acts of kindness in life that are so sweet and make home life so much happier. I am so grateful for a husband who models Christlike kindness every day. He inspires me to try to be better, and he doesn’t even say anything. He just is kind and serves sincerely, and that kindness and service make me want to be better.

“Love one another:” 3 of the most powerful words on earth!

(P.S. I saw this video on the Mormon Channel blog. Click here to go to the article!)

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Planning for summer

Click on the image to go to my SUMMER page, with ideas from past summer plans.

I have had some ideas floating around my brain for our family summer, but as today is the last day of school, today is when the rubber meets the road. I have got to at least begin to wrap up my thoughts and prepare my plan for next family night. Since I have a date with Lane tonight, we can go over my ideas and see what we think needs changing so that we can be united in our plan. Sunday after family council, I can cement it all together before Monday’s FHE.

How do I begin planning?

I begin with prayer, with pondering, with scripture study, with discussions with our family and my husband. Here is a page I created to facilitate this process:

Click to view/print PDF.

I ask myself what areas of focus I see that we need to work on. Summer can be a great time for learning new skills, earning money, gardening, improving the yard or home, adventuring, subject area learning, and of course, relaxing and making wonderful, fun memories.

As I begin

Here is some of the thoughts I’ve had as I begin.

Because we don’t have an endless budget for vacationing, we spend nearly all our summer at home. This means the children have a lot of time on their hands. So choosing some areas of focus and a way to activate the goals they have really impacts how they spend their time.

We had a family council last Sundays in which I asked the family WHAT is it that really matters to us right now? Time is short, and there are people to love and help, skills to learn, talents to improve. We only have 1 more year with Rebecca at home, and this is most likely our last summer all together as a family. How do we want to spend our time and other resources to make wonderful memories and do things that will really matter to us in a hundred years?

Gathering ideas

We didn’t come to any distinct conclusion right then, but rather brainstormed ideas. We are going to revisit that question on Sunday so that I can be sure our summer plan will allow for us to accomplish our dreams.

There are “nuts and bolts” of everyday living that need to be divided up. So I’m thinking about how I’m incorporating the college students into our family jobs rotation for the next 2.5 months, including laundry days, housecleaning, and yard work jobs. I’m also thinking about how I want to coordinate meal prep and clean up. We are trying to reintegrate the college students, with their employment and social lives and later nights into our family scripture study and family home evenings and councils.

We’ve got a wedding coming: we have a yard and home we’d like to clean up a little before that. We also have a family reunion coming up at the end of the summer, and the children are on committees to help with that. Sarah will be heading off to graduate school right after that, so we have to plan for the end of summer transitions. We will also be having family come to town, as Utah and Grandma’s house is a destination place for our family. So we need to consider accommodating our out-of-town company.

Ongoing learning

We also have summer learning that needs to continue: reading, writing, math, or maybe an online class or camp. We need to learn how to prepare foods that are better for our digestive systems and to help us sleep at night, so we are working on some food planning and prep goals. What do we really want to accomplish?

We want to grow spiritually this summer: we’ve got a child who is preparing to make temple covenants, since when we get married in the temple, we get married for eternity. It is a serious commitment. We want to keep all of that in mind. We also have older children who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time and our family goal to go to the temple each week. We have children preparing to serve missions, so that’s an ongoing goal as well.

We have personal needs as well: I need time to think and write

Youth activities

We also have a pioneer handcart trek reenactment that our teens are going on. And student council retreat, EFY, Hope Squad training…I know! This is summer, folks!

More than anything, I want to help our family just have the Spirit in our home and in our relationships. I want to slow down and breathe and do what makes for peace. So I’m seeking inspiration from heaven as I pray and council with my family to create a plan to do that.

I have more prayer, study, thought, and discussions to have.

I’ll share what evolves from this…next week!

Happy Summer!

For more ideas about summer planning and themes, look under my “Organize ‘Em” tab and select the “Summer” link.

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Well, actually, we didn’t see the Queen. We didn’t even see the crossing of the guard or anything like that. We DID have an amazing time in London, Manchester, Chorley, Lake Windermere, and then Paris, Brittany, Normandy, and Giverny. Those 2 weeks in England and France–just me, my husband, and our oldest daughter–were a dream come true.

People have been asking me what my favorite part was. My answer? Being with Sarah and Lane for two whole weeks, away from the normal distractions of home and work. Just one-on-one time with our daughter, talking, laughing, eating, trying new things, seeing new places, sharing stories. After 5 years of college packed with work and school, we had some catching up to do!

I hope we have the opportunity to do something with each child when they graduate from college, even if it’s not traveling the world!

I have some fun details to share–later, in another post, when school isn’t ending and I don’t feel so tired! 😂 (You can see lots of photos already on my Instagram account: find me @raisingamazingchildren)

P.S. I was just in heaven getting to speak French for a week. I returned totally motivated to improve my vocabulary and brush up on grammar. Here is a French learning resource page I have started to share with you some of the resources I have used in the past and some of the new ones I’m hoping to use now.

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My life is blessed everyday when I study the scriptures. I particularly feel the power that comes from reading, pondering and trying to apply the verses in the Book of Mormon. I keep a scripture study journal when I study, and I’ve decided that I’d like to share a little bit of my studies on my blog.

This study notebook is my life workbook, because it’s how I discover answers to my self-care, marriage, and parenting questions and problems.

I study the scriptures whenever I can, but I try to study them first thing every day. This year I am reading the Book of Mormon in French, in preparation for traveling to Paris to attend the Paris temple open house. Having discovered more French roots this year makes my heart rejoice and adds to my love of the French language. Reading the Book of Mormon in French really gave me a feeling of connecting with my ancestors who came centuries ago to fulfill their missions on earth. I wonder how they are celebrating on the other side of the veil with the preparation fo the temple in their earthly homeland.

A quiet block of time

I haven’t been able to read the Book of Mormon in French, because it requires a block of quiet time to do it, and finding a quiet block of time isn’t as easy as I had thought, when other daily needs take priority. So I’m reading smaller snippets of longer chapters, when that is what I have time for. I’d like to share, when I can, some of my study thoughts.

Today’s verse is 2 Nephi 9:3:

Behold, my beloved brethren, I speak unto you these things that ye may rejoice, and lift up your heads forever, because of the blessings which the Lord God shall bestow upon your children.

This is a huge promise, right? I mean, if I wake up in the morning and feel heavy and tired and like all I want to do is roll over in bed and go back to sleep, rejoicing and lifting up my head forever isn’t exactly on my mind. So I had to ask: does this prophet (Nephi) really mean what he is saying here? Is there a key to joy that has power to move us from a place of heaviness to a place of optimism, hope, ane even rejoicing in the future?

I know the answer is yes, even though I haven’t gotten there yet. I have had enough experience with faith to know that the scriptures are true, that God doesn’t lie, and that we can take him at his word.

Tapping into power

But I haven’t tapped into that power that he is describing yet very much. I have had tastes of this power to move me from a place of unhappiness, fear, or stress, to a place (mentally, emotionally, spiritually and sometimes even physically) of peace, happiness, good cheer and joy. So I believe there is more that I can tap into.

I think the key might be hinted at in the part where it refers to the future, and God’s promises. If we know God and his character, then we know that He keeps his promises, right? He does! He has kept all of his promises to me, and the ones that are in the future I truly believe he will keep. Someday I should go through my journals and make a list of promises He has made me in priesthood blessings and how they came to pass.

4.27.17: Sarah’s last EMS shift during her commencement exercises, when she received her bachelor’s degree in physiology and developmental biology. She was radiant!

Sarah’s college graduation

Yesterday was one of them. A long time ago, Lane gave me a blessing that told me I would have joy in my children’s successes and see them succeeding, but that I would be feel the greatest joy when those successes were in spiritual things, such as remaining faithful. Yesterday when we sat in the Marriott Center and saw Sarah’s name on the commencement program, receiving her bachelor of science degree in physiology and developmental biology, my heart swelled. She had done it! With God’s help and our help and lots of professors’ help and other students’ help with whom she worked and studied and with the faith and prayers of her siblings and grandparents and extended family, she did it. She worked very hard for five years, studying, working, sometimes failing, picking herself up after challenges and pressing forward. She put in thousands of hours of service as a volunteer EMT. Imagine going to work day after day and never getting paid a cent! That’s what she did for 3.5 years. Because she had faith in the Lord that this opportunity would help her help others and help her prepare for her future education and service.

August 1995, outside the Marriott Center, commencement day, when I received my bachelor’s of science in education degree, almost 22 years previous to Sarah’s commencement.

As I sat there in the audience, thinking of Sarah in the EMS office and having just heard that she was officially graduated, and I thought back to my graduation, and how Sarah was born before I finished my schooling, and I was pregnant with Nathan as I walked through my convocation ceremony, I sat in wonder of how God brings about gifts and blessings in our lives. I couldn’t foresee what would come, and how wonderful and hard and stretching motherhood would be, nor could I taste how sweet moments like yesterday would be back then. I just had to trust. And work. And wait.

And then to see her ministering (as an EMT) to someone who fell and got hurt at the very end of the commencement service, that was really the icing on the cake for me and Lane. She got to help someone in the last minutes of her last shift on campus. It was so appropriate! And that promise that God made me was fulfilled, again.

Promises

Boy, I’m just scratching the surface on promises that God has made to me personally and to us in general as mothers. Those promises are found in the scriptures. So when I search the scriptures daily, it helps me to review the ways God has kept his promises to generations past. And the Holy Ghost brings to my remembrance ways that God has kept and is keeping his promises to me now, which strengthens my faith that He will keep his promises to me in the future. That really does have power to encourage and lift my heart. I can figuratively lift up my head and go forward in faith. He’s got my back!

Seriously. God is so good. He helps our dreams come true. He promises that if we put our trust in him and work our best, he will make up the difference that we need and help the things that matter most eternally come to pass in our lives. It’s not a dangling carrot; it’s a reality. It’s not a charade.

“Diligent, focused work”

I’m recalling right now that the work he invites us to do is our most dedicated, sincere, stretching work. President Russell M. Nelson just taught us last month that “there is nothing easy or automatic about becoming such powerful disciples. Our focus must be riveted on the Savior and His gospel. It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought. But when we do, our doubts and fears flee….

Faith in Jesus Christ propels us to do things we otherwise would not do. Faith that motivates us to action gives us more access to His power….Drawing the Savior’s power into our lives is to reach up to Him in faith. Such reaching requires diligent, focused effort….When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do” Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into our Lives(“,” April 2017 general conference).

Just to wrap this up, I recognize that one of my challenges, on those mornings when I have moments of fatigue or frustration or hormonal roller-coaster days or whatever it is that makes me want to stay in bed in the morning, turning to the scriptures is a great way for me to climb out of that heavy place and lift my thoughts towards God who never breaks his promises and renews my faith in the future. I’m reminded of another verse I love:

For he will fulfil all his promises which he shall make unto you, for he has fulfilled his promises which he has made unto our fathers. (Alma 37:17)

I have spent an hour on this post! Time for me to get back to my day. I certainly can’t post every day about my scripture study; I like to use the time to study more than write! But I’ll look forward to sharing a few of my thoughts with you again in the days to come.

 

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I was looking for a photo this morning while preparing something for my myself and daughter. I loved the radiant smile on this woman’s face, and I wanted to find out why she was smiling. The article I read surprised me!

This elderly woman from Latvia had a tragic childhood:

“My mother was divorced,” Skaidrīte says. “She became an alcoholic. I had a father, but he was sent to Siberia. We had lived in a village but the government sent us to live in an apartment. We were often without food. I was holding my younger sister’s hand when she died of starvation. We were in such a poor situation that my mother sent me to the countryside to become a shepherd.”

She was 8 years old and started to work full-time. Working at the farm was akin to slavery and included beatings. She started to wonder if suicide wouldn’t be better than living out her life.

Other events in her life continued to test her determination to live. Finally, at about 54 years old, she was looking for a church, searching for God. She saw a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and met a sister missionary who smiled at her. She began learning about the church. People warned her not to go. She said, “But there was nothing good to find.” She kept going and learning. That was 17 years ago. She says,  “When I first saw that sister missionary, when I found the Church for the first time, since that day all the thoughts of suicide were gone. There were no thoughts of life being dark. In spite of everything, I am positive. Life is beautiful to me.”

Going to my church and learning more about the gospel also makes me smile! I am so happy Skaidrīte found the missionaries and the gospel and joy in her life!

To read the article, go here.

To help prevent suicide, go here.

To read more “Info Bites,” click here.

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Info bites: Healing from sexual abuse

Illustration from the article. Click on the image to view the article.

I’m excited about a new page I created on my blog for “info bites” from newspaper and magazine articles I have read that relate to nurturing children, women, marriage, and families. I decided that this is one of the ways I can reduce clutter in my home while maybe helping others: I can choose one article that inspired me and share it before passing the magazine along to someone else or tossing the newspaper into the recycling bin. (I still like getting hard copies of most newspapers and magazines. It is also a memory tool for myself, so that when I want to refer back to what I have read, I can find it digitally instead of hanging on to the hard copy. I hope to also starting doing this with books!)

This week I read “A Bridge to Hope and Healing” from the April 2017 Ensign magazine. Here is my quick summary:

  • Sexual abuse is terribly wrong, serious and painful:

    “ ‘There is the terrible, vicious practice of sexual abuse. It is beyond understanding. It is an affront to the decency that ought to exist in every man and woman. It is a violation of that which is sacred and divine. It is destructive in the lives of children. It is reprehensible and worthy of the most severe condemnation…. Shame on any man or woman who would sexually abuse a child. In doing so, the abuser not only does the most serious kind of injury. He or she also stands condemned before the Lord.’ ”1

  • We can help free others from heavy burdens by–

    • listening without judgment,
    •  understanding the hurt caused by abuse, and
    •  helping them find the resources that will help them replace pain with peace.
  • Forgiveness is critical for victims to be able to heal,

    • but friends and family members of victims need first to listen and express empathy and support for the victim.

There are links in the article to other resources for help as well.

I had never considered Doctrine and Covenants 123 in the context of helping victims of abuse!

I also appreciated knowing more about behaviors that commonly can result from those who have suffered abuse.

I believe that all of us have people in our circles who have suffered from abuse of one kind or another, and the chance of someone we know having been sexually abused at some point in their lifetime is high. I have prayed before and will continue to pray to know how to help those around me to access healing. Life can be very complicated, so I’m grateful for the information in this article in learning to nurture those with wounded hearts around me.

To read more “Info Bites,” click here.

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A mathematician from India comes to Cambridge University and claims that the equations he has created come from God: will anyone believe him?

Our family (ages 11 + up) watched this compelling biopic during spring break, and Lane and I really loved it. Some of our children loved it, while others just liked it. I was inspired by yet another pioneer that I have never heard of who sacrificed much and dedicated their life to doing what they felt inspired to do. There are so many untold stories of people who have contributed to our global knowledge base and quality of life! Srinivasa Ramanujan became a fellow at Cambridge and made lasting contributions to mathematics, after all the ridicule and persecution he received for his race, his ideas, and his culture.

I would not recommend this movie for families with young children. There is some persecution violence, a little swearing, and it would most likely not keep their attention.

If you want to show your family a movie, but would like to get some background on the film content before viewing it,  I recommend these two resources: Common Sense Media and Kids-in-Mind. Here is the  review of this movie on commonsensemedia.org.

And here is more good news: Common Sense Media also reviews children’s books! So you can get a sneak peak into appropriate content before checking out or purchasing a title for your child! 🎉🎉🎉

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Five elementary school orchestras play a patriotic medley all at once at this end-of-the-year field trip.

The year is rapidly coming to a close, signaled today by the multi-school orchestra field trip. Our orchestra did so well! The children love playing the Disney songs: when our director announced we were playing “Let It Go,” there was an audible “Ah!” in the audience of children. I was nervous about how they would do on both that song and the group song that all 5 orchestras play all together. But they did WONDERFULLY!

Willing volunteer orchestra director

I sat in awe of the miracle that one willing, diligent volunteer mother can work in tandem with a couple of other volunteer mothers (and fathers, but we rarely have fathers volunteering, understandably). I see it in the happy faces of the children and in the sweet strains of music the children played that seemed so hard back in the fall. All those accidentals! They did it: they learned the music. They played it together musically. Talk about a shining moment!

But we need a music program director

But next year we don’t have a mother to direct the music program yet, and our current mother’s time is over as her sixth grader graduates. It is a tenuous time when I pray that someone will step forward and raise their hand, saying that they will take a turn to serve. When I served as program director, it was such a rewarding experience. Volunteer work is work, but the pay is very sweet.

Decision-making dilemma

There is so much we can do to help in our homes and communities! And it is always a dilemma I face, year to year, season to season, sometimes even day to day, about how and where and how much to serve. I feel so strongly in my heart that my very first priority is at home, and that if my husband or my children fail, that it will be my biggest regret in life. And so I have to make that my first priority.

Times and seasons

I pulled back on volunteering at the school this year, feeling that it was time to focus on my health and my family, giving them more attention than in previous years when I did the music program, when I felt inspired to serve at the school. Both times have been good. I have missed volunteering, but I have felt rewarded by a greater feeling of closeness to my husband and children. Life is never perfectly balanced, organized, or carried out, but there is a feeling of peace that comes from trying to focus on things that matter most.

I had two moments this week–two nights ago and last night–for example, that were the golden moments for trying to be more present with my children. The night before last, it was a note handmade and delivered while I made dinner. Inside the beautifully-addressed envelope, the handwritten note read, “I am so grateful you are my mom. What would I do without you? You are my best buddy.” 😍 Last night I was too exhausted to go to an older child’s concert, so I got my PJs on early and climbed into bed, Anna reading next to me me, while my husband went and watched. While I really would have loved to hear Rebecca’s choir sing, I also savored the quiet moment of just sitting next to Anna, reading together, not rushing to be anywhere. Just being. Just reading. Just quietly happy together.

I visited with a child who is homeschooled but who attends orchestra at our school—a darling, bright girl who may attend a private school next year because she is missing the socializing that happens at school (“The only person I have to talk to is the chair,” she quipped—or something like that! I’m sure her mom and brother would take that comment in stride…). If she doesn’t, she hopefully will be back to play in orchestra, and we have loved having her!

Like a river

I, too, have considered what both homeschool and private school might offer some of my children–I wish we had been able to take advantage of that! But life seems to play out like riding down a river, and while you get to paddle, you don’t design the river, nor the flow of the water, nor the rapids, nor the branches that overhang or the rocks that jut out up from the ground. You have to learn to go with the flow. So far our best option has been public school!

I always wanted our children to be bilingual, to attend a French immersion program. But there wasn’t one in our school, and they didn’t want to change schools into a neighboring district and not be with their friends. So we make choices. And we hope that our choices will affect our children positively. We have felt so blessed with the options we have had and the choices we made!

Heavenly tailored curriculum

From what I can tell so far, the things that matter most aren’t entirely up to us. God is in charge, and he has this magnificent way of designing a curriculum tailored to our individual didactic needs. Opportunities arise that we didn’t initiate but that bless a child’s life. People who influence and help shape our children’s ideas and help develop their talents. I didn’t ever study harp, for example, but circumstances allowed us to take advantage of teachers and programs that were flourishing in our area, and Sarah benefitted. I didn’t play rugby or start a rugby program, but Nate happened to hear about it and wanted to play, and with a little stretching we were able to make it happen. And so it has gone: programs are discovered, desires expressed, resources harnessed and plans made. Sometimes we just show up and are recipients of other’s hard work, and sometimes we contribute our part.

What do they need?

As a mother of 7, it’s a continual question, though: What does one child need? What should they do this year? What should they not do? How can I help them grow the most? What aspect of their life should I focus on and nurture? How can I make it all fit in a manageable puzzle that I can piece together with the time, energy and other available resources?

They grow up

I will say this: I am grateful that children grow up! I love that they learn to take on more and more responsibility. I don’t have to program their lives forever! I love that the older children now come to us and say, “Hey, I was thinking about doing this: what do you think?” and then we get to listen and share our experiences and discuss options and pray for them to make a wise choice. And we sometimes watch with bated breath as they make their choices!

Ah, parenting: quite the meal

I’m so grateful I’ve gotten to taste parenting AND volunteering. All the choices! Sweet and bitter. Satiation and hunger. Meal prep and cleaning up. And feasting! So much feasting in both, but particularly in parenting! So many golden moments that are such delicious rewards!

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How to overcome doubt and fear

Our prophet’s April 2017 general conference address is power-packed. I particularly love the promise that I can overcome doubt and fear by studying the Book of Mormon. I have renewed my commitment to not just listen to or read by to try to really “study, ponder, and apply” what I read in the Book of Mormon.

Today I typed up this quote so that I could post it on the inside door of our bathroom, where I share inspiring scriptures and quotes with my family. I thought perhaps someone else might appreciate being able to print out this quote. It’s very simply made, but I hope it will help lighten another parent’s load as they also try to help their family center their lives on Christ. Just click on the image or this link to go to a printable PDF!

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Getting your laugh back


It’s the first day back from spring break–Monday morning–and I’m JUST getting going! I got out of bed about 9:30 am after a challenging night, which is NOT my favorite way to start the day. But today is going to be a great day: I know it!

I want to share a happy resource to help you before I leave my room: meet my new friend, Meg Johnson!

I met Meg (not in person) online via the Mormon Channel. I listened to a radio interview podcast of her telling her story (“Beauty’s True Depth”) about how she became paralyzed and what has happened in her life since then. I LOVED her voice! (I think we are “kindred spirits,” and she doesn’t even know it! 😁)

Fast forward a year or so, and I was sitting in Relief Society two weeks ago (the women’s meeting at my church), and a friend made a comment about Meg Johnson. I thought how much I would love to share that podcast with my family.

So on Friday morning, when we were cleaning house at the condo where we stayed during spring break, I turned on the podcast. And then, while I was waiting for the linens to dry (we had about 4 hours of laundry…), I explored her online resources.

I love her spirit! She is full of the Spirit! Take a look at her YouTube channel, blog (MegJohnsonSpeaks.com), or other social media accounts. I am so excited to share her with you! The video posted above tells about how she got her laugh back and how Heavenly Father spoke to her and taught her how to do that: singing at the top of her lungs! “Sing away all of those bad feelings!” I hope she brightens and inspires your day like she has mine. 💗

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